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Author Topic: SMiLE was ready in 1967 - discuss  (Read 20690 times)
Joshilyn Hoisington
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« Reply #275 on: July 24, 2022, 05:36:45 PM »

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In this light, Smiley Smile seems to me like a dramatic pulling out of what had been a minor thread and turning it into the major thread. Sort of like how there had always been car songs, but Little Deuce Coupe was *all* car songs, Smiley was a whole album of I'm Bugged at My Old Man crossed with And Your Dreams Come True. Where before that particular looser, funnier, less-rock-n-roll approach had been only a small part of what Brian did. Does that make any sense to anyone?

That actually does seem pretty apt.  All the seeds for a Smiley are in Smile -- the scaled down productions scattered in there, the chanting and laughing and talking and silliness, the songs themselves, even.  But the Dumb Angel ethos that was perhaps a carry over from the "Pet Sounds" way of doing things, the Cabin Essences, the Surfses Up--the bigger productions--dominated the composition of the identity of the record, where Smiley is dominated by the minimalism, and the jokes.  I buy it.  But I do still believe that the pulling out of that thread happened over gradually and was mostly all the way out by the time Brian snipped off the Smile thread.

I work on the colonization of the Hudson Valley in New York, the dispossession of Native people, and the establishment of large estates in that region that had "Lords" and tenant farmers! Which honestly with my user name is probably enough info to find me...but I don't think there's any reason why I need to be perfectly anonymous on a Beach Boys message board (at least, I certainly hope not!)

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guitarfool2002
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« Reply #276 on: July 24, 2022, 05:41:13 PM »

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The case is more that Brian's musical development can be traced organically from Pet Sounds to Smiley Smile without the shift being quite such an inexplicable or inorganic change in his methods.
One myth that has definitely been shattered is the one where Smiley was “just” recorded .,. The methods may have changed but a lot of care did go into the making of it. I think the fact that how much of it was recorded at Brian’s house by The Beach Boys vs in a “professional “ studio gives people the impression that it was slapdash. I think when Brian said over the years that Smile “wasn’t the right kind of music for us “ the manner of recording may have been a good part of what he was actually saying.  So yeah I do think it being able to be played by the rest of the band WAS a big part of it (and the In Concert book has some anecdotes) but it wasn’t due to it being “stripped down “, it was the fact that they were actually playing the parts vs studio musicians. Bluntly put, I think they got tired of being treated like session singers.::or maybe they felt like hired help. Maybe Brian tired of that too, not realizing there would be pushback working for others

I think they definitely felt like hired help, just like The Monkees on their first two albums. All they did was sing on the tracks 99% of the time until they rebelled. And the Beach Boys were getting criticism for it too as laid out previously.

Smiley Smile was a complex recording, again what I call "deceptively simple", but I agree 100% it's the same guys who would hypothetically be on stage playing the music also recording the music in the studio and that made a difference in the dynamic overall. With Wild Honey, then even more on Friends, a better balance was struck between the two, the core band and the session players. But to many listeners who have not heard the session tapes, it probably does sound "slapdash" and that was actually its charm for many for decades, including the many bands influenced by Smiley Smile who are considered part of the lo-fi genre. Smiley gets major respect in those circles because it sounds as it does.

And for further comparisons, reference what The Monkees went through recording Headquarters after breaking from Kirshner and being "allowed" to play their own instruments. The perfect balance was struck on the album after Headquarters, PAC&J, much like Friends struck that balance between the core band and the session pros.
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Joshilyn Hoisington
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« Reply #277 on: July 24, 2022, 05:47:22 PM »

Craig, fine I agree with everything you just said, and I think that I am guilty of not being clear.  I think I was experiencing the same feelings that you are, on the flip-side -- frustrated that people seemed to be dismissing new documentary evidence that adds up to some interesting new possibilities.  So I felt like I had to push that.  Of course we don't discount what people said -- it goes into the evidence hopper with the rest of the stuff and it's all weighed against each other.

The "Hearsay" comment was really talking about journalism, where a reporter or a journo is repeating something that a Beach Boy said, or, worse yet, repeating something somebody said a Beach Boys said.  That obviously carries less weight than a direct, accurate quote from a first-hand player.

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If there is proof, somewhere in some form, that Smiley Smile was a continuation, a direct line if you will, from Smile with no direct start or end, I'd like to see that, as would everyone else. But there is none, and therefore it's still personal opinion based on what an individual reads and hears. The "facts", as mentioned above, exist somewhere in the middle. But firsthand information from participants should not be dismissed in favor of what someone perceives when they weigh the information available via documentation.

Likewise, there is no proof that Smile was scrapped at a discrete point in time and Smiley was started as a completely fresh project.  Can you concede that?
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BJL
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« Reply #278 on: July 24, 2022, 05:56:17 PM »

I hope any future projects about Smile take into consideration all of the various factors surrounding it, and if a project relies on existing and newly-found documentation, those sources are not used to promote a narrative, editorialize, or back up opinions as fact, but instead are shown as part of the timeline free of any narratives or opinions on what the documents actually show.

Let readers and listeners judge for themselves. Ultimately if someone listens to the Smile timeline material, recorded before June 1967, and then listens to the Smiley Smile material, they will be able to form their own opinions about the similarities and differences without being told what or how to think, or that the opinion they have is wrong. If the timeline and documents are used to suggest things that literally no one except those directly involved firsthand could confirm or deny, and promote some opinions over others where both are valid, it becomes an op-ed piece rather than true journalism or historical research.

Guitarfool, I really appreciate your replies in this thread, too. And as I said above, I still find some of your assertions early in this thread very persuasive, albeit (as you yourself have said, I think?), more as something well worth considering than as an overarching ur-narrative. But truly, it takes two perspectives to have a conversation! Whatever anyone decides to believe, if you hadn't made the statements you made about Smiley Smile and the touring band, Joshilyn and sloopjohnb would not have had anything to refute (leaving aside, for the moment, whether that refutation was or was not convincing!), and I would not have learned a great deal that I have learned, both about Smile and about the new research being done on it!

I do feel like I have to say though, that - in my opinion - historians *always* tell a story. We always make an argument. There is always a narrative. Humans cannot organize information without narrative, not really. Even on things like timelines, charts, lists, indexes, the narrative of the compiler *always* shapes the information they present and how they organize it. There is simply no way around it. Better, thus, to have people be open about what they believe, what they think the evidence shows. And we, as readers and listeners, simple have no choice but to sift fact from argument ourselves. There is no way around it. Every newspaper article, every textbook, every collection of historical documents - there is always a narrative and an argument, whether it is explicit or not. This does not invalidate that work, does not mean it is not true historical research, it just means that we never have the luxury of turning off our brains and assuming we are looking at "just the facts!"
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Joshilyn Hoisington
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« Reply #279 on: July 24, 2022, 05:58:34 PM »

Actually, let's stop using "scrapped."  It's too connotative of too many things.

I am actually much more willing to consider the start of Smiley as its own project being an outgrowth of the last gasps of Smile, a sort of half-baked Athena out of the head of Jove/Smile, than to ever consider Smile to have a fixed end date.
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« Reply #280 on: July 24, 2022, 06:01:31 PM »

Any time! Alright, I'll happily keep going.

The most obvious suggestion of what those Jan 23 sessions were for are the AFM contracts. The first from 3pm-6pm is titled 'SURF'S UP', and the second (a sweetening session following immediately) from 6.30pm-11.30pm was given the title 'PART ONE'. Considering Brian's working habits at the time of re-doing everything that didn't need to be re-done, and the December 15 piano/vocal recording probably supplanting the November 4 track, that just seems like the most believable thing he'd be doing.

There are some curious things about the personnel that'd support this, too. The first session would in theory be a pretty similar instrumental lineup to the November session - Hal on percussion, Carl and Bill Pitman on guitar/bass, Lyle Ritz on bass, Roy Caton on trumpet, presumably Brian on piano - but really intriguingly, there are three woodwind players. Now, Carl recorded a remake of the 1st Movement track in 1971, mostly mimicking Brian's arrangement from the November track down to the note... but for some reason, he's got three baritone saxes on there, all holding a droning bassline. Where else would he have gotten that musical idea while otherwise rote copying Brian's work on the other track? That, for me, is the strongest suggestion of what they recorded that day. It's only a little thing, but I really can't let go of it.

The sweetening session and missing status of the tape is all pretty fishy. Ten string players are compensated normally, while the AFM sheet indicates a whole horn section and harpist were paid for their services but sent home without being used, which is a total one-off. If Siegel's anecdote about a studio full of violinists being sent home because the vibrations weren't right has a ring of truth, this is the only session that'd remotely fit the bill.

This is really, really interesting, thanks for posting. I totally buy it, at least til better evidence emerges!

And if it is true, it really is just more evidence for what is, for me, an increasingly inescapable conclusion...which is that the Smile project fundamentally fell apart because Brian lost the thread of it. Yea, you can still argue about *why* he lost the thread, how much of it was external factors and how much internal, whatever. But, again, if this is true, for me, there's just no way around the fact that anyone who would re-record Part 1 of Surf's Up has lost the thread of what they're doing. That original recording is one of the greatest things recorded in the 20th century. If you can't tell it's fine as it is....

That’s always been my personal feeling. Again, for me realizing when the Fire incident actually  happened , well I can kind of understand more the rest of the band’s position , Mike included. I think the way Brian was acting kind of put the music in a poor light to them back in 1966. We look at the brilliance of what he was doing but put yourself in their shoes back then…and knowing how Brian changes his mind so much , and everything else that was starting to happen with him, I doubt he could explain his plans well, especially if they changed from day to day. All those brilliant parts being thrown out …that must’ve looked worrying, especially if they had no idea how it was going to sound all put together. And the fact that Brian himself didn’t know…during the album sessions… it’s one thing to have mostly finished songs and having trouble deciding which should make the cut. It’s another thing when sections of songs are being swapped in and out seemingly on a whim. Brian’s indecision didn’t kill Smile, because there was nothing to kill. Even from the beginning it seemed the concept kept changing. The fact that “Rock with me Henry” happened like that (I have the 2 cd set of TSS

Here’s my theory… Smiley Smile was a case of “we got the songs. Let’s do it as a band and structure them like regular songs, like we should have been doing in the first place “. That’s what was simplified . Not the production…the *structure*. I don’t think the “style” was as big of a sticking point as we all thought; I think that was more of a post Endless Summer thing. Brian was trying to capture lightning in a bottle ; it worked with Good Vibrations, but that was a once in a lifetime deal. Brian bit off more than he could chew trying to go that route for a whole album. If he’d had todays technology, it’d be easier to A/B comparison tracks without cutting tape, but that still misses the point of the issue. Brian could not finish Smile because he could not decide what it truly was, made worse because the same was true for many of the songs. The true tragedy of SMiLE is that some point during it, Brian realized it, and that’s what did him in.
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« Reply #281 on: July 24, 2022, 06:26:45 PM »

Actually, let's stop using "scrapped."  It's too connotative of too many things.

I am actually much more willing to consider the start of Smiley as its own project being an outgrowth of the last gasps of Smile, a sort of half-baked Athena out of the head of Jove/Smile, than to ever consider Smile to have a fixed end date.


End dates in the world of The Beach Boys are never fixed or set… we all learned that one in 2012 ! 🤪

All joking aside, I agree it was never scrapped. “Changed” would be a better word. Even after SS, the songs kept being tinkered with for years. Hell, even as late as 1980 we supposedly almost got Worms and Can’t Wait Too Long. So many of the songs ended up as other things or reused. Basically TLOS in reverse.  When did SMiLE die? Whenever they decided to use the name Smiley Smile . At that point there was no going back. Once SS was released, and certainly by Wild Honey, Smile couldn’t have come out as a “new” album. It would have been massively out of date when taken as a whole.  BUT… the music of Smile lived on and would come out as songs of their own, or cannibalized to make different songs. So the concept died, but the music didn’t.
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“My cape is at the dry cleaners,” he explained.

I’m writing a book of online BB fandom. It’s called “Never Trust Anyone Who Spends More Time Reading Signatures Than Bathing”.  It’s sure to sell a million copies in January!

How’s that view from the nosebleed seats?
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« Reply #282 on: July 24, 2022, 06:44:55 PM »

Wow! I very much like the direction this thread has headed. BJL, thanks very much for your kind words, and I appreciate all the appreciation  Smiley

One thing I would like to add to the Smiley Smile talk is something that sort of gets ignored in conversations about the "shift"...

The Beach Boys' role in the music did not change in any significant capacity between Smile and Smiley Smile. The instruments are still mostly played by Brian on his own (where before it was some combination of Brian on his own, Brian and Van Dyke, or the wrecking crew), although Carl and Dennis do contribute pretty significantly here and there. But... that hadn't changed very much from the Smile period. Carl and Dennis, especially Carl, were much more involved as instrumentalists throughout the Smile era than the Pet Sounds era. Brian began treating Carl as a wrecking crew member again, including him as a bassist/guitarist on big band sessions like Wind Chimes and Cabin Essence, while a lot of the homier, more low-key tracks were entirely done by Brian and his brothers. To give a few examples, He Gives Speeches has all instruments played by Brian, Carl, and Dennis, as do both unique chorus sections for the April version of Vegetables.

If The Beach Boys felt like hired hands during Smile, well, their role demonstrably did not change. According to all 6 of the Beach Boys, and made clear from the session tapes, all of the material recorded for Smiley Smile was arranged and produced by Brian Wilson. Carl and Dennis played here and there, just like they'd done on Smile, and all of the Beach Boys recorded harmonies under the direction of Brian, just like they'd done on Smile.

So, what did change that made everyone so much happier?

Well, I know I'm a guy that pretty much only talks about the music (it's what I know best), but it's no secret that the 'vibe' was completely different. Brian's closest friends were his brothers and his cousin and Al again - the band. Brian wasn't recording side projects with others and leaving the rest of the band in the dark as to what the music was anymore. And the big one: Brian and Mike were writing together again! In limited capacity, as most of the songs were re-recordings of Wilson/Parks material, but it's still an important thing to consider when we're trying to figure out why the dynamic changed so significantly.

The Beach Boys were no less hired hands on Smiley Smile than they were on Smile. But, there are circumstances where being a hired hand feels good, and there are circumstances where it feels bad, to put it extremely simply. Consider the massive difference in atmosphere, and how drastically that can improve the tense relations the band was having before.
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guitarfool2002
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« Reply #283 on: July 24, 2022, 06:51:59 PM »

Craig, fine I agree with everything you just said, and I think that I am guilty of not being clear.  I think I was experiencing the same feelings that you are, on the flip-side -- frustrated that people seemed to be dismissing new documentary evidence that adds up to some interesting new possibilities.  So I felt like I had to push that.  Of course we don't discount what people said -- it goes into the evidence hopper with the rest of the stuff and it's all weighed against each other.

The "Hearsay" comment was really talking about journalism, where a reporter or a journo is repeating something that a Beach Boy said, or, worse yet, repeating something somebody said a Beach Boys said.  That obviously carries less weight than a direct, accurate quote from a first-hand player.

Quote
If there is proof, somewhere in some form, that Smiley Smile was a continuation, a direct line if you will, from Smile with no direct start or end, I'd like to see that, as would everyone else. But there is none, and therefore it's still personal opinion based on what an individual reads and hears. The "facts", as mentioned above, exist somewhere in the middle. But firsthand information from participants should not be dismissed in favor of what someone perceives when they weigh the information available via documentation.

Likewise, there is no proof that Smile was scrapped at a discrete point in time and Smiley was started as a completely fresh project.  Can you concede that?

A good debate is a good debate, I'm always happy to entertain all sides and consider all points and opinions. That's why seeing some attempts to exclude certain points as well as veering into commenting about the person making the points rather than sticking to the topics at hand was disappointing.

I'll use one of my points from previous pages: For years a lot of people pointed to the Derek Taylor "scrapped" article, May 6th 1967, as the "end date" of Smile. 30 years ago, I did too. But since then other information come out which suggests Taylor's pronouncement wasn't as definitive as it was taken, nor was it as accurate based on surrounding evidence. So first point, is there a consensus on Taylor's piece not being what it had been considered, and perhaps isn't the "end date" it was taken to be? Can the comment be dismissed? I question a lot about the Taylor piece, and still do. At least doubts have been raised and people can decide what they think without taking Taylor's word as Gospel truth in the matter.

I'll agree to disagree, but no concession. Again, this is your opinion based on what you've read and heard, and I have my opinion based on what I've read and heard. The truth, as is often the case, most likely lies somewhere in the middle. If such a radical change in the working methods and the sound of the songs and the production style shifted specifically from what it had been specifically during a one or two week span of time in June '67, combined with Carl's comments as well as those from the other band members, I wouldn't have that opinion. And I also can hear it in Smiley Smile versus the Smile tracks, I respect that you don't hear what I hear but again it's just opinion. If more explanation is needed, I hear a producer and songwriter going from trying to complete a work on a grand scale using the best musicians and studios available, trying to reach new heights in the music whether it's him overdubbing piano tracks or working with a full complement of studio musicians, to a producer making an album with less pretense, and more "let's put on a show right here kids!" kind of attitude. There's a quote from Mike Love in the Preiss book where he says this was Brian after he decided not to be competitive as he had been and dropped out of the production race. He wasn't as driven in the same ways as he was recording Smile previously, and you can hear it in the tracks. He was still Brian Wilson, he had a mind full of ideas and a unique skill at producing records, but it wasn't the same mindset that he had before when making records for The Beach Boys. No competition, let's have fun and record an album as a group. And that's where I think there is also a split between Smile and Smiley Smile that is audible when listening to the tracks. The next time I hear the competitive Brian in the studio, it's on "Time To Get Alone", which didn't involve the Beach Boys at all. I don't see that as coincidence, but again that's just my perception.

I really do think something happened within the band dynamic, beyond musical progression, that changed the whole system dramatically when the band returned from Europe, and specifically after the few sessions held at the "pro" studios. I cannot agree with or concede to something that suggests these changes didn't close one chapter and open another based on how much actually changed.
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« Reply #284 on: July 24, 2022, 06:56:31 PM »

That’s always been my personal feeling. Again, for me realizing when the Fire incident actually  happened , well I can kind of understand more the rest of the band’s position , Mike included. I think the way Brian was acting kind of put the music in a poor light to them back in 1966. We look at the brilliance of what he was doing but put yourself in their shoes back then…and knowing how Brian changes his mind so much , and everything else that was starting to happen with him, I doubt he could explain his plans well, especially if they changed from day to day. All those brilliant parts being thrown out …that must’ve looked worrying, especially if they had no idea how it was going to sound all put together. And the fact that Brian himself didn’t know…during the album sessions… it’s one thing to have mostly finished songs and having trouble deciding which should make the cut. It’s another thing when sections of songs are being swapped in and out seemingly on a whim. Brian’s indecision didn’t kill Smile, because there was nothing to kill. Even from the beginning it seemed the concept kept changing. The fact that “Rock with me Henry” happened like that (I have the 2 cd set of TSS
I agree about understanding Mike's perspective. Brian was acting clearly mentally ill by this point often enough that you just can't really blame Mike for feeling like things were *wrong*, even if I don't think his response to that ended up helping matters.

Here’s my theory… Smiley Smile was a case of “we got the songs. Let’s do it as a band and structure them like regular songs, like we should have been doing in the first place “. That’s what was simplified . Not the production…the *structure*. I don’t think the “style” was as big of a sticking point as we all thought; I think that was more of a post Endless Summer thing. Brian was trying to capture lightning in a bottle ; it worked with Good Vibrations, but that was a once in a lifetime deal. Brian bit off more than he could chew trying to go that route for a whole album. If he’d had todays technology, it’d be easier to A/B comparison tracks without cutting tape, but that still misses the point of the issue. Brian could not finish Smile because he could not decide what it truly was, made worse because the same was true for many of the songs. The true tragedy of SMiLE is that some point during it, Brian realized it, and that’s what did him in.

But I actually disagree pretty strongly with most of this. I have never bought that "Brian bit off more than he could chew" line, or the "if he'd only had pro-tools" line, and I certainly don't agree that Brian Wilson wasn't *capable* of finishing Smile (although you don't exactly say that).

To me, you just can't escape the fact that Capital Records printed up however many thousands of record jackets with twelve songs listed on them, and that most of those 12 songs had had tons of work done on them and were pretty close to finished. Brian Wilson was a professional, commercially-minded, experienced record producer. Those record jackets would have been a powerful incentive to stick to that track list. As I learned from this very thread, Wonderful and Wind Chimes had been set aside as masters. Most of the other songs were more finished than not. And even to your point about the Elements. Earlier in this thread, we were speculating that the Elements was one of the least-finished tracks. But if you accept that Brian had decided that, instead of an Elements Suite, he would just have a big fire song - well, call it The Elements: Mrs. O'Leary's Cow on the disc, use "I wanna be Around" as the fade, and that's pretty damn close to finished to! And if Brian then decided he'd rather do something quieter, "a candle" - well, that change was in no way, shape, or form a threat to the integrity of the project. Brian just had to go in and record his candle music, and call *that* the Elements.

Based on the session information posted above about how done everything was, I really think that until the end of December, 1966, Brian was making an album called Smile that was pretty damn close to finished and would have gone out in the jackets Capital Records had already printed. Yea, he changed his mind, he scrapped some things and moved some things around, but creatively, the project was working.

After December, 1966, that was no longer true. And the problem, in my view, was Heroes and Villains.

In my opinion (and this is about as subjective as it gets), there is no version of Heroes and Villains that feels like a smash hit. None of 'em. And I think Brian new that.

And I would venture, tentatively (and I'd never thought of this before, so I'm thinking out loud here, developing a new theory of smile as we speak!) that when Brian conceived of Heroes and Villains with Van Dyke Parks in the late summer of 1966, that was probably okay. Brian didn't *need* Heroes and Villains to be a huge smash. Good Vibrations was going to be the huge smash. Heroes and Villains was going to be the quirky, more experimental second single. After all, California Girls was a huge smash, Little Girl I Once Knew wasn't. I Get Around, huge. Do You Wanna Dance, not so huge. In the world of popular music in the mid-60s, not every single had to be massive. I'm sure Brian wanted Heroes and Villains to do well, but it's commercial potential was not *that* important, certainly not an existential issue for the band!

By January, despite Good Vibrations massive success, that was no longer true. Again, this is theorizing, thinking out loud...but Brian Wilson was losing confidence in Smile, and making Heroes and Villains a hit came to feel very, very important to him. Perhaps it came to feel like the only way he could prove to the rest of the band that the new direction he was pursuing was the right one. But Heroes and Villains wasn't a huge hit, and nothing Brian did was going to make it one, because it was a weird ass novelty record about the old west. Brilliant, yes, international number 1, probably not so much. And that quandary - how to turn a song that was fundamentally, because of its *original* purpose and conception, going to stall out on the charts and confuse teenagers in dance clubs everywhere, into a smash hit, is the problem that Brian Wilson could not solve, that no one could have solved, to which no solution existed. *Not* how to make a whole album using modular recording methods, because Brian Wilson had figured that part out, actually.
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« Reply #285 on: July 24, 2022, 07:03:06 PM »

Yeah, I guess we're just going to have to agree to disagree.  And I do apologize for not being able to tell you that I think your arguments are bad and that you're argumentative with more tact.  It just feels like you pick on me sometimes.  But if you say it's all in good faith, then I will believe you.

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but no concession

Well, then I think the onus is on you to prove it, isn't it?  Prove that Smile had a fixed end date.
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« Reply #286 on: July 24, 2022, 07:13:46 PM »

I hope any future projects about Smile take into consideration all of the various factors surrounding it, and if a project relies on existing and newly-found documentation, those sources are not used to promote a narrative, editorialize, or back up opinions as fact, but instead are shown as part of the timeline free of any narratives or opinions on what the documents actually show.

Let readers and listeners judge for themselves. Ultimately if someone listens to the Smile timeline material, recorded before June 1967, and then listens to the Smiley Smile material, they will be able to form their own opinions about the similarities and differences without being told what or how to think, or that the opinion they have is wrong. If the timeline and documents are used to suggest things that literally no one except those directly involved firsthand could confirm or deny, and promote some opinions over others where both are valid, it becomes an op-ed piece rather than true journalism or historical research.

Guitarfool, I really appreciate your replies in this thread, too. And as I said above, I still find some of your assertions early in this thread very persuasive, albeit (as you yourself have said, I think?), more as something well worth considering than as an overarching ur-narrative. But truly, it takes two perspectives to have a conversation! Whatever anyone decides to believe, if you hadn't made the statements you made about Smiley Smile and the touring band, Joshilyn and sloopjohnb would not have had anything to refute (leaving aside, for the moment, whether that refutation was or was not convincing!), and I would not have learned a great deal that I have learned, both about Smile and about the new research being done on it!

I do feel like I have to say though, that - in my opinion - historians *always* tell a story. We always make an argument. There is always a narrative. Humans cannot organize information without narrative, not really. Even on things like timelines, charts, lists, indexes, the narrative of the compiler *always* shapes the information they present and how they organize it. There is simply no way around it. Better, thus, to have people be open about what they believe, what they think the evidence shows. And we, as readers and listeners, simple have no choice but to sift fact from argument ourselves. There is no way around it. Every newspaper article, every textbook, every collection of historical documents - there is always a narrative and an argument, whether it is explicit or not. This does not invalidate that work, does not mean it is not true historical research, it just means that we never have the luxury of turning off our brains and assuming we are looking at "just the facts!"


I agree with that. With the Beach Boys, however, and specific to Smile, it does feel like there are some narratives which are being pushed out of the discussion to be replaced by others. For example, when discussing the age-old question "what happened to Smile?", it's not a one sentence answer. You could list many factors, many theories, many opinions as to why it happened as it did. But when there is no factual, "point to the passage in the book" kind of answer, all factors must be considered. I think the interpersonal issues within the band and within the Wilson family too contributed to the project falling apart, but that suggestion is more likely to be dismissed in some circles. I also think (not know, but think) that the "drugs" argument is overused in order to push aside other issues that cast a negative view on some of those involved. The music alone - if we're judging the elements of the music in order to shape opinions and possibly reach conclusions - comes down to a purely subjective opinion. Some people hear what others do not: It bothers me when someone tries to tell someone else what they're hearing and what they should think about it. Or with Smile's music specifically, suggesting something fits a certain way over another when no one but Brian actually knew at any given moment in time 55 years ago, and like all creative musicians he could change his mind on a whim. Unless people actually accessed Brian's mind and memory, or could travel back in time, some of the questions simply have no answer that could be called "the truth". Unless the opinion is so far out as to be ridiculous, how can any possibilities be ruled out when there is no way to prove what Brian was thinking at any given point in 1967?

When it comes to Smile, I think so much more than the music has to be researched and absorbed in order to paint a more complete picture of what was happening at the time. I also think that opinion-based narratives and "just the facts" documentation have to be separated carefully when it comes to laying out the hard evidence like session dates and details of what's on the tapes. I don't like seeing narratives and opinions "use" the facts to shape other opinions of a topic or issue, where it becomes less journalism and more the op-ed page. I'd rather see a complete list of the sessions presented as documented fact rather than using those facts to express or promote a narrative.

But that's just me and my own opinion!
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« Reply #287 on: July 24, 2022, 07:14:31 PM »

Quote
By January, despite Good Vibrations massive success, that was no longer true. Again, this is theorizing, thinking out loud...but Brian Wilson was losing confidence in Smile, and making Heroes and Villains a hit came to feel very, very important to him. Perhaps it came to feel like the only way he could prove to the rest of the band that the new direction he was pursuing was the right one. But Heroes and Villains wasn't a huge hit, and nothing Brian did was going to make it one, because it was a weird ass novelty record about the old west. Brilliant, yes, international number 1, probably not so much. And that quandary - how to turn a song that was fundamentally, because of its *original* purpose and conception, going to stall out on the charts and confuse teenagers in dance clubs everywhere, into a smash hit, is the problem that Brian Wilson could not solve, that no one could have solved, to which no solution existed. *Not* how to make a whole album using modular recording methods, because Brian Wilson had figured that part out, actually.

That's really good -- Heroes is definitely the lynchpin; and looking at what Brian was doing--literally physically destroying songs as he sacrifices them to the fool's errand--I can imagine when he finally was as "on the other side of Heroes" as he could have been, that may have been as close to a moment where Smile was "lost" -- like the Giving Tree, Smile had given all it had to give and there was nothing left, so it had to be rebuilt--not from scratch--but from the boneyard of Smile.  He could have rebuilt it in the Classic Pet Sounds style, but with the circumstances being what they were, it felt better to rebuild it more in the mold of the lower-key things he'd been doing on and off for months?
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« Reply #288 on: July 24, 2022, 07:22:01 PM »

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if we're judging the elements of the music in order to shape opinions and possibly reach conclusions - comes down to a purely subjective opinion

That's false, though, categorically.  There is obviously latitude for interpretation, but I think that something like:

Wonderful Session 1 - Musicians Present:

Brian Wilson
Lyle Ritz

Wind Chimes Session 2 - Musicians present:

Van Dyke Parks
Chuck Berghofer
Brian

I'm in Great Shape - Musicians Present:

Jay Migliori
Van Dyke Parks
Dorothy Victor
Brian


compared to a similar breakdown of the Smiley material is objectively illustrative of the beginnings of a minimalist impulse.  Is it not?
« Last Edit: July 24, 2022, 07:29:11 PM by Joshilyn Hoisington » Logged
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« Reply #289 on: July 24, 2022, 07:30:52 PM »

Yeah, I guess we're just going to have to agree to disagree.  And I do apologize for not being able to tell you that I think your arguments are bad and that you're argumentative with more tact.  It just feels like you pick on me sometimes.  But if you say it's all in good faith, then I will believe you.

Quote
but no concession

Well, then I think the onus is on you to prove it, isn't it?  Prove that Smile had a fixed end date.

It's all in good faith, and I'm sorry if you feel that way or if it came off that way because it's not the case at all, in fact quite the opposite. I enjoy discussing and engaging in debates with people who know the topic well and can make rational arguments. I didn't make personal comments directed at others as they were directed at me at all throughout all of this, and was disappointed to see that enter a discussion like this. But hopefully that's done and the discussions can continue.

There is no onus on me to prove anything further since neither your opinion nor mine is "fact", they're our own opinions based on our perception of the evidence we've each seen and heard and processed. There seems to be no "smoking gun" piece of evidence that could definitively prove either side, it's all perception of the evidence and personal opinion. For me, a large part is Carl saying within weeks of the album's release "we started from scratch", a quote which you do not weigh as heavily. I've likewise seen no convincing proof of there not being a definite shift from Smile to Smiley, all I see are opinions because that's all it is! I already laid out multiple times my reasons why I think that way, and exactly when the shift happened. I think it was between when the Beach Boys returned from Europe, that week after sessions were held at the pro studios Brian had been using, when things changed. I don't know how many times I can repeat that. But that's my opinion. Such changes simply do not happen that fast to cause what was an entire change in direction, mindset, and working method without a catalyst.

Here's another opinion: I think something similarly happened in late December 1966 when it was reported by some that a major blow-up happened within the band/family. No details exist, just a report of this happening. How did it affect the music and Smile overall? That's up to everyone to decide, because there are no details as to exactly what happened, just reports that something did. And some would say the focus which was there for the project in the Fall of 66 was lost as they entered 1967.

And that's how I feel about May/June 1967 as well, it's my opinion after weighing what came before and what came after that week.

And again my apologies if what I said at any point came off the wrong way, I have and always had respect for you and your work. Cheers to a good debate!
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« Reply #290 on: July 24, 2022, 07:38:39 PM »

Quote
if we're judging the elements of the music in order to shape opinions and possibly reach conclusions - comes down to a purely subjective opinion

That's false, though, categorically.  There is obviously latitude for interpretation, but I think that something like:

Wonderful Session 1 - Musicians Present:

Brian Wilson
Lyle Ritz

Wind Chimes Session 2 - Musicians present:

Van Dyke Parks
Chuck Berghofer
Brian

I'm in Great Shape - Musicians Present:

Jay Migliori
Van Dyke Parks
Dorothy Victor
Brian


compared to a similar breakdown of the Smiley material is objectively illustrative of the beginnings of a minimalist impulse.  Is it not?

I see it as a composer, arranger, and producer doing what he thought best suited the material at hand and what he thought would work for each song. One of the most common pieces of advice I've heard top producers and engineers give to students and at various clinics and interviews is always make decisions which serve the song, not the other way around. If Brian heard those arrangements for those songs, I think it's just that with no other implications; You may see it as a move toward minimalism, and I don't share that opinion, so we can agree to disagree. If he didn't hear a 14 piece ensemble on "Wonderful" or any of the other tracks, or he didn't want the "Good Vibrations sound" on every song he wrote, that was Brian doing what he thought best served the song.
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« Reply #291 on: July 24, 2022, 07:39:17 PM »

Ok, I think we are somehow talking past each other -- help me understand what's going on here, Craig.

You said:

Quote
But there is none

In response to the idea that there could be "proof" that Smiley grew out of Smile in a non-linear and semi-organic way.

To that, I said:

Quote
Likewise, there is no proof that Smile was scrapped at a discrete point in time and Smiley was started as a completely fresh project.  Can you concede that?

You said:

Quote
no concession

But now you've just said:

Quote
There is no onus on me to prove anything further since neither your opinion nor mine is "fact", they're our own opinions based on our perception of the evidence we've each seen and heard and processed.

Which to me reads as a concession that there is no "proof" that Smiley was scrapped at a discrete point in time.  Can you clear that up for me?
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« Reply #292 on: July 24, 2022, 07:45:15 PM »

Based on the session information posted above about how done everything was, I really think that until the end of December, 1966, Brian was making an album called Smile that was pretty damn close to finished and would have gone out in the jackets Capital Records had already printed. Yea, he changed his mind, he scrapped some things and moved some things around, but creatively, the project was working.

After December, 1966, that was no longer true. And the problem, in my view, was Heroes and Villains.

This whole message is very well said, but I'm highlighting this portion, as it rings especially true.

Like you said, things were sort of beginning to fall apart by Christmas, but there was still an album that could easily have been finished at any given moment, had the Beach Boys been given one week to complete the LP. Those 12 songs could have been finished in a rush if they needed to be.

But the big switch was David Anderle informing Brian that he needed a unique A and B side single to launch Brother Records. Brian was seemingly satisfied with Good Vibrations as the sole single for the project, until his decision to launch a record label for the Boys (which had been in the plans for about a year now) sort of snuck up behind him. There's sufficient evidence in the way that this story has been told for us to believe that Heroes had already been conceived, and maybe even recorded as a song for Smile when Brian got this news. Every session up until October 20 had not produced a piece of a song, but an entire backing track that was in need only of vocal overdubbing. So far, the process was no different than Pet Sounds, beside the fact that the tracks were not performed beginning-to-end live by the ensemble, as Brian used editing to highlight big dynamic and metric contrasts between verses and choruses that couldn't be achieved as well via a continuous performance. There's no reason to believe Heroes was an exception. On October 20, Heroes had only 2 long parts - the verse (which was originally much longer, and is cut down even on The Smile Sessions disc 2), and the Barnyard section, a fadeout which, like all of Brian's Smile fades, adds in new melodies and instruments with each round, rather than starting full steam ahead. With Brian and Van Dyke's 3 verses telling a cohesive love story set in the old west, without the "side quests" that later versions of the song will include, this works perfectly as a concise 2-part album track.

But when Brian was told he needed a single, he chose to rework this song as something both commercial and exciting, and that's when it began to consume parts of other songs. First I'm in Great Shape, then Do You Like Worms, then Cabin Essence, then My Only Sunshine... songs became unusable for the next project, as they were physically disassembled, and the focus shifted entirely toward the new single. It didn't help that for the first time for The Beach Boys (this had been the case for other artists, pseudonyms, studio bands, etc), Brian needed TWO new songs. Previously, he'd relied on material from released albums to fill out the B-side, but on a new record label, he couldn't just take something off Pet Sounds, for example. The entirety of the next 5-6 months is spent trying to get a single. That's not a sign of a stable and healthy mind, it isn't productive to constantly rework one song rather than 12 at once, and it is not going to produce both a single and an album without some big changes being made.
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« Reply #293 on: July 24, 2022, 07:45:47 PM »

Quote
I see it as a composer, arranger, and producer doing what he thought best suited the material at hand and what he thought would work for each song. One of the most common pieces of advice I've heard top producers and engineers give to students and at various clinics and interviews is always make decisions which serve the song, not the other way around. If Brian heard those arrangements for those songs, I think it's just that with no other implications; You may see it as a move toward minimalism, and I don't share that opinion, so we can agree to disagree. If he didn't hear a 14 piece ensemble on "Wonderful" or any of the other tracks, or he didn't want the "Good Vibrations sound" on every song he wrote, that was Brian doing what he thought best served the song.

To me that feels like too zoomed-in of a perspective.

I'm not looking this up right now, so I could be wrong, but I believe the last time Brian used 3 people to do a basic track was probably I'm So Young on Today?  (Not counting IBAMOM, obviously, which has a lot in common with Smiley anyway, and the a capella stuff.)  So there is a pattern of Brian hearing big ensembles on like, 25 straight productions with the previous exceptions noted.  You are unwilling to even consider that a person who had done a big string of big productions who then starts doing some smaller productions might be entertaining the idea of doing smaller productions?  I'm having trouble understanding what your resistance is to this.
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« Reply #294 on: July 24, 2022, 07:49:21 PM »

Ok, I think we are somehow talking past each other -- help me understand what's going on here, Craig.

You said:

Quote
But there is none

In response to the idea that there could be "proof" that Smiley grew out of Smile in a non-linear and semi-organic way.

To that, I said:

Quote
Likewise, there is no proof that Smile was scrapped at a discrete point in time and Smiley was started as a completely fresh project.  Can you concede that?

You said:

Quote
no concession

But now you've just said:

Quote
There is no onus on me to prove anything further since neither your opinion nor mine is "fact", they're our own opinions based on our perception of the evidence we've each seen and heard and processed.

Which to me reads as a concession that there is no "proof" that Smiley was scrapped at a discrete point in time.  Can you clear that up for me?


I said my *opinion" is what it is, I've spelled it out numerous times already, and the only fact is there's no factual proof for either point of the argument. It's all opinion. I don't concede what I made clear was an opinion if I don't agree with the one being offered in return. I happen to think work on Smile ended around the first week of June for good, and you think it was something else. We disagree, simple as that.
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« Reply #295 on: July 24, 2022, 07:49:59 PM »

That's really good -- Heroes is definitely the lynchpin; and looking at what Brian was doing--literally physically destroying songs as he sacrifices them to the fool's errand--I can imagine when he finally was as "on the other side of Heroes" as he could have been, that may have been as close to a moment where Smile was "lost" -- like the Giving Tree, Smile had given all it had to give and there was nothing left, so it had to be rebuilt--not from scratch--but from the boneyard of Smile.  He could have rebuilt it in the Classic Pet Sounds style, but with the circumstances being what they were, it felt better to rebuild it more in the mold of the lower-key things he'd been doing on and off for months?

Yes, exactly!

That's also why I believe that the last point at which the original conception of Smile was viable as a record, at which things could have gone differently, was just before Brian scrapped the Cantina mix of Heroes at the end of February. Because maybe, if he'd put that record out at that time, he could have found his way to finishing the rest of the album while he waited to see how it would do, and even if it didn't do so hot, maybe that wouldn't have been so bad, either... frequently the fear of failure is much worse than actually failing. We all know that feeling when you're so nervous about something, and then the thing you were afraid of actually happens, and like, yea, it sucks, but then it's over and you move on. Whereas the fear beforehand can be just so paralyzing.

But by March, by April, the project was just...exhausted. It needed to be renewed, rebuilt. Just like you say, building on work he'd already started, a style he'd already been experimenting with.

Also, I *do* think the Smile working method was perhaps uniquely liable to be derailed by a long delay. Because any creative person knows how hard it is to pick up a project you've set aside for months, whether it's a draft of an essay or a half-finished song or a short story. It really is, in most cases, just harder once the momentum is gone. And because of how Smile was organized, Brian would have had to do that with *every* *single* *song* if he'd wanted to finish the original session tapes in the summer of 1767. Every single song would have been - okay, what was I thinking here, what did I want to do with this, where did I put that tape, was this section on this reel or that reel. Whereas if he'd been recording songs one at a time, he could have just picked up with whatever song he'd been in the middle of. And if he'd *not* been derailed by Heroes, well than work wouldn't have been interrupted and he would have just kept going.
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« Reply #296 on: July 24, 2022, 07:51:20 PM »

Craig -- OK, I badly misinterpreted what you were saying as you saying you had proof and I did not.  Thank you for clearing that up.
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« Reply #297 on: July 24, 2022, 07:56:13 PM »

Quote
I see it as a composer, arranger, and producer doing what he thought best suited the material at hand and what he thought would work for each song. One of the most common pieces of advice I've heard top producers and engineers give to students and at various clinics and interviews is always make decisions which serve the song, not the other way around. If Brian heard those arrangements for those songs, I think it's just that with no other implications; You may see it as a move toward minimalism, and I don't share that opinion, so we can agree to disagree. If he didn't hear a 14 piece ensemble on "Wonderful" or any of the other tracks, or he didn't want the "Good Vibrations sound" on every song he wrote, that was Brian doing what he thought best served the song.

To me that feels like too zoomed-in of a perspective.

I'm not looking this up right now, so I could be wrong, but I believe the last time Brian used 3 people to do a basic track was probably I'm So Young on Today?  (Not counting IBAMOM, obviously, which has a lot in common with Smiley anyway, and the a capella stuff.)  So there is a pattern of Brian hearing big ensembles on like, 25 straight productions with the previous exceptions noted.  You are unwilling to even consider that a person who had done a big string of big productions who then starts doing some smaller productions might be entertaining the idea of doing smaller productions?  I'm having trouble understanding what your resistance is to this.

I'm just calling it as I see it! If he thought those songs would be better served by a more sparse arrangement, that's exactly what he worked up for them and recorded. I just don't see any bigger implications behind those decisions that are made with basically any song in the production process. Was "Yesterday" anything beyond the Beatles and their producer thinking the song would be better served by a string quartet and guitar accompaniment rather than the standard "Beatles" lineup heard on all the songs that surrounded it?
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« Reply #298 on: July 24, 2022, 07:56:57 PM »

Also, I *do* think the Smile working method was perhaps uniquely liable to be derailed by a long delay. Because any creative person knows how hard it is to pick up a project you've set aside for months, whether it's a draft of an essay or a half-finished song or a short story. It really is, in most cases, just harder once the momentum is gone. And because of how Smile was organized, Brian would have had to do that with *every* *single* *song* if he'd wanted to finish the original session tapes in the summer of 1767. Every single song would have been - okay, what was I thinking here, what did I want to do with this, where did I put that tape, was this section on this reel or that reel. Whereas if he'd been recording songs one at a time, he could have just picked up with whatever song he'd been in the middle of. And if he'd *not* been derailed by Heroes, well than work wouldn't have been interrupted and he would have just kept going.

Couldn't have said it better.

This was Brian at his most indecisive. A few days were enough time for him to completely change his mind on the structure, the arrangement, or the feel of a certain song. Many of them had been remade from scratch a few times, just days apart already. When you change those days to months, to the point where Brian hadn't even looked at the majority of the album for half a year? Of course he's going to restart most of it.
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« Reply #299 on: July 24, 2022, 07:59:12 PM »

Based on the session information posted above about how done everything was, I really think that until the end of December, 1966, Brian was making an album called Smile that was pretty damn close to finished and would have gone out in the jackets Capital Records had already printed. Yea, he changed his mind, he scrapped some things and moved some things around, but creatively, the project was working.

After December, 1966, that was no longer true. And the problem, in my view, was Heroes and Villains.

This whole message is very well said, but I'm highlighting this portion, as it rings especially true.

Like you said, things were sort of beginning to fall apart by Christmas, but there was still an album that could easily have been finished at any given moment, had the Beach Boys been given one week to complete the LP. Those 12 songs could have been finished in a rush if they needed to be.

But the big switch was David Anderle informing Brian that he needed a unique A and B side single to launch Brother Records. Brian was seemingly satisfied with Good Vibrations as the sole single for the project, until his decision to launch a record label for the Boys (which had been in the plans for about a year now) sort of snuck up behind him. There's sufficient evidence in the way that this story has been told for us to believe that Heroes had already been conceived, and maybe even recorded as a song for Smile when Brian got this news. Every session up until October 20 had not produced a piece of a song, but an entire backing track that was in need only of vocal overdubbing. So far, the process was no different than Pet Sounds, beside the fact that the tracks were not performed beginning-to-end live by the ensemble, as Brian used editing to highlight big dynamic and metric contrasts between verses and choruses that couldn't be achieved as well via a continuous performance. There's no reason to believe Heroes was an exception. On October 20, Heroes had only 2 long parts - the verse (which was originally much longer, and is cut down even on The Smile Sessions disc 2), and the Barnyard section, a fadeout which, like all of Brian's Smile fades, adds in new melodies and instruments with each round, rather than starting full steam ahead. With Brian and Van Dyke's 3 verses telling a cohesive love story set in the old west, without the "side quests" that later versions of the song will include, this works perfectly as a concise 2-part album track.

But when Brian was told he needed a single, he chose to rework this song as something both commercial and exciting, and that's when it began to consume parts of other songs. First I'm in Great Shape, then Do You Like Worms, then Cabin Essence, then My Only Sunshine... songs became unusable for the next project, as they were physically disassembled, and the focus shifted entirely toward the new single. It didn't help that for the first time for The Beach Boys (this had been the case for other artists, pseudonyms, studio bands, etc), Brian needed TWO new songs. Previously, he'd relied on material from released albums to fill out the B-side, but on a new record label, he couldn't just take something off Pet Sounds, for example. The entirety of the next 5-6 months is spent trying to get a single. That's not a sign of a stable and healthy mind, it isn't productive to constantly rework one song rather than 12 at once, and it is not going to produce both a single and an album without some big changes being made.

Man this post clarifies so, so much for me. Thank you for posting this!
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