Taylor Hawkins talks to Mojo about Pacific Ocean Blue and his role in bringing the music of Dennis Wilson back to life.
How come you got to record the vocal track?
It goes back eight or nine years. An old girlfriend of mine's father was one of Dennis's best friends as well as his writing partner (Gregg).
When did you first hear Pacific Ocean Blue?
When I was a kid, I knew Surfin' USA, Good Vibrations, God Only Knows, the key Beach Boys tracks. Then, when I met Gregg, he played me Pacific Ocean Blue. I loved it. It was so raw and soulful. There's no bullshit on it. It's straight from the gut, just blood on tape.
Did you get your own copy?
It was pretty impossible to get hold of but I have three vinyl copies. I gave one to Roger Taylor (Queen drummer), who I've got to know pretty good after a couple of years of me stalking him!
So when did you get to sing on Holy Man?
Gregg called me and said: "We're doing it! We're doing it! We got the funding and everything's on. I want you to check out putting some vocals on this unfinished song that was really important to Dennis."
Why didn't Dennis sing on it?
I guess they tried some lyrics and didn't like 'em. There was a Dennis vocal track but he erased it, just said "I'm gonna fucking erase it!" He was a big dude and you didn't fuck with Dennis.
How did you feel about taking his place?
I was a little nervous. I was like "Who the fuck am I to do it?" This stuff is pretty sacred. I didn't want to piss on his Picasso.
How did you feel when you heard your version played back?
Whenever I do a vocal for something, I run fast from the studio and I don't want to hear it for a couple of days. I'm constantly telling the engineers I'm not a singer "so don't look at me like that". But I've had a great reaction to it from friends and muso people.
Has fellow Foo Fighter Dave Grohl heard it?
He loved it, thought it was totally beautiful, but I don't think he's ever heard Pacific Ocean Blue. It's hard to sit him down to actually listen to something. He's as busy as fuck, always got something going on with his family and all that stuff.
Do you feel an affinity with Dennis?
I do. He's a drummer. He grew up on the beach and Gregg always said that we had somewhat similar voices, kinda rough, not exactly Pavarotti, a bit scratchy.
What do you think of the song?
Well, Dennis's piano was great. You can hear his instrumental version if you don't wanna hear this bonehead on there. (Big laugh.) I love Dennis so much and I love Pacific Ocean Blue. I love the legend of him.
What sort of man do you think he was?
I think he was terribly insecure 'cos he had these two brothers. One of 'em, Carl, had the voice of an angel and the other, Brian, is a mad genius. But Dennis was the only one who surfed - he was the real Beach Boy.
So he was their spiritual leader?
In a way, yeah. Everyone knows what a cop their dad was and he was really hard on Dennis, who was considered the unmusical dumb one. With all due respect - because they all had their moments - Dennis did the best stuff. There's no question.
What about his songs for The Beach Boys?
His first major song was called Little Bird which is on Friends. It's beautiful and I love his voice. It's ragged and got more ragged through the years. Some people think he got punched in the throat at a bar. I dunno, maybe it was just drinking and drugs or whatever, but it's almost got a Tom Waits feel.
Which songs on Pacific Ocean do you like?
I like End Of The Show. I like the ballads. The one that breaks my heart is Thoughts Of You.
Thanks for talking to me about it.
I'm so glad you love that album. We'll start our own fan club, man!