It just happens, doesn’t it, that once in a long while, the personalities of the past, that were so strong way back when, have to find a way to reappear, their auras were so vibrant that mere death couldn’t do them asunder…
This is a wee tale of one such reincarnation and channelling, as I see it, one that has been haunting me of late…in my mind, by way of a certain song, bringing back a time and a place, filled with innocence and joy but also such deep sorrow, not only for me but for many of us, who, when we had him, never truly appreciated him…until he was gone…just the way we humans are, I guess…we just never “get it” until it’s too late…
John Stamos…Dennis Wilson.
Yes, this reincarnation/channelling isn’t like the others I’ve mentioned. There is no visual familiarity and quite frankly, I'm not sure anyone on the face of this Earth could be as warm, welcoming and naively wild as Dennis Wilson…but for a time, when they needed help, John filled the emotional and musical shoes of Dennis for The Beach Boys, on stage, and I’m fairly certain, off stage as well.
John, like Dennis, has had marital and celeb problems, who doesn’t in Hollywood when you’re naturally attractive, warm-hearted and gifted. Many have poo-pooed Stamos for his stint on the TV series “Full House” but hey, I defy you to show me any celeb who hasn’t started off with less than stellar credentials…
Sadly though, for Stamos, it was rather a downhill slide after “Full House” but happily, his love and talent for music gave him the celeb boost that he needed and it basically came with a once in a lifetime chance to sit on the stool Dennis Wilson would have sat on, behind a drum set Dennis would have preferred to use as a shield more than an instrument, and for a time, as The Beach Boys toured in the late 80s/early 90s, John allowed Dennis to be reborn in him, for his band mates, for Dennis’ surviving brothers and for Dennis’ still-loyal fans…one last glimpse at what could have been…if only.
I myself, was personally apart of this experience, on one fine summer’s day in Calgary, Alberta Canada, when The Beach Boys were scheduled to play an outdoor sports venue we call Canada Olympic Park.
It was the summer of ‘91, only two and a half years after the Calgary ‘88 Olympics, and I was NOT going to miss this concert, no how.
I, of course, had seen The Beach Boys play in California, way back in the 70s, but at that time, I was too young to appreciate much more than the cool 3D experience of singing Little Surfer Girl while being one at Surf City, Long Beach or La Jolla. It was about summer fun back then, like the Wilson Boys said, not about watching history slowly ebb away.
The Summer of Love, technically 1967, still strongly held it’s grasp on southern California well into the 70s, but after the Monterey Pop Festival, The Manson murders, Woodstock, and the death knell at Altamont, somehow that feeling of the care-free easy-going California life-style was dying in everyone’s minds…no one could resuscitate that Summer of Love, just like no one could resuscitate Dennis after he drowned at his former sloop mooring site, three days after Christmas ‘83, on that fateful winter’s day at Marina del Rey.
Some things, no matter how good they are, no matter how hard one tries to hang on to them, just, by Providence, usually ebb away. It’s just how it is.
Of course, after Dennis’ death, The Beach Boys kept playing and touring but there had been such problems with Brian well before, and then with the loss of Dennis, well, I wasn’t a fly on the synthesizer stand on stage but I think if I had been, I would have sensed The Beach Boys having a hard time of it, emotionally, spiritually, performing that fun-loving music when so much less-than-fun-loving experiences had befallen the group…
Rock band producer, Terry Melcher, helped The Beach Boys get back on top with their first Top Ten single in years, “Kokomo”, and that injected life back into the band. Yet, in my humble opinion, they had always had trouble filling Dennis’ drum-playing shoes, yes, for his talent, but more for his spirit, the only Beach Boy, after all, who could say he actually surfed.
John Stamos fit the bill, “Kokomo” was the excuse and The Beach Boys were off and running once again and on top of the music mountain that had so eluded them for many years…
Flash forward to that soft summer breezy day in Calgary, where, for at least a while, my world met with theirs…
My boyfriend at the time proposed to me at that concert. I said yes. We lived a happy life for fifteen years and he too, like all good people, died young, far too young…but that summer never left me…probably never will.
John did one heck of a job on drums that day…and he really seemed to be enjoying himself. Yes, my photos of that concert are small and faded but I can still hear the beat John made like his life depended on it. Brian’s synthesizer was unplugged, had to be, because back then, he would play one song while the band played another.
At one point, right in the middle of a song, Brian just left the keyboard and walked off stage, his handlers gently guiding him back on again. The other boys looked tired, strained, probably worried for Big Brian…they all did a terrific job and I’m sure the young kids in the crowd saw nothing amiss…but I did…I saw the ebbing away of what was left, save for the spirit of Dennis Wilson alive and well behind those drums in John.
That “Kokomo” Tour was The Beach Boys swan song, I guess…you never know when you’re witnessing the fading of something monumental…not the dying of, necessarily, but the fading of…like General MacArthur’s famous farewell speech to the U.S. Congress in 1951, where he uttered those prophetic words from a then famous barracks song “Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.”
From old generals to famous rock stars, to all of us in between, who have lived more the fading of people and places than the dying of same, not better words could have been spoken about The Beach Boys or Dennis Wilson, or for that matter, the good aspects still in our hearts from the 60s and that Summer of Love.
John Stamos has gone on to revive his TV career and you can still see him popping up once in a while on red carpets with rockers and celebs of all kinds; though how he managed to garner a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is still a mystery to me.
The Beach Boys, of course, are still rocking, geriatric though the remaining ones are.
Brian Wilson recovered what was left of his cocaine-addled brain and by all accounts is quite content now, the searing heat of the limelight pressure-cooker of fame pretty much off his back now, the way he always wanted it to be, even back then.
Carl, of course, joined Dennis in the Big Studio in the Sky, after a courageous battle with lung and brain cancer that was finally lost to him in 1998, some fifteen years after the tragic death of his younger brother. I often wonder if Carl’s cancer had allot to do with the pressures associated with two very emotionally disturbed brothers and the pressures of being the last remaining in-tact Wilson Beach Boy. Often the middle child gets the brunt of everything, you know.
And, well, you know, pretty much all that can be said, has been said about Dennis, some accurate and good, some not so, so I shant add to the murky waters that were what he last saw himself, diving alone in the sloop at Marina del Rey, looking for mementos of his past, as we all do, from time to time…like I’ve just done now.