The 1970s were the crazy years for Brian Wilson. He had begun to retreat in 1967, after the collapse of Smile, and by 1975, Wilson's wife had hired psychiatric charlatan Eugene Landy to look after Brian.
But somehow, in the fall of 1976, he was able to pull himself together to appear, as a solo act, on NBC's Saturday Night (as it was called at the time). On the previous week's show, it was announced that the next week's host would be Jodie Foster (who was all of fourteen! But I gotta tell you, I just watched Panic Room a few weeks ago, and Jodie looked almost exactly the same there as she does here), with musical guest Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, but come the following week, it was just Brian with an anonymous backing band. I don't know what happened there.
It's made all the odder by the fact that Brian performed "Back Home" from the Beach Boys' new album, 15 Big Ones, (he introduces it as being "from our new album") and "Love Is a Woman," which would surface on the Beach Boys' 1977 album, The Beach Boys Love You. They brought him back at the end of the show to do a completely solo "Good Vibrations," accompanied only by himself at the piano.
More to the point, though, Brian appears to be totally nuts. His hand twitches as he sits at the piano getting ready to play; he sings (badly) out of the side of his mouth; he looks completely uncomfortable. After he finishes "Love Is a Woman," he gets up from the piano bench and walks away with the camera still on him. He has a big bristly beard and though he's a ways from his later peak of 300 pounds, he's well over 200.
But the coolest thing about the whole appearance is that he appeared in a sketch! There was this little skit with Laraine Newman as the woman with a metal-detecting wand at an airport gate, and Dan Aykroyd is a metal fetishist with his raincoat pockets full of wrenches and files and a hacksaw, and a metal collar around his neck. Brian Wilson is some kind of security guard, standing in the background, saying nothing and doing nothing (except some twitching) until the very end, when a Jack Haley lookalike passes through the metal detector, and Brian says to Laraine, "The Tin Woodsman, that was the Tin Woodsman? I should have asked him for his autograph!"
Good for you, Brian. Don't let a little thing like insanity get you down.
I should warn you, I have obtained a copy of the DVD of Saturday Night Live [sic]: The Complete Second Season, from 1976 and 1977, which is of enormous cultural and personal significance. That is where I derived this item as well as that previous, incredibly trivial one on Karen Black. I could fill this blog with items from this DVD set for the next three weeks, and I just may do it. Caveat lector.