The Elements: Fire
|"The Elements: Fire (Mrs. O'Leary's Cow)"|
|Song by The Beach Boys from the album The Smile Sessions|
|Released||November 1, 2011|
|Recorded||November 28, 1966Gold Star Studios
June 29, 1967 , Brian Wilson's home studio
|Genre||Acid rock, psychedelic rock, hard rock, instrumental rock|
|The Smile Sessions track listing|
|"Fall Breaks and Back to Winter (W. Woodpecker Symphony)"|
|Song by The Beach Boys from the album Smiley Smile|
|Released||September 18, 1967|
|Recorded||June 29, 1967Brian Wilson's home studio,|
|Genre||Psychedelic rock, experimental rock|
|Producer||The Beach Boys|
|Smiley Smile track listing|
|"Mrs. O'Leary's Cow"|
|Song by Brian Wilson from the album Brian Wilson Presents Smile|
|Released||September 28, 2004|
|Recorded||April–June, 2004, Sunset Sound Recorders|
|Brian Wilson Presents Smile track listing|
"The Elements: Fire" (also known as "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow", in reference to Catherine O'Leary and the Great Chicago Fire) is an instrumental song written and recorded by Brian Wilson for the Beach Boys in 1966. The track remained unfinished until 1967, when it was re-recorded with an entirely different arrangement under the name "Fall Breaks and Back to Winter (W. Woodpecker Symphony)". This version was published for the Beach Boys album Smiley Smile.
Under the title "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow", Brian Wilson completed "Fire" in 2004 for Brian Wilson Presents Smile. Wilson was later awarded the Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance for "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow", which also happened to be his first.
"The Elements: Fire (Mrs. O'Leary's Cow)"
In Brian Wilson's ghostwritten autobiography Wouldn't it be Nice: My Own Story, the circumstances of his second LSD trip were detailed. They were purported to have involved ego death as well as death by burning, which has lead some to speculate that the track is a musical adaptation of this LSD trip. It was originally intended for the Beach Boys' famous unreleased album Smile as part of the "Elements" suite in 1966.
According to the book, "the instrumental track was one long, eerie whine. It built slowly, like the beginning of a giant conflagration, and grew so intense it was possible to picture the kindling catching, spreading, and being whipped by the wind into a raging, out-of-control inferno...The chords were weird, sick, not the straight eight. I ran the miniorchestra through twenty-four takes before I was satisfied. Still, during each version, I thought, Oh God, I'm flipping out to have written such stuff. The weirdest was the crash and crackle of instruments smoldering for the final time. Listening to the playback, I began to feel unnerved by the music, strange and eerie. I liked the music. But it scared me."  According to Brian, "It created a disturbing picture that mirrored the screams that had filled my head and plagued my sleep for years." In regard to the existence of its master tapes, "Roughly two minutes of 'Fire' music still exists, locked in the Capitol vaults, where I hope it remains. Not because I still believe it possesses a negative power; that was merely a reflection of how disturbed I was at the time. I hope that segment remains unreleased simply because it's not good music." 
The instrumental sessions for the album were recorded under unusual conditions. Wilson instructed everybody in the studio to wear a fire helmet, and had another person bring in a bucket with burning wood so that the studio would be filled with the smell of smoke. Attempts by Wilson were then made to record the crackling noises made by the burning wood and mix them into the track. "Fire" is also known for being one of the first signs of Brian Wilson's psychological collapse during the Smile sessions. Although Wilson falsely claimed for many years that he had destroyed the tapes, an account of the famous "Fire" story was first reported and published in October 1967:
“Yeah,” said Brian on the way home, an acetate trial copy or “dub” of the tape in his hands, the red plastic fire helmet still on his head. “Yeah, I’m going to call this ‘Mrs. O’Leary’s Fire’ and I think it might just scare a whole lot of people.”
As it turns out, however, Brian Wilson’s magic fire music is not going to scare anybody—because nobody other than the few people who heard it in the studio will ever get to listen to it. A few days after the record was finished, a building across the street from the studio burned down and, according to Brian, there was also an unusually large number of fires in Los Angeles. Afraid that his music might in fact turn out to be magic fire music, Wilson destroyed the master.
“I don’t have to do a big scary fire like that,” he later said. “I can do a candle and it’s still fire. That would have been a really bad vibration to let out on the world, that Chicago fire. The next one is going to be a candle.”
— Jules Siegel, Goodbye Surfing, Hello God!, 
"Fall Breaks and Back to Winter (W. Woodpecker Symphony)"
Staying true to the "candle" sentiment, it was stripped-down and reworked in Smiley Smile. The instrumentation has been described to have involved "bizarre woodpecking" percussion, the use of a squeeze box that emulates the iconic Woody Woodpecker laugh, and wordless vocals by the Beach Boys. "Fall Breaks and Back to Winter" has also been described as (along with other Smiley Smile tracks) "a kind of protomiminal rock music", and that "the lack of formal or harmonic deveopment makes the listener focus upon other quaities such as instrumentation, timbre, and reverberation. A concentrated listening effort thus goes quickly to subtle details."
In 1996, "Falls Breaks and Back to Winter" was included in David Toop's Ocean of Sound, a 2-CD compilation album meant to accommodate his book of the same name.
- Gary Usher for Add Some Music To Your Day: A Symphonic Tribute To Brian Wilson (1970)
- Jim O'Rourke for Smiling Pets (1998)
||Constructs such as ibid., loc. cit. and idem are discouraged by Wikipedia's style guide for footnotes, as they are easily broken. Please improve this article by replacing them with named references (quick guide), or an abbreviated title. (December 2013)|
- "Out-Of-Sight! SMiLE Timeline". Archived from the original on 2008-03-11. Retrieved 2011-10-30.
- Brian Wilson, Wouldn't It Be Nice, Bloomsbury Publishing, 1996 p.156
- Brian Wilson Interview Rare 1976 part 1 on YouTube; Brian Wilson Interview Rare 1976 part 1 on YouTube
- Siegel, Jules (October 1967). Cheetah magazine.
- Leaf, David. "Smiley Smile liner notes". Retrieved 5 July 2013.
- Boone, edited by John Covach & Graeme M. (1997). Understanding rock : essays in musical analysis ([Online-Ausg.]. ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195100050.