* Note: this is in no way intended to be the definitive SMiLE guide! Lately, I've just had a lot of people send me questions about SMiLE, especially where to find SMiLE mp3's. So, I've put together a little SMiLE beginners guide. Hopefully, I will get some input, suggestions & constructive criticism from the in-the-know SMiLE-philes.
Now for a "just the facts, mamm" background on SMiLE:
The tale of SMiLE really begins in May 1966 with the release of the Beach Boys PET SOUNDS. The album (of which Brian said, "I'm gonna make the greatest rock-and-roll album ever made") received critical acclaim, but lackluster sales. "Good Vibrations" (actually started during Pet Sounds), in October of 1966 was a huge leap in Brian's recording development. On "Vibes", Brian used a modular recording technique, linking the song segments together into a coherent song. Brian's formula worked, giving the Beach Boys their biggest worldwide #1 hit to date. Brian figured, why not use this formula for a whole album? SMiLE, a.k.a. Brian's "teenage symphony to God" was born. Originally entitled "Dumb Angel", SMiLE was slated for a January 1967 release. But, something happened along the way, and in May of 1967 Derek Taylor announced that SMiLE was "scrapped". The album was never released in its intended form, although parts of SMiLE songs have appeared on subsequent Beach Boys albums over the years.
SMiLE is the classic case of "coulda, woulda, shoulda". Yes, SMiLE "could have" been bigger than Sgt. Pepper. It "would have" made some sort of impact. And, it "should have" been released! But the possible influence of SMiLE is all speculation. Just like the reasons for the albums demise. There have been many excuses for the non-release of the album: Brian's drug intake (although, a listen to the studio bootlegs pretty much shoot this theory down!), the reluctance of the other Beach Boys to Brian's new songs, the Beach Boys lawsuit with Capitol (which probably pushed the album's release back even further, causing them to "miss the boat"), and the Beatles release of Sgt. Pepper.
"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 don't know why... for some reason didn't want to put them on the album. And the group nearly broke up, actually broke up for good after that." -Brian Wilson, 1968 "[With] SMILE, I didn't think that the songs were right for the public at the time. I just didn't have a feeling... 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. A lot of times a person will write...and will realize later...it's not commercial. You know, what they've written is nice for them...but a lot of people just don't like it. Maybe some people like to hang on to certain things..." Brian Wilson, 1968 "Because we got off on bags that just didn't fucking have any value for vocals! A lot of tracks just weren't made for vocals, so the group couldn't do it! We got really stoned! We were f-----g too high, you know, to complete the stuff! We were stoned! You know stoned on hash and s--t! I had to! I had to! It was destroying me! I was being destroyed thinking about it! It just wasn't my type of music!" --Brian Wilson 1976 "We never finished it, because a lot of that shit just bothered me - but half of it we didn't finish anyway. Van Dyke Parks did a lot of it, and we used a lot of fuzz-tone. It was inspiring, because Van Dyke is a very creative person, and it was a boost to me because he had a lot of energy and a lot of fresh ideas, so that energy has helped me. But a lot of that stuff was what I call little segments of songs, and there was a period when I was getting stoned and so never really finished anything. We were into things that just didn't have any value for vocals, tracks that weren't made for vocals, so the group couldn't do it. BW [ITOW 32] "I junked it. We junked them. I didn't like where the music was coming from. I thought it was inappropriate for the Beach Boys and I junked it. We were taking a lot of drugs during that time and got carried away with hardly nothing." Brian Wilson by Bill Harriman "It was just inappropriate music for the Beach Boys. We were taking drugs at the time and we weren't in our right minds. After I came down off the drugs and saw what I had done with Smile, I junked it. I said, that's not us." Brian Wilson, Harmonic Convergence by Howard Massey
Over the years, bits and pieces of SMiLE have appeared on other official Beach Boys albums. Here is a brief overview of what is available officially:
Smiley Smile (Capitol/Brother released September, 1967)
Although under-produced to the max (the very antithesis of SMiLE!) , this album is important in two ways. First, it shows what happened when the production reigns were taken from Brian. Secondly, when compared to the original tracks ("Windchimes", "Vegetables" and "Wonderful" from the 1993 GV Box Set) you get a glimpse of what SMiLE could have been! There are also two songs which began as SMiLE fragments: "She's Goin' Bald" and "With Me Tonight".
Wild Honey (Capitol released December, 1967)
Contains "Mama Says" (an out-take/tag from "Vega-Tables").
20/20(Capitol released February, 1969)
Contains two SMiLE recordings: an overdubbed "Our Prayer" and "Cabinessence."
Sunflower (Brother-Reprise released August,1970)
Contains "Cool, Cool Water", which has two SMiLE connections: it is based on "Love to Say Da Da (a puported SMiLE-era song) and it contains the water chant (which WAS recorded during SMiLE)
Surf'sUp (Brother-Reprise released August, 1971)
The version of "Surfs Up" represented here is a bastardized version. New vocals from Carl were overdubbed onto the original the first section, joined with one of Brian's original vocal piano renditions of the second section. A coda of "Child Is Father Of The Man" is tacked on to the end.
Good Vibrations : Thirty Years Of The Beach Boys (Capitol released November, 1993)
It only took 26 years, but the inclusion of thirty minutes of original (still in question) SMiLE recordings makes this a MUST HAVE!
The release of the GV Box set finally opened the flood gates for SMiLE bootlegs. There are dozens of titles, with lots of tracks repeated. These are just a few of the most important ones:
Smile (GEMA) Smile (David Prokopy tapes) Smile (Vigotone) Heroes & Vibrations (Vigotone) SOT Vol. 15-Good Vibrations Sessions (Sea Of Tunes) SOT Vol. 16-Single Smile Disc (Sea Of Tunes) SOT Vol. 17-Smile Sessions (Sea Of Tunes) SOT Vol. 18 The Alternate "Smiley Smile" Album (Sea Of Tunes) For track listings of these albums click here For reviews of the SOT albums, go to the Beach Boys un-official fan site click here
The internet has been a godsend for SMiLE fans. Before the world wide web, most were stuck with the official releases to make your own SMiLE tapes. Bootlegs were expensive and hard to find. But, with the internet and mp3 revolution, the normal fan can find just about ALL of the SMiLE bootlegs on mp3's! And its FREE! Here are just a few of the SMiLE related sites which have links to the much coveted SMiLE mp3's (*note: we are making no guarantees, we are just listing known sites from the past):
Smile Shop- has two fantastic versions of SMiLE, a mono and a stereo version. A Must Hear! click here
Yet Another SMiLE Page- has mp3 links for most of the SMiLE bootlegs (except SOT 17 & 18) click here
The Nearest Faraway Place II - join this club to get SOT 17 mp3's. join here
Once you've joined, go to the sister site for the mp3's click here
LOOK! LISTEN! VIBRATE! SMILE!-compiled by Domenic Priore-Published 1995 by Last Gasp
Basically, this book is "the Bible" for any new SMiLE enthusiast. Packed full of news articles, pictures and essays from the SMiLE era. Some of the theories/assertions made in this book have since proven to be wrong, but the book's impact is still not diminished. A must have!!
The Beach Boys-by David Leaf-Published 1985 by Kingsport Press
This is my second favorite book about SMiLE, only having one chapter about SMiLE. But, what a chapter it is-worth the price of the book alone. This book was my first exposure to the SMiLE legend. I also consider this a must have, not just for the SMiLE fan, but for any Beach Boys fan!
Heroes & Villains (the True Story of the Beach Boys)-by Steven Gaines-Published 1986 by The New American Library
Although not half as good as the Leaf book, this book does have some merit in covering the SMiLE myth.
Wouldn't It Be Nice (My Own Story)-by Brian Wilson with Todd Gold-Published 1991 Harper Collins Publishers
Total load of crap! Any book which says that "George Fell and "Been Away Too Long" were SMiLE tracks (which we know they AREN'T!) could NOT have been written by Brian. Avoid this book at all costs- it is about as truthful as the mini-series portrayal of SMiLE which came out this year...
Will we ever see a realease of SMiLE? Will there ever be a box set, like the "Pet Sounds Sessions" box set? Only time will tell. But, for the newest SMiLE news (as well as some good debates/discussions), check out these sites:
Smile Shop Message Board click here
Yahoo SMiLE-ing Club click here
Finally, the Smile Shop Links section is the most comprehensive set of SMiLE links that I've seen.
Smile Shop Links click here
If you have any comments on this topic firstname.lastname@example.org and I will try to promptly post any interesting replies.