By Brian Ives
The album attempts to cover a lot of ground. Wilson both takes stock of his iconic career, and points out the massive influence he’s had on subsequent generations of pop musicians via collaborations with today’s pop stars. In at least one instance, however, those purposes didn’t mesh, costing the album one very high profile guest spot.
Kacey Musgraves, Nate Ruess, She & Him and Capital Cities’ Sebu Simonian are all on the guest list (as are Wilson’s former Beach Boys mates Al Jardine, David Marks and Blondie Chaplin). However, two of the more high profile guests being discussed in the past year did not make the track list: Frank Ocean and Lana Del Rey.
“The Frank Ocean thing, that never materialized into a track. It was just that they got together and talked about doing something,” Don Was explains to Radio.com. Was didn’t produce the No Pier Pressure sessions (though he’s produced Wilson in the past), but he played bass on many of the songs and also served as the album’s A&R representative.
The Lana Del Rey collaboration, however, was nixed for editorial reasons.
While she recorded vocals on “The Last Song,” Wilson explains to Radio.com that he “decided that we were going to use our version [without Del Rey’s vocals] instead. It is a nostalgic lyric about the ending of something. It’s the last song at the end of the album.”
Was elaborates on that answer, offering further insight into the decision. “She sang a great version of it. It was actually really cool. It’s such a significant song. Brian’s had a 50 year career… and with this song possibly being a coda to that career, I don’t how you could have someone else on that song. It also means something completely different when a young woman is singing it. It didn’t feel like someone taking a look at their life.”
Was actually has a lot of history with Wilson, including producing Wilson’s second solo album, 1995’s I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times, and directing the accompanying documentary of the same name.
Was says that he found working on the entire album, particularly “The Last Song,” to be a moving experience. “One of the first things we did was ‘The Last Song.’ When I heard him start singing it, I realized how deep the song was. I really choked up during the session. It was actually really tough to maintain my composure. I don’t know if he even intended it to be a ‘sign off.’ But I read it that way. It was like, he was saying, ‘All right, see ya.'”
As for the Del Rey version of the song, Was says, “It’s cool and I hope it comes out one day. It’s mixed, it’s done. But for a myriad of reasons, this version [without her] seems to be the way to end the record. And it’s really powerful.”