October 19, 2019

"Then there was a voice, unmistakably that of The Beach Boys’ mastermind, singing the chorus of ‘Your Song’: ‘I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind.'"

"We said hello. He stared at us and nodded. Then he sang the chorus of ‘Your Song’ again. He said we should come upstairs and meet his kids. It turned out that his kids were asleep in bed. He woke them up. ‘This is Elton John!’ he enthused. His daughters looked understandably baffled. He sang the chorus of ‘Your Song’ to them: ‘I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind’. Then he sang the chorus of ‘Your Song’ to us again. By now, the novelty of hearing the chorus of ‘Your Song’ sung to me by one of pop history’s true geniuses was beginning to wear a little thin. I was struck by the sinking feeling that we were in for quite a long and trying evening. I turned to Bernie and a certain look passed between us, that somehow managed to combine fear, confusion and the fact that we were both desperately trying not to laugh at the absolute preposterousness of the situation we found ourselves in, a look that said: what the fuck is happening?"

When Elton John met Brian Wilson, described by Elton John in "Me: Elton John Official Autobiography."



I'm picturing Brian Wilson singing "I hope you don't mind, I hope you don't mind" — just those words — on and on, a hundred times, and Elton John did mind, but he couldn't say so. Did he ever question the meaning of the song and begin to think the "you" to whom the song is addressed really would mind? I've heard the song hundreds of times, and I've never until now had the thought that "you" would hear the song and say, I actually do mind.

42 comments:

robother said...

I always heard the following phrase "that I put you down in words" as passive aggressive.

ndspinelli said...

This was of course, Wilson's mental illness. Repeating. Wilson's daughter said in a doc that her dad would have Be My Baby playing in a loop in their house. He called it the perfect harmony and could not get enough of it.

Char Char Binks said...

I wonder if Bernie minded. It’s his song too.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

My life... nothing was easy til' now.

Shane said...

Dennis Miller talks about being derided by Elton John in England after he had said some pro-America things on stage (and was followed by Reg) who called Miller "the definition of an ugly American..." Miller said he hadn't heard the comments directly, but he was asked about them backstage shortly after. His reply is all I think of any time I heard any comment by Reg: "Elton said that? Oh. Now if Bernie Taupin had said that it would bother me."

Ann Althouse said...

"I always heard the following phrase "that I put you down in words" as passive aggressive."

That phrase is not in the song.

The line is "I hope you don't mind/That I put down in words/How wonderful life is while you're in the world."

Ann Althouse said...

From a 2013 interview:

"What can I say, it’s a perfect song. It gets better every time I sing it. I remember writing it at my parents' apartment in North London, and Bernie giving me the lyrics, sitting down at the piano and looking at it and going, ‘Oh, my God, this is such a great lyric, I can’t fuck this one up.’ It came out in about 20 minutes, and when I was done, I called him in and we both knew. I was 22, and he was 19, and it gave us so much confidence.... And the older I get, the more I sing these lyrics, and the more they resonate with me.”

Ken B said...

Sadly, not that surprising. Wilson was a mess for decades, mental health, drugs, and abuse from his doctor.
Pet Sounds is the best rock album!

gilbar said...

When did this take place? How did they NOT know that Brian Wilson was obsessive compulsive?
Didn't they see the movie?

Shane said...

"We tried not to laugh..." Maybe if he had not known, nor realized Brian Wilson's mental condition at the time, it is one thing, but its obvious by his reflection that he did. To then publish it more than 40 years later as an aside in-joke with his audience proves Elton John is a nasty piece of work.

Kay said...

Speaking of passive aggressive, I couldn’t help but read Brian Wilson’s quotes up there in a passive aggressive tone.

Char Char Binks said...

“If I were a sculpture” IS in the song.

Iman said...

I saw Elton John at Dodger Stadium back in October of 1975... he had a crack band back then, he and they were outstanding! The only disappointment that day was opener Joe Walsh - loved his stuff back then - who had two female back-up singers who sang so off key that the ruined his performance.

To me, it was all downhill for John’s music from Fall of ‘75 on... the album with “Island Girl” was the last of his good stuff. As for the B Acharya Boys, it was all downhill from “Surf’s Up”, which is a great album.

I’m a big BB fan, having grown up in SoCal. But their reputation was tarnished when I learned that their recorded music - like so many other bands of that era - was in reality the “Wrecking Crew”.

Iman said...

I’m the sort of fan that when I hear “perfection” in music (melody, lyrics, musicianship, arrangement), it brings back memories of friends, lovers, times, places that I associate with the songs and brings tears to my eyes.

AMDG said...

Brian Wilson’s work in 1965, 1966 & into 1967 is astounding. During this period the Beatles were at the top of their game Wilson was better.

“Surf’s Up” is, in my view, the greatest pop song of the modern (from 1954) era. https://youtu.be/QQ2OKoLpNBM

The failure to complete SmILE shattered him so he stepped back but he was still able to deliver the goods on occasion:

“Busy Doin’ Nothing” 1968 - lyrics by Brian: https://youtu.be/QQ2OKoLpNBM
“‘Til I Die” 1971 - lyrics by Brian - some consider this his last great work: https://youtu.be/46IQu0yuJzU
“From There to Back Again” 2012 - https://youtu.be/LaDiwoACJ2Q

AMDG said...


Blogger Shane said...
"We tried not to laugh..." Maybe if he had not known, nor realized Brian Wilson's mental condition at the time, it is one thing, but its obvious by his reflection that he did. To then publish it more than 40 years later as an aside in-joke with his audience proves Elton John is a nasty piece of work.”

Elton does have his bitchy side but he reveres Brian. He inducted The Beach Boys into the Rock kn Roll hall of fame An day participated in a Brian Wilson tributes: https://youtu.be/L5N1B-gESSQ

DavidD said...

I thought at first that we were talking about hallucinogens again.

Birches said...

All of the excerpts I've heard of from Elton John's book make him, not the other people, sound like major jerks. Even the Queen comes off better.

Birches said...

Dennis Miller for the win.

Ann Althouse said...

"“If I were a sculpture” IS in the song."

No, it's not.

The line is "If I were a sculptor..."

If he were a sculptor, he could make a statue of his beloved, but he's a songwriter, so "My gift is my song."

It's a beautiful song. If you want to argue otherwise, don't make blatant mistakes in attempting to quote the words.

Ann Althouse said...

""We tried not to laugh..." Maybe if he had not known, nor realized Brian Wilson's mental condition at the time, it is one thing, but its obvious by his reflection that he did. To then publish it more than 40 years later as an aside in-joke with his audience proves Elton John is a nasty piece of work."

The scene took place in 1970.

daskol said...

The hooks in Elton John songs are incredibly infectious. I had “I’m still standing, yeah yeah yeah” repeating itself, mostly in my head but occasionally out loud, for what seemed like years as a kid, and that’s not even one of his best.

daskol said...

The hooks in Elton John songs are incredibly infectious. I had “I’m still standing, yeah yeah yeah” repeating itself, mostly in my head but occasionally out loud, for what seemed like years as a kid, and that’s not even one of his best.

daskol said...

Elton made earworms like nobody else

Unknown said...

Interestingly, The Beach Boys, or at least Carl Wilson & Bruce Johnston, provide backing vocals on John's "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me". Also, The Beach Boys opened for John on his Yellow Brick Road tour, causing the crowd to chant "Bring back the Beach Boys" when John wandered off into unfamiliar album cuts during his set.

The Beach Boys (probably without Brian, though I am not sure of that) also covered Crocodile Rock for the John/Taupin tribute album Two Rooms

As said above Brian Wilson was very erratic by the "Surf's Up" album period when John met him, but still did do good work at times. I would argue he has some very good work on what looks to be the last Beach Boys album, 2012's That's Why God Made The Radio.

rightguy said...

It sounds like Brian was paying Reg and Bernie a huge compliment and Reg chose to get snippy. A better response would have been to sit down at the sandbox-piano and sing Don't Worry Baby to Brian.

Unknown said...

BTW, the daughters woken up to see John would go on to become 2/3 of Wilson Phillips.

Char Char Binks said...

"If you want to argue otherwise, don't make blatant mistakes in attempting to quote the words."

But listen to the audio you posted! At 0:51 you can hear "sculpture"!

Ann Althouse said...

“ But listen to the audio you posted! At 0:51 you can hear "sculpture"!”

The posted audio is The Beach Boys cover,

Ann Althouse said...

In the original Elton John version, you could criticize him for underpronouncing the p in sculptor, but he doesn’t say sculpture.

chickelit said...

In the original Elton John version, you could criticize him for underpronouncing the p in sculptor, but he doesn’t say sculpture.

Heh. I never knew it was "sculptor" in the original either and always thought it was "sculpture." But upon reflection, and for the reasons you listed, it must be "sculptor." I have a tag called "misheard lyrics" in my older blog posts. Another one which I never brought up before is the way Jerry Garcia pronounces the word "gold" in the song "Ripple;" he sounds like he says "cold." Maybe the singers make such "underpronouncements" when they themselves did not write the lyrics. If the studio take is a great one, and there's just a slipped-up lyric, it gets a pass. As far as I know, only the Kinks pulled off a successful replacement of one word in a studio recording, substituting "cherry" for "Coca" in "Lola."

tcrosse said...

Glad to hear that Elton as as sick of hearing that song as I was.

Michael Ryan said...

Interestingly, The Beach Boys, or at least Carl Wilson & Bruce Johnston, provide backing vocals on John's "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me". Also in the backing vocals was Toni Tennille.

Beasts of England said...

I saw Elton in concert about twenty years ago - just him and a piano. I’m not really a fan, but I enjoy live music and appreciate his talent. It was a great show and we were close enough to clearly see his expressions. I remember that he was getting as much from the audience as we were getting from him.

Char Char Binks said...

I didn't say it was SUPPOSED to be in the song, but Wilson PUT it in the song.

WK said...

“I hope you don’t mind” seems to be asking for consent. But it is not clear in the song that affirmative and clear consent is given.

rightguy said...

Sounds like Bruce Johnston (wrote I Write the Songs for B Mannilow) on piano and vocals. Doesn't sound like Brian. Swinging version with horns. No harmony vocals. I wouldn't know it was the Beach Boys if I wasn't told it was.

Char Char Binks said...

Whoever sang it sang “sculpture “.

Char Char Binks said...

Civility bullshit at 0:35.

Unknown said...

"rightguy" is correct, that is Bruce Johnston on vocals (and I assume piano). This is from a live set at the (no longer extant) Filmore East, a performance long available only as a bootleg, but I think somehow eventually made legit (though without the group's approval).

After the Surf's Up album, to which he contributed the classic Disney Girls he had a falling out with then manager Jack Riley and left the group until 1979's LA: Light Album. During his hiatus from the band, he wrote "I Write The Songs" and was for a number of years the only Beach Boy with a Grammy.

Unknown said...

As for the late Toni Tennille on "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me", both she and The Captain were in the Beach Boys backing band for a number of years. (And The Captain & Tennille covered Johnston's "Disney Girls", as did Art Garfunkel).

The Crack Emcee said...

Listen to Billy Paul's version (a huge hit in France) and you'll definitely mind.