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633276 Posts in 25348 Topics by 3605 Members - Latest Member: Sunny Down Snuff June 20, 2018, 01:43:56 PM
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Author Topic: Did Carl's criminal prosecution for draft evasion cause SMiLE's cancelation?  (Read 1396 times)
Very Extremely Dan
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« on: June 05, 2018, 07:36:58 PM »

Googled "Carl Wilson draft" and found this:  https://reasonabledoubt.org/criminallawblog/entry/january-3-1967-beach-boy-carl-wilson-becomes-draft-dodger-today-in-crime-history

Carl Wilson was drafted in 1966 and refused to report for duty on January 3rd 1967.  By April 5th he was indicted and on April 26th he was arrested by the FBI. 

At the very moment that The Beach Boys were going to finish and release Brian and Van's celebration/indictment of America one of The Beach Boys was in open violation of the American government.

Got me thinking that this situation might have more to do with Brian's canceling of SMiLE than the usual suspects:  drugs, lack of support, loss of artistic faith, etc.....

SMiLE was full steam ahead in the Fall of 1966 but began to falter just as Carl's draft situation took a turn for the worse in January of 1967.  Did SMiLE stall out as Carl's draft situation worsened?   Did Brian finally cancel SMiLE to avoid making Carl's issues with the US government less difficult? 

A very understandable choice considering the Vietnam draft was very much a life and death situation.....
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« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2018, 08:06:52 PM »

I thought Smile was already all but dead by April 1967? I highly doubt Carl had anything to do with its demise at all.
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Very Extremely Dan
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« Reply #2 on: June 05, 2018, 08:45:40 PM »

I'm under the impression that the versions of "Vega-Tables" and "Love to Say Dada" that are largely (though debatably) considered SMiLE tracks were recorded in May of 1967 and that the record wasn't announced as canceled until May as well.

The timing of Carl's refusal to report/indictment/arrest was January through April of 1967 which coincides exactly with long bouts of inactivity, canceled sessions and the fraying of Van and Brian's relationship just as SMiLE was supposed to be in the home stretch. 

When the subtle metaphors of SMiLE are viewed through certain lenses it can be seen as a VERY political album with distinct opinions about Native American Rights, the degradation of the environment, drugs, and the generational changes/conflicts about to sweep the world in 1967/68.  VERY hot button issues in 1967.  How couldn't Uncle Sam calling Carl up to go to war not affect Brian's creativity?  He was asking us to roll plymouth rock over and dig the worms that the American exceptionalism narrative would prefer stay covered and just as Brian was about to release this concerned State of the Union for 1967 Uncle Sam told his brother he now had to be prepared to die for the country.  I can very easily see Brian saying, "Never mind, I don't want to cause any trouble for my brother" and Van being very pissed that Brian lost his nerve.......
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Needleinthehay
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« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2018, 10:40:36 PM »

When the subtle metaphors of SMiLE are viewed through certain lenses it can be seen as a VERY political album with distinct opinions about Native American Rights, the degradation of the environment, drugs, and the generational changes/conflicts about to sweep the world in 1967/68.  VERY hot button issues in 1967.  How couldn't Uncle Sam calling Carl up to go to war not affect Brian's creativity?  He was asking us to roll plymouth rock over and dig the worms that the American exceptionalism narrative would prefer stay covered and just as Brian was about to release this concerned State of the Union for 1967 Uncle Sam told his brother he now had to be prepared to die for the country.  I can very easily see Brian saying, "Never mind, I don't want to cause any trouble for my brother" and Van being very pissed that Brian lost his nerve.......

I can see how you would think/say that, but you also have to realize that VDP wrote most of the lyrics youre talking about. That was his bag, not brians.
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Very Extremely Dan
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« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2018, 11:20:10 PM »

Sure.  To clarify, I'm saying Brian's 1967 creative confusion and cancellation of SMiLE, not SMiLE's lyrics/themes, were a reaction to Carl getting drafted.  I think the vast majority of the lyrics were written before Carl got drafted or at least before he chose not to report to the draft  in January of '67. 

Brian was deeply concerned about the effect industry and "progress" was having on the environment and Van expanded that to encompass manifest destiny, Native American rights. capitalism, etc. 

So perhaps Brian already wasn't entirely on board with how political SMiLE's subject matter had become and when Carl found himself in a VERY political situation Brian might've found it easier to cancel the project than if he had written the lyrics entirely himself. 

If SMiLE was released and heard as a political statement it would be a political statement by The Beach Boys (not just lyricist Van Dyke Parks) and thus might have made Carl's situation even more fraught.....
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HeyJude
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« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2018, 06:36:26 AM »

I think it's a stretch to weigh too heavily Carl's draft status when it comes to the demise of "Smile."

It may well be that Carl's draft and eventual "CO" status have been disproportionately downplayed when it comes to the band's history in general. But even taking that into account, as well as Brian and the others not exactly remembering or characterizing the "Smile" era in perfectly reliable detail (seemingly anyway), I don't think they'd have a problem mentioning Carl's draft status more if they felt it was a significant element in the demise of "Smile."

Look at the band in 1967. They toured regularly, and worked on *three* different albums (Smile, SS, Wild Honey). Carl's draft status didn't slow them down at all. If the band had failed to put *anything* out in 1967 (or very little), then I'd buy the idea that Carl's draft situation was impacting things. But I don't think there's much evidence that it impacted specifically Brian's motivations towards the themes explored in "Smile", which in turn would then have to be the downfall of the project as a whole.

The BBs nor "Smile" were overtly "political" in 1967 in a way that would have been particularly relatable to its contemporary international politics. The main political thing that happened that year would have been Carl going CO, and even then I get the sense from interviews and writing covering that time frame that, no offense to Carl, he *understandably* just didn't want to enlist, didn't want to leave the band, and didn't even want to do typical "CO" work like changing bed pans, etc. Not wanting to change bed pans was arguably as political (in the sense of international conflicts and war) as anybody in the band got in 1967.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2018, 06:45:26 AM by HeyJude » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2018, 06:41:00 AM »

The idea that the lyrics of Smile if released in spring/summer 1967 would somehow cause trouble for Carl's draft evasion case is interesting but realistically improbable and a little bit ludicrous.  Does anyone think someone at the FBI would attempt to decode the opague VDP lyrics of Worms or Surf's Up in an effort to see if there are anti-government sentiments hidden there?  And if there were, they would be Van Dyke's and Brian's sentiments, not Carl's.  Smile's obscure lyrics could never be construed to be on a par with, say, the later Jefferson Airplane's "Gotta revolution, got to revolution" or other lyrics on Volunteers which were meant to be a middle finger directed at the establishment and very likely did prompt increased scrutiny by law enforcement.
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HeyJude
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« Reply #7 on: June 06, 2018, 06:50:42 AM »

Exactly. It's not as if "Smile" was even akin to something like Lennon's "Revolution." The Beatles, pre-solo, were rarely if ever overly political, yet their stuff especially by 1968 (and to some degree prior) more obviously "political" than the BBs. The Beatles, especially by 67/68, were also much more popular and had already come out in interviews/press conferences as anti-war. There were even more covert anti-war political things going on in their stuff if you dug deeper (listen to Lennon sing about "bodies floating in the river Jordan", etc. on one of their Christmas fan club records).

VDP's lyrics were not on the FBI's radar, especially considering a lot of them *didn't* even get released in 1967.

If someone has previously-redacted FBI files on the "Smile" lyrics from 1966/67, I'd love to see them.
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« Reply #8 on: June 06, 2018, 06:54:58 AM »

That's really interesting regarding the timing. Even if as folks are saying Carl's status was not a DIRECT cause of SMILE's demise, it doesn't seem a complete stretch to say that it was one more issue putting pressure on Brian at an already perilous time.

The end of the linked article is interesting too, saying that in 1971 there was an agreement reached that Carl would perform shows at hospitals and prisons to fulfill a community service obligation. Did that actually happen?

 
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HeyJude
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« Reply #9 on: June 06, 2018, 07:08:59 AM »

That's really interesting regarding the timing. Even if as folks are saying Carl's status was not a DIRECT cause of SMILE's demise, it doesn't seem a complete stretch to say that it was one more issue putting pressure on Brian at an already perilous time.

The end of the linked article is interesting too, saying that in 1971 there was an agreement reached that Carl would perform shows at hospitals and prisons to fulfill a community service obligation. Did that actually happen?

 

I think a few books go into the live gigs the band did to satisfy Carl's CO agreement. I know the excellent "Beach Boys In Concert" by Rusten and Stebbins goes into the dates that pertained to this.

Regarding the former, while a complete picture of the "Smile" era or any other era should keep everything in mind, I'm loathe to weigh too heavily a ton of ancillary factors. There's a point at which *everything* big and small happening to them on a daily basis may have played *some* small role in the demise of the project.

I'm also not sure how heavily Carl's situation weighed on Brian. It's easy to assume it did; it was his brother. But at the same time, especially once it became apparent that they could use their celebrity/fame to keep Carl from having to go (e.g. doing charity shows, etc.), then the best thing Brian could have done would have been to keep the band propped up and as popular as possible to make those "alternate" arrangements for Carl more enticing and plausible.
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Very Extremely Dan
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« Reply #10 on: June 06, 2018, 05:31:58 PM »

I agree that "Surf's Up" hardly registers as political when compared to Lennon, Dylan, Airplane, etc. but remember that Surf's Up had been performed by Brian on national TV on April 25th 1967 for Leonard Bernstein's "Inside Pop"....the word had gotten out....and as Brian explained at the time in "Goodbye Surfing, Hello God" (though it wasn't published until October '67), "columnated ruins domino" meant "Empires, ideas, lives, institutions—everything has to fall, tumbling like dominoes." 

I know it's far fetched but if Carl's CO had put the Beach Boys on the FBI's radar and next thing they know they're monitoring THESE lyrics on national TV they might want to investigate.  Open up a file......who know's maybe they we're bugging Brian's swimming pool :-)   

Actually, I just looked it up,  the FBI arrested Carl on April 26th '67, the day after "Inside Pop" aired!  The link just says he was arrested in NY where the Beach Boys were playing but if Carl was arrested at a gig I could see how that violation of their turf would freak them all out, especially Brian considering other rockers were going to jail or the psych ward for 2 jointsand he had $2000 bucks of hash stashed back at the ranch.....

Anyway, I thought it was interesting to note chronologically how much this saga lined up with the second half of the SMiLE sessions.  Brian might have had more of a reason to be paranoid than we realize. 

I believe Carl's status was offered as a reason why they pulled out of Monterey Pop but I haven't seem much about it's effect on SMiLE and it seemed worth exploring.....
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« Reply #11 on: June 06, 2018, 06:25:19 PM »

No
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« Reply #12 on: June 07, 2018, 03:42:17 PM »

Please excuse my ignorance... why was only Carl subject to the draft and not the others? Was it an age thing?
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Needleinthehay
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« Reply #13 on: June 07, 2018, 10:08:50 PM »

Please excuse my ignorance... why was only Carl subject to the draft and not the others? Was it an age thing?

Brian and Al were too old. Draft was for people born from 44-50. They were born 42.

Was curious so i looked up what their draft numbers were. Carl was 70 and Dennis was 165.  Guessing they never got all the way to Dennis' number that year. My dad was 207 and he never got called up. He had to do a physical though. I'm guessing Dennis had to, also. I remember my dad telling me he went for his physical and they had him do a hearing test and to raise his hand when he heard something. He did the exact opposite (raised his hand when he heard nothing) because he wanted to get out of the draft. Of course they passed him anyways.
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HeyJude
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« Reply #14 on: June 08, 2018, 06:17:17 AM »

Please excuse my ignorance... why was only Carl subject to the draft and not the others? Was it an age thing?

Brian and Al were too old. Draft was for people born from 44-50. They were born 42.

Was curious so i looked up what their draft numbers were. Carl was 70 and Dennis was 165.  Guessing they never got all the way to Dennis' number that year. My dad was 207 and he never got called up. He had to do a physical though. I'm guessing Dennis had to, also. I remember my dad telling me he went for his physical and they had him do a hearing test and to raise his hand when he heard something. He did the exact opposite (raised his hand when he heard nothing) because he wanted to get out of the draft. Of course they passed him anyways.


It's worth noting for those not super familiar with the draft lottery of that era in the US, the 1944-1950 range pertained to the 1969 draft lottery. To provide a larger context (obviously outside of the purview of what would have impacted the members of the BBs), this is from Wikipedia:

Draft lotteries were conducted again in 1970 (for those born in 1951) and from 1971 to 1975 (for 1952 to 1956 births). The draft numbers issued in 1972 were never used the next year to call for induction into service, because the last call was December 7 and authority to induct expired on June 30, 1973.


I checked on this really briefly because I remember people born after 1950 being fearful of being drafted.
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« Reply #15 on: June 08, 2018, 06:58:13 AM »

Thank you!  Smiley
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« Reply #16 on: June 08, 2018, 01:28:37 PM »

It does make you wonder what would've happened if Brian was born a few years later and got drafted. Would he have passed the physical? Would he have been deferred on mental illness grounds? Would he have wanted to go? I'm almost positive he would have not wanted to go. What about Dennis? I feel like he was so ADD/hyper/rebellious that after a few weeks the military would've realized they didn't want any part of him and kicked him out, but who knows.

Anyways, the interesting thing is all the people that didnt go and did stuff like move to Canada, etc were criminals at the time but were pardoned by Carter when he was president.
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« Reply #17 on: June 08, 2018, 04:32:17 PM »


Please excuse my ignorance... why was only Carl subject to the draft and not the others? Was it an age thing?


From what I can tell, all the members of the band except Mike could have been drafted, assuming they passed their physical.

In the 1960's men aged 19 to 25 were subject to the draft. From May 1961 thru late August 1966 there was an exemption for married men with children, hence Mike's exemption. During that time married men without children were typically not drafted either. There was also a student deferment exemption that originally applied to men who were full time college students, (hence some "career students"), but was later shortened to four years maximum.

Assuming no deferments or exemptions, this left a seven year period of uncertainty during which a man could randomly be called up for the draft, and inducted if he passed his physical. (I seem to recall that Bruce received a notice to report for a physical, but failed it, thus receiving a 4F exemption - perhaps someone can confirm if that is correct.) So Carl would have been called up, passed his physical, but refused induction, later applying for Conscious Objector status, which was typically expected to be done prior to receiving an induction notice.

The 1969 and subsequent draft lotteries were devised to take away the seven year period of uncertainty. For the 1969 lottery, for example, if you had a low number you knew you were certain to be drafted in 1970 unless you joined the military (or successfully became a CO) prior to receiving an induction notice (or left the US for Canada, etc). In 1970, with the war in Vietnam raging, men with birthdays thru #195 were drafted. Many more joined a branch of military in order to avoid being drafted.

I'm going by memory as well as what I read online today concerning the US draft during this period, so any corrections concerning the draft status of the BBs are welcome.

ETA - Just reread NeedleInTheHay's post. Brian and Al were too old for the 1969 draft lottery, but could have been drafted earlier, during the period when they were 19 to 25 (or 26, depending on the source). So Dennis had a draft lottery number of 165, but Wikipedia says men with numbers thru 195 were called up in 1970. So maybe Dennis failed his physical, or perhaps he had a good lawyer. Just realized that Brian's bad ear would have exempted him from the draft.


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mrski
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« Reply #18 on: June 09, 2018, 02:05:45 PM »

Brian and Al were too old. Draft was for people born from 44-50. They were born 42.

Didn't Jan Berry get drafted...? He was born on April 3rd 1941...
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positivemusic
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« Reply #19 on: June 09, 2018, 03:16:33 PM »

If memory serves right, his accident happened as he left the draft office.
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Needleinthehay
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« Reply #20 on: June 09, 2018, 05:19:37 PM »

Brian and Al were too old. Draft was for people born from 44-50. They were born 42.

Didn't Jan Berry get drafted...? He was born on April 3rd 1941...


Slightly off subject, but I've been listening to a lot of Neil Young lately and the song "Tonights the night" is about his roadie that OD'd on Heroin in the 70s, who was actually Jan Berry's brother. ("Bruce Berry was a working man, used to load the econoline van...")
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6LVIi7pzZI
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