Friday, February 26, 2010


SMiLE is an unreleased album by The Beach Boys, and perhaps the most famous unreleased rock and roll album of all time. Recorded throughout 1966 and 1967, the project was intended by its creator Brian Wilson as the follow-up to The Beach Boys' influential album Pet Sounds, but was never completed in its original form. The project was resurrected in 2003, and a newly recorded version was released by Beach Boys composer and leader Wilson in 2004. During the 37 years from its cancellation to the release of Wilson's version, Smile acquired considerable mystique, and bootlegged tracks from the never-completed album are circulated widely among Beach Boys collectors. Many of the tracks which were originally recorded for Smile eventually found their way onto subsequent Beach Boys albums.

In an October 1966 interview, Brian Wilson dubbed the work "a teenage symphony to God". His plan was to take his work on Pet Sounds to a new level, with an album-length suite of specially-written songs which were both thematically and musically linked, and would be recorded using the unusual sounds and innovative production techniques which had made their recent hit "Good Vibrations" so successful.

Crucial to the inception and creation of Smile was Wilson's collaboration with singer, musician, composer and lyricist Van Dyke Parks, whom Wilson invited to write lyrics for the new album in the Spring of 1966; at the time, the project was provisionally entitled Dumb Angel. The two quickly formed a close and fruitful working relationship, and between April and September 1966 they co-wrote a number of major songs, including "Surf's Up", "Heroes and Villains", "Wonderful", "Cabin Essence" and "Wind Chimes", all of which were written in the famous sandbox that Brian had installed in his home. Their first collaboration was "Heroes and Villains", and it is reported that when Wilson played the song's descending melody line to him, Parks devised the opening line on the spot. Their most acclaimed song, "Surf's Up", was written in one night.

Although the precise nature of its original conception is still hotly debated, several key features of Smile are generally acknowledged: both musically and lyrically, Wilson and Parks intended Smile to be explicitly American in style and subject, a direct reaction to the British dominance of popular music at the time. It was supposedly conceived as a musical journey across America from east to west, beginning at Plymouth Rock and ending in Hawaii, as well as traversing some of the great themes of modern American history and culture, including the impact of white settlement on native Americans, the influence of the Spanish, the Wild West, and the opening up of the country by railroad and highway.

also drew heavily on American popular music of the past; Wilson's innovative original compositions were interwoven with snippets of significant songs of yesteryear, including "The Old Master Painter" (made famous by Peggy Lee), the perennial "You Are My Sunshine", Johnny Mercer's jazz standard "I Wanna Be Around" (recorded by Tony Bennett), the song "Gee" by noted '50s doo-wop group The Crows, as well as quotations from other pop-culture reference points, such as the Woody Woodpecker theme.

The cut-up structure of Smile was certainly unique for its time in mainstream popular music, and it indicates that Brian was familiar with the techniques of musique concrète and the usage of chance operations in making art—an approach which was also exerting a strong influence on the Beatles at this point.

Wilson's experiments with LSD were undoubtedly a significant influence on the texture and structure of the work, and one of the strongest intellectual influences on his thinking at this time was his friend Loren Schwartz, who is said to have introduced Brian to both marijuana and LSD.

No comments:

Post a Comment