By 1965, Brian Wilson's professional and personal lives were in such a state of constant panic that it was almost inevitable that he would turn to readily available forms of rock star relief. While his self-medication (and underlying mental illness) would ultimately render him into a poster boy for an imaginary DARE campaign, the early, merely marijuanic phase of his regimen yielded a brief but vivid string of almost absurdly gorgeous pop masterpieces. While a couple of these are permanently stamped into the forebrains of all radio listeners over a certain age ("God Only Knows," "Good Vibrations"), some remain almost unknown. Which brings us to "Wonderful," found on the Beach Boys box set, and remade a few years ago as part of the Don Was hagiography. It is a curious, brief (2 minutes) tune, austere in production (harpsichord and vocal) but staggeringly rich in harmonic interest. The melody evokes pure serenity and has no noticeable roots in any previous American pop style. Van Dyke Park's lyric is typically insane; what little one can make of it seems to dovetail with Wilson's growing religiousity, yet feels entirely physical, even pagan -- a sort of boy-loves-wood sprite nature idyll making the first movement of a really great ballet with set design by Maurice Sendak. Or something.
available on CD - Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of the Beach Boys (Capitol)