How the lost Beach Boy found himself
David Marks was thirteen when he found fame as one of the Beach Boys, his crisp guitar key to the band's new modern electric sound. (Apparently Motown founder Berry Gordy once called Marks 'the best guitar player in Los Angeles'.)
The only member not related to the band's wayward guiding genius Brian Wilson, Marks left the group while still only 15 after defying the 'harsh authority' of the band's manager Wilson's father Murry to become, according to the title of his 2007 biography 'the Lost Beach Boy'. He rejoined the band in 1997 only to have to leave again when the liver disease Hepatitis C was diagnosed.
I don't know exactly how I contracted hepatitis C, having been exposed to multiple risk factors in my past including experimentation with drugs.
There are so many ways that you can inadvertently come in contact with someone's blood, and because decades can pass between becoming infected and being diagnosed, it can be hard to pin-point when or how you got Hepatitis C.
When I was 12 I was hospitalized for a month due to jaundice, so my liver problems go way back. In our neighbourhood, fighting was part of the culture and cutting our knuckles on someone's tooth and being bled on was a regular thing. Later on there was drugs, of course.
There tends to be a correlation between being an artist and being insane! Whatever characteristics we have that draws us to the arts to begin with, also drives to seek us out new and unique ways of looking at something, to open our senses and lower our inhibitions. So that, combined with money, an innate immaturity and unlimited access to these vices, is the perfect cocktail for abuse.
I suppose for some it can be about seeking out an adrenaline rush that drugs or playing a guitar solo in front of 100,000 people can give you. I used them more to come down from the natural high I get when I'm performing, and to numb the emotional baggage that comes along with being a musician. These days, I have more productive ways of dealing with those things, but when you are young and famous, it's easy to get sucked into certain bad habits.
For me, the low point was in the mid to late 1970s. I went through a period of a couple of years where people from my past didn't recognize me when I'd run into them on the street. I became a single father in 1982 so raising my daughter gave me something better to focus on and I quit the hard stuff. I quit alcohol in 1999 when I was diagnosed with hepatitis C.
It was frightening when they told me I had it.
I didn't know what it was. I didn't have any symptoms. I was carrying the virus around with me for probably 20 or 30 years without knowing it. This is why getting tested is so important.
If you don't know you have it, your liver is being slowly and silently eaten away by this virus
And you are putting other people at risk. If you are not sure is you have been exposed to any of the risk factors, you can take the quiz on the NHS website.
I was in the Emergency Room for what turned out to be a broken rib, but the the doctors weren't sure what was wrong with me at first. When they drew a routine blood panel and saw my liver enzymes were elevated, my doctor ordered a test for hepatitis C, which came back positive. I like to say that a broken rib saved my life, because I found out about my condition while I was still at the stage just before the damage to my liver was irreversible. Another year and it probably would have been too late.
I travelled all over the US raising awareness for hepatitis C during the year I was on treatment. It was a long year, but I am not only still alive, but I have been virus free for 5 years so it was well worth any fatigue or mild flu-like symptoms I may have felt during treatment.
I feel better now than I have for 20 years.
Confronting this disease forced me to make drastic changes in my lifestyle for the better and I am still benefiting from those changes even though I no longer have hepatitis C. I'm no longer the lost Beach Boy. I would say I've been pretty present for the last several years.
Thanks to some major milestones, like being recognized by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and having a California State Historical Landmark with my name and image on it built in our old neighbourhood, I think I've been working my way back into the mainstream. Last year I finally got a chance to tour the UK with the Beach Boys, which meant a lot to me since the British fans have always been so supportive of the Beach Boys.
About 200,000 people in the UK have the Hepatitis C but over half don't know it. Yet even when there are no symptoms, the liver is still being damaged by the virus which can cause cirrhosis, cancer or liver failure. It can kill.
- Malehealth FAQ on Hep C (including all the risk factors)
- The cover of the Beach Boys' third album Surfer Girl at the top of the page features (from right to left), Dennis Wilson, David Marks, Carl Wilson, Mike Love and Brian Wilson.
- David Marks website
Could you have Hep C? This NHS website will help you: www.nhs.uk/hepc
Page created on January 17th, 2010
Page updated on January 21st, 2010