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mad rhetorik
02-06-2004, 03:16 PM
In order to dispell my negative opinions of the Beach Boys, J was kind enough to send me a comp he made himself and the unreleased <b>SMILE</b> (how did you come across these tracks, J?). I would give it an Amazon review, but since there is no page for the album (gee, wonder why : P) I figure I would try to give you my impressions of it here.

I just finished listening to <b>SMILE</b>. IMO, it is understandably a mess, but an awfully fascinating one. I think it's one of the most psychedelic albums I've ever heard. We're talking <b>Piper At The Gates Of Dawn</b>-level psychedelic, folks. The first "LP" (I'm assuming that this was a planned double LP) titled Americana is more song-oriented. Here's a breakdown:

1. Our Prayer: Neat intro, basically the boys harmonizing choir-like.
2. Heroes & Villians Pts. 1 & 2: Weird, but definitely have that Beach Boys stamp on them. Lyrics are quirky as are the harmonies. What's up with that bizarre breakdown in the middle of Pt. 2? Did the band smoke a bowl of green before cutting that part?
3. Barnyard/I'm In Great Shape: Short song with barnyard sounds and lyrics about farm living. I think.
4. Do You Like Worms?: Seems to be a rumination on the Pilgrims and the plight of the Native Americans upon their arrival. "Roll Plymouth Rock, roll over"
5. The Old Master Painter/You Are My Sunshine: There's something dark about the way Brian (is it Brian?) sings the latter part of this song. A childhood ditty takes on a somewhat disturbing air.
6. He Gives Speeches: Another short song. Nice and cheery, complete with wordless backup vocals and catchy handclaps.
7. Wonderful: Ooh. I like. Is that a harpischord? Some beautiful singing and lyrics in the opening. The deeper vocals in the middle are silly, and the ending is pretty bizarre.
8. Child Is The Father Of Man: I don't why, but this piano-based song feels sad. The harmonies are deeper and more brooding. Very atmospheric.
9. Cabinesscence: Just beautiful. Combination of enchanting harmonies (notice a trend?) and warm chamber music.
10. Bicycle Rider: Odd instrumental that ends in a wordless harmony.

The second "LP" is titled Elemental, which is mostly instrumental.

11. Good Vibrations: Out of the blue comes this perfectly radio-accessible tune. I'm sure everybody's heard this one, so I'll move along.
12. Look: An unfinished song? Sounds like it was designed to have lyrics over it.
13. Vege-Tables: Alright, this song is totally absurd. Still worth listening to.
14. Wind Chimes: Begins as a softly sung number with the sounds of (obviously) wind chimes before going into another piano-based tune.
15-23. All short instrumentals. Four of them titled "Air," "Water," "Earth," and "Fire," which sound like mood pieces and cement the Elemental theme.
24. Surfs Up: Starts out as an instrumental with a brass section, before going into a beautiful ballad.
25. You're Welcome: Basically the boys closing the album singing just that.

You can tell there's a huge amount of ideas and concepts here, but it doesn't seem that the band was able to flesh them out before the album was abandoned. Shame, as this could have been a very interesting final product. It definitely gives me a different perspective on the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson. Thanks Jay.

Still have to give the BB comp a listen. I'll pop that in next.

02-06-2004, 04:05 PM
Very insightful. Almost seems like you were doing some reading on it. There's an amazing site, at There's some amazing information there on all the BBs stuff, including SMILE. I would just point out that I only capitalize it as a way to try to suggest what I consider its importance; it's not something that I think most people do. It was supposed to be a single album, which seems kinda strange considering its length, but we have to assume that there was a lot recorded for it that's on that particular version I sent you that would've had to have been cut.

When I first heard this I listened to it over & over & over & it stuck to me like glue. Thinking about how it was originally supposed to be ready 5 months before Sgt. Pepper absolutely blows me away. Hearing the tracks where it's obvious vocals should go yet aren't there gives it a presence that I still can't even put into words. In terms of rock & pop music, though, it is a historical document to my ears--a lost historical document.

I've seen it suggested that the melancholy-inflected version of 'You Are My Sunshine' should actually be heard as 'You Were My Sunshine.' But then again I've seen it suggested that Brian & VDP were playing around with the idea of new slants on old standards, and that the 'The Old Master Painter' half of that track was once written down as 'The Old Master Painted,' and while that's a piddling, minor detail, it's still part of the SMILE mystery to me.

Good Vibrations was a single released prior to the album sessions; originally it was intended as an r&b kinda song, and there are 15-20 minute versions of it that are on various reissues as bonus tracks, as well as on the box set. I didn't include it on the comp due to its length.

The one track among the instrumentals on side two that I would suggest really stands out is 'Fire.' There's a story behind that one, too...that music is rather ahead of its time, don't you think? I've got to forward you the notes I have on the stuff. Brian tried to destroy the tapes because, in his drug-fueled, delusional state at the time, he thought that some karmic aspect of the Fire tapes was responsible for a rash of fires in the L.A. area. His mental illness was in full flower on this project. But that's what part of what makes it what it is, in a very Syd Barrett sort of way. But while I like Syd Barrett, I am definitely in the camp that believes that Brian Wilson is a genius without peer. And while I didn't harbor the negativity that you had towards the BBs, I sure didn't take them seriously for many years. I knew that people revered Brian Wilson, but until I really heard, really listened to the stuff, I was completely ignorant as to why. When I finally heard the stuff, it really made an impression on me, & I couldn't believe I'd missed all this all these years, in spite of all the hype for Pet Sounds & BW in general. My mistake. I've been making up for it ever since. This version came from a guy who used to frequent this board, the old board, that is, Brad H. He may still be lurking occasionally...I think he actually has posted once since the changeover from the old board. He & I have had some amazing trades, not to mention email exchanges about the BBs & various others. Glad to hear that you seem to have dug it...hopefully the comp will ring yr bell a bit too. For everyone else reading this who requested a copy...they're going out soon. I apologize for the delay.