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Author Topic: My Ultimate Theory about Smile and the Beach Boys  (Read 6587 times)
Rick5150
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« Reply #50 on: May 22, 2016, 06:53:23 AM »

SMiLE was meant make you smile, so it was goofy at times. I think it understandably just got too overwhelming. I look at the finished version as a complete journey rather than many smaller treks. Like an action film that has a few slow parts, SMiLE uses the 'weaker' tracks to improve the cohesiveness and continuity of the album.

Even in a perfect world with no mental health issues, completing SMiLE in the modular manner than Brian was using has to be nearly impossible for a perfectionist. There are so many snippets of so many takes. Nearly an infinite number of possibilities. This was not the computer age and everything had to be done with physically cutting and splicing tapes. I know nothing about this process, but I expect that alone would be tedious and would mean hundreds of pieces of tape that would have to be assembled to create a completed version of the album. It is not like today's computer age where you can categorize everything in folders and copy and paste. How could you not lose track of what goes where?

I love all of the music on SMiLE and the harmonies are quirky and untouchable by anyone other than the Beach Boys. Brian’s band did a terrific job, but there is something missing. I prefer the SMiLE box set Beach Boys version even if it is not as “complete”. The boys could capture so many moods with their voices that it is amazing. They make you laugh, cry and some of the Indian-style chanting gives me goosebumps. It sounds ominous and beautiful at the same time. (I had that same feeling while listening to Rio Grande. It made me feel like I was present at a ceremony that I should not have been witnessing.) Brian always creates interesting snippets that can be incomplete or very short, but incredibly catchy. Mt. Vernon and Fairway is another great example of this.
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Cam Mott
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« Reply #51 on: May 22, 2016, 07:37:38 AM »

Imo, Brian did not think up anything he couldn't execute. Everything was thought out before he went into the studio, and his identification of what each bit was for and its place in the overall song are still there today on every bit. Imo he did what he wanted to do in an organized yet spontaneous way.

The problem imo is we don't want to accept that when he got it, as he was getting it, it was not satisfying to him lyrically or artistically or commercially; as he explained several times then and for decades since.  We want to lay it on everything but Brian's Muse but imo it was down to Brian's Muse; the same genius Muse we all love.

I personally agree it probably happened because Brian stretched out to be competitive with some artists et al he wanted to "scare"/impress, which he was executing beautifully, but it just did not ring true to him in the way other albums before (and eventually since) did.  I agree that SMiLE is beautiful (I'm obsessed with it) but, imo for several reasons, it is not emotional in the way other recordings were/are and my guess is that is the problem Brian's Muse came to realize.
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guitarfool2002
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« Reply #52 on: May 22, 2016, 07:52:29 AM »

Dunderhead takes the germ of a good idea - Brian was trying to impress his friends - and then goes over the top with it.  

Van Dyke considered himself the genius, not Brian?  Ridiculous,nothing to support this.  In fact Van Dyke has always credited Brian with 100 % of the music of Smile, and has always praised Brian as a composer and songwriter until perhaps the last few years - don't want to get into why that might be, probably more to do with Van Dyke's situation than anything to do with Brian.  At the time there was no evidence Van Dyke considered himself "above" Brian, quite the contrary.

The "industry people" Brian surrounded himself were not all "Wannabees" - for example David Anderle was an accomplished "industry" person who didn't need Brian to achieve success.

I see no evidence the Posse Vosse "labelled everything he did "uncool" - in fact the music Brian was making was blowing their minds, and was the new definition of cool.  Some in the Vosse Posse resented the way Brian treated them - basically as playtoys available at all times to indulge his every whim, musical or otherwise - and Van Dyke was subject to this as well.  But no one was holding a gun to their heads to make them stay - and Van Dyke left twice.  Brian actually didn't care about being "cool" when a new inspiration or idea came into his head - although ultimately Dunderhead is right that he wanted the "cool" people to dig his music - and that's not just the Vosse Posse, but the Beatles and the general public as well.  

Why is there an Elements suite?  Because Brian came up with the idea, NOT because one of his friends said so - don't understand where you get the concept someone else made Brian think of The Elements.  It wasn't Van Dyke who was never particularly supportive of the Elements suite idea and has said he had nothing to do with those sessions.

Brian's ideas were concocted out of discussions - yeah, sure, just as they were with Tony Asher for Pet Sounds.  Nothing sinister or strange about that.  Musically it seems almost everything came from Brian - but lyrics and lyrical themes no doubt came from Van Dyke and Van Dyke's discussions with his and Brian's hangers-on about American imperialism, revolutions and youth changing society, American history as a theme to counter the British-centric music scene, etc.  

Great post.

As I say repeatedly, anyone doubtful can look at that October '66 airport photo, and tally up how many millions in record sales the musicians in that photo have to their credit (well over 100 million (plus), combined) added to the various successes and accolades given to others pictured in their respective fields, and the "hanger on" label applied to those people as a whole starts to sound like the B.S. that it is.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2016, 08:03:17 AM by guitarfool2002 » Logged

“Some people think you have to knock somebody down in order to build yourself up, I don’t look at it that way. To the mentality that likes to disparage other people, I say perhaps you should get a life. It’s just wrong thinking in my opinion and I don’t mind saying that.” - Mike Love

"Every single person who criticized Brian for having She & Him, Kacey Musgraves, Sebu and Nate Ruess guesting on his solo album can now officially go heartily f*** themselves." - Wirestone
Emily
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« Reply #53 on: May 22, 2016, 08:52:42 AM »



The problem imo is we don't want to accept that when he got it, as he was getting it, it was not satisfying to him lyrically or artistically or commercially; as he explained several times then and for decades since. 

I don't argue that this was not an aspect.

Brian did not think up anything he couldn't execute. Everything was thought out before he went into the studio, and his identification of what each bit was for and its place in the overall song are still there today on every bit. Imo he did what he wanted to do in an organized yet spontaneous way.


But a lot of people who were there at the time were saying that he was moving pieces around from here to there, unsure of how to fit things together.

I think that, as with most human behaviors, there are many aspects, subtle and plain, that contributed to his decisions.
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JakeH
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« Reply #54 on: May 22, 2016, 09:31:41 AM »


If these parts would have been masterfully edited in as brief snippets within a single song, part of a more cohesive whole, the way Brian most likely would have in 1966/67, they probably wouldn't seem weak.
Just listening to some of krabklaw's mixes, it's been a revelation to think of how the interchangeable parts could have fit together, and previously inessential snippets and parts have (and have always had, since their creation at the time of recording) potential to be rad components. But I'll concede that listening to some parts by themselves - without context - can make them seem a bit weak.

Smile is in its finished form, one single "song," so yes, certain things are going to stand out as weak single tracks if you listen to it as a conventional album of songs (which is a mistake)  As a whole piece, Barnyard and You are my Sunshine and Gee, etc are critical components. This is why in my opinion, after Smile was finished, it became clearer that "Our Prayer" and "Cabinessence" and "Surf's Up" no longer make sense as stand-alone tracks on 20/20 and Surf's Up.  If it is true that Brian was not in favor of putting that stuff on those albums, one reason might be because he felt that that it didn't belong there.

I look at the finished version as a complete journey rather than many smaller treks. Like an action film that has a few slow parts, SMiLE uses the 'weaker' tracks to improve the cohesiveness and continuity of the album.

Agree. It's right to put "weaker" in quotes because in the intended context, that stuff isn't weaker. 

The Sessions, as good as they sound, are, and always will feel fragmented. For me, listening to them is like how it was listening to the tracks on the 1993 box set. Amazing, but they don't make sense.  Actually for me a frustrating listen overall because of that.  The finished Smile is not fragmented at all, everything makes sense, all the pieces (e.g., water chant) feel like they are in their intended places.

I too disagree with the notion that Brian did any of this to "impress" people. 
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DonnyL
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« Reply #55 on: May 22, 2016, 09:49:57 AM »

Hello there fellow travelers. I haven't posted here in a while, but some of you might remember me as "Fishmonk,"

Truth be told I haven't listened to The Beach Boys much in the last 2 or 3 years, been busy with other things. And with blogging on other, more interesting parts of the internet. But recently I was induced to once again take up the topic of band, their successes, their failures etc. Now that I have a little more perspective on the band, and am perhaps able to be objective about them, I feel as if I have reached my Ultimate Fan Theory regarding why Smile didn't work.

Smile sucks. When you get right down to it, it's just not that enjoyable to listen to. The material has never been presented in anything more than a barely adequate way. I have listened to every fragment a million times, and truth be told, most of them aren't really listenable in any meaningful sense. Many of the experiments are utter failures, despite their nigh mythical status.

I feel that Brian's primary aim in creating Smile was to impress some of his friends. The only problem with that: Brian's friends considered him to be a bit of a fool, and listening to many of them today, it's clear they never respected him very much. I've emailed with Loren Schwartz, he's an asshole. And given Van Dyke Parks' later-day ingratitude towards Brian Wilson, it's hard not to catch a whiff of some long-festering resentment about his person. He was always a bit of a mooch, creatively. He associated with many talented musicians and songwriters, but never amounted to particularly much. As bad as Smile is, Song Cycle is much worse, and Van Dyke has struggled to eek out a legacy using it.

Van Dyke is an old Southern aristocrat at heart. One gets the impression that much of his artistic and public persona is stolen from Truman Capote. One often hears that he was a musical prodigy, and that he played violin for Einstein as a child. In his mind, he is the true creative, not Brian. He was the genius, not Brian. Brian wasn't smart enough to be a genius. And I think that's a sentiment that some of Brian's Smile-era friends shared, that Brian was a bit of dunce. It is almost embarrassing how hard Brian tried to impress these people.

Brian's friends during the Smile Sessions were some pretty insufferable people. Brian wasn't hanging out on the Strip, with Buffalo Springfield and Love. He surrounded himself with industry people and wannabes. They were pretentious. I mean, can you imagine wanting to be friends that badly with Curt Boettcher or somebody like that? If you ever listen to the discography of someone like Gary Usher, there's a really weird vibe of sanitized mysticism. It's incredibly lame stuff. There's a novelty factor that makes it enjoyable, sure. But is it 'cool'? No way.

Here's what I really think happened during the Smile era. Brian became enamored of a bunch of hipster-losers, and then he paid them all to be his friends. They all thought he wasn't truly capable of 'getting it,' in the way that they were, and came to deeply resent his influence upon their lives. Brian, with all his might, tried to tune in, or whatever. He tried to 'get it,' he wanted to be hip. But he's just too naive a person, and the whole scene that he wanted to be a part of so badly was simply too cynical in its constitution for him to ever enter very naturally into it.

Really what I'm saying is: these people Brian courted possessed no substantive beliefs other than an affected contempt for everything 'uncool'. Brian wanted to be cool, and they probably thought it was fun to perpetually label everything that he did 'uncool' in order to torment him. With Smile he wanted to make something that appealed to these people, this was his true and core audience. Smile was never made for the world at large, it was made for his immediate circle of dependents. Commercial success was only once factor that Brian thought might impress these people, because they leaned towards being industry types.

The problem came about because Brian really looked to them for help work shopping ideas, and they frankly weren't good at that, despite all being promoters and producers and wannabes.

Consider this: We take other people's words over Brian's. Why is there an Element Suite? I ask you. Because one of Brian's friends intimated that there was. These aren't Brian's ideas, they were often concocted out of discussions. Brian asked them "is this cool? what should I do? what's cool?" and they fed him a constant stream of lame brained ideas. At the end of the day, you can construct anything out of that. It's a fool's errand.

While I think your viewpoint has merit in terms of the overall presentation of Smile as an album, I disagree that the music is bad. The Smile recordings have persevered through time not only due to the mythical nature of the project, but also because the music has a certain magic in it.

If Brian was truly trying to impress his hip friends … it wouldn’t really matter if he were able to complete the album back in 1967. I think the results of a work should be judged independently of of the pretenses involved in how it came about. For instance, in 1967-68 everyone was releasing their own take on Sgt Pepper … many of those records are junk, but then you have something like Del Shannon’s Further Adventures of Charles Westover. And that’s his best record, hands down in my opinion. The freaky nature of the Sgt Pepper idiom seemed to permit him to write and record an “artistic” album for the first (and only) time. And he revealed himself to be one of the most gifted singer-songwriters of all time.

I personally don’t really consider Smile to be an “album”, and I’ve always been more satisfied with Smiley Smile. I don’t think Smile could have been assembled into a complete work that makes sense. None of the “final” versions have the sort of continuity and vision that would do justice to the individual greatness of some of the songs. Consequently, I think the way the group decided to release the songs originally (spread out across subsequent albums) was a fine choice … which worked not only to strengthen those releases, but also to contribute to the myth-making that was vital to the Smile story.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2016, 02:10:33 PM by DonnyL » Logged

JK
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« Reply #56 on: May 22, 2016, 12:48:24 PM »

I personally don’t really consider Smile to be an “album”, and I’ve always been more satisfied with Smiley Smile. I don’t think Smile could have been assembled into a complete work that makes sense. None of the “final” versions have the sort of continuity and vision that would do justice to the individual greatness of some of the songs. Consequently, I think the way the group decided to release the songs originally (spread out across subsequent albums) was a fine choice … which worked not only to strengthen those releases, but also to contribute to the myth-making that was vital to the Smile story.

Agreed, on all points. That choice of theirs would inform any Beach Boys ten-for-the-moon list I'd draw up today. All official albums including a "Smile track" would be on it but not Smile itself.
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« Reply #57 on: May 22, 2016, 10:22:38 PM »

I think the version of Smile compiled in the 'Smile Sessions' is up there with Pet Sounds, and it puts Sgt. Pepper's to shame. 
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Cam Mott
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« Reply #58 on: May 23, 2016, 06:30:43 PM »



But a lot of people who were there at the time were saying that he was moving pieces around from here to there, unsure of how to fit things together.

 

Did witnesses say that? I don't remember, but if they did it isn't supported by the primary sources: Brian calling out on the recordings, in tapebox notes, and on session sheets what song each of the recordings were for and their place in the composition on the master.
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« Reply #59 on: May 19, 2018, 07:18:37 PM »

That's a logical fallacy.
Argumentum ad populum– concluding an argument is true simply because lots of people think it’s true. We see this on commercials all the time: “9 out of 10 doctors recommend Acme Brand Toothpaste,” or “3 million Brand X Customers Can’t be Wrong! Buy Brand X Today.”

Other's people's/critic's ratings doesn't actually prove it's quality but I respect that you love SMiLE.

//rock onwards dunder

You do realise that Metacritic took an aggregate review score of Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE and The SMiLE Sessions, 7 years later. They scored 97 and 96 out of 100 respectively.

We're not arguing about objective and absolute facts here. You could use that argument against anything that is subjective. The fact remains, that even now, years after, SMiLE, in all its variations, is widely viewed by fans, critics and the public, more positively then it is negatively.
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Rick5150
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« Reply #60 on: May 20, 2018, 05:32:09 AM »

I think there may be some bias there.  Fans will more than likely find something to like because, well, because they are fans. We are fanatics about the music of the Beach Boys. Fans probably have more of an understanding of the mystery of the SMiLE stuff and Brian's condition throughout the years. That is a powerful story in itself. The troubled genius who makes such amazing music.

Fans look for new Beach Boys stuff. We post about it here before it comes out and anxiously anticipate every song. Then we dissect it and make alternate mixes and share it with the world. There is a lot to like about SMiLE.

Critics should be well-versed in the subject matter they are writing about so they probably understand more about the Beach Boys than the average listener.

Consider that back in the day with just radio, you listened to whatever came on. You could not really cherry-pick your music like nowadays. You could change a station, but that is about it until the cassette tape came along. Even then, you had to record from the radio (often getting DJ chatter and ambient room noise like telephone ringing) or you had to have a friend who had the album and you could record from that.

If SMiLE was played on the radio today like back in the day, I think a lot of people would be scratching their heads and the positive reviews would be fewer. It can be odd, but we fans find it endearing and quite powerful, and as such embrace it.
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JK
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« Reply #61 on: May 21, 2018, 01:27:36 AM »

SMiLE theories are like a**holes, we are all one.   Wink

Umm, shouldn't that be we all HAVE one?  Smiley

No.  Grin

LOL LOL LOL
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« Reply #62 on: May 21, 2018, 06:08:01 AM »

Haven't read the discussion yet but the opening post is something I've sometimes tought about. Hmm. Interesting points, though I'm not sure I agree with everything.
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