While one person can be the complete oracle when it comes to musical opinions, Bruce Springsteen isn’t far off, and there’s one band he was raised on that he fervently believes nobody has ever “touched” when it comes to musicianship.
A lifelong ambition of Springsteen’s became a reality in 2015 when he watched Brian Wilson in Holmdel, New Jersey. Towards the end of the set, he was beckoned on-stage to perform ‘Surfin USA’ with his hero, and the Asbury Park native wore a grin that went from ear to ear for the entirety of his glorious cameo. The respect he dearly holds for Wilson still found a way to radiate through the shaky fan-recorded footage.
Wilson recollected in his memoir, I Am Brian Wilson, about the first time their paths crossed in 2007. “I was playing a benefit show at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, New Jersey. The whole time we were playing our show, there was a guy sitting in a folding chair on the side of the stage,” he wrote.
That unassumed guy lurking in the shadows of the venue watching on from the sidelines was Bruce Springsteen. Wilson remembered how he was “so quiet there on the side of the stage… [i]t was almost like he was taking notes”.
Much to the elation of an unsuspecting Wilson, Springsteen joined him to perform ‘Barbara Ann’ and ‘Love and Mercy’. Following the show, the head Beach Boy said they “hung out for a little while”, and Bruce praised his creations as “American masterworks”.
Although Wilson is no stranger to positive platitudes being hurled in his direction, it’s different when it comes from a soul as prestigious as Springsteen. He humbly reflected on the remark and wrote, “It was nice of him to say. He has written some himself”.
In the documentary Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road, Springsteen went even further in his praise. The Boss can be heard in the film saying: “[He] just took you out of where you were and took you to another place.”
Adding: “There’s no greater world created in rock and roll than the Beach Boys, the level of musicianship, I don’t think anybody’s touched it yet.”
Admittedly, The Beach Boys didn’t manage to maintain their opulence for a period as prolonged as The Beatles, yet, Springsteen raises a valid point about the majesty they achieved at their zenith and whether that has ever been surpassed.