Sunday, May 10, 2009
The Beach Boys' "Smile" Outtakes
In 1966, Brian Wilson began work on the follow up to his classic album Pet Sounds. The Beach Boys were hit machines back then, and Pet Sounds was heavily praised by critics, but was not the huge commercial success that nearly everything they had released up to that point was.
The new album was to be called Smile. Wilson spent a long time working with a ton of musicians to complete the first track from the album, "Good Vibrations," which was released as a single and sold over a million copies. While the Beach Boys toured on the strength of this huge hit, Wilson wrote songs with Van Dyke Parks while recording tracks with many of the musicians on Pet Sounds. When the Beach Boys returned from the road to record their vocals, things began to fall apart. Wilson's mental state, after having endured a lifetime of abuse from his father, was already fragile. That mixed with his increasing drug use, pressure from everyone he worked with to keep making huge hits, and criticism from members of his band, particularly Mike Love, about where the direction of his art was going, led to Wilson shutting down the project.
That is the short version. If you want to read more, I would suggest reading this Wikipedia entry or buying this book here.
Most of the songs from Smile would be recorded by the band in some form over the next ten years but it took a long time for a lot of the original music from the sessions from 1966 and 1967 to come out. When it did, people could hear for themselves how brilliant and beautiful this amazing music was.
Brian Wilson peforming some of the songs planned for Smile in 1966:
Brian Wilson - Heroes & Villains/I'm in Great Shape/Barnyard
Brian Wilson - Surf's Up
The performance of Surf's Up was filmed for a television special and can be seen here.
Here are some of the highlights from the Beach Boys' Smile sessions:
Heroes & Villains 1
Heroes & Villains 2
Do You Like Worms?
Old Master Painter/You Are My Sunshine
Child is the Father of the Man
After decades of addiction and exploitation, Brian Wilson got his life back to a place where he felt comfortable taking his own band on the road. After a tour where they performed Pet Sounds in full each night, Brian decided to finally finish Smile, 37 years after he had started work on it. Here is a nice piece on the process of finishing Smile from Fast Focus TV.
You can listen to an NPR webcast of Brian Wilson and his band performing his updated version of Smile here.
Buy Brian Wilson Presents: SMiLE at amazon.com