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Brian Wilson's favourite "poetic" song by Bob Dylan


There’s an incandescent joy to listening to the early moment of Brian Wilson’s career. He embodied everything that made music truly tick in the 1960s golden age of pop. For much of what makes The Beach Boys one of the defining sounds of the decade, you have Wilson’s songwriting to thank. His commanding presence in the studio would see the band create some of the decade’s most cherished work—1966’s Pet Sounds is consistently lauded as one of the finest albums ever made.

We know this probably isn’t news to you but we wanted to be clear, for all those in doubt, Brian Wilson knows what makes a classic track. He is an expert at crafting pure pop perfection and he’s done it year after year. So when Rolling Stone asked him to compile a list of his favourite tunes back in 2015 there was sure to be a perfect playlist waiting at the end of it.

A list of the songs that “made” Wilson what he is today is the kind of playlist that deserves revisiting again and again. Within the list of tracks, he noted several classic songs from his contemporaries. He noted The Rolling Stones for their essential song ‘Satisfaction’ as well as noting rare tune ‘My Obsession’ as another favourite.

Wilson also gave nods to the influential pioneering figure of Chuck Berry and his classic track ‘Johnny B. Goode’ as well as giving an accolade to the Four Freshmen song, ‘You Stepped Out of a Dream’. “This is where I learned to arrange harmonies, and also where I learned to sing falsetto. Their four-part harmony was totally original.” His penultimate pick was none other than the song that swept the globe, ‘Rock Around the Clock’ by Bill Haley and His Comets.

Wilson remarks, “I remember the first time a friend of mine played this for me on the phone. I just wanted to hear it over and over.” It was a sentiment felt across the nation, with countless rock and roll icons citing it as the main reason they were pushed into being in a band.

One other such idol, but one of Wilson’s contemporaries, has also been selected by the singer. He chooses Bob Dylan’s ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ as his final favourite song, sharing the same wide-eyed adoration for Dylan as we all do, “Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me/I’m not sleepy, and there ain’t no place I’m going to…’ I love those lyrics, really love them. ‘Poetic’ is the word.”

It’s a classic track. Though it would take The Byrds in the sixties and Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Minds in the nineties, to bring the track the acclaim it deserves. The song, assessed separately from Dylan’s mystique stands up to anything else released in the decade. Wrongly pinned down as a “drug” song by many, the track is more accurately seen as a moment of reflection of writing itself. Built out of moving imagery and non-contexual vignettes, the track does carry similar nuances to the actual feeling of being a little spaced out, but that’s the exact same effect as the best poetry has too. It’s easy to see why it’s Mr Wilson’s favourite.

Listen below to Brian Wilson’s favourite Bob Dylan song, ‘Mr Tambourine Man’, below.