The Wilsons Biography
Last updated: 07/02/2000 05:21:05 AM
Heredity plays an important role in every person's life, but in the case of Carnie and Wendy Wilson, you're looking at a bloodline that equals pure pop perfection.
As everyone but the world's most remote hermit must know by now, these two ladies are the daughters of the legendary Brian Wilson, whose pop musical genius was the creative vision behind the Beach Boys and a major influence on nearly every important rock act that's followed, from the Beatles to Sonic Youth, while their mother Marilyn (along with her sister Diane) was a member of one of the early 60's seminal 'girl groups,' the Honeys.
Of course, the Wilson sisters have already proven their pop mettle on their own as two-thirds of Wilson Phillips, whose eponymous debut LP was one of 1990's major success stories, producing numerous hit singles, including the chart-topping "Hold On" which remained an MTV staple throughout the early '90's. But with The Wilsons, the sisters' debut album for Mercury Records, we see their pop pedigree come full circle, as the new LP is a bit of a family affair, with dad Brian contributing to four of the album's 12 tracks (producing two of them) -- and the sisters co-writing 9 of the tunes.
And if anyone has any doubts about the enchanting pop songs recorded by this union of the generations, one listen to "Monday Without You" (the album's opening track and first single) should immediately silence even the most cynical doubting Thomas. Written specifically for The Wilsonsby the legendary Carole King, along with new collaborators, Mark Hudson and Paul Brady, the sisters' wonderful harmonies, combined with their dad's eerily familiar falsetto background vocals, recalls nothing so much as the Bangles at their best, meeting the Beach Boys of "Fun, Fun, Fun" and "I Get Around" glory.
Don't get the wrong idea, though.The Wilsons isn't simply a retro 60's California Sound' project. In fact, "Monday Without You" is an exception rather than a rule, as The Wilsons is a step in a new rock direction for the Wilson girls. "Wendy and I weren't even sure originally that we wanted to record "Monday Without You,"" explains Carnie. "But after hearing it again, we loved it. In some ways it's much more pop oriented than the rest of the album. And daddy just sounds so great on it, we love the song, and we thought it would be great for the summertime."
The album's subsequent 11 tracks may come as a pleasant surprise to those familiar with (and expecting) the sound of Wilson Phillips. "I never felt totally in my element in Wilson Phillips," says Wendy. "I always remained in the background when we were together, and The Wilsons is definitely more representative of the music that I prefer. This album is very unconventional in the sense that it's something that's not expected of us, and it was almost like a domino effect. Once we crossed that line and went in new directions, we couldn't stop! It just kept getting better for us, as we became more and more comfortable with our new 'image' and direction. So, it was very exciting for us to experience the growth and progress we went through as we worked on this album."
The Wilsons finds the sisters working with a large assortment of impressive collaborators, including former Eurythmic Dave Stewart (who co-wrote both "Candy" and "Miracle," the latter with Brian, Carnie, Wendy; and Robert Bluebell of the Scottish '80's New Wave sensation, the Bluebells); longtime friend Clif Magnus (who co-wrote "Impulsive" for Wilson Phillips, and who co-wrote/produced "Goddess's Revival," "St. Joan," "I Hate Your Face," and "Everything," for the new album); Shelly Piken (who wrote the hit "Bitch" for Meredith Brooks); and Glen Burtnick (Patty Smythe's "Sometimes Love Ain't Enough") who collaborated on "Open Door"; and even producer Bob Marlette (Tracy Chapman, Leah Androne's "I Feel The Earth Move" for Speed 2, Rob Halford), among others. As a result, The Wilsons explores numerous modern styles, ranging from the guitar-heavy quirky "Good About You" to a Euro-dance version of their father's classic "Til I Die."
The album also finds The Wilsons addressing numerous personal concerns close to their hearts. For instance, "Goddess's Revival" was a result of Wendy's infatuation with Greek mythology and mysticism, while "St. Joan" came from Carnie's obsession with Joan of Arc ("This is silly," she giggles, "but I've had several psychics tell me that I was Joan of Arc in a past life, so I just knew we had to write a song about her!"). Meanwhile, "Candy" looks at a serious side not generally associated with the Wilson sisters in the past. "Those lyrics are so powerful," explains Carnie. "It deals with the problems of young girls using drugs and their parents don't even notice, or don't choose to notice. It's almost like the demise of Candy--the death of innocence." Counters Wendy, "Well, that's Carnie's interpretation! I think everyone will get different things from the lyrics on this album, and I see it about a darkness in which she gets lost."
So, is this lyrical disagreement a classic case of sibling rivalry? Actually, Wendy and Carnie are uncannily close for sisters. "We are best friends," says Carnie. "We're both extremely emotional and we've always stuck together. I was only a year old when they brought Wendy home after she was born, and I gave her a kiss, and said, 'I love you, Wendy!' And it's been that way ever since!" Adds Wendy, "We started singing together when we were two. So, at this point, the harmonies are like second nature to us."
The sisters also appear to be each other's biggest fans. Says Carnie, "Wendy's vocal performance is so sexy and so awesome on "Goddess's Revival." I mean, I cried the whole time she was singing it. I was so impressed." Says Wendy, "Carnie's voice is just honey-coated on "Open Door," it's the best vocal performance she's ever done. It's like you can feel and sense every crevice of her heart and being when she sings. She sounds just beautiful on that song!" But when all is said and done, the big news that everybody's obviously going to be talking about when The Wilsons is discussed, is the collaboration between father and daughters, especially in light of songs like "Where Are You" and "Flesh & Blood, which addressed family troubles on Wilson Phillips' Shadows and Light album.
Beach Boys fanatics will be overjoyed to hear that dad Brian collaborated with Tony Asher (of Pet Sounds fame) for the album closer, "Everything I Need," which, according to Carnie, "encapsulates a lot of dad's signature sounds from the '60's."
But the most moving moment for the girls is probably "Miracle." Explains Carnie, "This is very special to me. I've always wanted to write a song with my dad. He's the one who taught me how to play piano, basically all about music. I kept asking him, 'Are you ready?' And he'd always say, 'No!' He writes very personally, heart over mind. But one night, I asked him, and he said, 'Do you want to go in the other room where the piano is? Let's go!' So I started playing two chords on the piano and all of a sudden, he just blurts out, 'Am I a fool to expect a miracle?' First, it's just a great line. But when you think of daddy saying it--and all the things that have happened in his life, both the good and the bad. I mean, it's kind of sad in a way, but it's also very powerful. And that's how it started."
The Wilsons is a classic example of healing through music, considering the years that Brian remained estranged from his children. Carnie credits her fiancee Steven with being the catalyst behind this musical (and emotional) reunion: "Steve lost his father ten years ago, and he kept telling me to call my dad. 'He wants to hear from you!' So, I finally did it, and it's been great. And my dad now absolutely adores Steven. He regularly says to me, 'Steven is an angel.' But my dad is much different now than he was before. He's remarried. He's adopted a baby, which seems to have sort of brought us all together to form a new family of sorts. He's probably happier than he's ever been. But even when we were apart, we know that he followed us when Wilson Phillips was happening. My dad's a lot more aware and hip than some people might think. And I've really felt his love recently." These strong feelings are evident in The Wilsons, a beautiful and hit-laden collection of songs.