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Author Topic: Did Van Dyke Parks write all of the lyrics on Smile?  (Read 4154 times)
TheWonderfulHarpsichord
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« on: December 28, 2016, 04:06:02 AM »

Okay so I know there are certain songs such as you're welcome that he is not credited on, but I mean most of the other songs have his credits.

As far as I have known he didn't contribute much musically. But I'm wordering, did he write every single lyric where he is credited, co-write with Brian, or did Brian come up with the concept and wrote out the words?

I remember Tony Asher saying that Brian came up with the concept for wouldnt it be nices lyrics while he wrote out the words.

Is this also what happened on Smile? Did they alternate roles?

I'd really like to know. Thanks!

« Last Edit: December 28, 2016, 04:07:52 AM by TheWonderfulHarpsichord » Logged
Bicyclerider
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« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2016, 01:56:24 PM »

Van Dyke was a verbose guy who talked about a lot of topics - one of those was the British domination of pop music and how the music needed some Americanism to counter the Brits.  American imperialism and the coming revolution of ideas from young people toppling the old institutions.  These ideas were discussed with Brian but were Van's bag.  So there you have Cabinessence, Heroes, Surf's Up and Worms.  Brian came up with the Heroes and Villains title and perhaps the "Western" theme.

On Brian's side, Vegetables/health food, Mama Says, Great Shape, the Elements, and wind chimes were his ideas that Van wrote the lyrics to - with Vegetables and Chimes he may have had some specific lyrics he contributed as well, I suspect so but no one has asked him or Van about that.  CHildis Father was also his idea from the book he read by . . . Karl Menninger?  Something like that.  Unclear what input Brian had in Wonderful but the fact that he took credit for the lyrics for a number of years makes me think he may have come up with the loss of innocence theme, which was a favorite of his.

This would be a great topic for an interview with Brian but he probably just defer to Van and say all the lyrics were his.

Van has repeatedly said he wrote the words to the music melodies Brian came up with and did not contribute to the music - I believe Van at the very least contributed to the arrangements for the sessions he was playing on, how could he not.
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« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2016, 02:05:59 PM »

I remember Tony Asher saying that Brian came up with the concept for wouldnt it be nices lyrics while he wrote out the words.

This brings my mind to another question: we all know that Tony Asher and Brian spent a lot of time just thinking about the subjects they wrote about. One of their routines was that Tony would come over to Brian's at some point in the day, they'd smoke a joint and then discuss topics of songs that Brian was interested in writing...right?

Did Brian ever do this with Van? Or did they just go straight to the sandbox piano and write?
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The Beach Boys legacy is still being mortared to this day...it has a solid and unbreakable foundation of incredible songs that tower above most bands, yet some bricks are more brittle and ugly than others (even some bricks put down more recently)...thus is the nature of any entity that continues to exist. You are not defined solely by your good achievements in life, you're also defined by those unpleasant moments too. This law of life, thankfully, helps keep us all in check.
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« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2016, 02:15:29 PM »

Seems like I have read somewhere that the lyrics for Surf's Up were inspired by a telephone conversation Brian had with Dennis who was telling Brian that people in Europe were laughing at them because of their image and lack of sophistication. If that is the case it seems probable that Brian would have approached VDP with this concept and they would have hashed out he subject per Brian's M.O.
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« Reply #4 on: December 28, 2016, 02:20:12 PM »

@TheWonderfulHarpsichord, check out Domenic Priore's 'Smile: The Story of Brian Wilson's Lost Masterpiece'. A lot of the information in it is complete trash, but there are some golden nuggets regarding the lyrics and overall concept of the album. I'll take it off my shelf and browse through it tonight, will post some tidbits that I think might relate to the subject.
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The Beach Boys legacy is still being mortared to this day...it has a solid and unbreakable foundation of incredible songs that tower above most bands, yet some bricks are more brittle and ugly than others (even some bricks put down more recently)...thus is the nature of any entity that continues to exist. You are not defined solely by your good achievements in life, you're also defined by those unpleasant moments too. This law of life, thankfully, helps keep us all in check.
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« Reply #5 on: December 28, 2016, 02:21:58 PM »

That book contains more brown nuggets than golden nuggets, sadly.
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« Reply #6 on: December 28, 2016, 02:29:50 PM »

That book contains more brown nuggets than golden nuggets, sadly.

Haha this is very true...But I do find parts of it to be illuminating. Funny that Priore created both the best SMiLE book ever put together and possibly the most hated SMiLE book ever written.
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The Beach Boys legacy is still being mortared to this day...it has a solid and unbreakable foundation of incredible songs that tower above most bands, yet some bricks are more brittle and ugly than others (even some bricks put down more recently)...thus is the nature of any entity that continues to exist. You are not defined solely by your good achievements in life, you're also defined by those unpleasant moments too. This law of life, thankfully, helps keep us all in check.
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« Reply #7 on: December 28, 2016, 05:14:53 PM »

Quote
Unclear what input Brian had in Wonderful but the fact that he took credit for the lyrics for a number of years makes me think he may have come up with the loss of innocence theme, which was a favorite of his.

In the Priore book, regarding 'Wonderful', Van says, "I remember Brian pressing me about the relationship between the mother and the father and the child. And this is the guy who wrote 'When I Grow Up To Be A Man', the guy who is becoming a man. I really think that he was thinking about his own personal progression from childhood."

So the idea was definitely Brian's. Man to be a fly on the wall during that sandbox session...

Another quick thought pertaining to OPs question, the "Mahalo lu lei" chant was all Brian, Van Dyke said he brought Brian a book with a collection of Hawaiian words that Brian used to make the chant/prayer. So Brian did have a hand in writing some lyrics in Van-related songs. I'm sure others will chime in with more examples.
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The Beach Boys legacy is still being mortared to this day...it has a solid and unbreakable foundation of incredible songs that tower above most bands, yet some bricks are more brittle and ugly than others (even some bricks put down more recently)...thus is the nature of any entity that continues to exist. You are not defined solely by your good achievements in life, you're also defined by those unpleasant moments too. This law of life, thankfully, helps keep us all in check.
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« Reply #8 on: December 28, 2016, 09:36:50 PM »

The original Smiley Smile credits gave Brian sole credit for Wind Chimes, right? I know subsequently the credit has been Wilson/Parks, but those words seem more like Brian to me. There are no attempts at wordplay, which would seem unusual for Van Dyke.
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thorgil
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« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2016, 02:35:59 AM »

Respectfully, this is where I miss most the old Smile Shop. I remember some stellar threads with in-depth analysis of the Smile lyrics. That was when nobody would have considered "Surf's Up" too obscure (it's called poetry, folks; when everybody can understand all of it at first read, it's usually called prose). It was brilliant stuff, and I wish I had saved it somewhere.

Sorry, and back on topic. My take is that in this case the credits are correct. For all songs where VDP's name appears, lyrics are typical of his style, stratified, rich in wordplay and cultural references (though I'm sure that Brian had significant input on the subject matter). For Wind Chimes, I agree with Sound of Free that lyrics are typically "Brian", emotional and to the point, with no wordplay but effective imagery. Brian is a much better lyricist than he gets credit for.

I think "Mahalo lu lei" (which, by the way, is not gibberish: it was actually translated) was a Brian/VDP collaboration.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2016, 02:58:28 AM by thorgil » Logged

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« Reply #10 on: December 29, 2016, 07:50:42 AM »

Respectfully, this is where I miss most the old Smile Shop. I remember some stellar threads with in-depth analysis of the Smile lyrics. That was when nobody would have considered "Surf's Up" too obscure (it's called poetry, folks; when everybody can understand all of it at first read, it's usually called prose). It was brilliant stuff, and I wish I had saved it somewhere.

Sorry, and back on topic. My take is that in this case the credits are correct. For all songs where VDP's name appears, lyrics are typical of his style, stratified, rich in wordplay and cultural references (though I'm sure that Brian had significant input on the subject matter). For Wind Chimes, I agree with Sound of Free that lyrics are typically "Brian", emotional and to the point, with no wordplay but effective imagery. Brian is a much better lyricist than he gets credit for.

I think "Mahalo lu lei" (which, by the way, is not gibberish: it was actually translated) was a Brian/VDP collaboration.

I was recently taken to task about that lyric myself. It is clearly pronounced "wahala" and not "mahalo" on both BWPS and the 1966 sessions. As to any proper translation of either phrase, I challenge anyone to do it. I searched the internet and did not come with anything satisfying. I've read that Parks claims no responsibility for the Hawaiian chant at all. It really does just seem to be something that Brian thought sounded good. Interestingly, if you have a copy of the original BWPS London concerts, you can hear that they use the word "mahalo", but it was changed or corrupted in the recording process for the BWPS album.
Apparently it was a case of "As we returned to the studio to record "Mahalo" or "Wahala", we always got them confused."
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« Reply #11 on: December 29, 2016, 11:38:35 AM »

I stand by "Mahalo" as it means "thanks" in Hawaiian. "Wahala" does not seem to exist in Hawaiian, though it should mean "trouble" in some African tongues (Hausa and Yoruba).
« Last Edit: December 29, 2016, 12:01:07 PM by thorgil » Logged

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« Reply #12 on: December 29, 2016, 01:01:24 PM »

That book contains more brown nuggets than golden nuggets, sadly.

Haha this is very true...But I do find parts of it to be illuminating. Funny that Priore created both the best SMiLE book ever put together and possibly the most hated SMiLE book ever written.
Can I ask what makes this book full of brown nuggets rather than those of the golden variety? So I don't waste my time reading it. What makes the one so much better than the other?
« Last Edit: December 29, 2016, 01:02:32 PM by SCaroline Z » Logged
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« Reply #13 on: December 29, 2016, 04:05:35 PM »

He was intellectually dishonest, plain and simple.

I don't remember the exact quotes, but he stated in very absolute terms that his theories were fact rather than speculation.  And it was all geared to tell a compelling story: that Smile was finished just before Sgt. Pepper's came out, but then Brian heard Pepper and cancelled the whole thing.  A nice piece of fiction, but it should have been presented that way.
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rab2591
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« Reply #14 on: December 29, 2016, 04:20:38 PM »

That book contains more brown nuggets than golden nuggets, sadly.

Haha this is very true...But I do find parts of it to be illuminating. Funny that Priore created both the best SMiLE book ever put together and possibly the most hated SMiLE book ever written.
Can I ask what makes this book full of brown nuggets rather than those of the golden variety? So I don't waste my time reading it. What makes the one so much better than the other?

Listen Look Vibrate Smile is a collection of Smile related articles from that mid-60s time period from magazines/etc. It also has a bunch of essays that shed some amazing light on Smile. It also includes the "Goodbye Surfing Hello God" article that is a must have for any Smile enthusiast. And as for the collection of Smile articles you'll be shocked at just how many there are complied in this book.

As for the other book, as said above it is intellectually dishonest - theory (theories?) that hold no water under the slightest scrutiny. That being said there are some great tidbits like what I posted above and a couple great sections on the Smile material and the experimentation that went on. I recommend it if you find a used copy in a bookstore (or a very cheap used copy on Amazon).

And going back to Look Listen Vibrate Smile, find a copy anywhere if you can - totally worth it.
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The Beach Boys legacy is still being mortared to this day...it has a solid and unbreakable foundation of incredible songs that tower above most bands, yet some bricks are more brittle and ugly than others (even some bricks put down more recently)...thus is the nature of any entity that continues to exist. You are not defined solely by your good achievements in life, you're also defined by those unpleasant moments too. This law of life, thankfully, helps keep us all in check.
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« Reply #15 on: December 29, 2016, 05:51:56 PM »

Good to know, thanks  Smiley
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« Reply #16 on: December 30, 2016, 12:24:13 AM »

I stand by "Mahalo" as it means "thanks" in Hawaiian. "Wahala" does not seem to exist in Hawaiian, though it should mean "trouble" in some African tongues (Hausa and Yoruba).

It's true... Mrs Willy is from Nigeria and "No wahala!" (no problem, no trouble) is a phrase she uses often.
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« Reply #17 on: December 30, 2016, 12:28:32 AM »

And going back to Look Listen Vibrate Smile, find a copy anywhere if you can - totally worth it.

But make sure you find the later expanded version, there is perhaps another third-worth of additional content.
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« Reply #18 on: December 30, 2016, 01:05:00 AM »

It's not just Dom, but the 2005 book was where Parks claims that the Beatles had secretly heard SMILE tracks-in-progress.
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« Reply #19 on: December 30, 2016, 09:55:58 AM »

Seems like I have read somewhere that the lyrics for Surf's Up were inspired by a telephone conversation Brian had with Dennis who was telling Brian that people in Europe were laughing at them because of their image and lack of sophistication. If that is the case it seems probable that Brian would have approached VDP with this concept and they would have hashed out he subject per Brian's M.O.

According to Van Dyke, only the end part of the song ("Surf's Up, hmm hmm, hmm hmm, aboard a tidal wave") was inspired by the laughing at the shirts in Europe - supposedly the rest of the song was already written and that was added to somehow validate the surfing theme in a new (more intellectual obviously) context.
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« Reply #20 on: December 30, 2016, 11:29:52 PM »

We have to mention Mike Love and how he wrote "I'm pickin up good vibrations/She's givin me excitations" or else he'll sue this thread.
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« Reply #21 on: December 31, 2016, 10:00:51 AM »

It's not just Dom, but the 2005 book was where Parks claims that the Beatles had secretly heard SMILE tracks-in-progress.

W-what?! Are you sure that Mr. Parks claimed this?
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« Reply #22 on: January 01, 2017, 03:49:42 AM »

when I first glanced at the title of this thread, I thought it said:

Dick Van Dyke Parks ......
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« Reply #23 on: January 01, 2017, 03:19:10 PM »

when I first glanced at the title of this thread, I thought it said:

Dick Van Dyke Parks ......

He'd probably prefer if you asked him first.
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« Reply #24 on: January 01, 2017, 05:10:05 PM »

LOL LOL LOL
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The Beach Boys legacy is still being mortared to this day...it has a solid and unbreakable foundation of incredible songs that tower above most bands, yet some bricks are more brittle and ugly than others (even some bricks put down more recently)...thus is the nature of any entity that continues to exist. You are not defined solely by your good achievements in life, you're also defined by those unpleasant moments too. This law of life, thankfully, helps keep us all in check.
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