Smiley Smile

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Smiley Smile
Studio album by The Beach Boys
Released September 18, 1967 (1967-09-18)
Recorded February 17, 1966 (1966-02-17)–July 14, 1967 (1967-07-14)
Studio Sunset Sound Recorders, United Western Recorders, CBS Columbia Square, Brian Wilson's home studio, and Wally Heider Studios, California
Genre Psychedelic rock, psychedelic pop, minimalist rock, avant-garde, lo-fi
Length 27:36
Label Brother/Capitol
Producer The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys chronology
Best of The Beach Boys Vol. 2
Smiley Smile
Wild Honey
Singles from Smiley Smile
  1. "Heroes and Villains"
    Released: July 31, 1967 (1967-07-31)

Smiley Smile is the twelfth studio album by American rock band the Beach Boys, released on September 18, 1967 on Brother Records and Capitol.[1] Devised as a substitute to their then-forthcoming Smile — an LP which would have contained elaborately orchestrated compositions labored over for several months — Smiley Smile is best known for its contrasting lo-fi production[2] with an avant-garde[3] and minimalist rock[4] approach to arranging, being largely recorded in Brian Wilson's makeshift home studio over a period of two months.

The massive acclaim of the Beach Boys' October 1966 single "Good Vibrations" placed high expectations on their next studio album, Smile. Originally intended for a Christmas 1966 release, by May 1967, the band had yet to release any material, and their popularity in the US started to suffer. Following the official cancellation of Smile, the pressure was immense for the group to release new material and to remain culturally relevant. Upon its unveiling, Smiley Smile was received with confusion.[5]

Though the album reached number 9 in the UK, Smiley Smile only resonated moderately with US audiences, reaching number 41 on the Billboard charts—the lowest chart placement the band had yet had for a record. Smiley Smile has since grown in stature over the years to become a cult and critical favorite in the Beach Boys' oeuvre.[5]


For detailed information surrounding the history and themes of these recording sessions, see Smile (The Beach Boys album).

After "Good Vibrations" topped the singles charts in late 1966, the Beach Boys' next album project (eventually titled Smile) was eagerly anticipated.[6] Sessions for the album continued through most of 1966 and by late in the year it was evidently nearing completion. However, in December 1966 hesitation to the project from within the group led to the departure of Brian Wilson's writing partner Van Dyke Parks and progress was further hampered by a range of factors including Wilson's deteriorating mental health, the group's ongoing lawsuit against their label, and Carl Wilson's legal battle against being drafted into the US army. Although some recording and editing continued into early 1967, the project eventually ground to a halt. In May 1967 the scheduled release was officially cancelled, the Beach Boys pulled out of their headlining spot at June's Monterey Pop Festival, and Smile (which took longer to record than any other Beach Boys album) was scrapped.[7]


Much of Smiley Smile uses sparse instrumentation enhanced by inventive vocal arrangements and quirky elements. In particular, Paul McCartney of The Beatles appears on "Vegetables" chewing on celery.[8]

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After the announcement that Smile was shelved in May 1967, the Beach Boys were still under pressure and contractual obligation to record and present an album to Capitol Records. From the several hours worth of material recorded from May 1966 to May 1967 only portions of the backing track for "Heroes and Villains", recorded in October 1966, and the coda for "Vegetables", recorded in April 1967, were sourced for Smiley Smile. In addition to this, "Good Vibrations", which had been recorded sporadically from May 24 to September 1, 1966, was placed on Smiley Smile in its original form, reportedly at Capitol's insistence to help bolster sales as it had been a number 1 charting single, despite reported objections from Brian.[citation needed] Beyond these examples, the large majority of Smiley Smile was recorded in a modular approach at Brian Wilson's home studio in Bel Air from June 3 to July 14, 1967.

The studio set up at Brian Wilson's house was, in its mid-1967 incarnation for Smiley Smile, in its infancy. Due to the sporadic nature at which Brian decided to produce the record at the house, there was little time to fully outfit the Bel Air residence as a proper equipped recording studio. The Beach Boys recorded the album using what was predominantly radio broadcasting equipment which was lacking many technical elements and effects found in conventional studios. This led to unconventional ways of achieving particular sounds at the home, such as a replacement for what would be achieved by an echo chamber. Jim Lockert, engineer for Smiley Smile recalled "Brian's swimming pool had a leak in it and was empty, so we put a microphone in the bottom of this damn near Olympic-size pool and the guys laid down inside the pool and sang so the sound would go down the wall of the concrete pool into the microphone – and that was part of the vocals on one of those songs", and has spoken out about other peculiarities of the sessions which include vocals being tracked in the shower. Due to this eclectic mix of recording paraphernalia and curious methods of tracking the sounds, Smiley Smile possesses a distinct signature sound.[9]

[Smiley Smile] can be thought of as a kind of protomiminal rock music. The lack of formal or harmonic development makes the listener focus upon other qualities such as instrumentation, timbre, and reverberation. A concentrated listening effort thus goes quickly to subtle details.…[It] is not a work of rock music—at least as rock music was understood in 1967.…One cannot help but be struck by a self-conscious break with tradition, by the attempt to cut away convention and to explore new—and difficult to understand—musical territory. In this light, Smiley Smile can almost be considered a work of art music in the Western classical tradition, and its innovations in the musical language of rock can be compared to those that introduced atonal and other nontraditional techniques into that classical tradition. The spirit of experimentation is just as palpable in Smiley Smile as it is in, say, Schoenberg's op. 11 piano pieces. Yet there is also a spirit of tentativeness in Smiley Smile. We must remember that it was essentially a Plan B—that is, the album issued instead of Smile.…Whereas a Schoenberg could have notated his compositions cheaply on paper and waited for sympathetic performers to play them, Brian Wilson composed in a recording studio that charged by the hour, employed professional musicians, and required the services of a record company to mass produce and distribute his work. Commercial failure simply cannot be tolerated in this regime, and a work like Smiley Smile has no place in it.

Understanding Rock: Essays in Musical Analysis[4]

According to Al Jardine, Brian became obsessed with a three-tiered Baldwin organ, causing him to base his song arrangements from a minimalist approach. He says, "There are some pretty cool songs on that album but I didn't like rehashing some of the Smile songs. That didn't work for me."[8] Smiley Smile includes variations of several compositions intended for Smile. "She's Goin' Bald" borrows the verse melody from a Smile fragment known as "He Gives Speeches";[10] "Fall Breaks and Back to Winter" lifted a recurring melodic hook from "The Elements: Fire";[11] "Wind Chimes", "Vegetables", and "Wonderful" were re-recorded with radically sparse new arrangements.[10] The only remnants of Smile that remained close to their original form were "Good Vibrations", which was unchanged from the 1966 single release, and "Heroes and Villains", which went through numerous permutations before the selection of a shorter version included on Smiley Smile.[10] "Little Pad" and "Gettin' Hungry" were recorded and originated during the June–July sessions.

"Whistle In" closes Smiley Smile. Because it was recorded on January 27, 1967 (1967-01-27)—the same day as the "Cantina" section—it was erroneously speculated to have been sourced from a "Heroes and Villains" section entitled "Whistling Bridge".[10] There is no discernible link between "Whistling Bridge" and "Whistle In" save for their titles.


By the time Smiley Smile was released in September of 1967, the Beach Boys had become cultural dinosaurs. And it happened almost overnight.…Monterey was a gathering place for the “far out” sounds of the “new” rock, and the Beach Boys in concert really had no exotic sounds (excepting “Good Vibrations”) to display. The net result of all this internal and external turmoil was that the Beach Boys didn't go to Monterey, and it is thought that this non-appearance was what really turned the “underground” tide against them.

David Leaf[12]

When Smiley Smile was finally released in September 1967, after months of hype, its commercial and critical reception was modest, but unenthusiastic, peaking at number 41 in the US.[13] Its reception a few months later in the UK was better; reaching number 9 on British charts. Brian Wilson explained Smiley Smile to interviewers by stating the following circa 1968,

Early 1967, I had planned to make an album entitled Smile. I was working with a guy named Van Dyke Parks, who was collaborating with me on some of the tunes, and in the process, we came up with a song called "Surf's Up," and I performed that with just a piano on a documentary show made on rock music. The song "Surf's Up" that I sang on that documentary never came out on an album, and it was supposed to come out on the Smile album, and that and a couple of other songs were junked…[because I] didn't want to put them on the album. I didn't think that the songs were right for the public at the time. I just didn't have a…commercial feeling about some of these songs, what we've never released. Maybe some people like to hang on to certain songs as their own little songs that they've written, almost for themselves. You know, what they've written is nice for them... but a lot of people just don't like it.[14]

Brian Wilson in a 1967 radio interview acknowledged, "We had done about six months work on another thing, but we jumped and ended up doing the entire thing here at the house with an entirely different mood and approach than what we originally started out with." When questioned on why the Beach Boys took the approach they did, he stated, "We just had a particular atmosphere—that we were working in that inspired the particular kind of things that were on the album."[15] Wilson elaborated further to journalist Jamake Highwater in a January 1968 interview to promote the Beach Boys' forthcoming Stack-O-Tracks compilation.

Around '64, all of a sudden I found myself in the studio taking hours and hours just going through track experiences. Then all of a sudden, the two came together: the vocal and the tracks. Then all of a sudden I began to realize it was all one art, all one thing. And now, God, it's come so far, I don't really know what to say about it. I just don't know where it's come to with me musically. I've run out of a lot of ideas, believe it or not, in a conventional sense.…We pulled out of that production pace, really because I was about ready to die. I was trying so hard. So, all of a sudden I decided not to try any more, and not try and do such great things, such big musical things. And we had so much fun. The Smiley Smile era was so great, it was unbelievable. Personally, spiritually, everything, it was great. I didn't have any paranoia feelings.[16]

Brother Dennis Wilson echoed Brian's sentiments that Smiley Smile was very much a product of its context, saying "Smiley Smile was just something we were going through at that time connected with drugs, love, and everything."[17] In 1968, he said, "We got very paranoid about the possibility of losing our public. We were getting loaded, taking acid, and we made a whole album which we scrapped. Instead, we went to Hawaii, rested up, and then came out with the Smiley Smiles [sic] album, all new material. Drugs played a great role in our evolution but as a result we were frightened that people would no longer understand us, musically."[18] Carl Wilson is reported to have called it "a bunt instead of a grand slam"[5] comparing Smiley Smile to the much-fabled unreleased album that it eventually replaced. Bruce Johnston noted that "Smiley Smile was an album that marked the end of an era."[17] making reference to the fact that Smiley Smile marked the point where Brian Wilson began relinquishing his hold as the creative leader of the Beach Boys. Although the album was mostly produced by him, the production was credited to the group, a first. The following years and albums had Brian involved in varying capacities in music production. Though Brian was the producer or co-producer of a number of Beach Boys singles and albums during the late sixties and early seventies, including the co-producer of albums by American Spring, Stephen Kalinich and Fred Vail, it would not be until 15 Big Ones in 1976 where Brian would again hold the sole production credit on a Beach Boys album.


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[19]
Blender 5/5 stars[20]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 4/5 stars[21]
Pitchfork Media 9.5/10[22]

In Fort Worth, Texas, there is a drug clinic which takes people off the streets and helps them get over bad LSD trips. They don't use any traditional medical treatment whatsoever. All they do is play the patient our Smiley Smile album and apparently this acts as a soothing remedy which relaxes them and helps them to recover completely from their trip.

Carl Wilson, 1970[23]

Smiley Smile stands amongst the Beach Boys' most acclaimed albums, receiving numerous accolades and industry praise. Pete Townshend of The Who is a known admirer of the record, as is Robbie Robertson of The Band.[12] In a 2012 interview with Time, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith stated that his "island" music picks would be albums by AC/DC, The Rolling Stones, and Smiley Smile, "Just for the melodic fuck all."[24]

Richie Unterberger of AllMusic gave the album four out of five stars, calling it "a rather nifty, if rather slight, effort that's plenty weird",[25] and noting that the media-hype of the collapsed Smile project at the time was much to blame for its lackluster reception in the United States. In a 2007 issue for Rolling Stone, Robert Christgau and David Fricke named it one of the 40 essential albums of 1967; Christgau declared: "Towering it's not; some kind of hit it is."[26] In 2001, Spencer Owen of Pitchfork Media awarded the album a 9.5/10 score, and wrote "Smiley Smile is a near-masterpiece. Without any awareness of Smile's existence, this album could have been a contemporary classic.…Group harmonies shine just as beautifully as any on Pet Sounds, and although the album isn't anywhere close to the sonic revolution that Sgt. Pepper had already brought, Wilson's innovative production and arrangements still bring out the best in every single track."


Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Mojo United Kingdom Mojo 1000 – The Ultimate CD Buyers Guide[27] 2001 *
NME United Kingdom All Times Top 100 Albums[28] 1974 62
OOR Magazine Netherlands The Summer of Love, the Best Albums of 1967[29] 1992 23

(*) denotes an unordered list

Live performances[edit]

Five of the 11 songs on the album have been played live in concert either by The Beach Boys or Brian Wilson. "Good Vibrations" has become a concert staple for the group, while "Heroes and Villains" has also become a frequently played track.[30] A further three songs ("Vegetables", "Wind Chimes", and "Wonderful") have been played very infrequently.[30]


All songs written and composed by Brian Wilson except where noted. 

Side one
No. Title Lead Vocals Length
1. "Heroes and Villains" (Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks) B. Wilson/Al Jardine 3:37
2. "Vegetables" (B. Wilson/Parks) Jardine/B. Wilson/Mike Love 2:07
3. "Fall Breaks and Back to Winter (W. Woodpecker Symphony)"   instrumental 2:15
4. "She's Goin' Bald" (B. Wilson/Love/Parks) B. Wilson/Love/Dennis Wilson/Jardine 2:15
5. "Little Pad"   Love/Carl Wilson/B. Wilson 2:30
Side two
No. Title Lead Vocals Length
1. "Good Vibrations" (B. Wilson/Love) C. Wilson/B. Wilson/Love 3:36
2. "With Me Tonight"   C. Wilson 2:17
3. "Wind Chimes"   Love/B. Wilson/C. Wilson/D. Wilson 2:36
4. "Gettin' Hungry" (B. Wilson/Love) Love/B. Wilson 2:27
5. "Wonderful" (B. Wilson/Parks) C. Wilson 2:21
6. "Whistle In"   C. Wilson/Love 1:04


Chart information courtesy of Allmusic and other music databases.[31]

Year Chart Position
1967 UK Top 40 Album Chart 9
1967 US Billboard 200 Albums Chart 41


The Beach Boys


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  2. ^ Chidester, Brian (March 7, 2014). "Busy Doin' Somethin': Uncovering Brian Wilson's Lost Bedroom Tapes". Paste. Retrieved December 11, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Album reviews: Wild Honey". Billboard. December 23, 1967. Retrieved 11 July 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Boone, edited by John Covach & Graeme M. (1997). Understanding Rock: Essays in Musical Analysis ([Online-Ausg.]. ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195100050. 
  5. ^ a b c Carlin A., Peter. Catch a Wave: The Rise, Fall Redemption of the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson. Rodale Inc, 2006, ISBN 1-59486-320-2 p. 129
  6. ^ allmusic ((( Smiley Smile > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles )))
  7. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 37 - The Rubberization of Soul: The great pop music renaissance. [Part 3] : UNT Digital Library" (audio). Pop Chronicles. Retrieved 2011-04-29. 
  8. ^ a b c Sharp, Ken (April 2, 2013). "Al Jardine of the Beach Boys: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About "SMiLE" (Interview)". Rock Cellar Magazine. Retrieved 2 July 2014. 
  9. ^ Preiss, Byron (1983). The Beach Boys. New York: St Martins Pr. ISBN 0-312-07026-8. 
  10. ^ a b c d Leaf, David. "Smiley Smile/Wild Honey liner notes". Retrieved 5 July 2013. 
  11. ^ Dillon 2012.
  12. ^ a b Leaf, David. "Smiley Smile/Wild Honey CD booklet notes". Album Liner Notes. Retrieved 2012-01-03. 
  13. ^ allmusic ((( Smiley Smile > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums )))
  14. ^ Prokopy, David E. (1996). "The Prokopy Notes". The Smile Shop. Retrieved 28 July 2013. 
  15. ^ Video on YouTube
  16. ^ Highwater, Jamake (1968). Rock and other four letter words; music of the electric generation. New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 0552043346. 
  17. ^ a b Priore, Domenic. Look! Listen! Vibrate! Smile!. Last Gap, 1995, ISBN 0-86719-417-0 p. 194
  18. ^ Griffiths, David (December 21, 1968). "Dennis Wilson: "I Live With 17 Girls"". Record Mirror. 
  19. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "Smiley Smile - The Beach Boys : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved October 31, 2012. 
  20. ^ [1][dead link]
  21. ^ The Virgin Encyclopedia Of Popular Music, Concise (4th Edition), Virgin Books (UK), 2002, ed. Larkin, Colin.
  22. ^ "The Beach Boys: Smiley Smile/Wild Honey | Album Reviews | Pitchfork". Pitchfork Media Inc. 2001-03-29. 
  23. ^ "Beach Boys Quotes". Retrieved 2011-04-29. 
  24. ^ Luscombe, Belinda (6 August 2012). "10 Questions for Steven Tyler". Time Magazine. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  25. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "Smiley Smile". Retrieved 16 February 2012. 
  26. ^ Christgau, Robert; Fricke, David. "The 40 Essential Albums of 1967". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 16 February 2012. 
  27. ^ Mojo Magazine, Winter 2001
  28. ^ New Musical Express Magazine, 1974
  29. ^ Muziekkrant OOR, 1992,
  30. ^ a b "The Beach Boys Tour Statistics". Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  31. ^ "UK Top 40 Hit Database". EveryHit. 
  • Dillon, Mark (2012). Fifty Sides of the Beach Boys. Toronto, Ont.: ECW Press. ISBN 9781770901988. 

External links[edit]