THE BEACH BOYS Smile
Our Prayer 1:05
Heroes And Villains 4:52
Do You Like Worms? (Roll Plymouth Rock) 3:35
I’m In Great Shape 0:28
My Old Sunshine (The Old Master Painter / You Are My Sunshine) 1:55
Cabin Essence 3:30
Look (Song For Children) 2:31
Child Is Father Of The Man 2:10
Surf’s Up 4:12
I Wanna Be Around / Workshop 1:23
Wind Chimes 3:06
The Elements: Fire (Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow) 2:35
Love To Say Dada 3:06
Good Vibrations 4:15 (UK single, #1)
Wait a second, I hear (some of) you cry….”Smile” doesn’t exist as a proper album! It was never actually released in early 1967, despite Capitol Records printing up almost half-a-million sleeves in readiness for the big occasion. Songs from the aborted sessions turned up on other albums over the next decade, in different guises and mixes, but Smile itself became the stuff of industry and fan legend, the great “Lost” album. What must it have sounded like? How amazing must it have been? Why on earth couldn’t someone, if not Brian Wilson, have just tried to get the project completed enough for Capitol to fill those empty sleeves? So many unanswered questions.
Until 2004, when Wilson himself – by now a solo artist on Reprise – with the help of some trusted accomplices put together a version of Smile, based on the original but with the songs freshly recorded and in some cases, embellished and completed. Everyone went “wow, at last” for a few minutes, then a collective “oh” seemed to descend and, beyond the novelty of actually hearing a sort-of version of Smile with Wilson at the centre of its (re)creation, the fascination dissipated rather quickly. Everyone assumed that was that, in the life of Smile.
Oh no. Seven years later, we got “The Smile Sessions”. The closest-yet-to-how-it-was-intended take on the album made up the first disc of a mighty set (the deluxe versions have every available snippet and reel of audio, should you wish to create your own Smile from these stems). It starts with the heavenly harmonies of Our Prayer, and concludes with the iconic Good Vibrations single, the only track that was ever finished at the time.
If we accept this particular incarnation as a proper album (which I am going to do!), then pop music really doesn’t get much more dizzyingly inventive and joyful as Smile. Forty five years of hype can do funny things to expectations, but you know what….it hangs together like magic.
The vocal work throughout is sensational, Heroes & Villains as included here (rather than any later/alternate version) the pick of the bunch. Vega-tables is silly but totally adorable. Remember, this was meant to be heard in the year of Sgt Pepper; it equals that record for invention and runaway creativity, but adds the sublime Beach Boys harmonies and a uniquely American concept (something to do with the history of America and the story of the early pilgrims).
Pet Sounds is amazing, yes. When I want to hear the Beach Boys at their mid-60s peak, however, I go for Smile.