Vegetables (song)

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Song by The Beach Boys
from the album Smiley Smile
ReleasedSeptember 18, 1967 (1967-09-18)
RecordedApril – June 15, 1967
StudioGold Star Studios, Sunset Sound Recorders, CBS Columbia Square, and Beach Boys Studio, Los Angeles
Producer(s)Brian Wilson
Audio sample
Vega-Tables cover.jpg
The cover for the bonus "Vega-Tables" 7" vinyl packaged with The Smile Sessions box set uses original 1966 artwork by Frank Holmes.
Song by The Beach Boys
from the album The Smile Sessions
ReleasedOctober 31, 2011 (2011-10-31)
RecordedApril 1967 (1967-04)
  • Brian Wilson
  • Van Dyke Parks
Producer(s)Brian Wilson

"Vegetables" (alternate versions spelled as "Vega-Tables") is a song written by Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks for American rock band the Beach Boys, released as the second track on their September 1967 album Smiley Smile. It was first recorded for the unfinished album Smile and was briefly projected to be the album's lead single. Like other tracks on Smiley Smile, the finished arrangement was more stripped-down than the version conceived for Smile.

The song was partly inspired by Wilson's obsession with physical fitness in the late 1960s. In a contemporary article, he stated, "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."[1] Another reported inspiration for the song was a humorous comment Wilson heard about the effect of marijuana turning him and his friends into a "vegetative" state.

The Beatles' Paul McCartney is rumored to have contributed chewed celery noises on a version of "Vega-Tables", later released on the compilations Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of the Beach Boys (1993) and The Smile Sessions (2011). While McCartney and others corroborated this story, his presence could not be verified on the extended session tape.[2]

"Mama Says" is an a cappella song released as the closing track on the band's December 1967 album Wild Honey.[3] It is a rerecording of what was intended to be a section of "Vega-Tables". The only lyrics are "sleep a lot, eat a lot / brush 'em like crazy / run a lot, do a lot / never be lazy". Although the music and lyrics were unchanged from "Vega-Tables", Parks' contributions were not honored for "Mama Says", and instead the co-writing credit was given to Mike Love.


The song was composed in 1966 and first attempted during the aborted Smile sessions. In a contemporary article, Wilson said, "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."[1] Biographer David Leaf wrote that the song was based on Wilson's reported health obsession at the time.[4] The Saturday Evening Post writer Jules Siegel said that while using marijuana with Wilson and the "Beach Boys marijuana-consumption squad" Michael Vosse mused at how violence in their "vegetative" state could not be achieved, provoking laughter and further discussion of being a vegetable. Siegel said that this encounter was what inspired Wilson to write the song.[5]

Although it is not definitely known to be true, "Vega-Tables" is generally believed to fulfill the Earth part of "The Elements" suite that Brian envisioned for Smile.[6] Some versions feature an interpolated section after the verses involving Barbershop-style vocal harmonies sung by the Beach Boys. The lyrics are "mom and daddy say / sleep a lot, eat a lot / brush 'em like crazy / run a lot, do a lot / never be lazy".[citation needed]


Recording for "Vega-Tables" or "Vegetables" spanned from October 17, 1966 (1966-10-17) through June 15, 1967 (1967-06-15).[7] All versions of the song except for "Mama Says" feature the novel use of raw vegetable chewing as percussion.[4] In early April, the band spent at least eight studio dates recording "Vega-Tables" before embarking on a US tour on the 14th of the month. During the April 10 vocal session at Sunset Sound Recorders, which also saw work on "Wonderful" and "Child Is Father of the Man", Paul McCartney of the Beatles joined the Beach Boys in the studio for several hours.[7] McCartney had last met with Wilson in late August 1966, during which he was played an early acetate record of the Beach Boys' forthcoming "Good Vibrations".[8] He returned to the United States in early April 1967 to reunite with his actress girlfriend Jane Asher and to learn of developments in the San Francisco music scene.[9] Al Jardine remembered that:

The night before a big tour, I was out in the studio recording the vocal [for "Vega-Tables"] when, to my surprise, Paul McCartney walked in and joined Brian at the console. And, briefly, the two most influential musical Geminis in the world had a chance to work together. I remember waiting for long periods of time between takes to get to the next section or verse. Brian [seemed to have] lost track of the session. Paul would come on the talkback and say something like "Good take, Al."[4]

On the existing tapes for these sessions, McCartney's presence cannot be verified. The Smile Sessions co-producer Mark Linett explained:

Unless Paul is being very quiet, there’s no evidence that he’s a part of the chomping. And there’s quite a lot of discussion going on while that particular track is being recorded. I think the honest answer seems to be that he may have been at the session, but the talk that he was chomping vegetables may have been something their publicist [Derek Taylor] cooked up or was told.[2]

McCartney supported the story, recalling in 2016:

I just went round to the studio because they invited me. I just thought it would be fun to sit there and watch them record, ‘cause I’m a big fan. And so I was there, and then it was, I think, Brian who came over and said, ‘Oh Paul, got a favor to ask: would you mind recording something?’ I thought, ‘Oh, no! But great, I could do that!' Oh God, I’m gonna be singing on a Beach Boys record or something, you know! I got a bit kind of intimidated and thought, 'Okay, here goes nothing'. And they said, ‘Well, what we want you to do is go in there and just munch!’ … Well, I can do that! So, if you hear somebody munching celery, that’s me![10]

Afterward, McCartney performed his song "She's Leaving Home" on piano for Wilson and his wife.[11] Wilson said: "We both just cried. It was beautiful."[12] Beatles roadie Mal Evans wrote about singing the traditional "On Top of Old Smokey" with McCartney and Wilson, but was not impressed by Wilson's avant-garde attitude to music: "Brian then put a damper on the spontaneity of the whole affair by walking in with a tray of water-filled glasses, trying to arrange it into some sort of session."[13] In a January 1968 interview, Wilson stated of the McCartney episode that "it was a little uptight and we really didn't seem to hit it off. It didn't really flow. ... It didn't really go too good."[14]

The original Smile album was soon scrapped, and over the summer of 1967, "Vega-Tables" was rerecorded for the album Smiley Smile, where it was respelled "Vegetables".[4] Apart from its coda (recorded April 1967), the track was remade entirely from scratch.[15]

"Mama Says"[edit]

"Mama Says"
Song by The Beach Boys
from the album Wild Honey
ReleasedDecember 18, 1967 (1967-12-18)
RecordedNovember 1967 (1967-11)
StudioWally Heider Studios, Hollywood
Producer(s)The Beach Boys

In 1967, the song was revisited for the last time as the closing track "Mama Says" on Wild Honey (1967). This version consisted of an extended re-recording of the unused "Vega-Tables" interpolation mentioned above.[4] Inexplicably, Parks' songwriting credit was not honored, and instead Mike Love was listed as the song's only co-writer.[16]


Smiley Smile version ("Vegetables")

The Smile Sessions version ("Vega-Tables")

"Mama Says"

  • The Beach Boys – vocals


  • In 1993, a composite version from the Smile sessions was given its first official release, under its original title "Vega-Tables", along with a slew of other Smile material, on the Good Vibrations boxset.
  • In 2011, many more composite versions were made available on The Smile Sessions.
  • In 2013, a 1993 live performance of the song was released on the compilation Made in California with Carl Wilson and Al Jardine on lead vocals.

Cover versions[edit]

In popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ a b Badman 2004, p. 160.
  2. ^ a b c "#120 – MARK LINETT – BEACH BOYS SMILE SESSIONS PART 2". Icon Fetch. October 14, 2011.
  3. ^ Badman 2004, p. 188.
  4. ^ a b c d e Leaf, David (1990). Smiley Smile/Wild Honey (CD Liner). The Beach Boys. Capitol Records.
  5. ^ Peet & Siegel 2004.
  6. ^ Matijas-Mecca 2017, p. 180.
  7. ^ a b Doe, Andrew G. "GIGS67". "GIGS66". Endless Summer Quarterly.
  8. ^ Taylor, Derek (1967). "The Rock's Backpages Flashback: Paul McCartney Drops In On The Beach Boys". Archived from the original on 2014-07-26.
  9. ^ Sounes, Howard (2010). Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney. London: HarperCollins. pp. 169–70. ISBN 978-0-00-723705-0.
  10. ^ "You Gave Me The Answer - Meat Free Monday Asks..." December 12, 2016.
  11. ^ MacDonald, Ian (1998). Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties. London: Pimlico. p. 217. ISBN 0-7126-6697-4.
  12. ^ "100 Greatest Beatles Songs: No. 82 - 'She's Leaving Home'". Rolling Stone. September 19, 2011. Retrieved June 17, 2012.
  13. ^ Edmonds, Mark (20 March 2005). "Here, there and everywhere". The Times. London. p. 3. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
  14. ^ Highwater, Jamake (1968). Rock and Other Four Letter Words: Music of the Electric Generation. Bantam Books. ISBN 0-552-04334-6.
  15. ^ Matijas-Mecca 2017, p. 81.
  16. ^ Wilson & Greenman 2016, p. 262.
  17. ^ "Does anyone know who played bass on Smiley Smile, Wild Honey, and Friends?".
  18. ^ Priore 2005.
  19. ^ "Sir Paul eats with the Animals". April 10, 2001. Retrieved 15 July 2014.


External links[edit]