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Psychedelicatessen

Topic: The Van Dyke/SMiLE Paradox



Subject: [lilsmileycabin] Digest Number 619
Date: Fri, 9 Nov 2001 16:56:28 -0000
Replying to:

What gets lost in translation is the mood the interviewee is in at any given moment, the motivations behind any interview and how much the interviewee respects the interviewer.

All these little snippets of SMiLE info we have from over the years come from various times in VDP's/BW's lives and motives, moods and perspective change like the wind.

That would make it difficult enough if it were an album that had been released, but an album that was left unfinished makes things even more opaque than normal. Add to that the notion that both writer's appear to enjoy being as obtuse as possible about the work they did together it's difficult to see how any quotes from them can be taken as the truth. I think some of them are the truth, some rare off-guard moments when clarity comes through, but which ones are they? That's up to the reader as well; whichever mood the fan is in there's a SMiLE quote to fit that stage of thought.

I know two guys, one a musician and the other an author, who regularly give interviews to the press. Neither of them take the process seriously unless they have some kind of respect for the journalist. It's rare that they meet journalists they respect so they usually either clam up, or take the piss. Which sounds familiar to me in the context of SMiLE

I also believe Van would love SMiLE to be released but he knows that until Brian agrees, he has to continue playing the game. Whatever the game is.

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Subject: [lilsmileycabin] Digest Number 619
Date: Fri, 9 Nov 2001 09:35:51 -0600
Replying to:

>>> 1. VDP figuratively at the historical import of this stuff when asked. "Don't remember, can't say, too long".

And he doesn't even TRY to stretch his memory, because, you're right, he downplays the historical significance of the record and downplays musicological attempts to understand it and even calls us derogatory names, all the while basking in the mysterious glow that the non-release of the album creates.

>>> and yet

>>> 2. VDP appears on documentaries and expounds with a self-righteous, self-assured assertiveness about SMILE, praising it up-and-down as something "ahead of its time".

Yes. There is a dichotomy there that I fail to understand, I completely agree. I think the real truth of the matter is that he just can't be arsed! I think the big reason he's mum on Smile is that he just plain can't remember jack anymore, gets the facts all screwed up when he DOES remember, and finds it easy to just kind of say absolutely nothing.

>>> What mystifies me is the VDP (based on his interviews) seems to perceive himself as something of a 'preservationist' in spirit...and yet he seems quite content to allow this piece of contemporary Americana to remain in a primarily bootlegged state (which he gets in a snit about, and the cycle continues).

Yup, exactly. And the whole thing suits him just fine! a) he doens't have to talk about it, and in fact can get all up-in-an-ire when asked TO talk about it. b) his non-talking actually HELPS preserve the mystery surrounding the record, which helps his career along, and c) if the thing ever comes out he can talk about it ad nauseum saying he's a "champion" of the material or whatever and not sound like hes contradicting himself. "Well, I just didn't like to talk about it before, you know, for BRIAN, but now that its out officially..."

>>>> And should VDP eventually "put up or shut up" about SMILE?

My view? He HAS to. If he genuinely sees himself as a preservationist of American music he has to eventually begrudgingly be made to understand the significance of this album, and the significance of preserving it for the ages despite Brian's wishes to the contrary. He's the only member of the creative team there that has the full mental capacity to recollect what they were on about, its his duty to posterity to eventually spill the fuggin' beans.

And will he? Probably not, not unless someone finally corrals the guy and forces him to listen to the tapes.

>>> Talking extensively about the Biggest Fish You Almost Caught and then getting peeved about the bootleg ephemera is a bit contradictory to me.

Yeah, me too. And then publicising your e-mail address and getting all in a huff when fans actually USE it to ask him about the album which he refuses to talk about??? Even more contradictory.

MY OPINION: if Van was REALLY up-in-arms aboiut Smile, all he'd have to do is grant one significant interview to clear the damn thing up, right?

Sad fact: I don't think Van Dyke really DOES remember a lot. Note the message on the board from the guy who asked him about "Shape," "Barnyard," and "He Gives Speeches." If anyone here would like to claim that its at all possible that Van Dyke Parks is not the lyricist behind "Speeches" I will be happy to listen to how on EARTH that's possible. Cause it ain't!

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Date: 11/9/01 07:11:58 PM
Replying to:
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Somebody Explain This Paradox To Me

There was a British interviewer who, through the intermediaries of Van Dyke's ex wife and Melinda, got Van Dyke and Brian together to talk about Smile (this in the post Orange Crate Art publicity time). I still hold out hope that some enterprising interviewer with some significant Smile background (unlike the above interviewer) will, through similar devious, round-a-bout methods (i.e. through the significant others) arrange another Van Dyke/Brian Smile meeting and play them both some tapes and get their responses to questions about specific tracks and the SMile timeline and what happened to the original album concept and why and how it was changed/abandoned. I really believe this is possible, and not just a fan's pipe dream. Under the right, supportive circumstances, this can (and should) happen.

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Replying to:

I honestly think it's about two things 1) people keep asking about it, 2) they keep asking the same questions. Nobody seems to have started to ask Van Dyke about the contents of Smile 'til around Orange Crate Art, and by that time he was very probably tired of it - aware Wilson wasn't going to go back and finish/release it, so he's stuck in that regard. Brian is quoted as early as 71 saying there was "something wrong" with the material, but until the 90s there was always the kind of the possibility it might come out. In a way, thanks to the 30 Years Box it did come out in the 90s, but that only managed to sell alot of copies of the box set - not satisfy anyone's "quest for Smile" (cue Chariots of FIre music).

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Replying to:

Damn fine point. I just figure that fans depend on the most recent interviews pertaining to certain aspects whether it be Smile or whatever. Like someone could ask VDP in 1976 about "Great Shape" and he might have an answer to the best of his recollection. Then someone might ask him in 1997 about it...he might give a totally different answer, or maybe no answer at all.

In that same 1976 interview, he might say, "Well, the Elements was in four parts" and in another interview in say the year 1999 or 2000 he might say, "I don't know what Elements really was".

Things change over time with just even regular "go with the flow people". Artist-types are world renowned for changing stories, opinions even over days because they're used to scanning their memories of things for new ideas about a hundred times a day. So things after all that thinking, recollection and fans who are so thirsty for me, his memories may get a little disoriented. Or he might have heard a tape of something that corrected what he thought before and then the next interview, if the subject comes up, he'll give a different answer where he runs the risk of..."Hey, how come in 1972 you said this?" or whatever.

I can also see VDP giving sometimes rather abrasive comments about the whole "embalming/Brian's baby/song orders" mostly because he's probably been asked it for the past 25 or 30 years. Hell, I have trouble answer the same questions over a period of a couple weeks. I think people like VDP answering questions to the best of their recollections and being aware of the fact that his mood at the time might reflect on his answers...who gives a fuck? It's VDP. It's as close and as coherent as people are going to get. BW's basically useless in putting any introspect into the SMiLE thing.

Now the "biggest fish you almost caught" analogy hits the nail in the head. Probably the best description I've read about VDP when it comes to SMiLE. I'd be a little abrasive and pissed off too. Especially after being reminded about it a hundred times a year for the past 30 years.

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As long as we're on the subject of VDP, riddle me this:

1. VDP figuratively at the historical import of this stuff when asked. "Don't remember, can't say, too long". He also makes remarks like [paraphrase] "I don't want to be the one to return to the embalming room. It was Brian's baby." (which is a terrible metaphor for him to use, if we are to truly believe that music can still be vibrant despite the cancellation of the overall project) and yet
2. VDP appears on documentaries and expounds with a self-righteous, self-assured assertiveness about SMILE, praising it up-and-down as something "ahead of its time".

Eh?

What mystifies me is the VDP (based on his interviews) seems to perceive himself as something of a 'preservationist' in spirit...and yet he seems quite content to allow this piece of contemporary Americana to remain in a primarily bootlegged state (which he gets in a snit about, and the cycle continues). Yes, I know that VDP does not call the shots, but he certainly has some measure of friendship/influence when it comes to Brian Wilson.

Essentially: what's up with this paradox? And should VDP eventually "put up or shut up" about SMILE? Talking extensively about the Biggest Fish You Almost Caught and then getting peeved about the bootleg ephemera is a bit contradictory to me.




If you have any comments on this topic, psychedelismile@yahoo.com and I will try to promptly post any interesting replies.