This is a very sophisticated song, with its movements and progressions. Of course, it doesn't have a good beat and you can't dance to it! But, seriously, it deals with some very heavy themes. Obviously, from the title, he is talking about the death of Dennis Wilson, the Beach Boy who dated Christine but who had a serious drug problem and died young. He had a very hard life, and I think Lindsey was putting himself in Dennis' shoes in the first part. "We can all break down together." I believe this refers to the Beach Boys. The brothers Wilson underwent a lot of emotional trauma and at the time of Dennis' death Brian actually HAD suffered a breakdown. Dennis in his state of drug dependancy wasn't much better off. They were all "go[ing] down together." At the end of this movement, there's a clip of an announcer pronouncing the arrival of the Beach Boys to the cheers of the crowd. Maybe that adulation is "just a memory," as at the time of Dennis' death, the Beach Boys were in complete chaos - the good times were over. They weren't the "fabulous Beach Boys" anymore. They were sad, broken-down men.
In the second movement, "The Prayer," I believe he deliberately copies the Beach Boy harmonies and their cheery sound - but is it really cheery? Obviously, there was tragedy behind those harmonies. But I'm unclear on the meaning of the second movement in that sometimes it sounds like he's putting himself in Dennis' place again, seeing life as so worthless that death "brings forth life where there was no life before," but other times it seems like he's urging Dennis (or someone like him) to "pray for guidance," to "never be afraid." Of course, Lindsey isn't all that religious. If he is still thinking like Dennis, then those comments would probably be ironic. I'd like to believe that it's not ironic, however, and that the prayer is a positive one.
Editorial note: For some reason, this song really unsettles me. It's not even that I don't like it, it just makes me very uncomfortable - and I don't even know why! But it makes me so anxious I can't enjoy anything other than the "Reflection." Wierd, huh?
About this song, Lindsey said: "I can't say it's totally about Dennis Wilson, but the way I reacted to his death brought about a whole set of feelings having to do with him, with Brian [Wilson], with myself, even, on some levels."
This is a truly stunning song. I think the lyrics are some of the most loving and accepting of life and death of people and things that Lindsey has written . . . that anyone has written. It's deep, and sad and aching, and also joyful and jubilant and celebratory. The song is about death and mourning, but also life and learning. A death is sometimes truly a loss of life (Dennis), but the death is also sometimes the loss of something (hopes, dreams, friendships) or someone through forms of insanity (Brian) - however one chooses to define insanity. Its also about celebrating the peace death brings to those who may have suffered a great deal (unnecessarily) in life. Its about understanding that those left behind must accept the loss and move on and gain strength from the memory, because life goes on.
The first movement, "The Wish" deals with the loss from the perspective of the one who is "dying," and sees it almost as something warm and welcoming -- an escape from the "wild wanton world." Lindsey never left this world physically or mentally like Dennis and Brian respectively, but he secluded himself artistically and emotionally in many ways for several years as a response to his own family traumas and deaths, his own critical standards of himself, and his own acute sensitivity to the rejection of his artistic aspirations by the band.
The second movement, "The Prayer," begins with the fade in and out of the introduction to the fabulous Beach Boys - a magical touch done in homage to the Wilsons. In this movement, Lindsey is stepping into Dennis' shoes and sending a message back to his children and family. The message is basically, "Be good and be loving. I'll always be here watching over you, so if you need help 'pray for guidance from above.'" I think this section also may touch on some of those imaginary conversations Lindsey had with his own deceased father (as alluded to in Street of Dreams), so some of these words may be things that Lindsey "hears" from his own dad. The double-tracking of Lindsey's voice in a low whisper and a high, soft, almost child-like, apprehensive prayer as he recites the "closing of a chapter, opening of a door" lines is so touching. Dennis' death/Mr. Buckingham's death/Brian's withdrawal from reality closed one chapter of their lives, but allowed for a new spiritual life to be brought forth. Those left behind must find the meaning and hope in this new world.
The final movement, "The Reflection" is an instrumental jig. It begins with the ringing of a bell that tolls the end of something a moment of silence and announces the beginning of something new. This jig is not sad, it's very joyful and jubilant. It's a celebration of the life that was, and of the new lives and hopes that now must spring forth. The song is simply amazing.
D.W. Suite is one of my favorite of Lindsey's solo songs. I think the "speaker" in the song is supposed to be Dennis Wilson, whom Lindsey takes the role of with the vocals in each movement. Yes, it's a sad song, considering the guy's life, but I think Lindsey may be injecting some hope into his story. To think of death as the "closing of a chapter" or the "opening of a door" is a comforting way of dealing with it. Especially for those who have lived in desperate circumstances, we like to think that their passing away actually "brings forth life where there was no life before," and that now their spirit can look down benevolently on the rest of us who are toughing it out. So the song is a progression from breakdown and resignation, to a passage Beyond, where there is compassion and understanding, and finally, to joy.
Overall, there is a somewhat manic feel to the composition, reflecting perhaps Lindsey's ambivalence: he wants and hopes there to be reparation in an afterlife, but is this a certainty? The exuberance of the ending "jig" (which is nearly identical to a tune played by Custer's band in the movie "Little Big Man") suggests that there is still a touch of madness even in our fondest hopes. This is what the song means to me, anyway.