Smile (album)

Perhaps the most famous unreleased rock and roll album of all time, The Beach Boys' Smile was intended as the follow-up to 1966's influential album, Pet Sounds. Disappointed by the comparatively poor sales of his previous project, Brian Wilson set out to record a song which would be full of "happy vibes". The result was "Good Vibrations", a number one hit on both sides of the Atlantic, and which still stands as a milestone in recording history. Subsequently, Wilson attempted to construct his "teenage symphony to God" - a whole album using the kind of unusual sounds and innovative production techniques which had made "Good Vibrations" so successful. Working with lyricist Van Dyke Parks, Wilson recorded a series of breathtakingly beautiful songs including "Surf's Up", "Wonderful", "Cabin Essence" and "Wind Chimes". The project started to hit problems when Wilson recorded the "Fire" piece for an "Elements" suite and became worried that his music was responsible for the start of several fires in the neighbourhood. Amidst increasingly erratic behaviour and much use of mind-expanding drugs, Wilson continued to record sections for use in other titles such as "Heroes & Villains", "Do You Like Worms" and "Vega-Tables" without producing many finished recordings. Throughout the first months of 1967 the release date was postponed as Wilson proved unable to supply a completed version of the album, even though most of its components were finished.

Upon the release of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in mid-1967, The Beach Boys scrapped the Smile album, speedily rerecording some of its music for the less ground-breaking replacement Smiley Smile. Extracts from the Smile sessions continued to surface on Beach Boys albums for the next few years, most notably on 20/20 and Surf's Up, and many of the original Smile versions were finally released on a 1993 box-set, Good Vibrations (edited by Brian Wilson's engineer of choice, Mark Linett, with minimal input by the man himself).

Wilson revisited the Smile theme and some of the album's most significant stylistic devices on "Rio Grande", the closing 8 minute suite off his 1988 solo debut Brian Wilson (Rhino).

One of the principal sources of original information on Smile, and the basis for much of its legendary status, was Jules Siegel's article, http://www.cafecancun.com/bookarts/wilson.htm Goodbye Surfing, Hello God! which appeared in the first issue of Cheetah Magazine in October 1967.

Track listing

(based upon a handwritten note that Wilson gave to Capitol Records in 1967)

  • Do You Like Worms
  • Wind Chimes
  • Heroes And Villains
  • Surf's Up
  • Good Vibrations
  • Cabin Essence
  • Wonderful
  • I'm In Great Shape
  • Child Is Father Of The Man
  • The Elements
  • Vege-Tables
  • The Old Master Painter

Other tracks and fragments from the sessions include

  • Look
  • I Ran
  • Barnyard
  • Tones
  • Three Blind Mice
  • He Gives Speeches
  • You're Welcome

Related literature

  • Domenic Priore, Look! Listen! Vibrate! SMiLE!, Last Gasp 1995

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