“Heroes and villains” & Brian Wilson’s psychological disorders.

 

The overall theme of this website is Heroes, Villains and Fools, tho admittedly I concentrate on the heroics of kids (and their helpers) who overcome bullying and facial differences stemming from, say, a cleft lip and palate. So, it’s no wonder that I’ve been intrigued by the Beach Boys’ song “Heroes and villains” over the years. Turns out it’s got a complex history, not unlike that of Brian Wilson whose battle against mental illness was told in the biopic “Love & Mercy” which hit theaters earlier this summer.

Brian Wilson Wiki Cmns, Palanker '12

Brian Wilson Wiki Cmns, Palanker ’12

First and foremost, what’re the words to this fascinating song?

“Heroes And Villains.

I’ve been in this town so long that back in the city
I’ve been taken for lost and gone
And unknown for a long long time

Fell in love years ago
With an innocent girl
From the Spanish and Indian home
Home of the heroes and villains

Once at night Catillian squared the fight
And she was right in the rain of the bullets that eventually brought her down
But she’s still dancing in the night
Unafraid of what a dude’ll do in a town full of heroes and villains

Heroes and villains
Just see what you’ve done

Heroes and villains
Just see what you’ve done

Stand or fall I know there
Shall be peace in the valley
And it’s all an affair
Of my life with the heroes and villains

My children were raised
You know they suddenly rise
They started slow long ago
Head to toe healthy weathy and wise

I’ve been in this town so long
So long to the city
I’m fit with the stuff
To ride in the rough
And sunny down snuff I’m alright
By the heroes and

Heroes and villains
Just see what you’ve done

Heroes and villains
Just see what you’ve done”

Beach_Boys_reunion_2012_I

What to make of “Heroes and Villains?”

And what the heck do the lyrics mean?  There has been endless speculation about the words—and even more about the music behind them—since the song’s first release. Clearly, there’s no simple explanation, but here’s one take by an everyday person, who’s neither a music critic nor a professor of popular culture:

“Heroes and Villains was originally slated to be on the now infamous, unreleased SMiLE album. The concept album was going to be a documentary type album. Telling the story of America from the Native Americans, the first settlers to the industrial revolution. H&V is about the hero of America fighting off the villains trying to take over and ruin America. Brian Wilson got a lot of the ideas for H&V from Marty Robbins ‘El Paso’ and Johnny Preston’s ‘Running Bear.’
 
When ‘Heroes And Villains’ was released as a much delayed single in it’s ‘Smiley Smile’ format it failed to reach the top ten of Billboard. The dissapointment was everywhere and The Beach Boys never recovered as a contemporary commercial force. The Beatles ‘Sgt Pepper’ had stolen their thunder and the race was over.”

“Coming in second,” psychological disorders, and “Love & Mercy.”

And this supposed eclipse by the Beatles may’ve bought out some of the fragilities in Brian Wilson.  So too, might have his ambitious effort to extrapolate from gangs in the valleys of L.A. to American history . . . in one song. (Remember, it took Don McLean many more stanzas to tell a less ambitious story in “American Pie” in 1971.)

Luckily, Brian Wilson’s struggles with mental illness and his psychological disorders are becoming clearer these days, what with the release of “Love & Mercy.”
*According to ABC news, “It tells the story of how the Beach Boys legend met the woman he credits with saving his life in the late 1980’s. It also documents how the iconic singer was being over-medicated by Dr. Eugene Landy until he met Melinda, who stepped in and wouldn’t stop until Brian was out of his care. The two eventually married in 1995.

Brian and Melinda have teamed up with the Campaign To Change Direction, to bring awareness to mental illness. Other members of the “Love & Mercy” family like actor Paul Dano, have also gotten involved to help with the campaign.

As the Campaign To Change Direction’s website states through its founder Barbara Van Dahlen, ‘We must change our culture if we are to succeed in saving lives and ending suffering. We must come to accept that mental health and mental illness are elements of the human condition – just as physical health and disease are.’

The 73-year-old Wilson couldn’t agree more with the organization’s mission. His meds keep his psychological disorders at bay.

‘There are various forms of mental illness,’ Wilson told ABC of the misconceptions out there now. ‘One out of every five Americans suffer from mental illness. We got involved with Change Direction to help people realize what I went through and what they can get through.’