Smile (The Beach Boys album)

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Official planned LP cover with artwork by Frank Holmes. Other versions included a "Duophonic stereo" banner on top. Many unofficial Smile bootlegs modified elements of this artwork, while others deviated to an entirely new cover.
Aborted album by The Beach Boys
Recorded February 17, 1966 (1966-02-17)–May 18, 1967 (1967-05-18),
United Western, CBS Columbia, Gold Star, and Sunset Sound studios, Los Angeles[nb 1]
Genre Americana, psychedelic rock, baroque pop, psychedelic pop, avant-garde, experimental
Producer Brian Wilson
The Beach Boys recording chronology
Pet Sounds
Smiley Smile

Smile (occasionally typeset with partial capitalization as SMiLE) is a partially recorded concept album by the Beach Boys originally intended to be the follow-up album to Pet Sounds. After the Beach Boys' main songwriter Brian Wilson abandoned large portions of music recorded from early 1966 to mid 1967, the group recorded and released the dramatically minimized Smiley Smile album in its place. Several of the original tracks eventually found their way onto subsequent Beach Boys albums. As Smile's fame grew, details of the original Beach Boys Smile recordings acquired considerable mystique, and it became widely known as one of pop music's legendary milestones.[1][2][3]

The project was later arranged for solo live performances by Wilson in 2004, and then followed up by the studio-recorded Brian Wilson Presents Smile. Though it received great critical acclaim, Wilson later admitted that his version differed substantially from how he had originally conceptualized the work during the 1960s.[4] Between the thirty-seven years from its cancellation to the release of Wilson's presentation, bootlegged tracks from Smile circulated widely among record collectors,[5] and many attempts were made by outside parties to "complete" the album the way it had been envisioned by Wilson in the 1960s based on contemporary publications and statements made by those who were originally involved.[2]

On November 1, 2011 (2011-11-01) The Smile Sessions was released, an approximation of what the completed album might have sounded like, the first disc largely following the template that Wilson's 2004 album presented. Along with this came a sequence of newly arranged surviving recordings and many unreleased session highlights and outtakes. It received unanimous critical acclaim.[6] In 2012 it was ranked number 381 in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.[7] In 2013, it won the Best Historical Album award at the 55th Grammy Awards.[8]


Van Dyke Parks circa 1967. Besides providing the majority of Smile's lyrics and thematic direction,[9] he also participated in sessions as an instrumentalist.[10]

The genesis of Smile was during the recording of Pet Sounds. On February 17, 1966, during the sessions for that album, Brian Wilson started work on a new single, "Good Vibrations". Seventeen recording sessions took place over four studios at a cost greater than US$50,000 (exceeding US$360,000 today), making "Good Vibrations" the most expensive single of its time.[11][12] It was created by an unprecedented recording technique: nearly 30 minutes of separate musical sections were recorded, spliced together and reduced into a three-minute pop song. The song quickly became the band's biggest international hit yet, rising to number one in over half a dozen countries including Britain and the United States. Smile was intended to be produced in a similar fashion.

Crucial to the inception and creation of Smile was Wilson's meeting with musician Van Dyke Parks in February 1966. They had been introduced to each other by mutual friends David Crosby and Terry Melcher, and Parks would often visit Wilson's home while he was working on Pet Sounds.[10] When Wilson realized that Parks had an unusually elastic manner of speaking, he asked him if he could write lyrics for "Good Vibrations". Parks declined for the reason that he thought there was nothing he could add to the track.[13] Wilson invited Parks to write lyrics for the new album in the second quarter of 1966 when the project was provisionally called Dumb Angel.[14] This time Parks agreed and the two quickly formed a close and fruitful working relationship. In preparation for the writing and recording of the album, Wilson purchased about two thousand dollars' worth of marijuana and hashish.[15] In addition, Wilson famously installed a hotboxing tent in his home and relocated a grand piano to a sandbox in his living room.[16] Between April and September 1966, Wilson and Parks spent many "all night sessions" co-writing a number of songs in the sandbox.[17][nb 2] A coterie eventually formed around Wilson for most of the Smile sessions, which along with Parks included acquaintances Loren Schwartz, Danny Hutton, Jules Siegel, David Anderle, Michael Vosse, and Paul Jay Robbins.[11]

In October 1966 interviews, Brian Wilson stated that the Beach Boys' next project was to be "a teenage symphony to God,"[19][20] and that, "It will be as much an improvement over [Pet] Sounds as that was over Summer Days."[21] The project was to have been an album-length suite of songs that were both thematically and musically linked, recorded using the unusual sounds and innovative production techniques that had contributed to the success of "Good Vibrations". The Smile project held an especially grandiose importance among its participaints, as David Anderle recalls, "Smile was going to be a monument. That's the way we talked about it, as a monument."[16]


Examples of the surreal, often literal visual interpretations of Smile lyrics prepared by Frank Holmes in 1966. From top to bottom: "Do You Like Worms?" and "Cabinessence".

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 reaction to the overwhelming British dominance of popular music at the time.[4][9][nb 3] It was supposedly conceived as a musical journey across America from east to west, beginning at Plymouth Rock and ending in Hawaii, 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. Specific historical events touched upon range from Manifest destiny, American imperialism, westward expansion, the Great Chicago Fire, and the Industrial Revolution. Aside from focusing on American cultural heritage, Smile's themes include scattered references to parenthood and childhood, physical fitness, world history, poetry, and Wilson's own life experiences. Many traits in Smile lyrics are reminiscent of the Romantic poetry movement that began in the mid-to-late 18th century, with the biggest focus being on the Songs of Innocence and of Experience collection of poems written by English poet William Blake. The piece "My Heart Leaps Up" by William Wordsworth especially originates the idiom "child is father of the man" later recycled by Wilson and Parks. Thematic links to Songs of Innocence and of Experience by concept of childhood and spirituality carry throughout other songs and tracks. Michael Vosse believes that Smile, had it been completed, would have been "basically a Southern California, non-country oriented, gospel album—on a very sophisticated level—because that's what he was doing, his own form of revival music."[17]

Smile drew heavily on American popular music of the past; Wilson's 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" (state song of Louisiana), Johnny Mercer's jazz standard "I Wanna Be Around" (recorded by Tony Bennett), "Gee" by the 1950s doo-wop group the Crows and quotations from other 20th century pop culture reference points such as the Woody Woodpecker theme and "Twelfth Street Rag". These references tended to thematically blur with the other Smile elements, and there was no definite line drawn between the established Americana and spirituality themes. Perhaps the least obvious example of this blur would be "The Old Master Painter"—the "master painter" described in the song's lyrics refers to God. This is continued in the lyrics to the Wilson/Parks original "Surf's Up", which imagines religious experience, "canvassing the town", and "brushing the backdrop". Various 18th–20th century works such as "The Pit and the Pendulum", "This Land Is Your Land", "See See Rider", "Frère Jacques", "Auld Lang Syne", "My Prayer", "The Charge of the Light Brigade", and Poor Richard's Almanack are also alluded to in song lyrics or titles. In 2005, Parks intimated that "We just kind of wanted to investigate…American images.…Everyone was hung up and obsessed with everything totally British. So we decided to take a gauche route that we took, which was to explore American slang, and that’s what we got."[9]

Other general Smile themes have been recited by Smile visual artist Frank Holmes to have included "travel, nature, history, communications, love stories, virtue, betrayal, bucolic splendor, astrology, [and] mystery."[22] It was around this period that Wilson indulged himself to various works ranging from the I Ching and Subud philosophy, to tracts on astrology, to the novels of Hermann Hesse, to detailed charts of the stars and planets,[23] The Little Prince, the works of Kahlil Gibran, Rod McKuen, and Walter Benton's This is My Beloved.[24] According to unnamed participants, "If you came up to the house and introduced something new to Brian's thought processes–astrology, a different way to think about the relationship of Russia to China, anything at all–if all of a sudden he was into that, it would find its way into the music. You could hear a bit and say, 'I know where that feeling came from.'"[15]

Psychedelia amid spirituality[edit]

Brian Wilson's experiments with psychotropics such as cannabis, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and the amphetamine/barbiturate combination desbutal[25][20] were influential on the texture and structure of the work,[26][27] some participants stating lyrical elements stemmed from their use.[nb 4] Writer Bill Tobelman speculated that Smile is filled with coded references to Brian's life and LSD experiences (a presumed Lake Arrowhead, California "trip" being the most important). This is supported by the track "Love to Say Dada", which can be abbreviated as "LSD". He also argues that it was influenced by Wilson's interest in Zen—notably in its use of absurd humor and paradoxical riddles (koans) to liberate awareness from the mind—and that Smile as a whole can be interpreted as an extended Zen koan.[30] After being asked in a 1988 interview about whether his music is or was religiously influenced, Wilson referred to the 1962-published A Toehold on Zen, and said that he believed that he possessed what is called a "toehold," defined metaphorically as "any small step which allows one to move toward a greater goal." He elaborated, "I learned from that book and from people who had a toehold on... say somebody had a grasp on life, a good grasp—they ought to be able to transfer that over to another thing."[31] Contemporary interviews display Wilson as an avid follower of the rapidly approaching psychedelic scene impending West Coast pop music, and he anticipated that Smile would be the preeminent psychedelic pop art statement.[32] He also believed that psychotropics were closely related to spirituality, citing his own psychedelic experiences which he considered "very religious."[33] In 1966, Wilson prophesied that "psychedelic music will cover the face of the world and color the whole popular music scene. Anybody happening is psychedelic."[32] Although Wilson often claimed during the 1960s that he was attempting to create a new "white spiritual sound" and move into religious music,[34] in 2004 he denied that Smile was religiously influenced.[4]


Arthur Koestler's book, The Act of Creation, had a profound effect on Wilson that carried deeply into the Smile project, specifically the human logistics of laughter. According to David Anderle, "Brian was consumed with humor at the time and the importance of humor. He was fascinated with the idea of getting humor onto a disc and hot to get that disc out to the people"[35] Wilson pointed to the book's three-category division of the human mind: Humor, Discovery, and Art;[36] he has admitted that he was most influenced by Koestler's first rule of ego, Humor, as he explained in 2005: "The Act of Creation by Arthur Koestler turned me on to some very special things…it explains that people attach their egos to their sense of humor before anything else. After I read it, I saw that trait in many people…a sense of humor is important to understanding what kind of person someone is. Studying metaphysics was also crucial, but Koestler’s book really was the big one for me."[37] As a consequence, the Smile songs are replete with word play, puns, colloquialisms, vernacular, double entendres, and miscellaneous dialect. One example is "Vega-Tables", which includes the lines "I'm gonna do well, my vegetables, cart off and sell my vegetables"; the phrase "cart off and" is a bilingual pun on the word kartoffeln, which is German for potatoes. At one stage, Wilson apparently toyed with the idea of devoting Smile as a comedy album and a number of scrapped recordings were made in this vein.[15] Michael Vosse recounted much of Smile as a humor album in a 1969 article for the magazine Fusion.

[Brian] told me that he felt laughter was one of the highest forms of divinity, and that when someone was laughing their connection with the thing that was making them laugh made them more open that they could be at just about any point. Which I agree with. You can find that in all art forms: the minute you have someone laughing you also have them vulnerable, which means either you can shock them, make them laugh more—or at that moment you can be very honest with them. And Brian felt that it was time to do a humor album. That's why they had something as dumb as the "Smile Shop" on the cover. And everybody who knew anything about graphics, and about art, thought that the cover was not terribly well done... but Brian knew better; he was right. It was exactly what he wanted, precisely what he wanted.[17]

"The Elements" suite[edit]

The four classical elements. "Fire" (also known as "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow") is the only surviving recording that is certain to have been part of any identifiable movement on the original Smile album.[nb 5]

"The Elements" was a reputed movement which encompassed the four classical elements: Air, Fire, Earth, and Water. According to Smile historian Domenic Priore, conversations between him and Van Dyke Parks have told that "The Elements" were meant to invoke the increasing attention to health, fitness, and environmentalism by anti-war peace movements.[38] Alternatively, Darian Sahanaja—whom worked with Wilson and Parks in 2004 for Smile live performances—has said:

Brian never ever referred to any of the pieces as being part of some Elemental concept, and whenever I did bring up the concept he didn’t seem to react to it with any enthusiasm. I brought it up again while Van Dyke was around and didn’t get a clear reaction from him either. My gut feeling is that it was one of many subplots and underlying themes being tossed around back in the day. It does however tie in nicely with the concepts of western expansion, manifest destiny, birth and rebirth, and so I’m sure they would respect a listener’s interpretation.[39]

During the latter half of the 1960s, Wilson began an obsession with fitness that led him to move the furniture out of his living room in order to make room for tumbling mats and exercise bars; later briefly serving as the co-owner of his own health food store.[40] Wilson reported in 1967, "I want to turn people on to vegetables, good natural food, organic food. Health is an important element in spiritual enlightenment. But I do not want to be pompous about it, so we will engage in a satirical approach."[41] Wilson instructed others to travel around with a Nagra tape recorder and record the different variations of water sounds that they could find, as Michael Vosse recounts, "I’d come by to see him every day, and he’d listen to my tapes and talk about them. I was just fascinated that he would hear things every once in a while and his ears would prick up and he’d go back and listen again. And I had no idea what he was listening for!"[42] Contemporary statements made by those involved with the original album sessions offer somewhat deeper insight into Smile's elemental suite. As described by David Anderle in an issue of Crawdaddy!:

Smile was going to be the culmination of all of Brian's intellectual occupations; and he was really into the elements. He ran up to Big Sur for a week, just 'cause he wanted to get into that, up to the mountains, into the snow, down to the beach, out to the pool, out at night, running around, to water fountains, to a lot of water, the sky, the whole thing was this fantastic amount of awareness of his surroundings. So the obvious thing was to do something that would cover the physical surroundings.…We were aware, he made us aware, of what fire was going to be, and what water was going to be; we had some idea of air. That was where it stopped. None of us had any ideas as to how it was going to tie together, except that it appeared to us to be an opera. And the story of the fire part I guess is pretty well known by now.[43]


Described as "Smile in microcosm,"[44] "Cabinessence" provides an example in where the Beach Boys experimented with soaring vocal jazz harmonies overdubbed onto spliced backing tracks. The Wall of Sound instrumentation especially features the use of double bass, cello, dobro, bouzouki, banjo, upright piano, harmonicas, and accordions.

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Brian Wilson honed his atypical production methods over several years. In 1962, it was common for pop music to be recorded in a single take but the Beach Boys' approach differed. Using multitrack technology, elements such as backing vocals and guitar solos were often recorded independently and would later be combined to the basic track. From 1964 onward Wilson also began to physically cut tape to craft his recordings, allowing hard-to-sing vocal sections to be recorded, cut and attached with sticky tape to the start or endings of songs. By the time of the Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) album in 1965, Wilson was becoming more adventurous in his use of tape splicing.[nb 6]

With "Good Vibrations", Wilson further expanded this modular approach to recording, experimenting with compiling the finished track by editing together the numerous sections from multiple versions recorded at the lengthy tracking sessions. Instead of taping each backing track as a more-or-less complete performance—as had been the model for previous Beach Boys recordings—he split the arrangement into sections, recording multiple takes of each section and developing and changing the arrangements and the production as the sessions proceeded. He sometimes recorded the same section at several different studios, to exploit the unique sonic characteristics or special effects available in each. Then, he selected the best performances of each section and edited these together to create a composite which combined the best features of production and performance. The resulting final mix broke new ground in popular recording, since each section of the song was presented in its own distinct sonic 'envelope', rather than the homogeneous production sound of a conventional "one take" studio recording. The cut-up structure and heavily edited production style of Smile was unique for its time in mainstream popular music, and it suggests that Brian was aware of the techniques of musique concrète and the usage of chance operations in making art.

Wilson continued these patterns with the songs on Smile, working mainly at United Western Recorders with engineer Chuck Britz and sometimes Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles. He also used Sunset Sound Studios and Columbia Studios on Sunset Boulevard. The vocal sessions for Smile were usually done at CBS Columbia, which had the only 8-track audio recorder available amongst the major recording studios at the time. From August 1966, he began a long and complex series of sessions—approximately 50 overall, discounting the 17 sessions needed for "Good Vibrations"—that continued until May 1967.

Although stereo recording was increasingly popular, Wilson always made his final mixes in mono, as did rival producer Phil Spector. Wilson did so for several reasons—he personally felt that mono mixing provided more sonic control over what the listener heard, minimizing the vagaries of speaker placement and sound system quality. It was also motivated by the knowledge that pop radio broadcast in mono, and most domestic and car radios and record players were monophonic.[nb 7]

Tracks and assembly[edit]

The most ambiguous and least realized parts of the 1966 Smile concept was its ambitious narrative, length, track listing, and track order. The material recorded was set to be divided into a then-undecided number of musical suites or movements. No official sequencing was decided in 1967, and although numerous track listing and running orders were eventually established decades later,[18] Brian Wilson has stated that the original Smile would have been "less uplifting" than his finished 2004 version. He also claimed that he and Van Dyke Parks had originally thought of the album as a two-movement rock opera.[4][nb 8] Given the technical limitations of record production in 1967 and the sheer bulk of material that was being recorded, Wilson recorded far more music than could possibly have fit on one LP, yet the album was only ever envisaged as being a single LP containing twelve tracks.[22][46][19] The 2011 release of the The Smile Sessions compilation proved conclusively that virtually all the musical "components" used to create Wilson's 2004 version of Smile are present in one form or another among the original 1967 recordings. The intended track order and arrangement of the various songs, segments, and link pieces of Smile have remained either inconclusive or mostly forgotten among the people involved.

Brian Wilson attempted countless mixes and arrangements of "Heroes and Villains" using inventive modular recording methods that were highly reminiscent of musique concrète. In this thirty-second excerpt, tape splices are executed every six seconds on average.

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"Heroes and Villains" was the ultimate keystone for the musical structure of the album, and the considerable time and effort that Wilson devoted to it is indicative of its importance, both as a single and as part of the Smile narrative. Like "Good Vibrations", it was edited together from many discrete sections. The complexity of Wilson's production at this time can be gauged by the sheer bulk of session material that has survived—more than 60 tracks in the five-CD The Smile Sessions boxed set are session recordings for "Heroes and Villains". Additionally, most individual tracks on Smile were composed as potential sections of "Heroes and Villains".[nb 9] Sessions for the various versions of "Heroes and Villains" spanned from May 1966 to July 1967; there are dozens of takes spanning each section of the song, multiple versions of both the variant sections, and many attempts to splice together final mixes. The other centerpiece of Smile was to be "Surf's Up", which had been for many years perceived as the intended ending climax of Smile, preceding a section described as a "choral amen sort of thing."[17] The following tracks were presented on a handwritten note delivered to Capitol Records by Brian Wilson a few weeks prior to Christmas:[citation needed]

This list was long considered crucial evidence of Wilson's intentions for the piece, but in 2006 it was discovered[by whom?] Brian had never seen it before. A comparison of the handwriting indicates that it may have been written by Carl Wilson, or possibly Brian's sister-in-law, Diane Rovell.[citation needed]

Comedy skits, field recordings, and other fragments[edit]

"Good Vibrations" was completed by Brian Wilson before the original recording sessions and released in October just as the sessions were getting underway. All of the other tracks were either not recorded or only exist in part-completed form, and many Smile-era recordings lack their full vocal arrangements, lyrics and melodies. Many of the shorter tracks, along with many other brief instrumental and vocal pieces, were evidently intended to serve as bridging sections that would have been edited in to provide links between the major songs. Nearly all of the Smile tracks fluxed in state between August 1966 and May 1967, with the only exception being "Our Prayer": a short hymn intended by Wilson to be the opening "spiritual invocation" of the Smile album.[47][48]

Few compositions had their general structure finalized. "Holidays" was recorded as an oblique instrumental in September 1966, and is one of the few pieces from Smile where every section was performed as part of one whole take.[49][nb 11] "You're Welcome" is a short chant sung by the Beach Boys over a thumpy background track featuring a glockenspiel and a timpani.[nb 12] The other Wilson brothers also experimented with their own compositions in between sessions for the Smile album, but it's doubtful if they were to have been included in the album.[nb 13] A brief medley of the traditional standards "The Old Master Painter" and "You Are My Sunshine" was also recorded,[nb 14] along with a short instrumental cover version of "I Wanna Be Around".

Various surreal comedy skits were recorded during the sessions as part of a "Psycodelic [sic] Sounds" series.[nb 15] An unused skit was also recorded by Brian Wilson with session drummer Hal Blaine to promote a then-proposed "Vega-Tables" single release. Similar experimental recording sessions were devoted to an adventurous sound collage portion of the album.[nb 16] Among those participating in these recordings directed by Brian included his wife Marilyn, sister-in-law Diane Rovell, Van Dyke Parks, Jules Siegel, Danny Hutton, David Anderle, photographer Bob Gordon, and friend Michael Vosse.[49]

Artwork and promotion[edit]

Capitol began production on a lavish gatefold cover with a twelve-page booklet in December. Cover artwork was commissioned from Frank Holmes, a friend of Van Dyke Parks.[50] He reportedly based the cover art from an abandoned jewelry store he’d seen near his home in Pasadena, and several visual interpretations of the album's lyrics were illustrated by Holmes for the Smile booklet.[50] Color photographs of the group were also taken by Guy Webster. 466,000 covers and 419,000 booklets were printed by early January 1967; with the aforementioned track list displayed on the back cover.[citation needed]

The Beach Boys were written about and interviewed extensively during the Smile era. Band members Al Jardine,[51] Mike Love,[52][53] and Bruce Johnston[54] all spoke positively of the album's recording sessions in contemporary music journals, with Dennis Wilson famously confessing to a reporter: "In my opinion it makes Pet Sounds stink—that's how good it is!".[55][52] The project was notably covered by Julies Siegel, who chronicled the band in a 1967-published article for Cheetah magazine entitled Goodbye Surfing, Hello God!. In November 1966, Brian Wilson was filmed performing a solo version of "Surf's Up" on grand piano for a CBS News special on popular music: Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution. Although he was filmed in late 1966, the special was not be aired until several months later. The month after filming for CBS, the KRLA Beat magazine published a surreal vegetable-themed psychedelic piece written by Wilson. The story described the experiences of "Brian Gemini" as he encountered various characters lurking within the "Vegetable Forest", a few of which were based upon real-life acquaintances David Anderle, Hal Blaine, and Michael Vosse.[56]

Some time in December, Brian informed Capitol that Smile would not be ready that month, but he advised that he would deliver it "prior to January 15".[citation needed] Capitol continued sending promotional materials to record distributors and dealers, and ads were placed in Billboard[57] and teenage magazines including Teen Set. Within these ads, the album had been compared as an artistic achievement to the films Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons, both directed by film auteur Orson Welles. Capitol also readied a radio ad, using "Good Vibrations" as the backdrop against a voice-over reciting the album's promotional tagline: "With a happy album cover, the really happy sounds inside, and a happy in-store display piece, you can't miss! We're sure to sell a million units... in January!"[22] Wilson's conception of the work evidently changed around this time.

Project collapse[edit]

Brian Wilson's emotional instability and substance abuse[edit]

Brian Wilson began to encounter serious problems with Smile around late November 1966. Around this period, Brian was exhibiting consistent signs of depression and paranoia.[nb 17] By the beginning of 1967, Brian's behavior became increasingly erratic, and his use of drugs escalated. While his actions were a concern for some of his friends and stories of his sometimes bizarre "off-duty" behavior became the stuff of legend, those who worked for him during this period have stated that he was totally professional in the studio.[50] Although Wilson's paranoia was consuming him, it was not completely unfounded. Other people have said that he had good reason to be wary of his surroundings, pointing to his high position in the music industry and an instance where the master tapes for "Good Vibrations" had been stolen by an unknown party for three days.[38]

We started to get indications that Brian was taking some hallucinogens, like LSD and stuff like that—a lot of the writers were doing that at the time—but it took a tremendous toll from him. He drove me around the parking lot of William Morris about twenty times, explaining to me about this great trip he had just taken, and I just wanted to be as far away from that as possible! Because I didn’t want to know about it—I wanted the innocence!

Al Jardine, 1998[59]

Following the recording session for the "Fire" section of "The Elements" at Gold Star Studios on November 28, Brian became irrationally concerned that the music had been responsible for starting several fires in the neighborhood of the studio.[18] Wilson falsely claimed for many years that he had burned these session tapes,[60] but that was not the case, although he did abandon the "Fire" piece for good. It has also been noted that Parks deliberately stayed away from the session—during which Wilson encouraged the musicians to wear toy firemen hats—and that he later described Brian's behavior as "regressive", something which band mates also noted during and after this session.[61] Besides the "Fire" session, Parks was uncomfortable being placed in the middle of the overwhelmingly drugged atmosphere that typical Smile sessions beheld,[62][63] which he has said to have indulged in only at Wilson's insistence.[13]

David Anderle was head of the Beach Boys’ label Brother Records during the period when Brian Wilson was working on the Smile album. Anderle painted a portrait of Wilson, which reportedly frightened him when he saw it, convinced that Anderle had somehow captured his soul on canvas. Anderle would go on to tell Rolling Stone years later that things had not been the same between him and Wilson afterward.[15] In subsequent years, participants have acknowledged that the lack of mental health awareness in the 1960s made it difficult for people to comprehend what was happening to Brian or how to best approach the symptoms that were arising at an overwhelming pace.[nb 18]

It was sometime in this period that Wilson went to see the film Seconds, which had a brief profound impact on him. Wilson had entered the theater late, and immediately upon arriving heard Rock Hudson's character "Mr. Wilson" greeted on screen, mistaking that the film was talking directly to him. He would expound on the experience saying that it had "completely blown" his mind, and that, "The whole thing was there. I mean my whole life. Birth and death and rebirth. The whole thing. Even the beach was in it, a whole thing about the beach. It was my whole life right there on the screen.…I mean, look at Spector, he could be involved in it, couldn't he? He’s going into films. How hard would it be for him to set up something like that?…You can understand how that movie might get someone upset under those circumstances."[34][nb 19]

Group conflicts, vocal session oppositions, and label pressure[edit]

Supplementing Brian's mental and substance abuse issues during these sessions were significant personal, business and legal pressures. In October 1966 the band began establishing Brother Records with noted difficulty,[35] on January 3, 1967 Carl Wilson refused to be drafted for military service, leading to indictment and criminal prosecution which he challenged as a conscientious objector[68] and in March 1967, a lawsuit seeking US$255,000 (US$1,800,000 today) was launched against Capitol Records over neglected royalty payments.[69] Within the lawsuit, there was also an attempt to terminate the band's contract with Capitol, a legacy of Murry's management, prior to its November 1969 expiry.[69] The case was settled out of court, with the band receiving their $200,000 in exchange for Brother Records to distribute through Capitol Records, along with a guarantee that the band produce at least one million dollars profit, which has been recalled as a point "when things started getting bad."[17]

Just because I said I didn't know what [the lyrics] meant didn't mean I didn't like them. I have zero against Van Dyke Parks. That’s why I said, "What the fuck does that mean?" It’s not meant to be an insult. He didn't get insulted. He just said, "I haven’t a clue!"…People don’t know the way I think. And they don’t give a fuck about the way I think, either.…I was just asking: What did it mean?

Mike Love[70]

Infighting within the group was also a potential factor in the demise of Smile. The December 6, 1966 session for "Cabin Essence" was the scene of an argument between Van Dyke Parks and Mike Love where the latter requested that Parks explain the meaning of the lyrics he was to sing. The event was said by Parks to be the prime catalyst for his reduced involvement in Smile, which led him to gradually move away from the project.[71][29] Love has since defended his actions, elaborating that he was displaying uncertainty over the song's lyrics, worried whether they would be appreciated and understood by the fanbase the band had built their commercial standing upon. The surrealism and obtuseness of the lyrics had led Love to adopt the term "acid alliteration" when describing them.[72][73] Despite these reservations, Love contributed vocals when asked and followed Wilson's odd requests to engage in behaviour such as acting as an animal on the floor while recording vocals.[61] In the years following, Love has noted that whatever misgivings he had toward Smile laid specifically toward some of the lyrics and not the music.[74][75] Carl Wilson corroborated Love's statements in the 1990s, and also added that he himself personally loved the lyrics.[36]

Danny Hutton reflected in 2012 that during the sessions for Smile and Pet Sounds there was worry in the Beach Boys camp that they wouldn't be able to perform the songs live to a satisfactory degree, and that the provided lyrics were too discomforting to the band especially after having achieved relatively stable mainstream success.[18][76] Other people who were present at the sessions—including David Anderle and Michael Vosse—have also reported that Smile vocal sessions had been tenuous between Brian, Parks, and the other Beach Boys.[18][nb 20][17] Accusations like these culminated in a 1971 Rolling Stone article by Tom Nolan, where it was speculated that Love in particular had issues with straying from "the formula".[15][nb 21] Love has hypothesized that his vocal opposition to those who supplied Brian with hard drugs caused those participants to start spinning the web that pinned him as the reason to why Smile was shelved, something he says was further perpetuated by writers who weren't there.[61] He also stated that his criticism of the drug culture mostly stemmed from observing the detrimental effects it played on his cousins.[70] In response, Parks has repeatedly accused Love of historical revisionism,[29] believing that Love held hostility toward Wilson and Smile and that it was "the deciding factor" in the album's postponement.[77][nb 22] In the article by Tom Nolan, it was also reported that Wilson had been forcibly assumed into a benefactor role for the band and his family, which added to his hesitancy in delivering a product that had the potential to be a great commercial failure.[15] In the ensuing years, Wilson has stated on several occasions that the other Beach Boys met Smile with huge disapproval, and that he was disappointed with their reactions.[74][nb 23] Other times, he has said that the group eventually grew to like the material as sessions progressed.[22] In reference to all of these claims, The Smile Sessions compiler Alan Boyd has noted that group opposition is not audible on the recordings he has heard.[22] The group was filmed by CBS during December 15 vocal sessions for "Surf's Up" and "Wonderful" which were reported to have went "very badly."[34] Although there were more Smile sessions, work on the album tracks effectively ceased after December 15.

Van Dyke Parks' leave and constantly vacillating directive[edit]

I walked away from the situation as soon as I realized that I was causing friction between him and his other group members, and I didn't want to be the person to do that. I thought that was Brian's responsibility to bring definition to his own life. I stepped in, perhaps, I 'took a leap before I looked'. I don't know, but that's the way I feel about it.

Van Dyke Parks, 1984[81]

Reportedly, Brian's first exposure to the Beatles' February 1967 single "Strawberry Fields Forever" affected him. He heard the song while driving his car and pulled over to listen, commenting to his passenger Michael Vosse that the Beatles had "got there first".[18] At the time, Brian was reportedly having doubts on whether Smile would still be received as a culturally relevant work among record-buyers and the contemporary rock audience.[76] After the episode, Wilson rigorously continued work mostly on "Heroes and Villains". Throughout the first half of 1967, the album's release date was repeatedly postponed as Wilson tinkered with the recordings, experimenting with different takes and mixes, unable or unwilling to supply a completed version of the album.

On April 14, 1967,[82][73] after gradually distancing himself from Wilson and the group, Van Dyke Parks left the project in the wake of signing a record deal with Warner Bros. Records so he could work on his debut album Song Cycle. As a result of Parks having quit, Brian Wilson lost sight of the album's direction.[nb 24] He went back and forth considering many different ways to execute Smile, fluctuating between ideas such as a sound effects collage, a comedy album, and a "health food" album.[15] In April 1967, due to "Heroes and Villains" being overdue, EMI released "Then I Kissed Her" as a single without the band's approval.[nb 25] The success of the relatively remedial single (which would ultimately best the chart placement of "Heroes and Villains") was another potential cause for Wilson abandoning the more adventurous roadmap of "Heroes and Villains" and settling for a more traditional song-structure.

Wilson has stated that the number of possible variations for song edits became too overwhelming for him.[nb 26][nb 27] Other people have speculated that Wilson could not have finished the album simply because his ambitions were impossible to fulfill with pre-digital technology.[nb 28]


After several months of internal conflict and only a few weeks before the release of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album, the Beach Boys' press officer Derek Taylor announced to the British press on May 6, 1967, that the Smile project had been shelved, and that the album would not be released.[85] A few weeks later, Wilson finalized "Heroes and Villains" as the Beach Boys' next single. In the months leading up to its release, it had garnered a considerable amount of hype, with many publications referring to it as another recording milestone on par with the innovations present in "Good Vibrations". Reflective of the Beach Boys popular status, they had been voted as the world's number one vocal group within readers polls conducted by UK magazine NME; ahead of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.[86] In June 1967, Wilson personally delivered an exclusive acetate of "Heroes and Villains" to radio station KHJ-AM by limousine.[15] As Wilson excitedly offered the vinyl record for radio play, the DJ refused, citing program directing protocols, which Terry Melcher recalls "just about killed [Brian]".[87] Upon its release in July, "Heroes and Villains" disappointingly peaked at only number 12 on the Billboard pop charts, and was met with general confusion amongst underwhelming reviews. This included the seminal rock figure Jimi Hendrix negatively describing the single as a "psychedelic barbershop quartet" to NME.[88] Wounded by the relative indifference to "Heroes and Villains," Wilson's emotional state began to plummet further, as the band's future manager Jack Rieley wrote for an online Q&A on October 18, 1996:

Brian blirted [sic] it out one evening at Bellagio, and later spoke about it several times in agonizing detail. He had expected that Heroes would be greeted by Capitol as the work which put the Beach Boys on a creative par with the Beatles. All the adoration and promotional backup Capitol was giving the Beatles would also flow to his music because of Heroes, he thought. And the public? It would greet Heroes with the same level of overwhelming enthusiasm that the Beatles got with record after record. As it was, Capitol execs were divided about Heroes. Some loved it but others castigated the track, longing instead for still more surfing/cars songs. The public bought the record in respectable but surely not wowy zowy numbers. For Brian, this was the ultimate failure. His surfing/car songs were the ones they loved the most. His musical growth, unlike that of Messrs. Lennon and McCartney, did not translate into commercial ascendancy or public glory.[89]

Smiley Smile[edit]

The Beach Boys still needed to complete an LP record to fulfill their obligations to Capitol Records, so an album replacement was recorded throughout June and July. As Wilson retreated to his recently acquired Bel Air mansion, it became the venue for the recording of much of the Beach Boys' next album, Smiley Smile.[90] Released that September, the album included newly stripped-down recordings of several Smile tracks. Besides its title and contents, the album was somewhat linked to Smile by carrying on the "humor" concept; much of the album is idiosyncratic, features scattered sounds of laughter, and includes at least one comedy skit: "She's Goin' Bald".

Smiley Smile was received with confusion by critics and was the group's lowest-selling album to date in the US, making only number 41 on the Billboard 200, although it fared considerably better in Britain, where it reached number nine on the album chart. The album was later described by brother and bandmate Carl Wilson as "a bunt instead of a grand-slam".[91] Brian gradually retreated from the public eye and over the ensuing years became disabled by his mental health problems to fluctuating degrees. The Smile period is often reported as the pivotal episode in his decline, causing him to become tagged as one of the most notorious celebrity drug casualties of the rock era.

Bootlegs and reconstructions[edit]

Before the release of Smiley Smile, Capitol A&R director Karl Engemann began circulating a memo which discussed a 10-track Smile album.

After discussing a number of alternatives with Schwartz, Polley, and Brian Wilson, I agreed with Brian that the best course of action would be to not include [the Smile] booklet with the Smiley Smile package, but rather to hold it for the next album which would include the aforementioned 10 selections. The second album which would be packaged with the booklet would not include the selections "Heroes and Villains" and "Vegetables". However, inasmuch as these two selections would have already been released, I believe the consumer would be quick to pick up the connection between the cartoon and these tracks. In fact, some word of explanation could be included in the liner notes of the second album.[92]

Though it was initially met with fierce disapproval by Brian Wilson, a later composite version of core Smile track "Surf's Up" was completed by the Beach Boys in 1971 and released as the Surf's Up album's lead single. Since portions of the instrumental track were missing a lead vocal, one was overdubbed by Carl Wilson.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

Though nothing of the sort would ever come to fruition, Carl Wilson would soon frequently revisit the session tapes, taking into mind the possibility of salvaging them for future release.[38][nb 29] A contract signed with Warner Brothers. Records in 1970 following the group's departure from Capitol included a clause that stipulated a finished Smile to be delivered by May 1st, 1973. Later in 1970, Brian Wilson spoke in a radio interview with Jack Rieley—who was then a DJ that Wilson had recently met at his health food store called The Radiant Radish—about the track "Surf's Up", saying "It’s just that it's too long. Instead of putting it on a record, I would rather just leave it as a song. It rambles. It’s too long to make it for me as a record, unless it were an album cut, which I guess it would have to be anyway. It's so far from a singles sound. It could never be a single."[93] Soon after, Rieley became the group's manager and adviser. With permission from Brian between mid June and early July 1971, Rieley and Carl Wilson retrieved most of the original Smile multi-tracks for careful examination. The primary reason for this trawl was to locate the masters for "Surf's Up", which was decided for inclusion on the Beach Boys forthcoming album of the same name. As progress continued, Brian gradually withdrew from the song's assembly, presumably due to the negative memories associated with the Smile sessions. Yet, the Surf's Up album was completed and released in August 1971 with its title track serving as the album's closer.[94] Besides its title track, Surf's Up bears no connection to Smile either thematically nor musically, and no other tapes from the latter's sessions were utilized. Early in 1972, the Beach Boys announced that they would be finishing Smile to follow up on the critical and commercial success of Surf's Up. By the end of the year, the idea was either abandoned or forgotten, with Brian refusing to participate in any further Smile-related reworkings, leading the group to pay a $50,000 fine.[32][38]

When asked about Smile in a 1976 interview, Brian said that he still felt an obligation to put out the album, and that it would be released "probably in a couple years."[79] Later in the 1970s, Bruce Johnston said that an assembled release of Smile would be a "bad idea" commercially. He expounded that its release could only satisfy a highly-niche audience, deeming the material too inaccessible for mainstream record-buyers, and explained, "Sometimes, you’re kind of let down. Say you discover the tapes and you say, ‘Oh yeah?’ It’s been talked about so much…It would live up to your expectations [only] if you were Zubin Mehta analyzing a young composer’s work."[95] In 1981, Johnston announced that there were plans to issue a compilation of the album's recording sessions. Accordingly, "We're gonna…go through the Smile album—Brian doesn't know this—and…make a beautiful six-minute collage.…It's better to do it that way, because musically now, as opposed to '66 or '78, it would be more interesting to just give you a peek at it than to do the whole thing. There's been too much press on it. It's like talking about bringing out the '67 Rolls Royce and they finally show it in '81. You go, 'Oh, no.'"[96] Sometime in 1988, Wilson confirmed that Smile was being compiled and mixed for an imminent release.[31] From around then, a proposed sequencing of the album by engineer Mark Linett eventually leaked to the public.[citation needed]

Throughout the 1980s, cassette bootlegs of the album's sessions were being passed around various musician circles.[5][39] By the beginning of the 1990s, Smile had earned its place as the most famous unreleased pop album, and was a focal point for bootleg recording makers and collectors.[1] In 1993, the five-CD boxed set Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of The Beach Boys was released containing almost thirty minutes of archival Smile material.[nb 30] It also contained the first official release of a reconstructed Smile album, with its sequencing ordered by David Leaf, Andy Paley, and Mark Linett.[97] These recordings made it clear that Smile had been much closer to completion than had previously been thought, and this prompted much excitement by fans over what additional songs might exist, and debate about how the songs fit into the Smile running order. There was hope in the 1990s that The Pet Sounds Sessions boxed set would be followed up with a dedicated Smile release, but it failed to materialize, with one reason being the arduous compiling and sequencing.[98]

With the emerging popularity of the Internet in the mid-1990s, the bootlegged Smile recordings became more widely available through a series of websites and "tape trees". A few websites actually offered full downloads of the tracks, and fan edits and arrangements started to appear. Beginning in 1997, the bootleg label Sea of Tunes (named after the Beach Boys' original publishing company) began releasing a series of CDs featuring high quality outtakes, session tracks and alternate recordings that ranged across the group's entire career. Among these was a three-CD set featuring over three hours of sessions for "Good Vibrations", and several multi-CD sets containing a significant number of the tracking, overdubbing and mixing sessions for Smile.[99] Those involved with releasing these bootlegs were later apprehended by authorities, and it was reported that nearly 10,000 discs were seized.[100] Unofficial reconstructions of the album were often attempted by fans in order to "complete" the album and give the recordings a cohesive listening structure;[2] for decades, fan-created playlists were the only way for the public to listen to an approximation of Smile as it would have been heard performed by the Beach Boys.[nb 31] The idea of personalized Smile tape mixes could be accredited to Domenic Priore, whom within his 1988 book Look! Listen! Vibrate! Smile! encouraged readers with blank home-made cassette tapes to compile their own Smile album.[19] Parks himself has since attributed Smile to be a "pioneering event" for interactive record design.[102][103]

Brian Wilson Presents Smile[edit]

Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks revisited Smile with Brian's touring musicians in 2004, 37 years after its conception. First, in a series of concerts (debuting at London's Royal Festival Hall on February 20, 2004), then as the solo album Brian Wilson Presents Smile, released in September 2004. The album debuted at number 13 on the Billboard 200 chart, and later earned three Grammy nominations, winning Brian Wilson his first solo Grammy award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance ("Mrs. O'Leary's Cow"). In 2005, the album won graphic artist Mark London and Nonesuch/Elektra Records the 2005 ALEX award for Best Vinyl Package.

The Smile Sessions[edit]

On October 31, 2011, a compilation of the Smile recordings was released under the title The Smile Sessions.[104] The recording features a disc which presents a listening experience mimicking the template of Brian Wilson Presents Smile. The Smile Sessions is available in various levels of comprehensiveness including a standard two-CD package, as well as a limited edition deluxe box set comprising 5 CDs, 2 LPs, 2 45 rpm singles, and a 60-page booklet. This compilation was released to mass acclaim and won the Best Historical Album award at the 55th Grammy Awards.[8]

Legacy and influence[edit]


The theme of Smile assayed an inclusive history…through American folk memory, cowboy songs, comic songs, fairgrounds and cartoons, the revenant traces of doo-wop, barbershop, Sacred Harp and Shaker hymns, Native American and Hawaiian chants, the noises of daily life and those far echoes from sons of the pioneers, their riverrun from Plymouth Rock delivered under the similitude of a dream wherein is discovered the manner of his setting out, his dangerous journey and the destruction he wrought in the name of family, sons and holy ghosts.…Water flows, surf's up, feel flows: I could wish my days to be bound each to each by natural piety...

David Toop, The Wire, November 2011[3]

Various artists have cited Smile and its themes as a major influence. Kevin Shields of the Irish shoegaze band My Bloody Valentine has said that the 2013 album MBV was inspired by Smile, expounding "The idea was to bring a lot of parts together, riffs or chord changes without making a song out of it.…I wanted to see what would happen if I worked in a more impressionistic way, so that it only comes together at the end."[105] According to Kevin Barnes, of Montreal's album Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse was partially based on Smile.[106] The album Black Foliage: Animation Music Volume One by the Olivia Tremor Control has been compared to Smile for its dichotomous vocal harmony pop and avant-garde tape manipulation.[100][107] Composers for the 1994 Super Nintendo role-playing video game EarthBound cited Smile and related work as major influences on the game's soundtrack.[108]

Elvis Costello described a Smile piano demo of "Surf's Up" as akin to an original recording of Mozart in performance, and added "It’s such an amazing tune. The words are very much of the time, they sound beautiful when they’re sung—and quite of lot of that is true with the rest of the songs that come from this period, where obviously there was a stress and strain in realizing the music."[59] Black Flag vocalist Henry Rollins has written enormous praise to Smile, calling the album "one of the best things you are likely to hear in all of your life. There are moments on Smile that are so astonishingly good you might find yourself just staring at your speakers in unguarded wonder, as I have."[109] Don Was of Was (Not Was) has said, "In the fall of 1989, I was working with a band who turned me on to the bootlegged recordings of Brian Wilson’s legendary, aborted Smile sessions. Like a musical burning bush, these tapes awakened me to a higher consciousness in record making. I was amazed that one, single human could dream up this unprecedented and radically advanced approach to rock ‘n roll."[5] Speaking about Smile, Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins has said, "I really hear America. I really feel that he was trying to sum up America. He was literally trying to bring Mark Twain into rock and roll, and he almost got there."[110]

Smile is often compared by critics to works by other artists that have either remained unreleased or unfinished due to various circumstances. Similarly-fated albums include Brian Eno's My Squelchy Life,[111] Mark Wirtz's A Teenage Opera,[112] and The Who's Lifehouse project.[113][114]

Critical analysis[edit]

It is a series of visions, some muddied but tantalizing, others breathtakingly clear and full of a beauty that is itself the pure product of wonder. Smile has sense of wonder. Beyond humor, it expresses awe at the entire human and natural universe, and reaches out unself-consciously to capture the sound of that awe and amusement in music and voice. It sparkles. It is also perhaps the story of the unnatural love affair between one man's voice and a harpsichord.

Paul Williams, Back to the Miracle Factory, c.1993[115]

Writing a deeply felt piece about Smile for The Wire in 2011, English musician and author David Toop cited Frank Sinatra, the Lettermen, the Four Freshmen, Martin Denny, Patti Page, Chuck Berry, Spike Jones, Nelson Riddle, Jackie Gleason, Phil Spector, Bob Dylan, the Penguins, and the Mills Brothers as some of the many contradictory templates he's heard "buried within Smile's music legacy."[3] Music journalist Paul Williams was enthralled with and gave rich praise to the album's recordings, calling them "segments of truly extraordinary beauty and musical originality," and "an enthusiasm for life, a love of music in all its possible forms, a love of the human voice in all its myriad manifestations, a fascination with the relationship between music and voice, and a veritable eruption of musical and sonic insights, new language, [and] new combinations." Williams interpreted Smile's premise as "a sort of three-ring circus of flashy musical ideas and avant-garde entertainment." Writing about the concept of Smile, "It compresses half a dozen different songs into one ("Cabinessence") and at the same time it repeats a single melodic and rhythmic theme (the "Heroes and Villains" chorus) in otherwise separate songs, breaking down the walls that give songs identities without ever offering conceptual ("rock opera") explanation or resolution." He also felt necessary to point out, "You should not feel dumb if you don't enjoy it. It's not a work of genius. It's a passionate experiment that both succeeds and fails. As a failure, it's famous. Its success, now that we all can hear it, is likely to be much more modest."[116]

Mark Richardson of Pitchfork Media has described the album as a "rite of passage for students and pop music history," and adds "If you're wired a certain way, once you learn the Smile story, you long to hear the album that never was. It looms out there in imagination, an album that lends itself to storytelling and legend, like the aural equivalent of the Loch Ness Monster.…So you might start hunting down bootlegs, poring over the fragments, and finding competing edits and track sequences, which only feeds your desire to know what the 'real' Smile could have been."[1] Spencer Owen, also of Pitchfork, believed that the album could have dramatically veered the course of popular music history and speculated, "Perhaps we wouldn't be so monotheistic in our pop leanings, worshiping only at the Beatles' altar the way some do today."[117] Jazz musician and professor Brian Torff has pointed to Smile's "incredible choral arranging" and "rhapsodic Broadway element" as highlights, elaborating, "Here was a guy who could craft something that was almost symphonic.…Not many people had that craft in pop music at that time.…[He was] really expanding the boundaries of what rock and pop music could be."[27] Author Erik Davis wrote of the album's disconnect to contemporary rock music clichés associated with the hippie subculture, noting that "Smile had banjos, not sitars," and "the 'purity' of tone and genetic proximity that smoothed their voices was almost creepy, pseudo-castrato, a 'barbershop' sound that Hendrix, on 'Third Stone From the Sun,' went thumbs down on."[118]


Independent musicians and groups such as Ant-Bee, Melt-Banana, Jim O'Rourke, the Olivia Tremor Control, Adventures in Stereo, and Secret Chiefs 3 have all recorded cover versions of Smile tracks. Smiling Pets (1998) is a tribute album which largely focuses on various artists' interpretations of Smile-era recordings by the Beach Boys.[100][119] Both albums Making God Smile: An Artists' Tribute to the Songs of Beach Boy Brian Wilson (2002) and Smiles, Vibes & Harmony: A Tribute To Brian Wilson (1991) features cover artwork reworked from the original Smile album artwork. Dutch avant-garde group Palnickx paid homage to Smile on their 1996 rock-themed concept album The Psychedelic Years; the tracks "Phase Ten/Thirteen (Brian Wilson)" and "Phase Twelve (Fire/Rebuilding After the Fire)" feature multiple references to the project's themes, tracks, and legends.[120] Weird Al Yankovic recorded a song on his 2006 album Straight Outta Lynwood modeled after Smile's aesthetic, entitled "Pancreas". Although not explicitly stated by the group, the 1999 album California by Mr. Bungle is somewhat reminiscent of Smile.[121] Brian Wilson himself would later revisit Smile's themes and cut-up structure within his eponymous debut solo album Brian Wilson, which features the eight-minute-long psychedelic western saga "Rio Grande".[122]

Scenes from the films Grace of My Heart and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story both feature homages to Smile. The latter contains the song "Black Sheep", a parody of Brian Wilson's music style composed by Van Dyke Parks. The albums sessions were dramatized in the made-for-television biopics Summer Dreams: The Story of the Beach Boys and The Beach Boys: An American Family. Portions of the Smile sessions will evidently also be dramatized in the upcoming Wilson biopic Love and Mercy, featuring Paul Dano as Brian Wilson and Max Schneider as Van Dyke Parks. The 1993 fiction novel Glimpses by Lewis Shiner contains a chapter in which the protagonist travels back in time to November 1966 and helps Wilson complete Smile.[100] References to Smile, its bootlegs, and the Beach Boys are also made in the 2006 novel Eat the Document by Dana Spiotta.[123]


  1. ^ Work on what would have been the core album track "Good Vibrations" begun in February 1966 during the Pet Sounds era. Recording sessions designated for the Smile album began on August 3rd, 1966 and continued in earnest until December 1966. Conflicts arose around this time, temporarily halting work on the album, and sessions resumed from January 3rd, 1967 through April 14th, 1967. After a final session occurring on May 18th, 1967, Smile was abandoned for good; Smiley Smile sessions quickly followed.
  2. ^ Of these, they were "Surf's Up", "Heroes and Villains", "Wonderful", "Cabin Essence" and "Wind Chimes".[citation needed] Wilson removed the sandbox installation once he realized his pets were using it as a litter box.[18]
  3. ^ E.C.: "But you were you trying to "Americanize" pop music in the way that Gershwin Americanized jazz and classical?" // Brian Wilson: "Yeah, we were trying to "Americanize" early America and mid-America."
  4. ^ Jules Siegel stated the "vegetative" elements their marijuana use brought on inspired Wilson to write "Vega-Tables".[28] Despite this, Parks has denied that lyrics for Smile promoted or were based upon drug use.[29]
  5. ^ For Brian Wilson Presents Smile, the other missing components were filled in by "Vega-Tables" (Earth) and "Wind Chimes" (Air). "Love to Say Dada" lost its birth/rebirth origins and was instead repurposed as "In Blue Hawaii" (Water).
  6. ^ An example is the a cappella track "And Your Dream Comes True", which was recorded in sections and then carefully edited together to create the final song.[45]
  7. ^ Another more personal reason for Wilson's preference was deafness in his right ear.
  8. ^ Smile was presented as three complete movements for Brian Wilson Presents Smile and The Smile Sessions.
  9. ^ This includes "Do You Like Worms?", "I'm In Great Shape", "Vega-Tables", "Love to Say Dada", "He Gives Speeches", "Cabin Essence", and "My Only Sunshine".[22]
  10. ^ Written inside scribbled brackets, suggesting that the track had been in a state of flux.
  11. ^ "Holidays" was re-recorded with vocals for Brian Wilson Presents Smile as "On A Holiday" in 2004.
  12. ^ It was later released as the B-side to the 1967 "Heroes and Villains" single.
  13. ^ Of these, instrumental tracks labelled "I Don't Know" (by Dennis Wilson) and "Tones" (also known as "Tune X"; by Carl Wilson) have survived.[49]
  14. ^ It was marked as "My Only Sunshine" on tape boxes.
  15. ^ Among these include "Brian Falls Into A Piano", "Brian Falls into a Microphone", "Moaning Laughing", and "Underwater Chant".
  16. ^ The only fruitful product of these sessions turned out to be "Workshop", which was a recording of various power tools later recycled for the Beach Boys' 1968 single "Do It Again".
  17. ^ Wilson exhibited varying signs of poor mental health before this point, notably at the end of 1964 where he suffered a nervous breakdown on a flight to Houston.[58] He had also begun experiencing auditory hallucinations as early as 1965.
  18. ^ Mike Love: "When we were younger, no one really knew what was wrong with Brian. Nobody knew about mental illness. We just had no clue about that as kids, as cousins and brothers, growing up..."[64]
    Bruce Johnston: "I listen to them [tracks of Smile material] and I don't feel any joy, I feel uncomfortable, I can hear Brian disintegrating. The music was cool but it's always tinged with the reality of making it. Brian degraded us, made us lay down for hours and make barnyard noises, demoralised us, freaked out... we hated him then because we didn't really know what was happening to him."[65]
  19. ^ Wilson had already developed an enduring obsession with the music of Phil Spector upon hearing the song "Be My Baby" by the Ronettes a few years earlier.[66][67] During the Smile era, he would say, "Spector started the whole thing. He was the first one to use the studio.…I heard that song three and a half years ago and I knew that it was between him and me. I knew exactly where he was at and now I've gone beyond him."[34]
  20. ^ David Anderle: "Brian would go through tremendous paranoia before he'd get into the studio, knowing he was going to have to face an argument."[73]
  21. ^ The statement "Don't fuck with the formula" is often attributed to Mike Love speaking to Brian Wilson during 1966 recording sessions for either Pet Sounds or Smile. The 1971 article (written by Tom Nolan) is the earliest known use of the phrase being seen in print, and it was paraphrased by David Anderle in reference to Love.
  22. ^ After being reminded several years later of Love's recent self-proclaimed love for the material, Parks reportedly stated laughingly, "I'm just incredulous. I can't believe that he's an enthusiast. I wouldn't condemn him if it took him some time to come to that conclusion. I'll just say that they have an expression in Texas that goes along with such a delayed reaction and that is: he's a little slow out of the shoot [sic]. All hat and no cowboy."[78]// [2011 statements made by Parks taken from his website:] "Certainly, I did walk away from Smile.…I comment only to combat any doubt that Mike Love delayed the release of Smile by 40 years purely out of a mislaid jealousy. Smile was an obviously good work.…Yet, revising facts isn't necessary for the progress of profit. I sure wish Brian were here to weigh in."[29]
  23. ^ Brian Wilson (1976): There was a lot of "oh you can't do this, that's too modern" or "that's going to be too long a record." I said no, it's not going to be too long a record, it's going to be just right.[79] // (2004): The reasons that I didn't release Smile: one, Mike didn't like it.[18] // (2011) He was disgusted with it, he said "I’m disgusted with this," he said this is nothing like anything like a surf song or a car song or any kinda Beach Boy-type of song. I said "Mike. If you don’t wanna grow, you shouldn't live."[80]
  24. ^ In the 1980s, Carl Wilson stated "Brian ran into all kinds of problems on Smile. He just couldn’t find the right direction to finish it."[83] Bruce Johnston said "It was almost like he was climbing Mount Everest, and he was getting more boulders hanging on his back and snow coming down on him while he was trying to finish, and finally he just didn't finish it."[22]
  25. ^ Mike Love: [re: New Musical Express] "The record company didn't even have the decency to put out one of Brian’s own compositions. The reason for the hold up with a new single has simply been that we wanted to give our public the best and the best isn't ready yet."[84]
  26. ^ Brian Wilson: "Time can be spent in the studio to the point where you get so next to it, you don’t know where you are with it, you decide to just chuck it for a while."[83]
  27. ^ Danny Hutton: "It's almost like when you hear a commercial ten times, and all of a sudden you start humming it, and you don't even know if you like it or not, because you've heard it so many times you can't even judge…He lost that ability of the 'freshness' to know which part should go where…Because of the outside pressure and being confused on what to do with these series of pocket symphony parts that he had, I think there was a moment where he just threw up his hands and said 'the time has passed,' which it hadn't been but in his head."[76]
  28. ^ The Smile Sessions audio engineer and compiler Mark Linett said, "In 1966, [assembling pieces] meant physically cutting pieces of tape and sticking them back together—which is how all editing was done in those days—but it was a very time-consuming and labor-intensive process, and most importantly made it very hard to experiment with the infinite number of possible ways you could assemble this puzzle."[22]
  29. ^ A portion of "Workshop" was recycled for the closing of the 1969 single "Do It Again". The Beach Boys also completed the tracks "Our Prayer" and "Cabin Essence" for their 20/20 album. A "Vega-Tables" outtakes was included on Wild Honey as "Mama Says". A section of "Child Is Father of the Man" appears in "Little Bird" for Friends.
  30. ^ Never-before-released tracks included "Do You Like Worms?", "I Love To Say Da Da"; the Smile versions of "Wonderful", "Wind Chimes", "Vegetables"; session highlights of "Surf's Up", "Cabinessence"; and some erroneously titled "Heroes and Villains" outtakes.
  31. ^ One of the most popular of which, Purple Chick presents: The Beach Boys Smile, was an online mix tape assembled shortly after Wilson began performing the Smile material in 2004. The mix combined bootlegged 1960s Smile sessions with recordings from Brian Wilson's finished 2004 solo album.[101]
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External links[edit]