Domenic Priore
By Ronnie

You either "get it" or you don't when it comes to the Beach Boys unreleased album, Smile. When I start to talk about Smile, most of my friends get a puzzled look on their face. You can just hear them thinking, "oh no, here he goes again". When they think of Beach Boys, it conjures up images of your stereotypical Beach Boys song, repeated ad nauseum on oldies radio, like, say, "Fun, Fun, Fun". However, few know of Brian Wilson experimental music in 1966 that could have given Sgt. Pepper a run for its money. Your average music fan doesn't want to hear about the Beach Boys psychedelic album. But, Smile is one of my passions, like rock and roll history. And Smile IS rock and roll history & and rock and roll mystery. When I get to talk to someone that "gets" Smile, you can imagine that I get as excited as the proverbial 'virgin on a prom night'. Well, maybe that's an exaggeration that only Smile-fanatics would understand.

So, you can imagine the thrill when I found out that Domenic Priore would grant me an interview for EAR CANDY! For those of you who don't know his name, Domenic wrote what is considered the Bible about Smile, LOOK! LISTEN! VIBRATE! SMILE! And while some might disagree with the assertions that he makes in the book, his book is still the ONLY book solely dedicated to the Beach Boys lost album. That jazz about "talk the talk, walk the walk" can be applied here!

As much as I love Smile, I was still nervous. Would Mr. Priore be as tight-lipped as Brian Wilson when I interviewed him six months ago? Would he answer my questions or simply say, "read the book"? Well, he did answer some of my questions, but was elusive to some of my most burning questions. But, maybe that's how Smile is supposed to be & mysterious and elusive. Still, Domenic's insight into Smile is fascinating! Plus, he also talked about his new, upcoming book and how Smile relates to it.

So, get ready to get a double dose of Smile AND rock & roll history of the L.A. scene in 1966!

And & keep SMiLE-ing!!!

Right: Domenic Priore (Photo by Johnny Marr, MCBF)

E.C.: First, I want to talk about your new book, "Riot on Sunset Strip: Rock 'n' Roll's Last Stand in Hollywood 1965/1966." I know that it is about the L.A. rock 'n' roll scene in 1965/66, but will the layout be similar to Look! Listen! Vibrate! SMILE! (with its collection of time-period articles and new essays)?

Domenic: Riot on Sunset Strip: Rock 'n' Roll's Last Stand in Hollywood 1965/1966 will be similar to Look! Listen! Vibrate! SMILE! in it's thoroughness, and in that it will expose something wonderful that's been hidden for years behind misunderstanding. Remember, both Pet Sounds and Smile were created in the environment of the L.A. rock 'n' roll scene during 1965 and 1966... and this is just one artist, Brian Wilson. Now magnify that to over a hundred bands who may have had something of their own that holds up to what Brian Wilson had goin' in its own right, be it one or two brilliant 45s or an album such as Love's Forever Changes, things which are easily as good as the ones Brian Wilson did during those years. On an album level, you also have Frank Zappa's first two, Freak Out and Absolutely Free, the Doors first two, but then there were all those sonically amazing garage punk 45s by the Standells, the Bobby Fuller 4, the Seeds the Knickerbockers, the Music Machine, the Humane Society, the Bees, the Electric Prunes... the list goes on and on. The majority of what's on the Nuggets box set, for example, is from L.A. Then there's the Turtles, the Mamas & the Papas, the Association... and the Byrds, who are far more important than anyone's ever really given them credit for, a band influenced by the Beatles and Bob Dylan who ended up influencing the Beatles and Bob Dylan in ways that are always overlooked. Then you have groups like the Buffalo Springfield, Neil Young and Jack Nitzsche doin' "Expecting to Fly" and then the Monkees with Jack doing "The Porpoise Song." Hell, the Rolling Stones recorded "Satisfaction" on Sunset in ' was the most creative scene of the decade. Yet everything that comes out of a documentary or book or magazine on the '60s chooses to display the Jefferson Airplane and a bunch of unstylin' San Francisco hippies. The L.A. scene was so far ahead of all that, and far more modern in scope. So my hope is that Riot on Sunset Strip: Rock 'n' Roll's Last Stand in Hollywood 1965/1966 will make that obvious, and that the awareness spreads in the same way that Smile is now common knowledge, with jillions of tapes of it circulating, websites and expanded recognition for the work in the mainstream press when new bios are done. Before I did the book on Smile, the general consensus in the public eye was that it was the whacked out failure of a crazy man who couldn't get his thing together and burned the tapes. But now it's pretty obvious that the Smile music is alive and well, and has had a profound effect on contemporary artists, despite the fact that Smile still isn't "out." At least the awareness is there.

E.C.: Its being published by the same company who just released the Beatles own biography, correct? When will the book see release?

Domenic: The book has been signed to Chronicle Books in San Francisco, yes, the same company that just released the Beatles own book. I was attracted to the company because they have such excellent photo reproduction, and Riot on Sunset Strip: Rock 'n' Roll's Last Stand in Hollywood 1965/1966 has so many bitchen photos. Also, Chronicle has done great books with Jim Heimann, things like California Crazy, Car Hops and Curb Service, Sins of the City...and they've done great stuff with Alan Hess, who's books Googie and Viva Las Vegas also capture the wild architecture vibe of L.A. As a matter of fact, Heimann's book for Abbeville, Out With the Stars is somewhat of the model for my new book, but pushed into the mid-sixties atmosphere. Out With the Stars is an exploration of the Hollywood nightclub scene of the '30s and '40s, with an emphasis on the clubs themselves, and people fraternizing in the clubs. My new book shows the same kind of thing, but instead of actors and elitism, we've got rock 'n' roll, protest, art and all the things that made the mid-sixties such a visceral moment. I'm not sure if Chronicle is going to be able to handle the content, however, because my book really puts San Francisco's scene in the back seat, and for those of you who don't know this, San Francisco people believe very strongly that their city is "better" than L.A. They really exhibit a lot of prejudice toward L.A. people, believe me. Living there for 6 years, I found this attitude to be provincial, and at the end of the day, just as xenophobic as when I lived in Omaha for a year and a half. So we'll see if they can handle it. I'm out to burst the Jerry Garcia/Bob Weir bubble, and that is making them freak.

E.C.: Will your new book give us any glimpses to the influences that helped make the Beach Boys Smile album? Are there any sections of the book that will relate directly to what Brian Wilson was doing in 1966?

Domenic: Yes, Brian's work is actually addressed in two places... there is a section on the 4 record producers of L.A. who really stood out from the pack: Phil Spector, Brian Wilson, Jack Nitzsche and Lee Hazelwood. Then, Brian's mid-sixties work with the Beach Boys is also summed up in the same chapter that I discuss the Mothers of Invention, the Doors, Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band, Kaleidoscope and bands like that. The working title for that chapter is Far Out, and that's where Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks actually fit in.

E.C.: Speaking of 'glimpses' (no pun intended), have you ever read Lewis Shiner's portrayal of Smile in his fictional novel, "Glimpses"? Although it was fiction/fantasy, do you think he accurately depicted what was going on with Brian in 1966?

Domenic: Yeah, Lewis Shiner did a cool book, it was really fun to read it. Ya know, when Look! Listen! Vibrate! SMILE! came out, Lewis Shiner sent me a copy of his current book Deserted Cities of the Heart, and then, his next book Glimpses was about unreleased/unrealized music from the sixties coming to life. Lewis was really nice to me, and was nice enough to acknowledge me in the credits. More recently, I'd advise people to check out Marc Weingarten's new book, Station to Station... it's actually a history of rock 'n' roll television. I had Marc over my pad to watch some videos and then passed on chapter 9 of my new book to him. He was cool to acknowledge my help in the intro. Ya know, the whole point of this thing we have here, life, is sharing. That's the main thing the Sunset Strip scene was about, and what made the music that good was the cross-pollination going on. Brian Wilson was early on that. He knew that by sharing "Surf City," "Drag City," "Dead Man's Curve," "New Girl In School" and "Ride the Wild Surf" with Jan & Dean, he wasn't hurting his own thing, he was just spreading the sound out to more people... he was getting his message, or his sound out there. And with Van Dyke Parks, he knew that he'd found a collaborator that could give back something to his music, almost as much as Brian was putting into it. It's important that people coalesce with each other. I'm really sick of greed, and it'll kill us as a people if we don't combat it.

E.C.: Do you address the beginnings of psychedelic music in your book? Where do you think Smile fits in to the greater scheme of L.A. music at the time? If Smile had come out, how would the Hipster Cognoscenti have received it? Some people say that it could have changed the "power base" of rock and roll influence from England to California?

Domenic: Well, this is a loaded question. First of all, the beginnings of psychedelic music were all based in the Sunset Strip scene. The Byrds had the first psychedelic 45, that much is certain, when they recorded "Eight Miles High" late in 1965. The engineer on the record was Dave Hassinger, who was also the engineer on the Rolling Stones "Satisfaction," and later on "Paint It Black." Hassinger also engineered things like "I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night" by the Electric Prunes and all the Jefferson Airplane stuff after those groundbreaking records had already happened. See, RCA's studio on Sunset Boulevard had the best equipment in town, it was a big room with a modern design for sound. Hassinger was the engineer at RCA Studios on Sunset, and you can hear his brilliance on earlier records like "Baja" by the Astronauts and "The Last Time" by the Rolling Stones.

The people who were not famous were often the most important catalysts in all of this. Leon Russell, for example, seemed to be everywhere during that time, beginning with an early house band at Pandora's Box called the Fencemen, which led into the house band on Shindig!, not to mention all his brilliant studio work. Then there is a guy like Dick Bock, who ran the Pacific Jazz record label in the '50s, and in '57 changed the name to World Pacific when he signed Ravi Shankar to a U.S. record contract. Bock had done this as part of his discovery of transcendental meditation that year. Dick Bock then made his World Pacific studio available to the Byrds for the demos that became known as Preflyte, and also, the Doors worked their first studio dates there too in '65... the Byrds even backed the Doors on one session at World Pacific, I think it's on "Henrietta." So a West Coast Cool jazz cat like Dick Bock could be said to have had an overwhelming influence on the whole scene in his own way, even to the point of allowing the Byrds and the Doors unlimited time to rehearse and lay down early demos in his studio. And there are others who have similar stories... such as Art Kunkin, who started The Los Angeles Free Press in 1964, the second alternative newspaper to emerge in the U.S., after The Village Voice had come out in New York. People in L.A. were all pitching in to the greater cause, and they weren't waiting around 'til the summer of love to do so.

The Byrds, however, were first with so much. They had the first real freaky dancers, Vito and his troupe, at Ciro's in early 1965. They also jammed with Bob Dylan at Ciro's, which had once been the most famous movie star hangout of the '40s, and now was seeing the dawn of a revolution in popular music. The very concept of folk rock, not just the sound of it, but the look of their debut album Mr. Tambourine Man, well, that was quickly copped by the Beatles for their first "introspective studio album" Rubber Soul. Which in turn influenced Brian Wilson, and voila, we have Pet Sounds... which according to Paul McCartney inspired Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and vicariously, the summer of love. Now, where's the "power base"? You've got the Rolling Stones doing all of their most intense records in L.A. The Beatles are scooping from Mr. Tambourine Man and Pet Sounds, and the Beach Boys and the Byrds are of course getting their trip from the Beatles, and Bob Dylan, hell there wasn't a rock 'n' roll artist during that period who didn't feel his presence in their music somehow, except for maybe Jay & the Americans, the Newbeats, or the Vogues, who made fine 45s then anyway. Now Smile, and Revolver, they stand apart from the other albums I mentioned in a way, completely unique. Obviously very few people got to hear Smile music at the time, people who visited Brian's house and that's about it. All anyone got to hear was "Good Vibrations" and once, "Surf's Up" as performed on the CBS news documentary Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution, hosted by Leonard Bernstein in early '67. Revolver, is there another album like that around? So I don't think of there being a "power base," but I will say that there was an intense interaction between what was going on in London and Los Angeles in that moment. The L.A. garage bands had based their sound on the early Rolling Stones, who broke in the U.S. via John Peel, who was a DJ in San Bernardino at the time. But they also took the lyrical protest of Bob Dylan into their own lyric scheme. L.A. Garage bands also pulled from the rave ups of the Yardbirds and of course some clubs like the Sea Witch and Pandora's Box wouldn't even book you unless you could play Them's "Baby Please Don't Go," "Mystic Eyes" and "Gloria" along with the Billy Roberts tune "Hey Joe" popularized at Ciro's by the Byrds, Love and the Leaves. In turn, Jeff Beck left the Yardbirds to stay in L.A. with the ultimate California girl, Mary Hughes, who the A.I.P. Beach movie series used in all their promotional posters, and who was in all those beach flicks. The Yardbirds also played private parties each of those years at the Beverly Hills home of one of the guys from the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band... and at the second one in '66, Marlon Brando and Natalie Wood had to listen from the curb outside... a far cry from what was going on at Ciro's in the '40s.

I mean, look at every garage band in the Nuggets box set... every member looks like they're copping their look straight from Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones. Brian Jones himself spent a lot of free time on the Sunset Strip, I have some photos of him jamming with the house band at a club called the Action, the Joel Scott Hill Three, featuring Lee Michaels on keyboards and Johnny Barbata on drums. Toni Basil and Terri Garr are on the dancefloor, David Crosby is there with his girlfriend... this is the nature of the scene. Terri Garr was living with the Venice Beat/Ferus Gallery artist Wallace Berman at the time, and through Toni Basil, who was friends with Brian Jones, they knew the art dealer Robert Fraser through their mutual friends John Dunbar and Marianne Faithfull. This loose association saw Wallace Berman make the cover of the Sgt. Pepper album, because Berman had been an influence on the assemblage art of Peter Blake and Tony Cooper, and Cooper had used the art dealer's connections to get in touch with Berman, via these Sunset Strip rock 'n' roll people.

So with London and L.A., it was a matter of the allied arts. Cult Movies and Rock 'n' Roll TV shows came within the grasp of that too, it was not the self absorbed elitism and factionalism that San Francisco later brought into the whole deal. Even the Monterey Pop Festival, that was organized on the Sunset Strip in a club that had been shuttered because of the riots, Stratford on Sunset, which has now been renovated and is called the House of Blues. There's a bit in the Monterey Pop film where you see Brian Jones strolling the grounds with the same vibe that he brought to Sunset Strip. Even the wild dancers in the film, that's Vito & his troupe, and the body painting going on, that's Sheryl Carson's work...these are all L.A. people. You know, she painted Love on a little monkey's forehead and all that. Woodstock itself was a re-living of the Monterey Pop Festival, so you can really see how the mid-sixties L.A. scene had an impact beyond it's time and locale.

In the case of Brian Wilson, he was in the center of all this during the most intense moment, the mid-sixties. He was making transatlantic phone calls to the Beatles regularly during the Smile era. Van Dyke Parks had played a very important part in the recording of the Byrds psych masterpiece "5D (Fifth Dimension)" and Brian Wilson took Van on not only as a musician, but as a lyricist who could compliment the dreamscapes Wilson would conjure up for Smile. When I interviewed Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks for L.A. Weekly in 1995, all Brian could muster up was something like "we did some heavy shit there" while acknowledging that he was "proud that we did it, if it helped out, meaning spiritual or anything." Van was able to elaborate by saying "This Vietnamese thing was just beyond the pale, and I think with the influence of this new generation of musicians, Brian Wilson wanted to transform his message from fast cars and the illicit underbelly of eroticism, and extend his focus to something of a different nature, representing his greater understanding. I say the effort we all made in the '60s was necessary at the time. The foolishness was incidental, we got something done: we got out of Vietnam, we redefined what a song can do." So there's your answer.

Right: Dom's book, LOOK! LISTEN! VIBRATE! SMILE!

E.C.: You have a background of writing documentaries on rock 'n' roll film history for American Movie Classics. With the current trend in the one-hour music documentaries, such as on VH1, do you think we'll ever see one solely dedicated to the Smile album? I mean there is some amazing footage from that period. Especially in the original video version of 'The Beach Boys: An American Band' where you see segments of such videos as "Do You Like Worms", "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" and Brian's solo performance of "Surf's Up". Also, what do you think about the almost comical portrayal of the Smile period on these TV "docudramas" about the Beach Boys?

Domenic: Well, as far as a documentary on Smile, I've prepared for that, got it all on paper, but really it should be done to accompany a release of the album, don't you think? Personally, I'd rather see it on PBS than on VH1, who turn things into the National Enquirer real quick with no remorse. I really dug Morgan Neville's A&E Biography on Brian Wilson, though, that was by far the best thing anyone's ever done on Brian Wilson. What I really think is that, well, Brian may not realize what I'm trying to say here, but Smile, if done properly, could be to Brian Wilson what Tommy has been to Pete Townsend. I can't twist their arm on that one, and then I have to deal with all the hacks who have blocked me out of doing actual Beach Boys related projects for Capitol. There are people at Capitol who know I'd be good at this, but they don't have any control over these issues. All I can say about the lame TV movies on the Beach Boys (there have been two so far) is that when they get to Brian's more creative period, it always comes off like a Reagan-era "just say no" afterschool special. The Pet Sounds and Smile session tapes display a man in control of the proceedings. Even the film Grace of My Heart, done by a pretty good director who did the cool East L.A. pic Mi Vida Loca, that film tried to capture some of Brian Wilson's mid-sixties trip, and got it wrong. I mean, yeah, Brian Wilson was wild in the mid-sixties. So were the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan.... Brian was in their league, but the other acts come off like groovy Johnny Danger guys, while Brian always gets a bunk depiction. The real problem, the reason why this happens every time is that its always boomers providing the money to make these films, and to be quite frank, boomers never got it with Brian Wilson the first time around. Sure, they loved the Beach Boys when they were growing up, but the appreciation of Pet Sounds and Smile wasn't there for American boomers, never was. May never be. The portrayal of Brian has been pathetic so far, but then again, the shelf life of these films ain't gonna hold up either. It will take someone from the next generation to do him up right for the cinema, and it'd be wise if they followed the Orson Welles approach instead of the John Stamos approach.

E.C.: Before I ask you about Look! Listen! Vibrate! SMILE!, I want to cut to the chase. With all this talk about Brian's "master plan", do YOU think that Smile will ever see an 'official' release? If so, how would you like to see it finally released, as a "finished album", "sessions box set" or a CD-ROM?

---During the summer of 2000, Brian finally broke his silence about Smile, although some said, he didn't really SAY anything. For example, when asked Brian was asked, "will we ever get to hear the album Smile?", he responded, "no, not until next year maybe. Maybe the spring."

---Then on August 10, Brian posted the following announcement at his web board: "As I have posted recently, I have a Master Plan for Smile. In this plan I made no mention of a CD. Everyone has just kind of jumped to that conclusion. I can not say anything else on the subject. I promise you, when it happens it will be a worth while project. In many interviews I have said that we junked the tapes. Of course, that is not true. It's an easy way for me to not have to revisit the Smile topic in every single interview I do. The tapes are in a safe place, so rest assured when the time is right, I will do right by Smile. Keep the faith man. L&M Brian".

---In July, in a phone interview I had with Brian, I mentioned, "I noticed on your web site you posted that there was a "master plan" for Smile." This time Brian's response was, "not until a couple of years from now."

What do you make of all this? Do you think he is "on the level"? Or is this just another ruse, similar to the promised Smile of 1972 and 1988? Or do you think he is alluding to a live performance of Smile in the future? Brian did once say that if had had the Wondermints in the '60s, he could have taken Smile on the road.

Domenic: Brian is in better shape now than he's been in for a long time. They want to do something with Smile, and everything Brian is saying is the same information that I get from them personally, even though it's just brief hellos with them backstage or whatever. You must know that Darian Sahanaja, Nick Walusco and Probyn Gregory of the Wondermints were all heavily involved with the 3 issues of The Dumb Angel Gazette, including #2, Look! Listen! Vibrate! SMILE! Darian and Nick also produced the sound for my TV show It's Happening between 1987 and 1991. I urged them to write for the 'zines, and Probyn was the text editor. I've been friends with those guys since 1984, so in a sense, Brian is on the road with Dumb Angel Gazette people. Yes, Brian heard them play "Surf's Up" at a tribute show in L.A. and he made that comment about "If I had these guys in 1967, I could have taken Smile on the road." They've come close to doing "Surf's Up" but not yet... not yet. I don't know, I can't call this one. Maybe Smile itself is becoming more real than ever, it's becoming more logical to Brian's staff, although they do have some uneasiness with the fact that much of the enthusiasm for Smile comes from people who come out of a punk/alternative rock world as opposed to a boomer world. That's something they'll have to learn to understand, they way Johnny Cash did for his triumphant farewell album and tour. Also, that brings to mind the reality, they'll have to somehow embrace the values in which the music was created, which were liberal. That is a subject that few mainstream people in L.A. can deal with comfortably these days. Perhaps if homeowners recieved drastically different tax cuts than the major corporations, you'd see a lot less people voting right wing. But at the end of the day, Smile is really a collaboration between Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, with vocals by the Beach Boys and sounds by the wrecking crew. There are more Beach Boys vocals on Smile than there is on Pet Sounds. Much fuller vocals. And, the spirit of the music is steeped in that torque which Van Dyke spoke of earlier. Peter Reum said that Smile is Brian Wilson's own Walt Disney's Fantasia, the "arty" Walt Disney flick. Well, Smile has a lot more content to it than Fantasia, and what a beautiful message it is. The song is love and the children know the way, ya know?:

E.C.: LOOK, LISTEN, VIBRATE, SMILE! is still considered the "Bible according to Smile". How did LLVS come about? How did it evolve from the 'Dumb Angel Gazette' into a full-blown book?

Domenic: The Dumb Angel Gazzette #1 came out in 1987. It was 90 pages, a whole lot for a fanzine. Then I decided to do a special issue of the fanzine on Smile. Boom, 265 pages... what do I do now? It has to be perfect bound, can't put a staple in this one. So that's how it happened, I was thorough in my research and then in 1995 Ron Turner of Last Gasp said "hey, we sell a lot of these, and pretty consistently." They were just distributing what I was publishing at the time. They offered to publish a revised edition, so that's what's out there now. And despite all the hoopla on the internet, I'm not finding much these days that counters what's in the book. Private conversations with Brian Wilson, Van Dyke Parks, Chuck Britz and Stephen Desper bear this out. And current engineer Mark Linnett has also been a great help. So that's how it happened in 1988.

E.C.: Although some people disagree with some of your Smile conclusions, everybody can agree that it is the definitive book on Smile. I was talking to one of the EAR CANDY writers, DJ Ivan about your critics. Never one to mince words, Ivan replied, "he [Domenic Priore] wins by default until all the critics 'put up or shut up' and write a book themselves." That pretty much sums it up, doesn't it? Nobody has come up with concrete evidence to the contrary? I mean, there hasn't been a Smile track lineup that makes more sense than yours - it is still used by Smile fanatics as they assemble their own homemade cassettes (and now CDR's).

Domenic: Yeah, well, the printed page is a whole lot different than the internet. You have to deal with editors and all that... and Probyn Gregory was the original editor of the Smile book. There is also the aspect of permanence... the book has been in print for thirteen years now, right? (With one revision) Plus, that "review" of "Rio Grande" near the end? That's actually me writing what Andy Paley told me, and what Brian told Andy... it's a third generation re-telling of Brian's ideas that went into "Rio Grande." Somehow, I've stayed very close to the inner circle all these years without actually "being in" the inner circle. But, I've been able to report from the inside, and in respect to what the artist is trying to communicate. If you check out that "Rio Grande" review, you'll notice that its sort of a modern version of what Jules Siegel got Brian to say in Goodbye Surfing, Hello God about "Surf's Up." Check it out and see for yourself.

E.C.: Speaking of homemade cassettes, in LLVS you said, "I recompile my tape every time some new out-take tape floats in, or a new concept comes to light in the layout that I've never realized before." Do you still do this? I was curious if any of your beliefs had changed, especially with all the new bootleg material such as the "SOT" sets and the brand new "Archaeology" boot? Some of the tracks (such as the "Water Chant") simply weren't available when you wrote your book. Any new ideas?

Domenic: Yeah, I'd add like to add one or two small things, but really the same order. I haven't made a concrete, new tape for a while, but I've been hearing all the new things that have been goin' around. Think about this, what we knew in like, 1986, compared to what we know now. One or two little bits is not much compared to the discovery of the bulk of the Smile album, which happened a long while ago. I think you asked earlier if I'd like to see a finished album, a CD rom or a sessions thing. I think a double CD would be just enough music to include the best stuff and not burn out the casual fan. There are so many takes on "Heroes & Villains," we love it but some things are best left for those who collect tapes and stuff. I do think one CD should include all the most finished tracks in a listenable sequence, like I suggest at the beginning of the book. The other should be the most fascinating sessions, finished or unfinished. I'm sick of these obsessive "Vocals Only" things... there's enough great music by Brian Wilson on these tapes to fill up two CDs without playing a bunch of retakes of the same thing over and over. Again, best left for the tape collectors.

E.C.: Your recent article in 'Fishwrap' really whetted my appetite. Will we ever see another updated edition of LLVS, or possibly a completely new book about Smile?

Domenic: I wish that I could do the Smile book with color... and a more organized booklet for a CD reissue. I've done a lot of CDs, from Eddie & the Showmen and Yellow Balloon to Eden Ahbez ... all kinds of stuff. Even a Sony Records comp of international surf instrumental bands that sold real well... the Phantom Surfers, the Trashwomen, the Untamed Youth, Laika & the Cosmonauts, the Daytonas, Southern Culture on the Skids, Los Straightjackets, The Royal Knightmares, Jackie & the Cedrics, the Boardwalkers, the Hillbilly Soul Surfers, the Bomboras, the Boss Martians, the Fathoms and Sir Bald Diddley and his Honourable Right Big Wigs. Its still out there, Bikini World! 15 Surf Stompers from the End of the Century....Frank Kozik actually helped do the cover art, with a graphic I pulled from a 1965 guitar ad in Surfer magazine... go out and get 'em, kiddies...(Relativity/Repeat)

E.C.: Your article in 'Fishwrap' talks about how the compilers of the Good Vibrations Box chose which Smile tracks to release. I won't go into the story, because you explain it in detail in Fishwrap (which I suggest all Smile enthusiasts get!). But, due to your suggestion, "Do You Like Worms" and "Love to say Da Da" made it to the box set. I guess I'm curious as to why they stopped there. Why not "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow", "Child is Father of the Man" or "Old Master Painter"?

Domenic: Well, it was tough enough to get "Worms" on there, ya know? We were hoping, even back then, that we could soon do a Smile, but the compiler in question chose to focus on a Pet Sounds box set instead. I disagreed with this choice, obviously.

E.C.: I have a cassette of a radio show you did about Smile in January of 1989. You played some from Smile that weren't yet available, the GV box being released in November 1993. Was the version of "Do You Like Worms" that you played the Byron Preiss version?

Domenic: Yeah, that was a mediocre tape dubbed 3rd generation from a tape that originally came from Mike Love to Byron Preiss.... we've got a much cleaner one of that now.

E.C.: Also on the radio show, you mentioned that the ending date of Smile was October of 1967. Has your opinion on this changed?

Domenic: Not really. There were some buzzes around Capitol and Brian went back in to work on some stuff, but really, the effort wasn't there. The real stop date, if my memory serves me well, is the 19th of May, when Brian cancelled a session. Read the book. E.C.: Relating to the Beatles, I have a question about John Lennon's "influences" from Brian Wilson. Paul McCartney's love of Wilson's material is well documented, as well as Sean Lennon's. However, I don't recall ever reading about John's love of the Beach Boys. In fact, I can vaguely remember reading a caustic comment from John about the Beach Boys/Brian Wilson. But, I can't remember where I read it. The one thing I did find was in Pete Shotton's book where he said what John was listening to in 1966, and goes out of his way to say it WASN'T the Beach Boys. Do you think that John was influenced in any way by Brian's music? Further, there are several in the Beach Boys camp who assert that the Beatles got hold of some early tapes of the Beach Boys psychedelic album "Smile" and that THIS is what truly influenced "Sgt. Pepper". Wasn't the only exposure to Smile-era tracks was in March (or was it April) when Paul visited America and paid a visit to Brian (who was still in the studio recording Smile). How could this be an influence when most of the Pepper tracks were done by this time?

Well, we know that there were Smile tapes being played over the phone to Beatles people in 1966, I think that is documented in David Leaf's book. John Lennon, well, Paul claims that "we all were influenced by Pet Sounds" so who's to doubt Paul... a vague comment, sure, but really, Lennon had to have bent an ear. Also, remember, Lennon had a Safe As Milk bumpersticker on his refrigerator in his Weybridge home from the first Captain Beefheart & his Magic Band album.... there's a photo of that... and he was really into the Byrds, obviously. Plus, we all know that Lennon used to ride around chauffered in his psychedelic Rolls Royce, frying on L.S.D. and listening repeatedly to Harry Nillson's Pandemonium Shadow Show, another album by an L.A. based artist recorded at RCA. So do you think that Lennon dismissed Brian Wilson in that mix? I doubt it.

E.C.: Via e-mail, we've privately discussed the people out there who try to discredit you and dismiss information that you got directly from the source. When I say 'source', I'm talking about Stephen J. Desper, Mark Linnett and Chuck Britz, the main engineers who worked on the Smile tapes. You've talked personally with Van Dyke Parks. You've been behind closed doors with Brian Wilson, in his personal, home office, talking about Smile without anyone else around to inhibit him. You had access to Andy Paley when he and Brian were collaborating. I think the main problem that I see is that you don't elaborate on who said what? Can you paraphrase what some of these major players in the Smile scenario said that verified some of your assertions?

---I mean, what did you get from the engineers? What did you get from Van? What did you get from Andy Paley? I'm not asking you to phrase it exactly, just point me in a direction. What pieces of the puzzle did these people give you, individually? Who was it that gave you clues about "the grand concept"? Who pointed you towards the clues about "link tracks"?

---In your half-hour private talk with Brian, what light did he shed? You mentioned that he got excited talking about Smile and that he actually opened up to me about things in his most innocent way. Also, that from Brian you got some "of the most important, missing info about Smile"! I'm sorry if I sound pushy, but I'm excited just hearing about it!

---And what insight into Smile did you get from Andy Paley?

Domenic: Primarily, I asked Brian about "Air" first. Who wouldn't? You have to keep in mind that musically speaking, you're talking to a really, really advanced individual in Brian Wilson. I saw him working on "Rio Grande" in the studio, and believe me, this guy, when he's in the studio, he is talking another language than you and I... He's so lost in various music terminoligies, from speaking in specifics about string gauge, to quarter-tones, to notations, to harmonic references and ideas that come so fast that it's a struggle for even the top professionals in the music business today to keep up with him. I mean, here's Lenny Waronker in the studio with him, a guy I really respect, his dad produced Martin Denny fer chrissakes.... he produced some great records of his own, my personal favorites being Harper's Bizzare, Rickee Lee Jones and Randy Newman stuff... all that aside, Lenny's one of the most important cats in the music business at that time, and he's taking time out of an unfathomably busy schedule to work with someone who was a major influence on him, Brian Wilson (and you can check that first Harper's Bizzare album for how obvious that is.)

Now here's Lenny, here's Mark Linnett, and here's Brian, acting real mellow, letting everyone do all the work for him in a sense, and they're all asking him what to do, like a greek god. All Brian has to do, in his own shy manner, is lay out a sentence or two of suggestion, and the whole room is scrambling to conceptualize what he's talking about and get it into the mix.... it was kind of bizzare to see this, when in the public eye Brian Wilson is depicted as incapable... especially in the period before that solo album came out, when all we ever really got to see was Brian as carnival bear on the Beach Boys traveling circus... and musically, he really wasn't giving the Beach Boys anything. I mean, somewhere inside, people like myself and David Leaf and several others knew Brian had it in him but was repressing it.

O.k. so by now he's really proved it, right? That album was pretty good despite all the weird politics that surrounded it, concerning Landy pressures and concerning the typical corporate rock environment these days... and last year, maddone, watching Brian sing the entire Pet Sounds album as well as he did, with an orchestra and the purist '60s sound that the Wondermints provided... I mean, it's all been about Brian coming out of his shell, and man, its still happening today... it's like he's peeling away years of repression little by little. Thankfully, time has been on his side, I mean, we're all lucky the guy is still with us after what he's been through.

Now, juxtapose that against what the typical reporter that Brian encounters brings to the table. I mean, he's interviewed by lame rock mag and newspaper/major mag & TV airheads all the time, who are really sensationalists for the most part... the majority of the press that Brian meets aren't sensitive to the concepts in this guy's head when it comes to the things he cares about in notation, harmonics and spiritual recompense in his music.

Then, you have to add Brian's sense of production, and his sense of knowing that millions of people will be hearing something he says on tape or in the media, be it on a record or in a newspaper. When I was privleged enough to have a private audience with Brian, to discuss Van Dyke Parks, Orange Crate Art and Smile for one of the two top alternative Weeklies in the America, you can bet I wasn't gonna be wasting the rare opportunity. However, Brian, by the time I got to him, had been on too many interviews and really wasn't giving it up when I spoke to him in the living room. So after some discussion about this with his friends at the house, it was arranged that we go into his office, a smaller, more intimate room, and outside of anyone else's possible ability to overhear what we were talking about... very personal, very private.... but Brian sees a tape recorder, and immediately, well, who better knows the properties of tape than Brian Wilson... understand? So with the tape deck on, he clams up. As sharp as he is, I turn the tape deck off immediately because really, I don't want to hear Brian hedging, given this rare opportunity for him to open up about things like Van Dyke Parks and Smile. Frankly, I'd already gotten enough in the living room about Orange Crate Art for the story I was writing... but this story was about the Van Dyke Parks/Brian Wilson collaborative process, and I just kind of had to insist that he discuss the other one, professionally speaking.

So, here I am with that greek god of music, in his home office, and as soon as I press the stop button on the tape deck, you can just see the relief in his eyes.... instant relief. So here's Brian now, and whatever I ask, he's talking so fast, like an excited little kid, and man, I'm wishing I had this on the tape... but then again, he wouldn't have felt comfortable. So I beg him, after the difficulties in the living room, I say "Brian, this is just so great, please, would you mind if I turned the tape deck on?" And he says "Sure" but in his eyes, there it is again, that sense of fear.... and of course, once it's on, the taboo enters the conversation. I just said to him, "Brian, fuck this tape deck, we do better without it" and he relaxed again and opened up. So, at this point, I'm sorry, I can't give you or anyone verbatim quotes... but understand, this was Brian Wilson, talkin' all excited about Smile... something that he usually represses.

In some ways, I'd say that Brian is at his best when he feels he is getting away with something... and that was the vibe in the room when the tape deck was off. During all those years with Landy, you have to understand, that as soon as the bodyguards and the ambient videocams and microphones were out of sight, Andy Paley told me that Brian would get this way with him and that's when they were able to come up with musical ideas and all the fun stuff you can hear in the music. There's the absurd story of how "Meet Me In My Dreams Tonight" was mixed with headphones, because they didn't want Landy's "Surf Nazi" bodyguard Kevin to know what they were working on... because it was a song that Landy didn't approve of, or would have stole writing credits on... Brian and Andy brought the finished tune to Landy as a "surprise," and boy was Landy pissed off... Brian pulled that one off like a big game, and he got the last laugh. Landy didn't even want it to be on the album, he was so pissed off, but Seymour Stein came to the rescue and insisted that it be on there. But really, this was one of the ways that Brian could just do a song without the lameass Landy interfereing with his creative process. Hilarious story. So you see, Brian has to work very hard sometimes just to get into that free space, where he can be himself. That has gotten a lot easier for him, the more years he distances himself from the repressive attitudes of people like Mike Love and Eugene "E." Landy.

Now, once Brian realized that I was a person who really cared about what I was asking, concerning the music itself, and once I convinced him that I was speaking from the point of view of an alternative audience, for a top alternative mag (L.A. Weekly) that would cover things in an intelligent manner, he let down his guard. Mostly, I had to ask him about various sequencing things, especially about the Elemental Suite. I was able to ask him questions about things he said over the studio talk box in 1966, things that are now bootlegged... I was privy to hearing all that stuff as soon as it was dragged out of the vaults, so Brian knew at some point in the conversation that I was basing my questions on his own studio chatter from 1966.... and, that I had been made privy to hearing these tapes via people he trusted, so he couldn't bullshit me. Remember, he was still telling the press that he had "burned the tapes" back then.

There was a point in the conversation when he knew, man to man, that I wasn't buying the repressive stuff, and that I was a real cool head, as such... So he let fly, and all I can tell you is that somewhere, Brian has a passion for Smile that he rarely lets anyone see. He was looking through my book on Smile, it was right there on the desk when we were talking about all this stuff, and he especially loved the photo of himself sitting in the round chair, the one with the caption "Brian in the Round." Readers of this article should go back to their Smile books, page 53 (damn! sounding like a pastor here) and take a good look at Brian's eyes in that picture, he really loved that one, almost ripped it out of the book he was so excited...

So this conversation about Smile that I had with Brian in his office, it was specific enough for me to confirm a lot of the things that I had studied for years. He was able to shed light on what his concepts were, beyond the 1966 studio chatter, but man, we all wish that conversation was on tape. In 1966, he was able to do this kind of thing, and that's why the Smile book is filled with old articles. Brian opened up to Hit Parader magazine, in that article by Derek Taylor that starts off with "Brian Wilson is a genius, I think"... that's one of the best ones where you can read Brian talking about the notation of each voice in the Beach Boys, that's really what Brian Wilson is like when he's talking about music. Then there is really good stuff in the Cheetah article Goodbye Surfing, Hello God by Jules Siegel... again, Brian goes word for word on "Surf's Up" in there. In a sense, we all know this, it's in those old articles... Brian did this many years ago. Any active artist, uh, wants to move on, right?

But my belief, I strongly believe this, is that an artist should wisely choose the curator of his art. The artist is not the same person when he's in his 50s or 60s as he was when he was in his teens or 20s... I mean, take a look at your own self. Are you any different than you were 10, 20, 30, 35 years ago? For those of us who are old enough, think for a second how really different you were as a person in 1966. I was in the first grade, and all I cared about was watching shows like Hollywood a Go Go and Shindig!... and studying... I was a real bookworm, and the top student in my grade. I loved the process of learning. But then again, I was not an athlete.... yet... I didn't take on sports until I came to New York in the summer of 1971 and saw how much fun the fans in this city were... Knicks fans, Mets fans, they were a lot more fun than L.A. fans, I'll tell you that. Just last year, I played in a fast pitch, hardball over-30 baseball leauge, and batted an even .300.

So, we take on all kinds of things with us as the years go on, good things, baggage, everything. We all know Brian Wilson's biography by now... David Leaf wrote the only good one, but a lot of things have come out since then, and we generally know what Brian's been through of late. And he's gone through a jillion things since 1966. Los Angeles doesn't even resemble the place it was in 1966, and I miss it so much that I haven't lived there in over 10 years.... I'm in exile, I just have a hard time living in an L.A. that doesn't have a Pacific Ocean Park in Venice or a Tiny Naylor's on Sunset... or a new Subway that doesn't go through the entire west side of town because of the segragationist practices of the absolutely racist homeowner's associations that want to keep the 55% Mexican and 28% of Blacks who use public transportation in L.A. far away from their white-only world. Yet when I ride the Subway from Downtown to Hollywood, the intergration this Subway is bringing about is obvious. Who wouldn't want to make a 45 minute traffic jam into a 5 minute ride with someone else driving? Los Angeles used to be hooked up, a lot more like New York, when they had the old Pacific Electric "Red Cars." In 5 years, L.A. will have 50% of what it had when the Red Cars were happening, but the West L.A. homeowners have been a big problem, and it all boils down to segragationist practices that should have been abolished long ago by our Constitution.

Remember, historically L.A. politicians wanted the South to win the Civil War, and both Nixon and Reagan were L.A. creeps too. So you see, the same kind of repression that goes on with this kind of thing also infects the movie business, the TV business, the record business and other business, politics and life in Los Angeles these days as a whole. Some times people there don't want to see it, they lift their heads into an idyllic cloud. I guess when I was really little I didn't realize some of this subtle racism going on, but Mike Davis exposed some of it in his great book City of Quartz. I was aware of the Watts Riots in '65 and the Riot on Sunset Strip in '66, and especially the Chicano Moratorium in 1970, which happened in my neighborhood. Mexican Americans from all over the country came and slept the night before the Moratorium in the park directly across the street from my house... in this same park, I also saw Dick Dale & his Del-Tones, the Beach Boys and 4 years later Big Brother and the Holding Company (with Janis Joplin) performing at a Love In there, Barnes Park, inbetween sessions for their Cheap Thrills album. This Love In coincidentally happened on May 19, 1968, a year to the date that Brian passed on that last Smile session.

So as a child, I wasn't sheltered in L.A., plus my traditional New York/Italian parents didn't shelter as much as the white-bred parents of other kids I knew, so its differrent growing up. You get a head start. I gravitated my friendships to another Italian Amerian family, the Sabadins, and Jewish kids... Pasternaks, Gersteins etc. Then in '69 I formed a band with two Mexican kids and a guy named Beckner, who's dad was a doctor, a total swinger, and who wrote my brother out of having to go to 'Nam. And my father was born in Harlem, so we were punished if we ever brought any racist lingo into the home from the other kids. He fought in World War II against the facists, and in a way, I'd like to carry that torch by delving into the media and sticking up for these values which I learned from my parents, and which were advanced by my interest in what happened in L.A. youth culture during the '60s.

Today, the freeways are obsolete, so what can you do but live right in the center of Hollywood? You can't "get around" in that place anymore, and because of the subtle racism of L.A. business, crime is worse than ever there... My expatriate L.A. friends here in New York all feel safer here on New York streets than anywhere in L.A. these days... (but then again, none of us live in the Bronx.) Anyway, that's a total flip flop from when the Helms Bakery Trucks could be counted on to come into your neighborhood.

The point is, you and I are in a totally different space than 1966... and so is Brian Wilson. That's why this thing we're talking about, Smile, has to be approached strictly as art from another time and place. Brian Wilson may still live in Los Angeles, but we have to remember that Sandy Koufax lost something off his fastball a long, long time ago.

Ya know, I thought I made these references to Desper and Britz pretty clear in the notes to the book. Britz shed all the light on part one and part two of the "Heroes & Villains" 45. Desper explained very carefully how he put together "Surf's Up." Linnett played tapes, Paley played tapes, we can all hear Brian's instructions on the master tapes with our own ears. "This is a little intro" etc. I think that if you really look in the Smile book, the references are noted. I must not have done it well enough, but then again, my editors told me that "only the most anal people will even question that," but I kinda knew there would be people who would go batty anyway. And, this is before the internet existed, on the first edition anyway. The second edition, I really tried to footnote these references. What more could I do?

But I'll tell you, a lot of these people who sit around trying to discredit me also totally ridiculed me when I said that Brian's 1995 tapes recorded with Andy Paley sound like a cross between Elvis Costello's Get Happy LP and the Archies. As if the Archies are not "real music" or something. Well, Nick Lowe is one of the great modern producers who can get into a Spectoresque groove and still have it sound clear like Brian, as he did on Get Happy or the Pretenders "Stop You're Sobbing." But people really got mad when I equated Brian Wilson with the Archies. This kind of thing is just dense... if these people knew anything about Brian Wilson, they would know that "Be My Baby" is his favorite record, and I'll be damned if Jeff Barry didn't write both "Be My Baby" and "Sugar Sugar." Remember, the Archies sunshine pop is Barry's adaptation of a Beach Boys pop sound... Barry told me this at a Rhino party on the Santa Monica pier, next to the carousel, what could be more evocative. I can't wait until Kim Cooper & David Smay's book Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth comes out this year (on Feral House), because maybe some of these crackpots will reassess their jaded opinion of something as cool as the Archies. They've definitely been influenced by Greil Marcus far more than Lester Bangs on that one. The '95 Brian Wilson tapes are just happy. Do we have a problem with this? He did these on his own, out of his own pocket with no corporate intervention. Personally, I prefer that stuff to all the other recordings he's done in the '90s. Without prodding from anyone, Brian Wilson managed to be hip on the '95 tapes in a way that his younger fan base deams of hearing him. It's a real shame that stuff is on the shelf.

My conversation with Brian, he just pretty much confirmed what we already know, or, what's already in the book. You know, people want the mystery to go on forever. But we have so many clues by now, I mean, yeah, there could be a new surprise every so often, but the bulk of discovery has already taken place. Lots of lyrics and sounds were tossed... that falls onto the "fascinating" disc, if you ask me.

E.C.: You wrote the liner notes for Peter Lacey's excellent CD, BEAM! How did that come about?

Domenic: Peter was a reader of Look! Listen! Vibrate! SMILE! and contacted me through my P.O. Box... he just wanted me to hear the stuff, and I liked it a lot. Simple. And, the good news about that is that I'm a music writer and I get a lot of things that are "no big deal." So Peter's work stood out from the pack, dig?

E.C.: I see newcomers to the Smile fascination all the time on the web. What do you think is so fascinating about Smile that keeps bringing 'em in?

Domenic: The sounds, and the words. Is there anything else really like this, anywhere? O.k., maybe Forever Changes by Love.... but really, it's not Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and its not Pet Sounds and its not Revolver. Smile really touches a nerve, and maybe it's those haunting bass lines juxtaposed against the fairyland keyboards, the overall dynamics and the poetry. It's all of that but most importantly, it's how the whole thing coalesces when you put it all together. Its spiritual, and the essence of nature on this planet. A very seductive combination.

Domenic Priore on the internet:
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