Wouldn't It Be Nice: My Own Story
|Author||Brian Wilson, Todd Gold|
Wouldn't It Be Nice: My Own Story is an autobiographical memoir written by Brian Wilson with freelancer Todd Gold, published in October 1991 by HarperCollins. Its name derives from the Beach Boys' 1966 single "Wouldn't It Be Nice". Upon release, the book's credibility was challenged, and led to multiple lawsuits. Wilson later disowned the book.
Authorship and legitimacy
The book's legitimacy has been challenged, and its content has raised questions of plagiarism. Under oath, Wilson stated that he was interviewed for about "thirty-to-forty hours" and that he had only skimmed through a draft of the book before it was published. According to author Peter Ames Carlin, "the stories being related had been lifted nearly word for word from earlier biographies, only with the pronouns changed to reflect Brian's first-person perspective. In other sections the narrative read like depositions for their various court cases, while others ripped the Beach Boys for various personal and professional shortcomings."
Although it glorifies therapist Eugene Landy, he insisted that he had nothing to do with its writing. Despite this, court documents proved that Landy was a close partner in the writing and production process. In the opinion of musicologist Philip Lambert: "The book is plagued by factual misstatements, language and opinions that are implausibly Brian's, and text that defies credulity ... Nonetheless, I don't believe it's advisable to dismiss Wouldn't It Be Nice entirely." He explains that while the book may have been corrupted by motivations in self-interest and legal maneurverings, "it may still provide some nuggets of truth about Brian's day-to-day existence while under Landy's care." He concludes that the biography "can be useful ... if accessed through the proper filters. I don't accept the book's text at face value, but if it's consistent with other sources and rings true, I'm willing to consider it a qualified authority."
In several articles published by Billboard in 1991, writers including David Leaf, Timothy White, and Neal McCabe accused the book of borrowing extensively from earlier texts on Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys written by White, Jules Siegel, Paul Williams, and Tom Nolan. Todd Gold has asserted that "any celebrity book relies on extensive culling of magazine articles and past interviews and recycling ... [but] everything was paraphrased to the best of our ability as told through Brian's eyes." Speaking to The Washington Post, Gold also admitted that he used notes prepared by Henry Edwards during interviews for a similar, unfinished book project in 1987. In a 1995 court case, Wilson's lawyers reported evidence which showed that HarperCollins were aware that Wilson's statements in the book were either manipulated or written by Landy.
The New York Times noted that the book was suspiciously published as Wilson was in the midst of numerous lawsuits, but that his "co-author, Todd Gold, a writer at People magazine, helps give the story its brisk, anecdotal pace and pop-psychological facility."
Journalist Nick Kent observed that "the most disturbing aspect of the text was the way Brian's story was suddenly hijacked in the middle and turned into an unsolicited testimonial to the miraculous healing powers and all-round good guy qualities of flat-out genius Eugene Landy." David Felton of Rolling Stone wrote "the autobiography reads like some slick parody of the end of Psycho, with the psychiatrist telling the police: 'Brian was never all Brian, but he was often only Landy. Now the Landy half has taken over. Probably for all time.'"
During the 1990s, Mike Love began filing a string of lawsuits toward Wilson, the first of which was for defamation regarding how he appeared in the autobiography. Although Love never read the book, HarperCollins settled the suit for $1.5 million. According to Love: "My suit against HarperCollins allowed [lawyer] Mike Flynn to gain access to the transcripts of Brian’s interviews with his collaborator, Todd Gold. Those interviews affirmed—according to Brian—that I had been the inspiration of the group and that I had written many of the songs that were now in dispute." Other defamation lawsuits were filed by Al Jardine and Brian's mother Audree.
- Carlin 2006, p. 63.
- Giles, Jeff (April 12, 2016). "Read an Excerpt From 'I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir'". Ultimate Classic Rock.
- Carlin 2006, p. 271.
- Lambert 2007, p. xii.
- Griffin, Gil (July 29, 1995). "Brian Wilson's Mom Sues Her Son's Publisher; Claims Libel". Billboard. 107 (30): 10, 32. ISSN 0006-2510.
- Lambert 2007, p. xi.
- Carlin 2006, p. 273.
- Carlin 2006, pp. 272–273.
- Lambert 2007, pp. xi–xii.
- Pareles, Jon (November 3, 1991). "Beached Boy". The New York Times.
- Kent 2009, p. 66.
- Hedegaard, Erik (February 2016). "The Ballad of Mike Love". Rolling Stone.
- Love 2016.
- Carlin, Peter Ames (2006). Catch a Wave: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson. Rodale. ISBN 978-1-59486-320-2.
- Kent, Nick (2009). The Dark Stuff: Selected Writings on Rock Music. Da Capo Press. ISBN 9780786730742.
- Lambert, Philip (2007). Inside the Music of Brian Wilson: the Songs, Sounds, and Influences of the Beach Boys' Founding Genius. Continuum. ISBN 978-0-8264-1876-0.
- Wilson, Brian; Gold, Todd (1991). Wouldn't It Be Nice: My Own Story. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06018-313-4.