When it comes to The Beach Boys, I've learned to take any news with a decidedly big grain of salt. But some "news" is just too good not to pass on. In an interview with Jeremy Roberts of Examiner.com, Al Jardine revealed that "Capitol Records plans to issue a Beach Boys version of 'Smile' [sic] sometime this summer to begin the celebration of The Beach Boys' [50th] anniversary." Could a release of the original "most famous unheard album in pop history" actually happen? When it comes to The Beach Boys, anything is possible, and there are further clues that a thaw could finally be coming in the long-frozen relationships between band members. In 2006, The Beach Boys reunited atop the Capitol Tower for a photo opportunity, and later that year, Jardine played a number of dates with Brian Wilson. This weekend, Jardine will join Mike Love and Bruce Johnston (who have carried the Beach Boys' touring torch) at A Concert for America: A Tribute to Ronald Reagan at the Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. Wilson reportedly declined an invitation to participate at the concert, but Jardine has acknowledged that talks are ongoing and "encouraging" as to his participation in future anniversary activities.
I was in the audience on February 20, 2004 when Brian Wilson and his band premiered his completed (and now officially titled with eccentric spelling based on the original LP logo) version of SMiLE at London's Royal Festival Hall. I doubt that I will ever again experience a more memorably emotional evening of music than I did that night. The audience was spellbound watching this famously-troubled artist finally find closure to one of the most difficult periods of his life, reclaiming and giving new life to the legendary music he and The Beach Boys created nearly forty years earlier. One word comes to mind when I think back to that night: love. It overwhelmingly filled Royal Festival Hall. Only the most churlish individual would downplay the significance of that soul-enriching evening. Some pundits felt, though, that just one thing was missing, with all due respect to Wilson's remarkable ensemble: the combined voices of Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston, Carl Wilson and Dennis Wilson, with whom Brian and lyricist Van Dyke Parks had first collaborated on the music played to perfection that night. There's not nearly enough room to go into the myriad problems that plagued SMiLE; documentaries have been filmed and entire books have been published about that period.
In short, SMiLE was intended as the follow-up to the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds. Producer/arranger/composer Brian Wilson enlisted Van Dyke Parks to supply lyrics for the album, scheduled for a January 1967 release. One song destined for SMiLE was released and became a million-selling single for the band, the "pocket symphony" known as "Good Vibrations." No less a luminary than Leonard Bernstein praised the music intended for SMiLE when Brian Wilson performed a stark, chilling rendition of "Surf's Up" on Bernstein's Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution television special. More than 400,000 album jackets were printed with Frank Holmes' now-iconic cover art, but SMiLE didn't arrive in January 1967 as promised, despite over 85 recording sessions having taken place (including more than two dozen alone for the endlessly inventive "Heroes and Villains," which was released as a single).
What happened next? What does a release of the original Capitol tapes to SMiLE mean for Beach Boys fans? And will this be a bright spot in a rocky 2011 for EMI/Capitol? Hit the jump for some guesses.
The music intended for SMiLE trickled out over the years, sometimes in the original versions and sometimes in re-recordings, while ardent fans created their own SMiLE compilations. Wilson debuted the finished SMiLE to great, deserved acclaim in 2004. But was this the SMiLE intended for release in 1967? Wilson wouldn't hesitate in answering "no." This was a new SMiLE, created in 2004 as a unified composition of three musical suites by Wilson, Parks and Wilson's right-hand man and multi-instrumentalist Darian Sahanaja. It very reasonably reflected a lifetime of work by these gentlemen, and was thoughtfully derived from the legendary original work with some new additional material. Does anybody even know what SMiLE circa 1967 would have consisted of and sounded like? The answer, alas, is also "no."
Song titles were listed on the junked SMiLE LP covers, but were amended by the phrase "See label for correct playing order." The track listing and running order was never finalized. The closest thing to an official released version of SMiLE to date was contained on the 1993 Capitol box set Good Vibrations: 30 Years of the Beach Boys, when almost thirty minutes of the original sessions were released. The songs included were "Good Vibrations," "Our Prayer," "Heroes and Villains," "Wonderful," "Cabinessence," "Wind Chimes," "Do You Like Worms," "Wind Chimes," "Vegetables," "I Love to Say Da Da" and "Surf's Up." ("Worms" would be retitled "Roll Plymouth Rock" for SMiLE 2004, and "Da Da" incorporated into "In Blue Hawaii.") iTunes even offers SMiLE playlists for purchase, drawn from the Good Vibrations box, bonus tracks contained on the Smiley Smile/Wild Honey two-fer CD and the albums Smiley Smile and Surf's Up. Jardine's statement to Roberts brings up a number of questions, about this new(est) version of the lost classic. Is Brian Wilson interested in creating a second "definitive" SMiLE after the rapturous reception accorded his 2004 completed version? If not, will the Beach Boys version be based, at least in part, on the 2004 track lineup and structure? (Collectors have already assembled such a set.) And if Wilson himself isn't producing this new set, then who is? (Jardine did confirm that no new recording has taken place.) The Brian Wilson of 2011 is undoubtedly different than the Brian Wilson of 2004 who was different than the Brian Wilson of 1967. But at least to my mind, the final word on this Beach Boys SMiLE should belong to its principal creators, Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, and of course to The Beach Boys as well. (The Beach Boys' support of the album in 1967 has long been a hotly-debated topic of discussion, and that isn't likely to change any time soon.) Will Wilson, Parks, Jardine, Love and Johnston work together to produce a version amenable to all parties? Passionate and spirited discussion has already begun at The Steve Hoffman Music Forums, on Brian Wilson's official website and elsewhere.
So I open this to you, dear readers. As a kick-off to a hopefully exciting 50th anniversary year for Beach Boys fans (and perhaps the first of a number of catalogue reissues?), what form should a released SMiLE take? This writer is hoping for a box set in the style of 1997's The Pet Sounds Sessions, presenting fully-packed CDs of the best of the recording sessions, including material never heard by collectors. The centerpiece of this set should then be a single-disc distillation representing the "most finished" SMiLE as agreed upon by Wilson, Parks and the Boys. It still won't be Smile as it would have been, but it will allow us to hear the rich and truly inimitable harmonies of Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine and Bruce Johnston shining once again - officially - on Wilson and Parks' mind-blowing songs. This package would of course be accompanied by a definitive recording session chronology with new assessments by all of the participants. In this, the era of the Super Deluxe Box Set, an audiophile-quality vinyl LP in a replica of the original jacket would be more than welcome, as would a long-awaited SMiLE in surround sound. But whatever form it may take, a SMiLE release would offer closure for all parties to this fascinating era in Beach Boys history, making moot the question of who were the "heroes" and who were the "villains" back in 1967, and allowing The Beach Boys' renowned harmonies and "good vibrations" to transport us all, once again. The Beach Boys' SMiLE (1967) will forever remain a great rock "might-have-been." But, should it see release, there's no reason why SMiLE (2011) can't be one of the best albums of this year.
What do you think? Look, listen, vibrate, smile - and please sound off below, friends!
I'd be happy to have an official, annotated box of Smile sessions; I recall reading a David Leaf interview back in the '80s or '90s where he said (at the time) that such a project could only be presented as sessions, and not as a finished product; he suggested this way listeners could compile their own sequences.
However, the 2004 version managed to put most of the existing songs and longer fragments into a listenable suite -- three actually, with "Good Vibrations" used as a coda, since it was never part of Brian's vision for the album, just Capitol's. Anyway, a "Beach Boys" version of the 2004 lineup, like the iTunes playlist, wouldn't be such a horrible idea. That could easily be the anchor of a box set, preceded by as many discs' full of as many session outtakes to show how everything was built, like the Pet Sounds box.
Richard Palmer says
The Beach Boys were following Brians's instructions. Van Dyke wrote the lyrics. Mike Love screwed it all up.It should be up to Brian as risky as that may be. The Beach Boys voices are definitely missed but their input would be out of place and would wealen the project. Let's not forget the Wrecking Crew's contribution on the tracks. Oh, I just remebered...How many times over the 40 plus years have we heard this may be finnaly released? I don't believe. This will come up agsin in a few years...same results...none
Phil Cohen says
This news is not a surprise. Beach Boys archivist/remixer Mark Linnet has been working on "Smile" tape research and a possible CD/DVD set of 1972 concert recordings for the past 2 years, but has(apparently) been under a "gag" order to not reveal anything more.
Though I'm not part of the vinyl revival fad(though I've never not owned a turntable since I got my first one as a child in 1966), I hope that Capitol releases a vinyl edition, so fans can have a reproduction of the album cover & booklet as originally designed and intended. The rear album cover that fans have seen(with the photo looking like a high-contrast illustration, not a photo) was how bootleggers had to re-photograph & filter the image to remove proof writing and markings on one of the few existing mock-up sleeves(Yes, Capitol printed thousands of artwork "slicks" , but none were assembled into a finished album cover, aside from a few mock-ups)
Martin E Horn says
Please Please Please let this be true. The 2004 "Smile" was more than listenable but it is simply not what this major league Beach Boy fan had/has in mind when contemplating the legendary "Smile" sessions. Though I have numerous bootlegs, in addition to the "Smile" fragments on the official Beach Boys box set from the mid-90's, I WANT TO HEAR THE ORIGINAL RECORDINGS in as close an approximation of what Brian had in mind circa 1966-1967. Brian might not even remember what exactly he had in mind, but at least give him a chance with input from Van Dyke Parks. Please.
Trevor Bartram says
Thanks for the article. I was unaware an iTunes Smile track list existed, I'll investigate that. I did not buy the 2004 Smile as I thought the original Smile tracks on the Beach Boys box set were far superior. Let's hope the release of the original album really happens!!!!
Bruce Louden says
Ideally, a box set for this justifiably legendary work. Multiple versions of Heroes & VIllains should be included, multiple versions of the Bicycle Rider theme, works in various stages of completion, the Barnyard Suite, the Elements (including the piano instrumental of Air), You Are My Sunshine with Dennis' vocals, the Old Master Painter (hopefully a version with vocals exists), perhaps some of the water recordings that were collected by Mike Vosse, selections from the humor album that Brian was working on simultaneously, perhaps a DVD with some of the video footage that Brian shot (for Mrs O'Leary's Cow), perhaps a whole CD of versions of Good Vibrations, some complete, some just in sections.
I'm probably going piss someone off here, but I'm just disturbed that some of these guys are going to play at tribute for Ronald Freakin' Reagan... Back around the time of Pet Sounds, Smiley Smile and beyond that for awhile, the band had gotten in tune with the counterculture and seemed a polar opposite of what Reagan was all about.
Whatever. This isn't a political site, I know, I just think it's weird. There just wasn't anything terribly rock & roll about Reagan, exemplified by the time he tried to use Springsteen's name for his benefit and Bruce shot that down in a hurry.
I would be curious to hear the "real" Smile though... I know a few of the songs, so I'd be interested in seeing if it really lives up to the hype. I can't imagine it being better than Pet Sounds, but who knows?
BB Fan says
@ Richard Palmer - "Mike Love screwed it all up" - Few things in life can be reduced to such simplistic terms, my friend, and the story of SMiLE is no exception. Your statement is wrong on so many levels I don't have enough time to address them all. Educate yourself about this and you'll be better able to appreciate the band. Here's a hint. Read something else besides Dom Priore's books. Not that they don't have some good information in them - they do. His attitude towards Mike Love, though, colors his discussion of Mike's involvement in such a way as to damage his own credibility. It was never as simple as "Mike Love screwed it all up". That just makes you sound silly.
@ Shaun - "There just wasn’t anything terribly rock & roll about Reagan" - Is that your criteria for judging who would make a good president? That could explain why our country finds itself in such peril today. Reagan may not have been a rock & roll president, but he was very good to the Beach Boys, and they're showing far more class in playing at his 100th birthday celebration than you showed in your post. He was responsible for special permission being granted for Dennis Wilson's burial at sea and he appropriately reprimanded James Watts for his ill-advised comments about the band in banning them from the July 4th celebration. Like Richard, you would do well to educate yourself before going into a public forum and posting statements that serve primarily to make you look foolish.
As for the article, Al's announcement this week has given all Beach Boys fans a lift and something significant to look forward to. Notice I said BB fans and not necessarily BW fans. They are not necessarily the same. I hope Capitol does a top notch job in putting this together. It could really be something special. We may be looking at a remarkable year in the history of the Beach Boys. I hope so, anyway.
Mark Monzo says
No need to release a BB version of Smile. Brian finished it and captured much of the original sound with his own band. Anything new would be anti-climactic. Most true BB and BW fans already have much of the original content of what exists on tape from boots that have been available for many years now. Including Mike Love in such a new effort would surely compromise the quality of the final product.
Brian was smart enough to get himself involved with some young talent that are much more supportive than the remaining BB members ever were. Haven't those guys made enough money over the years. Just retire and leave well enough alone!
Phil Cohen says
But what if the compiler & engineer find some new material that hasn't been heard before(not even on bootlegs)? And, for several tracks which have circulated with less than ideal sound quality, the new "Smile" collection offers the possibility of hearing them from the master tapes with full quality.
For the 1966/67 "Smile", the "real" running order is whatever sounds "correct" to you, the fan,though I favor the running order suggested in the 2nd edition of Domenic Priore's book "Look,Listen,Vibrate,Smile" . Hopefully, the new official "Smile" set will bring us some newly discovered nuggets to incorporate into our homemade "Smile" CD-R's.
And the far in advance notice of an official "Smile" set offers anyone hoarding unreleased material a chance to come forward and sell or supply their material.
Having heard some very good and excellent fan mixes it's easy to see why no new recordings would be needed, just final decision making about the mix. Presumably, that would be one that closely matches the choices made for the 2004 BW release. I do like some of the alternative mixes however.
Bill Tobelman says
The Pet Sounds box is a good guide to how this project might come together.
I would like to hear the original '66-'67 fragments arranged in a similar order to Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE.
Then fill 2 additional discs with alternate takes and outtakes, bits & pieces.
The booklet could include a sequencing suggestion that fans could follow to hear the sessions in order of their original recording dates.
Jude Connelly says
I suppose they have to try and come up with an 'official' running order to sell it, as that's what the business is about. I'd be happy with 'The Old Master Painter / You Are My Sunshine' alone, remastered in glorious mono. But from what's been disclosed - the deluxe edition sounds tasty. It's a bit like Jaws - just when you thought it was safe to go back... Hopefully as has been said above, this will be the final glorious rubber stamp for everyone - the creators and the fans alike. The original recordings capture something B W band's version doesn't have - the past history of a group of relatives, Chuck Britz, and the Wrecking Crew all at the peak of their powers. Though all the praise was deserved for the 2004 SMiLE - nothing can beat Carl, Mike, and Brian together in analog!!!
Hope it doesn't cause Brian any major discomfort though. Haven't heard 'Reimagines Gershwin' - but that was due to the fact I'm still marveling at how genuinely brilliant 'Lucky Old Sun' was /is - post 2004 Brian Wilson is truly 'back'. Let's hope he and his inner circle, and management keep it that way with this.
i've been waiting for this a long time. Brian, please make me smile this summer.
Reds Gorgan says
Am I in the wrong place? I was trying to order Mexican carryout online.
George Davis says
The years have grown like the sensitive twigs from this bands begging to beautiful branches on a tree that will forever stand growing to be a thousand yrs old in the nature of life.
Few know that John Lennon and Ronald Reagan were friends and got along famously together. After all, they were just human beings. Both carried a great love in their own way.
This music really needs to be released to the world. The world desperately needs this music to sooth it's troubled soul. There is simply no music in any genre that is any more beautiful or spiritual than what Brian and the boys made at the time. Better 40 years late than never. Thanks to all involved in the project. I miss you Dennis and Carl.
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