Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson has spent decades trying to make peace with the “voices” inside his head, he reveals in his new autobiography, I Am Brian Wilson.
And many of his most popular songs, he admits, were created in an effort to escape from those voices.
“Lots of the music I’ve made has been my way of trying to get rid of these voices,” Wilson writes in his book, released on Oct. 11, which chronicles his battles with mental illness, drug abuse and his difficult childhood.
The 74-year-old musical genius, widely regarded as one of pop music’s most creative and innovative artists, says that he first experienced auditory hallucinations in 1964, roughly one week after he took LSD for the first time.
It was during that first psychedelic trip that Wilson sat down at the piano and began noodling around on the keyboard, trying to capture the sounds and melodies bouncing around inside his head.
“I also started to play what became ‘California Girls’ on the piano, that sound of the cowboy riding into town,” he writes. “I played it and played it until I heard other things inside of it.”
Days later, the then-22-year-old musician – who had formed the Beach Boys two years earlier with his brothers Dennis and Carl Wilson, along with their cousin Mike Love and high school pal Al Jardine – began hearing voices that told him that he was “weak,” “that I’m worthless,” “that they’ll kill me.”
Wilson’s most effective way to escape from the increasingly “dark” voices he heard was to go into the studio and work on a song. “When I walk into the studio music happens and the voices stop happening,” he writes. “It’s kind of a magic.”
RELATED VIDEO: EXCLUSIVE: Did Mike Love Write the Lyrics to ‘Good Vibrations’ in Just 10 Minutes?
Today, more than five decades after they began, Wilson writes that he has finally forged a semblance of peace with the voices that have wreaked so much havoc on his life and now considers “anxiety” and “creativity” to be similar states of mind.
“If you can worry about problems when there aren’t problems around,” he writes, “then you can also think of stories or songs when there aren’t stories or songs around. You can make things go from not existing to existing.”