Rock 'N Roll Case Study: Smile
By Scot P. Livingston
SMiLE is a much better album because it was never finished.
Pause and think about it a second. Ok, sometimes even I don't fully believe that's true. Sometimes SMiLE becomes maddeningly frustrating and I just wish there were something definitive out there to end all the arguing of the voices in my head. But still ... How many discussion boards are out there about DARK SIDE OF THE MOON or SGT. PEPPER? Not nearly as many as SMiLE has. And why? Because there isn't as much to say about any of these other albums. Either you like 'em or you don't. If you like it; buy a copy, put it on, and listen away. These are not albums that require any thought, any creativity, any work on the listener's behalf.
SMiLE on the other hand, long before the invention of CD-ROMs or any other such nonsense, is truly the first interactive album. You have to go out and track down all the bootlegs. You have to read through all the various histories and theories. You must decide which theories seem the most plausible. And then you, as much Brian Wilson, must create your own SMiLE. Indeed, each person's own SMiLE says as much about the individual compiling it, as it does about whatever Brian was trying to say.
Plus, anything you don't like on SMiLE, you can hypothesize that Brian would've fixed before it was released. Do you find the album too jarring and the fragments too abrupt? Well, maybe Brian would've smoothed that over. Do you think the album is under-reaching, and you were hoping for something a little more experimental and weird? Maybe by the time Brian edited it all together, it would've done that for you too.
But unlike other unfinished albums (like say that Jimi Hendrix/Miles Davis duet that never got started), there is really something here. On bootlegs. On the box set. Here and there on the Internet. There are actually recording to play around with. Songs that are strong, yet fragile. And ultimately beautiful.
Of course it wasn't always so. At times you must admire the persuasiveness and persistence of those lucky few who actually heard these recordings back in 1966/67. People like Paul Williams and Jules Seigel. Try this as an experiment; put together a tape of all the SMiLE songs as they were officially released from SMILEY SMILE and 20/20 through SURF'S UP. Put them in whatever order you think best suits them. Now, what does that sound like? How much of SMiLE can you glean from that tape? Sure it would've been weird, but how much of SMiLE's power and beauty shines through on those versions? And then think - until the first bootlegs started showing up in the mid '80s, this is all anybody had to go on. We should be grateful that the torch for SMiLE was carried on for so long.
Now, I'm not trying to say that Brian deliberately left SMiLE unfinished because it was better that way. But I was heartened to hear that Brian's "master plan" for SMiLE did not necessarily say a CD. Although, Brian also did not deny that there was going to be a CD either. So what is Brian's master plan? Don't ask me, I don't have a clue. Quite possibly, it's to keep dropping hints until we all stop bugging him about the subject. But what would I like to see?
For one thing, I'd love to see a documentary on the subject. Not that Brian should so that. He has, as far as I know, no filmmaking ambitions. But those of you out there in SMiLE-land who do, please take note. And sure while Capitol is unlikely to let some amateur have the rights to those songs, I don't think that would have to be an obstacle. Honestly, I believe that the story of SMiLE is fascinating even if one has not heard (or does not like) the music itself. It deserves a full cinematic treatment. Something other than that vilifying it got in the ABC tele-movie. Heck, even ENDLESS HARMONY spent more time discussing their tour of Czechoslovakia than it did SMiLE. It's an untapped market. The only real problem would be that at any given time, most of the surviving SMiLE participants are sick to death of re-hashing the subject.
But more than even a film, I think to do right by SMiLE, Brian would have to release something along the lines of the ProjectSmile CD-ROM. Or a box set of the sessions. Which comes with a complimentary CD-R so that everyone could make his or her own SMiLE. And extensive liner notes featuring as much as Brian can dredge up from his memory. Plus lots of other essays and recipes for making SMiLE from various historians, experts and fans. A really big set of liner notes.
Notes that may, in fact, finally be a second book about SMiLE. No disrespect to Domenic Priore's scrapbook, Look, Listen, Vibrate, Smile!. It is a useful resource. And it earns a lot of kudos by simply being the only book solely on the subject. Sure, every Beach Boys bio contains usually chapter on the subject ... but I'd like to see SMiLE receive the same kind of treatment that 1967's other infamous unreleased recording received. Namely Greig Marcus's tome on the Basement Tapes of Bob Dylan & the Band, Invisible Republic. I think it's odd that Dylan's slip-shod rough-hewn recordings get such a thorough, linear, minimally illustrated, well written book, while all that Brian's ornately over-produced non-album gets is a 200+ page 'zine.
On a side note, did anyone else notice the similarities between THE BASEMENT TAPES and SMiLE. While the wide differential in production values clearly reflects the fact that one was made for release while the other was not, both display the same kind of goofball sense of humor and odd obsession with Americana. Probably nothing more than a coincidence, but fun to note none the less.
But then again, there's a reason why there have been no other books on the subject of SMiLE. You've got to feel sorry for Domenic occasionally. Having written his book out on paper there is no way for him to change his mind. Other than that one revision. So each time some new tape emerges from the vaults, or someone remembers something useful, Mr. Priore's got to come up with some other, "new" way of explaining his theories, rather than simply retracting them and coming up with something far more reasonable. Take for example the release of the "Heroes & Villains (demo)" off of the ENDLESS HARMONY soundtrack. Many were convinced that "I Wanna Be Around/Friday Night" was in fact, "I'm In Great Shape" the lost song from the back cover. But when this came out, some held tight to this theory, trying hard to explain away the differences in melody (and lack of lyrics) between the snippet heard here and this song full of woodshop noises. But to me, this was new proof that the two were in fact two separate and distinct songs. And that if any actual recordings of "I'm In Great Shape" were actually made - we have not yet heard them.
So, in other words, the only place to really write the "next" SMiLE book (which I'll admit in my grandiose way, that I had originally planned the essay to be) is on the internet. Something malleable so that as each new piece of evidence is unearthed, we can quietly go back and change our hypotheses to fit. The next SMiLE book is already out there in the essays contained on sites like thesmileshop.net and cabinessence.com. If one wanted to kill enough trees, they could all be printed out and would probably form a fairly hefty pile of paper.
And so it is to this ever-changing "book" that I wish to add my humble ramblings. There are a lot of other writings on the subject out there in cyber-space. Some are quite well thought out and have forever altered my way of thinking about the subject. And others - needless to say - add very little or are just plain wrong. I guess the pieces you include in your SMiLE book are much like the recordings you put on your SMiLE CD. But most of the writings out there attempt to answer one or more of the following questions: Why didn't SMiLE happen? How would SMiLE have been received if it had come out as scheduled? And what would SMiLE have sounded like (in other words, what does MY SMiLE sound like)? I will attempt to give my thoughts and theories and all of these subjects. Make of them what you will...
WHY DIDN'T SMiLE HAPPEN?
I some ways, one would think that this is the easiest question to answers. Since, unlike the other two hypothetical questions, this one involves things that actually happened. Or rather, didn't happen. But you know what I mean. There are however many theories out there. And the truth is probably each of these factors contributing to some extent. But how much, and which one was the straw that broke the camel's back, that's hard to say. So let's just look at each of the theories one by one:
1.) Mike Love and the other Beach Boys
The other Beach Boys are often seen as the villains to Brian's hero in the SMiLE story. Most often the other Beach Boys are boiled down to (or personified as) Mike Love. Truth is the rest of the Beach Boys might've been confused by SMiLE, but only Mike Love would've said anything. Or possibly the other Beach Boys didn't mind so much, but didn't stand up to Mike when he was putting SMiLE down. And can you blame them? They were stuck with Mike all the time on the road, while they only saw Brian during vacations and recording sessions. Who would want to live with a petulant Mike?
As popular opinion has dictated, each of the Beach Boys has at one point or another claimed to have originally liked SMiLE. I've got to imagine that of all of them, Dennis liked it the best. Or at least admired the balls it took to do something like that. Mike Love (on his few generous days towards the project) claimed that he had nothing against the music itself. It was just that the lyrics were too hard to relate to. And he was probably right. It takes a lot more effort to imagine oneself dominoing ruined columns than it does to be having fun fun fun till Daddy takes the T-Bird away. But look at PET SOUNDS. Strangest lyrics on there by far were the West Indies patois of "Sloop John B" - their biggest hit off the album. The rest of the lyrics, while exhibiting a lot more depth and maturity, were still primarily revolving around boy-girl relationships.
Point is, they weren't very supportive. And mostly because - it wasn't very commercial. And again, we may have to concede that Mike was right. I once was taking a friend of mine to a concert and during the drive I had one of my SMiLE tapes in. When the hammering and drilling of "I Wanna Be Around" came blaring out of my speakers, my friend - who is a fairly open minded guy in terms of music, Frank Zappa and the like - turned to me with this look which said, "What is this crap?" For whatever reason, the public at the time seemed far more likely to have accepted this kind of 360 turn and radical experimentation from the Beatles than they were from the Beach Boys.
In fact both Mike and Brian may have felt a twinge of "I told you so" after the public reaction to PET SOUNDS. Brian may have felt vindicated by the critic's reactions, cult following, and celebrities' word-of-mouth. While Mike may have believed that the disappointing sales proved that he was right in allowing Brian to do only one album of what he felt was ego-music.
And unlike PET SOUNDS, SMiLE required a lot more group participation. The vocal arrangements were much more complex. Unlike PET SOUNDS, this wasn't (or couldn't be) a Brian Wilson solo record. Brian is a sensitive guy. Having to hear Mike (and the others) bad mouth all his hard work for all of those necessary vocal sessions clearly undermined his self-confidence. And Brian's not a guy who likes to go out on his own. That's what make PEST SOUNDS and SMiLE some interesting, they're works of an individual who wants to blend into the crowd. I don't know how deliberate it was, but I always liked the fact that on the proposed cover to SMiLE, all the letter of the title are capitalized except the I. As anyone into handwriting analysis could tell you - the I denotes the self. And a small I, in relation to the other letters, indicates low self-esteem or little ego (depending on how you look at it).
Of course the question then becomes: If Beach Boys thought SMiLE was too weird, why then did they make SMILEY SMILE, a record which was equally as weird if just not as well done. Even the songs written specifically for it (and not SMiLE) like "Whistle In" and "Little Pad" are pretty strange. Only "Gettin' Hungry" sounds like the kind of old school hits they were hoping for from Brian. There are a couple of reasons for this: 1.) SGT. PEPPER was released (almost days before the first real sessions for SMILEY SMILE began) proving that this kind of music could in fact make truckloads of money. 2.) The Beach Boys passing on the Monterrey Pop Festival, while it may not have precipitated the division, clearly illustrated how the Beach Boys were un-hip, out of touch, "surfing Doris Days". This was their attempt at regaining some hippie credibility (much like the Monkees' trippy 1968 movie HEAD). And 3.) None of the other Beach Boys had tried, much less succeeded, at writing their own material yet. This was all they had to work with.
Of course, when it was released SMILEY SMILE was seen much like the Rolling Stones' THEIR SATANIC MAJESTIES REQUEST. Namely a pale imitator of SGT. PEPPER, when in truth I find SMILEY SMILE has a lot more in common with the other big selling album during the summer of 1967 - HEADQUARTERS by the Monkees. The Monkees, who had learned how to play their own instruments in order to tour, wanted to prove that the could with this album. Not that the Beach Boys minded not being the musicians on TODAY or SUMMER DAYS, but they felt the same urge. Only problem was, while the Monkees would've been an okay folk-rock garage band, the material they were sidled with, Don Kirshner's stable of bubblegum writers didn't mesh well. So too, the Beach Boys touring band's ability to play car and surf songs didn't mix well with Brian's deepest psychadelia. Oddly enough, the Beatles themselves ended up with the same problem on LET IT BE. They wanted to show that they could play their own instruments, but the songs Lennon and McCartney were churning out required arrangements more sophisticated than any 4 musicians, no matter how able, could play. Who knew the Monkees would be that influential?
2.) Brian's group of "friends"
While Brian later complained that he needed to hear a "yes" during those days, in the months prior to Beach Boys return from touring England, all he heard was yes. From his infamous inner circle of friends, sycophants, hangers-on and yes men. These were the guys who boosted his self-confidence after the lackluster sales of PET SOUNDS. The guys who told him that he was a misunderstood genius. The names of these men (Paul Williams, David Ardele, etc. etc.) are well known in SMiLE circles, despite the fact that they never wrote sang or played a single note on the album. Although Van Dyke Parks is sometimes lumped into this group, I think he belongs in a separate category (see below). These were guys who would do any crazy thing Brian asked. Anything except for starting a barroom brawl for Brian to record, apparently. These are guys who saw the potential in Brian. Whether cynically seeking it in money. Or foresightedly seeing it in artistic brilliance. They wanted to be close to that.
The problem is Brian's a follower. There's a reason why Mike's the lead singer, and it's not just because Brian wanted another voice and Mike couldn't play an instrument. From his father Murray to Dr. Landy to his wife and manager today, Brian feels more comfortable doing whatever it is that makes the people around him the happiest. And while this group of friends may have had the best of intentions, thinking they were encouraging Brian to reach his fullest potential, they have been planting ideas in his head which weren't really his. From "Rio Grande" on his eponymous solo debut to his recent PET SOUNDS symphony tour, Brian frequently does things that it seems others would want him to want to do more than he really wants to do them. And this "teenage symphony to God" may have eventually become more ambitious than Brian felt able to do.
Besides, he knew how much he needed the rest of the band (both in terms of vocals and emotional support). Clearly he couldn't have been surprised by their reaction to SMiLE. What did he expect, Mike to start crowing about how great the lyrics to "Cabinessence" were? (ha-ha, that was a little pun). While Brian clearly wanted to continue going forward artistically, surpassing even PET SOUNDS, and finally impressing his father. But maybe not something as grandiose as some would lead us to believe SMiLE was meant to be. Often the most ambitious parts of SMiLE (a 14 minute, 2-part "Heroes & Villains" and "The Elements Suite") tend to be the pieces most shrouded in confusion, and for which the least actual concrete work was done. Truth is the "teenage symphony to God" may have been something Brian thought he wanted a lot more than he really did want.
Let's take a look at that oft-quoted phrase in more detail. Was he really going to write some sort of psalm or hymn? While music has always been a religious experience, other than "Our Prayer" and the references to God in "Wonderful" (whose lyrics many have interpreted as sexual), there is not a lot of talk about any sort of religion on the album. I think what he meant when is he was writing something TO God and not about him. Rather that the lyrics would have a wider, deeper, loftier aim than the just getting a fast car and a hot chick. But it was still teenage. Meaning not that Brian (who was in his mid-twenties) was a teenager, but rather that the music would be aimed at a teenage audience. Namely that it was still going to try and be pop music. The question than comes in; What did Brian mean by the word "symphony"? Did he mean for SMiLE to be one long continuous piece of music - which lasted as long as a symphony? Or that it would follow strict symphonic guidelines? Did Brian, who did like Gershwin but really wasn't classically trained, even know what that meant? Brian threw out the words "pocket symphony" to describe "Good Vibrations" and even subtitled "Fall Breaks Into Winter" a W. Woodpecker symphony. Clearly Brian didn't know (or at least mean) symphony in the strictest sense. But rather - like the phrase "to God" - meant trying for something a little harder and more complex in the music as well as in terms of subject matter.
But Brian may have lost sight of that with the encouragement of his group. His friends may have given him too much rope, and Brian simply hung himself on it. Although of all the craziness that this clique indulged Brian in, what is often cited as the most detrimental were the drugs.
3.) Drugs and Brian just losing his mind.
Actually the popularity of this theory seems to be waning. While the songs themselves were clearly written under the influences; Carol Kaye insists, and listening to most of the sessions bear this out, that Brian was completely in control during the recording process. Not to say he was stone cold sober, but Brian was lucid and functioning. Stories of weirdness abound, but really what happened? Sessions cancelled due to bad vibes? While it's possible, no one has yet mentioned an actual date when this happened. Asking musicians to don fire hats and even keeping an actual fire in a wastebasket during the "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" sessions? Ok, that's true - but have you seen the footage of the Beatles' sessions with the symphony for "A Day In The Life"? Tuxes and clown noses. It's all just apart of building the atmosphere. In order to help the musicians get the right feel for the song. All that other "Fire" weirdness, thinking it caused spontaneous combustion and the attempt to destroy the tapes. Well, that all happened after the recording session. Outside of the studio. As long as he was working in the studio, Brian was ok.
Of course all the drugs, while in and of themselves did not stop SMiLE from happening, they did I think exasperate another problem, Brianís' psychedelicate state of mind. Brian is not a well man. Even if he had grown up in a perfectly functional Donna Reed household, he would've turned out a bit insecure, and sensitive. And then of course being brought up by Murray Wilson - the depths of whose abuse we may never know (although I certainly hope that the allegations Brian made in the "auto"-biography are like most everything else in that book, a big fat lie). Still no one would argue that Murray would earn Father of the Year. If all that were not enough to create a neurotic paranoid (or whatever else Brian's been diagnosed with) he went and did about the most unhealthy thing a human could do: he became a rock star in the sixties. When drugs were not only plentiful and available but expected. Particularly mind altering hallucinogens. All of this conspired to create a fairly fragile individual. Not that Brian's state of mind alone would've stopped SMiLE. There are some quotes out there (some even from Brian) that indicate if he had completed, or even continued, SMiLE he would've ended up dead or a vegetable (irony). "I had to kill SMiLE, because it was killing me." "By killing SMiLE, Brian saved himself". While considering the infrequency and inconsistency of his post SMiLE work, some can fans can be forgiven for wishing they could make that Faustian bargain (Brian's soul for one last great album), I don't think SMiLE would've necessarily meant the end of Brian Wilson. If everyone around him knew and understood and helped support him, Brian could've finished. This just meant that all of the other myriads of factors surrounding him were that much more potent. Actually considering all Brian had to work against, it's amazing we have as much of SMiLE as we do.
4.) Capitol Records
While it's probably true that Capitol Records would've concurred with Mike Love, and preferred something a little more commercial, there is no indication that any one at Capitol ever heard the album. At least not until after the project was canned and the tapes returned to their vaults. Of course there was always the potential reaction of Capitol to worry about. Particularly considering their less than enthusiastic response to PET SOUNDS. But don't know how much of a factor that was. All that Capitol really seemed to want was just something. Anything. Now. Now! NOW!! Capitol Records was antsy. Why else would they print up covers and booklets and even start to run ads for an album that hadn't even gotten a final running order yet?
So the deadlines came and passed and more were set. Who knows directly Capitol was breathing down Brian's neck, but I'm sure he must've felt it even if it was subtle. Got to strike while the iron's hot. While the hit single (which Brian didn't really want on there in the first place) was still fresh on people's minds. Got to get it out in time for the Christmas rush. Or at least when teenagers still had the money the got from their grandparents for Christmas. Hurry. Hurry. Hurry. Look at it this way: Brian took how many months to finish "Good Vibrations"? If he was going to record another twelve song in that manner of that caliber, it would've taken him five to seven years to finish! No wonder Brian felt rushed. Sure he had been working on this thing for almost a year by the time he gave up (and at a time when the six months the Beatles spent working on SGT. PEPPER seemed decadent) but it was hardly as much time as he needed.
Part of the problems with Capitol may also have been cause by the fact that record company execs were feeling a little lost. Much like Hollywood did after the surprise success of EASY RIDER. They just sorta threw up their hands and said, "We don't know what the kids of today want" and then just trusted the creative talent to do whatever they felt best. Capitol had taken a big risk with "Good Vibrations" (possibly out of guilt for not backing PET SOUNDS more). The risk didn't involve how innovate or experimental the recording was, but in the only terms that record companies understand. Dollars. And it paid off too. Not because it was a great sounding record, but because it made a lot of money for them.
Capitol should've been on the top of the world at this point. It had two of the biggest selling acts, and the both started with the letters B E A. But Capitol had no control or even influence over the Beatles. They were in London. And they were technically signed to Parlophone, with Capitol just getting the rights to release and distribute in the US. It must frustrated them that they could go in and meddle with their golden goose (although they sure hacked the heck out the albums that the Beatles gave them before releasing them). The Beach Boys on the other hand were right there with them in LA. While they did eventually let that snot-nosed punk produce their own records, they had to find some way of justifying their existence if the artists were going to take control of their own careers. So Capitol was used to having some sort of control over the Beach Boys. "Good Vibrations" or not. But all they could do was wait. And they were not happy waiting.
What Brian really needed was a stopgap solution. Something he could whip up quickly to temporarily satiate the maws of Capitol while he figured out just how to finish SMiLE. Something along the lines of PARTY, which bought Brian enough time to make PET SOUNDS.
Of course Capitol Records was not happy for other reasons as well. One being that the Beach Boys were suing them for royalties. The other was that the Beach Boys were starting their own label. To go into competition with them. While Capitol may have seemed ready and eager for anything Brian might've given them - there was always the possibility that even if SMiLE was finished they wouldn't release it. Aside from Capitol's reaction to these two occurrences, there was also Brian's to consider. These legal wranglings required Brian's attention (or at least attendance) away from recording. It was these kind of distractions from the studio that lead Brian to leave touring in the first place.
5.) Van Dyke's absence
Van Dyke, I think, underestimated his role in SMiLE. To him he was just another hired hand on Brian's project. No different from Chuck Ritz or Hal Blaine. That's what Van Dyke did. He was hired by other bands (the Byrds) to either arrange or produce or play keyboards or write lyrics or whatever. He did his job, and he did his job to the best of his abilities, but it wasn't his music. He could write his own music, and ultimately that's what he wanted to do. this was just his way of making the rent.
So when Jules Siegel wrote in "Goodbye Surfing, Hello God" that Van Dyke left the project, it's easy to see why Van Dyke didn't see it that way. He was just the lyricist. Did Tony Asher or Gary Usher hang around for the recording sessions? Of course not. And while he didn't mind showing up occasionally, because he liked Brian and the two might even be considered friends, it certainly wasn't his cup of tea. First of all, there was all that weirdness from Brian circle of friends. Not the drugs (which Van Dyke was also known to enjoy), but the dog doo in the piano's sandbox. Business meetings in the pool. Tents in the living room. All that weirdness. On the other side he was getting all this out-right hostility from Mike and the others. Questioning his lyrics. If they didn't like them, hire him. It was just a job. Besides Van Dyke had his own album to work on.
But to Brian it wasn't just his album. It was a collaboration. Granted Van Dyke didn't get to write any of the chords, but all that stuff about pan-patriotic westward expansion, that was Van Dyke's idea. That was his thing. And Brian needed Van Dyke. Someone who wasn't one of the fawning members of his inner-circle, but wasn't completely negative like the rest of the band either. Brian isn't good and standing up for himself. He needed someone to defend and justify SMiLE to the rest of them. Someone who could tell the emperor that he was naked but could also compliment him when he dressed himself. Brian may bot have realized it, but he needed someone who was neither a yes man or a no man. Van Dyke was the only one in his circle who could appreciate his genius without being awestruck by it. And I don't think Van Dyke ever really realized that that was his role in SMiLE.
6.) The FBI fearing that this would lead to an over-throw of the government by liberals over-excited by the music, leading to certain discoveries involving UFOs, JFK and Area 51.
Ok, I made that last one up. But somewhere in those other reasons lies the crux of SMiLE's original disappearance. That still doesn't answer why SMiLE continues to elude us to this day. Why the proposed 1967 10-song follow-up failed to produce anything more than a serial number at Brother Records (#000002)? Why the proposed 1972 SMiLE only resulted in the "completion" of "Surf's Up" and a record deal with Warner Brothers? Why the 1988 attempt by Dr. Landy to show-off how much he had thoroughly "cured" Brian gave us nothing more than that memo about the tape boxes from Capitol Records? Even Brian's so-called master plan has yet to bear fruit. Is SMiLE curse? Are we just unlucky? Or maybe SMiLE was simply never meant to be. So let's move on to the next big question.
HOW WOULD SMiLE HAVE BEEN RECIEVED?
There are basically two theories about this. Neither one is particularly easy to substantiate. I've boiled them down to two simple analogies; either SMiLE would've been SGT. PEPPER (only more so) or it would've ended up like PET SOUNDS (only more so).
SMILE as SGT. PEPPER
This theory holds that when SMiLE was released it would have instantly won all the praise and acolytes that SGT. PEPPER received. It would've have issued in a Spring of Love (as opposed to a summer). SGT. PEPPER itself would've been viewed with the same skeptical distaste that met the Rolling Stones' THEIR SATANIC MAJESTIES PRESENT (or even SMILEY SMILE). Seen as a cheap attempt to cash in on the current craze by a band that really should know better. Brian Wilson is hailed as a genius. And leads a normal healthy productive life. Or at least doesn't end up as bad as fast. Who knows? It is possible. Remember "Good Vibrations" was one of the Beach Boys biggest selling 45s, while the preview single from SGT. PEPPER, "Strawberry Fields"/"Penny Lane" was the first Beatles single to break their streak of #1s in the UK.
Of course then the question becomes, what would Brian have done next? Would he have tried to top himself once more? Could he (or anyone) ever make something that was as big a step forward from SMiLE as SMiLE was from PET SOUNDS (which was a big step forward from SUMMER DAYS ... etc. etc.) Most likely, Brian's head would've exploded, although one can always dream of what that beautiful monstrosity would've been like. How little of it would've been done by the time it collapsed.
But while we're on the subject, I've always thought it odd that SMiLE is always linked with SGT. PEPPER. Granted (according to Sir Paul, John might think different) but PET SOUNDS was the inspiration for SGT. PEPPER. And RUBBER SOUL was the inspiration for PET SOUNDS. And true, SMiLE was cancelled shortly before SGT. PEPPER's release while SMILEY SMILE was started right after it. But in my mind SMiLE's musical twin was never SGT. PEPPER, but rather REVOLVER. Particularly when you compare the two to their immediate predecessors. Both PET SOUNDS and RUBBER SOUL are stylistically and thematically consistent, while SMiLE and REVOLVER are far more diverse in their arrangements. PET SOUNDS and REVOLVER are mature, subdued, quiet, emotional records. SMiLE and REVOLVER are far more intellectual, surreal, and psychedelic. Not to say that they are cold or cerebral, but they are both LPs aimed more at the head than the heart. Besides Brian would've actually heard REVOLVER before or during the making of SMiLE, while all he knew at the time of SGT. PEPPER was the acetate of "A Day In The Life" that Paul played him during the sessions of "Vega-Tables"
SMiLE as PET SOUNDS
Only more so. By which I mean, it would've been even less enthusiastically publicized by Capitol than PET SOUNDS was. It would've sold even fewer records than PET SOUNDS did. It would have received even stronger support from and even smaller cult than PET SOUNDS. It would've taken even longer to be appreciated. And Brian would've fallen even harder and faster than he did after PET SOUNDS, perhaps never to rise to even the piddling heights he has managed since. While we SMiLE aficionados would like to think our beloved masterpiece would've been embraced with open arms, this sad tale seems far more likely. So again I assert, SMiLE is a much better album for having never been completed.
HOW MY SMiLE SOUNDS...
Now we come to the fun part. A part that mixes historical hypothesis with personal preference. With the lack of any definitive proof of what exactly would've been on SMiLE and in what order, this is where we get to play. Even if Brian came down from Mount Sinai with the correct running order written on stone tablets, one could argue that the Brian from 1966/67 wouldn't have done it the way that the Brian of 2002 says. And that because we want to defend our right to help make SMiLE in our own image.
But of course, you can't just make the album you want. I like the song "Butterfly" by Weezer. It has nothing to do with SMiLE in terms of time of texture or intent, I just like it. That doesn't mean I can put it on my SMiLE. This isn't just some mix tape - there need to be ground rules. But where you choose to draw that line in the sand is up to you. Some people refuse to include "I Love To Say Da-Da" because they think it was recorded too late to be seriously considered for SMiLE. That's up to you. Read the evidence on either side and decide for yourself. (Me, I include it) Do you make your own edits of what you think Brian would've done, or do you confine yourself to only that which Brian actually has done? Do you use the various completions of certain tracks that were done after 1967 because you think they were done the way they were originally intended, or just because they sound closer to completion that way? Or do you not use anything that was touched after say May of 1967?
Whether you think that Brian was days, or even hours, away from finishing SMiLE, or whether you think that if he had continued working on it, it would've ended up even less done than it is today, you have to agree that SMiLE is not yet completely finished. So what about the stuff that isn't done? Do you just use the piece we have left, or do you just leave a big hole in the album where it was going to be? Do you throw in something that is close to replace whatever "Elements" weren't done, or do you just go with three (or fewer) "Elements"? It's up to you.
Do you make your SMiLE as you think Brian would've liked it ("Do You Lie Worms?" entitled with a dig instead) or as it would've been more likely released by Capitol (got to have "Good Vibrations")? Do you fill up an entire 80 minute CD-R (or two) or do you control yourself to something that would've fit on a standard Beach Boys 33 1/3 R.P.M. (12 songs, enough room to squeeze it onto a two-fer, only at most 20-25 minutes a side)? Do you just pick your favorite songs, or the ones you think Brian liked best? Do you try and replicate what Brian had originally hoped for when he started this album, and still called it DUMB ANGEL, (like Stan Shantar tried to do here) or do you go for what Brian would've settled for right before giving up on the whole thing? There is a plurality of plausible possibilities presented. (See what an over-exposure to Van Dyke Parks will do?) The reason why so many different conflicting theories may all seem true is simply that Brian might have toyed with all each of the ideas sometime during the making of SMiLE. He just simply changed his mind.
So, do you try and sequence it like a fairly straight forward pop record - like Jon Hunt does here - or do you follow Domenic Priore's recipe using link tracks and such, so that you have two side-long concepts guiding a continuous flow of music? Are you trying to recreate that "teenage symphony to God" or are you going for something like a trippier version of SUMMER DAYS (AND SUMMER NIGHTS!!)? You may think you have sifted through all the evidence and made you decision based on what is mostly likely accurate, and not just what you want, or maybe you decided to hell with the real SMiLE (it doesn't exist) and you're just doing it any way you want to. Maybe you even put "Sail On Sailor" on there because Brian and Van Dyke sorta started it back then. (And if anyone can find that original 1960s demo, I'd love to hear it). Either way, this is where your personality shines through.
So here's me - exposed to the world:
1.) Heroes & Villains
5.) Wind Chimes
6.) Good Vibrations
7.) Surf's Up
So what did I do? Well I put together an album that splits its pop leanings and its symphonic yearnings in half. My idea is to put all the straightforward songs on one side. These are the songs that you can sing along to. And all these songs were realistic enough to be re-recorded for future releases by the Beach Boys. This is Side 1. On the other side I've included all the fragmentary or instrumental or whose vocals don't exactly include words. You can look at these pieces as un-finished. Lyrics would've been written, lead vocals recorded, fragments put into some sort of cohesive order (or cut). Or you can just see them as indicative of where the whole album was going. I'm not saying I even know for sure, but I like the duality of it. This would be Side A. All the songs on Side 1 get the traditional 2.5 seconds of silence between each cut, while I'm not going to attempt to cross-fade or dove-tail all the songs on Side A together, they are edited much closer together allowing for a more constant stream of music. In some ways, my structuring of SMiLE mimics (or pre-dates) the Beatles' ABBEY ROAD, which featured six fairly straight -forward rock songs on Side 1, while Side 2 had all those Mr. Mustards and Polythene Pams coming through the bathroom window but never give you their money.
Now, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that Brian even thought of this idea, much less ever considered it. Brian did sort of cleave TODAY into two different sides, with all the softer, more melancholy songs on side two, but I'm pretty sure this is just my idea, not Brian's.
I do think that Brian would've appreciated the joke however. The cover says to see the label for the correct running order, but when you pull the album out, how do you know which side goes first. I like the way it gives equal weight to both sides. Of course there's no way of doing this on a CD, so which side I present first depends on who I'm making this SMiLE for? If it's someone whoís into classical or jazz, or someone who fairly open-minded I go with Side A first. Usually though, Side One goes first - and that's the way we're going to do it in this essay.
"Heroes & Villains"
Ah, the infamous "in the cantina" version. A lot of people still want to mess around with this, but I don't trust any of the various fan "edits" of this or any other song. And maybe that's because I don't have any sort of music editing software myself. So I stand by this version because it is, as far as anyone has been able to find, the only version done. By Brian. During Smile. Besides as much as I'd love a roller-coaster musical comedy, this version helps fit with the more pop song-oriented theme of Side 1. Strange as this song is (especially when compared to the lame SMILEY SMILE re-make) it's still only 3 and a half minutes or so, and you can hum along to it.
Sure there's the "Rock me Henry" background vocals not included. Nor have I inserted that "insert" that so disrupted the flow of the SMILEY SMILE version. the SOT bootleg includes this horrifically off-key lead vocal by Brian that eventually cuts off as he goes to get a glass of water. Why would anyone want to hear that? No, I think this is the definitive take. Granted it has a lot fewer instruments and simpler arrangement than what we're used to with PET SOUNDS or even the rest of SMiLE. But then I dig out my copy of the I JUST WASN'T MADE FOR THESE TIME SOUNDTRACK. There, Don Was's session musicians faithfully (if soullessly) re-create the backing tracks of Brian's mid-'60s to early-'70s classics. And their version of "Wonderful" clearly apes the one on the box set. Although oddly enough, Van Dyke's writing credit for that song is not included. I'm hoping that that was a typo. It's too bad that when Brian and the karaoke-perfect Wondermints did their 2001 tour with Paul Simon, their versions of "Heroes & Villains", "Our Prayer", and "Surf's Up" reflected the later officially released arrangements rather than shedding some light on their SMiLE era origins.
The compliance of SMiLE fans in regards to the 20/20 version of "Cabinessence" continues to astound me. It never raises the levels of doubt and skepticism that the equally Frankenstein-ian 1971 version of "Surf's Up" causes. It's even thrown into the middle of the SMiLE music on the 1993 box set. Is it because it was only done about a year and a half later so memories are fresh as to its original intent? Or is it for same reason that I'm including it here; namely, there isn't any better (or even any other) version out there. Unless of course, you want to chop it back up into its original components, "Home On The Range", "Who Ran The Iron Horse", and "Grand Coolie Dam". But you don't want to do that. "Cabinessence" is much more than the sums of its parts. Just a few things bug me. The lead vocals on the first verse, particularly the opening line, are mixed so low. And during the second "Who Ran The Iron Horse", Dennis's interesting (and far more melodic) lines about the trucker are so buried most people don't even know they exist. In fact all of "Iron Horse" seems too loud and clunky. And maybe it was supposed to be that way. But in my mind, that's one of the things Brian would've fixed to my satisfaction if only he'd stayed with the project.
A teenage symphony to God ... and carrots?!? You know for an album that was supposed to be filled with humor, this is the one of the only really funny moments on there (aside from the quoting of "The 12th Street Rag" in "Look" and the blurting of "you're under arrest" in "Heroes & Villains"). And it's not even THAT funny. "I threw away the candy bar/And I ate the wrapper"?? Brian's no Tom Lehrer or Spike Jones. Still this moment of levity is important to SMiLE, in that it helps puncture the more pretentious moments on the album and keeps it more grounded in reality.
This song always seemed bizarrely slight in comparison to the rest of SMiLE. Even after the silliness that is "Vega-Tables". And I think this has to do with Brian's general weakness as a lyricist. Listen to THE BEACH BOYS LOVE YOU for example. Was this something Brian wrote after Van Dyke had "abandoned" SMiLE? Or did Brian write this before he met Van Dyke? Or did Van Dyke simply decline, like he did for "Good Vibrations"? Not that the song is bad, just that compared to everything else on here - it seems to be under-reaching.
Brian may not have wanted it on here, but I sure do. And many bootlegs include various other takes and mixes of this song, trying to show off how much rare stuff they can get their hands on. But Brian's released version is still simply the best. I put it on here for a couple of reasons. 1.) To show that SMiLE did have some commercial potential, and that Brian hadn't given up on his pop instincts. 2.) To remind people how weird "Good Vibrations" really was. Because the single sold so many copies, it tends to end up on all the greatest hits compilations, sandwiched in between "Barbara Ann" and "Fun, Fun, Fun". I'm sure all the current touring factions of the Beach Boys include it somewhere in their repertoire. And so with all those "surf, sand, and car" aficionados dancing away with their excitations, I'd like to remind everyone that beneath Mike Love's boy-meets-girls was a very weird song. Sudden tempo changes. Lots of different unrelated sections. The cello and theremin. It's a lot more of a SMiLE track than it's often given credit for.
Another reason I'm including it is out of gratitude. With the relative failure (at least commercially) of PET SOUNDS, Brian's future was on the line with this single. If it had tanked, as Brian Johnston supposed it would if it weren't their biggest single of all time, it would most definitely had ended Brian's career, if not the Beach Boys altogether. Do you think Brian would've had the self-confidence (or that Capitol would have given him the funds and the freedom) to even start SMiLE if "Good Vibrations" had been a flop? And so in thanks I put it into my SMiLE
So why did Brian record this version? Its double-tracked vocals prove that it's not a demo. Was he thinking of releasing it like that? Why then did he record the backing track for the first half then? Did he intend it to turn out like it did in 1971, with an ornate first half and a stripped down second? Or did he have something else in mind for the later half (which he never got around to finishing)? Brian clearly was heading in a simpler more minimal direction as evidenced by the version of "Wonderful" on here as well as SMILEY SMILE and WILD HONEY, maybe he did toy with the idea of putting out "Surf's Up" with just the piano. Unlike the other songs from SMiLE which were relatively simply written (for more info, see Tobias Bernsand's excellent essay on the subject) "Surf's Up" sounds interesting, full and complete, even in this arrangement. Contrast that to this simple piano and vocal demos of "Heroes & Villains" (on the ENDLESS HARMONY SOUNDTRACK) or "Vega-Tables" (to be found on Dumb Angel's MILLENIUM SMILE and other bootlegs). Those songs clearly need more instruments to fully bring them to life. "Surf's Up" on the other hand, stands fine alone. Certainly better than the confused creature that gave title to the SURF'S UP album.
To my ears, the version from 20/20 doesn't sound all that much different, but the box set version was done during SMiLE, and that one wasn't, so we'll stick with that one. Of course, one of the reasons why I went for the double A side concept for SMiLE instead of simply calling Side A, Side 2 was so that "our Prayer" could still sort of be considered the first song on the album. It's about the only given that all SMiLE compilers can agree upon. But given it's short running time and word-less vocals, "Our Prayer" belongs more with the experiments on Side A than it does with the songs on Side 1.
"Heroes & Villains"
Is this the infamous missing "Heroes & Villains Part 2"? No. Is "Part 2" in there somewhere? Maybe. Was there even a "Part 2" ever assembled? If there was no one can prove conclusively that they've found it. Was there ever a "Part 2" worked on? Some believe so. Was there even a "Part 2" planned? Maybe Brian considered it at one point. Although Brad Elliott gives a fairly compelling case that there wasn't. While many have tried to reconstruct a "part 2" using what may or may not have been Brian's guidelines, either way, the actual real "Heroes & Villains Part 2" has not been discovered.
Of course, people's frustrations surrounding any or both parts of "Heroes & Villains" I think again illustrates how the possibility of SMiLE is much greater than any actual SMiLE. You hear all of these wonderful segments and recording and you can just imagine a awe-inspiring kaleidoscope being possible from them. But really any possible combination that could be created (even by Brian himself - and this may have also lead to his giving up on the project) would fall short of that ideal. There is no way to sequence a single coherent work out of this mess without leaving behind a large disappointing pile of stuff. It's just not possible to live up to the potential that these snippets seem to have.
So, once again I defer to the 1993 box set. Now I'm not as gung-ho about it as say Paul Williams, who suggests just considering the last 30 minutes of disc 2, including the SMILEY SMILE song "With Me Tonight" as SMiLE. Although I think he made the comment in order to be done with SMiLE rather than any feeling that it really is SMiLE. And while others may quibble with certain things, the inclusion of "I Love To Say Da-Da", the wrong mix and speed for "Do You Like Worms?", some inappropriate tag at the end of "Vega-Tables", the incorrect title of "Heroes & Villains (intro)", for me I take the box set at it's word. And not just because I'm trying to justify the $63 I spent on it (much more than any bootleg. So who's the scalper now, Capitol?). But particularly on such sticky matter such as the leftovers from "Heroes & Villains", this is the only piece of music that Brian has personally signed off on. Or at least there's a reproduction of his signature at the end of his introduction to the liner notes. That's good enough for me.
"Do You Like Worms?"
Again we're introduced to the "Bicycle Rider" theme, tying it to the "Heroes & Villains (sections)". It also appears as the chorus of the SMILEY SMILE version of "Heroes & Villains". I don't think "Bicycle Rider" was ever meant to stand on its own as a track. This much piece - I hesitate to call it a song - also ties in with its predecessor in that it's vocals veer from the highly repetitive ("Plymouth rock..") to meaningless gibberish (the Hawaiian Chant). It's much shorter and more cohesive structure helps leads us to the next section of Side A.
"I Love To Say Da-Da"
These two pieces are often lumped together, because both the recording of "Water Chant" and the melody of "I Love To Say Da-Da" were combined (along with other non-SMiLE writings) to create SUNFLOWER's magnum opus, "Cool, Cool Water". Although as far as I know, there is no evidence to suggest that these two were ever linked during the making of SMiLE. In fact when you listen to them, these two don't have a whole lot in common. The reason I put these two here is rather because their lyrics are either droning ("water water water water...") or dadaistic ("Da-Da"), linking it to "Do You Like Worms?". While both clock in just around one minute apiece helping segue us to the next section
THE BARNYARD SONG CYCLE??:
"Well, You're Welcome"
"I'm In Great Shape"
"He Gives Speeches"
"The Old Master Painter/You Are My Sunshine"
Was the next group of songs meant to be lumped together into one suite? Or chopped up and put into more coherent songs ala "Cabinessence"? Or are they just more unused segments of "Heroes & Villains"? Or were they each going to be elongated to become full songs of their own? Or maybe each piece had a different fate planned? Quite possibly all of these might have been considered at one point. But this is what we were left with. A group of "songs" all ranging from just under a minute to about a minute and a half. Yet all featuring far more full and fleshed-out lyrics than what we've heard so far on Side A.
So we begin with "Well, You're Welcome", a song that in being short with a repetitive vocal belongs more with "Child Is Father of The Man", "Water Chant" and "Our Prayer" than the rest of this song cycle. While "Heroes & Villains (sections)" is certainly the first piece on the chopping block if I were editing this SMiLE for historical accuracy (and Side A does run a bit long to fit onto one side of a 33 1/3 RPM at this point), the Barnyard Song Cycle is definitely the first to go for reasons of what I personally want to hear. Particularly "Well, You're Welcome".
For "I'm In Great Shape" I used the segment from the "Heroes & Villains (demo)" simply because, as far as I believe, it's the only recording of it available. Granted there was a vocal session logged - before the instrumental session! The session, which in reality, spawned "I Wanna Be Around/Friday Night" only somebody mislabeled it. Who knows if instruments were even planned for the final "I'm In Great Shape" or if it was going to be a cappella. Either way, it doesn't matter. Until a tape from that session surfaces it does us no good either way.
For the version of "Barnyard" I used a fan edit (something I normally avoid). I don't even know who did it, but some very clever person lifted Brian's vocals and lyrics from the same "Heroes & Villains (demo)" and wedded them to the usual instrumental version with its backing vocals. While the mix is not great, considering what he had to work with, I'm impressed. And it's about the best were going to find without sacrificing either the lyrics or the arrangement.
And then the song cycle ends with "The Old Master Painter/You Are My Sunshine" whose purely instrumental first half clues us in on things to come. (Although there are some rumblings about vocals being recorded for that section too.) Do not however use the SOT bootleg version as it is sadly missing Dennis's somnambulant, past tense take on "You Are My Sunshine". So is this cover (non-original) song the "Sloop John B" of the album? Who knows? Speaking of which I've never actually heard the original version of "The Old Master Painter" before. Some say, and for all I know they're right, that "I Wanna Be Around" is also an old standard. I'm kinda curious to hear them in their non-SMiLE-ified states.
THE ELEMENTS SUITE??:
"Mrs. O'Leary's Cow"
"I Wanna Be Around/Friday Night"
Perhaps no part of SMiLE is fraught with more peril that "The Elements Suite". Supposedly a series of songs representing Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water. I always liked the way the Smile Shop FAQ puts it, that all we know for sure about "The Elements" is that "Fire" is "Fire". And Brian was even going scrap that and try to do something that (in his mind) didn't endanger the world, but rather invoked a candle. Many theories abound on the subject. The Frank Holmes illustrations from the pre-printed SMiLE booklet caption "Vega-Tables" as an element, and most think it's Earth. But that same empty record sleeve also lists "Vega-Tables" and "The Elements Suite" as separate entries. So who do you believe? Did Frank make a mistake? Or was "Vega-Tables" listed separately because it was a possible candidate for a single? Other theories suggested that "Wind Chimes" is the Air section, because it has the word "wind" in the title I guess. But than Brian is quoted as saying that Air was a solo piano instrumental. One that no one has yet turned up. Can Brian's memory be trusted? Was this piece ever recorded? If it wasn't, a fat lot of good it does us now. And then there's Water. Both "Water Chant" and/or "I Love To Say Da-Da" are raised as possibilities, probably because both were later incorporated into the song "Cool, Cool Water".
Certainly there has been no overwhelming evidence in any directions clearing this up for us. So what is there to do? Try this little experiment. Find a friend who was never heard of any of the stories or whatnot surrounding SMiLE. Play him "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow". You may want to skip the first section with the Keystone Cops-ish firemen arriving at the scene. Don't tell him or her who did it or what the title is. Just make them listen. And when they're done, asking 'em what it made them think of. The answer is "fire" obviously. Brian was a bit crazy, but if someone were to tell me that there existed a single recording that could've caused a rash of fires, "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" is the only possibility.
Problem is: none of the other songs sound that much like any element. "Vega-Tables" kind of reminds me of random items falling off of a third story fire escape into an empty metal trash can (don't ask me why). At least until the backing vocals and rhythmic crunching starts. Certainly not Earth. "Wind Chimes" does sound a lot like wind chimes, particularly at the triple-tracked, high-pitched piano coda. But you don't hear either a light breeze of a gusting gale swirling anywhere in there. (Although I suppose you can't really hear air by itself, only when it moves other objects). While "Water Chant" certainly invokes Water by repeating the word "water" over and over again, that seems like kind of a cheap way out. I could write a song that reminds one of zesty eggplant parmesan by having a group of people chanting that phrase over and over. And "I Love To Say Da-Da" is not particularly wet or liquid either. In fact it's sudden stops and pauses break up the even flow that water would naturally have.
Who knows what Brian might have had in mind? Carol Kaye is quoted as saying the woodshop noises in "I Wanna Be Around/Friday Night" was supposed to be the re-building after the fire. I put it after "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" on my mix, but does that make it one of the Elements? If so which one? The Water that I assume was used to put out the fire? Or the Earth that they're building on? Was the "Elements Suite" meant to be literally translatable program music, like say "Peter and the Wolf" where the oboe stands for the duck or whatever? Or was this supposed to be more like a tone poem that just sort of gives you a vague impression of the things described? Who knows? My guess is, most of the Elements weren't even written. And the only one recorded was Fire. So instead I just put together an Instrumental Suite to help contrast with the cycle of songs that preceded it.
And we start with "Look" and "Holidays". Two songs that give a lot of SMiLE-o-philes trouble. One hopes they would've been given more evocative titles before release. Even I have a hard time keeping the two of the apart. On the other hand, they are definitely my favorites, and often sadly overlooked. If I were in Domenic's shoes, and was asked by the brass at Capitol what title or two from SMiLE to include on the box set, I certainly would have vouched for these two.
There are many ways of looking at this pair of songs. Either they are the "Trombone Dixie"s of SMiLE. Vague sketches that once he heard them didn't need any further work or lyrics - because they were dropped from the line-up. Or maybe they were the "Pet Sounds" and "Let's Get Away For A While". Brian is one of the few pop stars who arenít afraid of the instrumental. And his instrumentals are showcases for improvisation and technical prowess on your instrument. Rather they are gestures that illustrate Brian's talent at texture, composing and arranging. Or maybe they are like so much else on this album, unfinished. They were suppose to have lyrics and either Van Dyke never got to them, or they were just never recorded. Actually, there is much evidence that, in fact, "Child Is Father Of The Man" and "Do You Dig Worms?" were the ones with missing lyrics, regulating the current vocals to background status. While I'm of course curious what those words were meant to be, I'm more anxious to hear the melody lives they would have incorporated. But since no recordings of the lead vocals were made, even if Van Dyke decided to share those lost lyrics with us, they wouldn't do us any good.
In attempt to tie together the divergent paths that Side 1 and Side A took, I tried to get them to reflect each other just a little bit. Both start with versions of "Heroes & Villains" (except for a brief intro) and both end with "Surf's Up" (save for a short coda). Plus as much as I think that the solo piano version of "Surf's Up is full and complete unto itself, these "crazy horns" (as Brian called 'em) and percussive keychains are fun to listen to too. They give a whole new look to the song. Less stately and elegant, wilder and harder. Plus given its shorter running time and instrumental status, it makes a welcome addition to Side A.
"Child Is Father Of The Man""
Of course, there's been a lot of talk about whether or not "Child" was meant as a part of "Surf's Up" like its used on the SURF'S UP album or not. While I'm not sure I'm thoroughly convinced they're part of the same song, it does follow here pretty nicely. Of course what version of "Child" to use is hard to decide. There were at least three different parts recorded. A version with just piano and group vocals, a version with just full orchestration, and then another with the full band and the group vocals. Whatever edit you choose, you should make sure to get a least one of each. Although who knows how often and in what order Brian intended them. My suggestion is to start out with the piano verse, that way it hooks onto the tickling piano that sort of end's the previous "Surf's Up".
So anyway ... that's SMiLE - as I see it. I'm sure you'll disagree with me somewhere. Heck, I myself will probably become embarrassed by some of the assertions I've made as time goes by, as more evidence is discovered, and as I become a different person. But that's the fun of SMiLE, it can be as much yours as it is anyone else's. So don't worry, baby, about getting it just right. Have fun with it!
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