Brian Wilson finally releasing SMiLE

While I’ve had a copy of the bootleg for some time now, I just heard that Brian Wilson is finally (37 years later) finishing the mixes and issuing the record next month. While not the biggest Beach Boys fan in the world this is still going to be quite interesting. Apparently he’s performed the album in it’s entirety in the UK recently and it’s nothing as disjointed as my copy.
Anyone else looking forward to this record that supposedly would have put Sgt. Peppers to shame?

I’m sure it couldn’t put Sgt. Pepper’s to shame. But I will definitely buy this issue! I’ve got several versions of the bootleg, and all the sessions to escape so far on other bootlegs, so it’ll be interesting to see what he comes up with. I hope they’ve transferred it all to digital and done the re-editing in the digital domain. The original, razor-blade and tape edits are terrible!

If you’ve never heard any of this music, but you know of the legend of “the greatest album that never was”, you will probably hear it and think it’s a giant anticlimax. It’s certainly got its moments, though. The fact that different themes from “Heroes And Villains” recur throughout the album is what I find interesting about the concept.

Hooray for Brian!

Maybe this wil inspire Harlan Ellison to finish “The Last Dangerous Visions”.

I’m not into the Beach Boys at all, but what I’ve read about the album is not that it would’ve put Sgt. Pepper’s to shame, but that it would’ve done the same thing the Beatles did sooner, or been as revolutionary, or something more along those lines.

I think there’s a definite pathology at work amongst the “Smile would’ve kicked Sgt. Pepper’s ass” contingent, a resentment at what appears to be the Beatles’ critical untouchability, a desire to see the gods brought down to earth (or at least a little closer thereto). I’ve heard a great deal of the Smile material and agree that much of it is jaw-droppingly brilliant, but it still wouldn’t have surpassed Sgt. Pepper; maybe a few critics would’ve rated it higher, but culturally it wouldn’t have had anything like the same impact.

The reason is ultimately very simple: the Beatles’ music instinctively celebrated community, and Wilson’s didn’t*. It isn’t just the obvious examples like “Yellow Submarine” and “With a Little Help From My Friends”; Sgt. Pepper seemingly goes out of its way to include every point of view, from the ordinary meter maid to troubled parents to little old ladies (or men) as well as the turned on, tuned in kids. Everyone is welcome in Sgt. Pepper; that’s why it made such an incredible impact, and why arrested adolescents like Jim DeRogatis still despise it so.

Brian Wilson was the polar opposite. Moody, hypersensitive, and stuck with a band that resented his creativity and ambition, his best work is about himself, about the single person trying to find his way through a troubling world. Smile, it is true, tries to move beyond this into a sort of folk-history of America, but the conceit is finally arbitrary—the theme seems to exist to give the music something to be about, a convenient anchor point for Wilson’s experiments in formalism. Smile is ultimately a journey into one man’s head, and at times a deeply disquieting one. Had it come out in 1967 it would’ve impressed a lot of people, but it wouldn’t have stopped them from singing along to Sgt. Pepper tracks on the radio.

*Yes, I realize the Beach Boys’ early fun-in-the-sun singles revel in a sort of communality, but they don’t bring out the level of feeling in Wilson that the more autobiographical “In My Room” or “I Get Around” do.

I haven’t heard any of it. But, I’m really looking forward to it. I mean, I’m literally giddy about it.
When I was a kid (early 80s) I went through a Beach Boys phase. It didn’t last long.

With the wonders of MusicMatch, however, I rediscovered them. I had heard that Pet Sounds was their best album, and that it was one of the best albums of any group. I was skeptical…I mean, their surf hits are okay, but let’s not get carried away.

Well, when I heard Pet Sounds I got pissed. Why didn’t Brian Wilson write more songs like THIS??? I fell in love with it.

As for the comparisons to The Beatles? No, no, no. Can’t be done. Each can only be compared to themselves.

Even the bootlegs of Smile like the one from the now-defunct Ryan’s Smile Site are far better than Sgt. Pepper’s. But Revolver, on the other hand…

Anyway, when did it become fashionable to pretend that Sgt. Pepper’s is the “best” Beatles record? Revolver stands head and shoulders above Sgt. , and I’d even put Rubber Soul above Sgt. as well.

You did a really good thread about your superior knowledge of music, but in case you’ve forgotten, people who you don’t agree with are not pretending. And I think the fact that the album is considered so revolutionary has a lot to do with why it’s thought of as it is.

I’d agree, but then I think so would most fans and critics. “Revolver” has steadily surpassed “Pepper” in critical favor over the last 10 years or so; two recent “best albums ever” polls (one by VH1 and the other by Q, IIRC) both voted Revolver #1.

BTW, according to Brian Wilson’s website, the CD being released is of his live Smile concerts, not tracks from the original Smile sessions.

Oh, crap! Well, I guess we’ll never get a ‘real’ issue of the original Smile album. That’s OK, I got Ryan’s version long before he was ordered to remove it from the web. That’ll have to do…

I’ll admit to being a part of said contingent, and the gist of the usual claim that Smile would have kicked Sgt. butt is that Smile would have rendered Sgt. Peppers as sounding not only too poppy and commercial, but the deduction could have come down that the Beatles were taking off from the Beach Boys. Brian Wilson would have then effectively won the competition between the two groups and gone down a bit better in music history.

I don’t think Brian has anything to be ashamed about as far as his reputation or place in music history is concerned. Everyone knows he influenced the Beatles as much as they influenced him. What he never got that he richly deserved was sales. Musicians were blown away when they heard Pet Sounds, but it didn’t sell very well, and I think the reason is the one I tried to explain in my previous post: it’s contemplative, idiosyncratic and very private music, and people don’t flock to that en masse (and certainly not when it comes from the Beach Boys).

Had Smile come out, it definitely would’ve made the Beatles look commercial by comparison, but who would’ve cared, other than a few critics? There’s no reason to think Smile would have sold better than Pet Sounds, and I think it’s likely it would’ve sold quite a bit worse. Besides, Brian wanted commercial success, and it hurt him that the public didn’t respond to Pet Sounds — the album into which he’d put everything he was capable of — as enthusiastically as they had to earlier, lighter Beach Boys fare.

If I sound like I’m crassly focusing on only the commercial aspects, it’s simply because a big part of Sgt. Pepper’s impact, and undoubtedly a big factor in its continuing reputation, is precisely that so many people liked it—it managed to appeal to just about everyone in a way that very few works of popular art did.

It looks like I spoke too soon. Apparently, the Smile CD being released tomorrow (9/28) is a new studio recording by Brian and his current band. That’s better than a live version, IMHO, but it’s still not the original sessions. Come on Brian! Give us the original!

(BTW, anyone who can find more info is welcome to give it a shot; I can’t seem to find much info on when this stuff was recorded, how much (if any) of the original tracks it uses, etc.)

There will be a documentary on Showtime October 5th at 9 PM Eastern on the new Smile.

Van Dyke Parks worked with Brian Wilson on this new issue of Smile.

If you want to hear tracks from Smile, go here: Smile website. You’ll have to register.

What is the short version of the story of why the album wasn’t released in 1967? Was it because of Brians’ mental state? Would it have been a Beach Boys album or a solo album?

I hate to nit, but of course Yellow Submarine is on Revolver.
Personally, I’m looking forward to SMiLE. Who cares how it rates compared to Sgt. Pepper’s? There’s room enough in the world for both of them. Let SMiLE stand on it’s own right.

The short answer is “Brian’s mental state.” Brian was always sensitive and high-strung, and by 1967, several factors conspired to push him over the edge, including: high intake of psychedelic drugs; pressure from Capitol Records to keep pumping out new and frequent hit singles when he wanted to spend more time making innovative albums; pressure from himself to out-do his biggest rivals, the Beatles; and hostility from the other Beach Boys, particularly Mike Love, who hated Brian’s LSD-fueled pretensions and the time and money he seemingly frittered away in indulging them.

“Smile” would originally have been a Beach Boys release. I suppose releasing the original sessions would’ve entailed protracted legal tangles with the Beach Boys’ organization, hence the decision to re-record the original tracks.

Exactly right. Wilson wrote Pet Sounds in response to Revolver, and then The Beatles wrote Sgt. Pepper’s as a response to Pet Sounds.

I got a chance to listen to the Smile album (showing my years with the use of that term) which was finally released. Over the years the tune Heroes and Villains has grown on me to the point where I kind of like it. Having heard the Smile record finally, I think the rest of the album might be the same way–i.e. I’ll need 37 years or so to absorb it. The truth is, that I will be a pretty unwilling partner in the absorbing of this record, since I don’t foresee wanting to hear it again. To my ears it was a meandering, purposely obscure, intentionally disjointed sort of sound collage. There is an attempt to sort it out into “movements” but the attempt fails to convince–me anyway–that there really is an underlying structure. I am disappointed, and I wonder if anyone agrees with me, or, can tell me what I missed. I read a bunch of listener reviews on Amazon, and there was a lot of gushing about masterpiece this, and genius that, but I just don’t see where these terms fit the work. Comparing it to Sgt. Peppers or whatever is beside the point. Is it a good album? I don’t think so, but…ask me again in 2041.