Everything and anything you might ever need to know about Smile is online – and, after November the 1st, I’m sure all the official audio will also be a mere touchpad-tap away, at megaupload, mediafire, torrent sites et al. If you’ve come here via a Google search for ‘smile sessions mp3’ (and some people have), BE PATIENT! I’ve been waiting a quarter of a century – but pity this poor soldier (in a diary entry from April 1967) :
Smile‘s wikipedia entry now includes full tracklists for the upcoming Smile Sessions; you can also go wayback in internet-time (amazing how a decade somehow seems like a century) here or here or here or via here – and it was dialup internet and fan sites like these (hosted at Angelfire, Tripod & Geocities) that have helped put Smile into this 21st century public domain.
Obviously, at one time, there was precious little known about The Beach Boys unreleased recordings circa 66/67. The band themselves were often (and quite deliberately) the least reliable source of accurate information, and in interviews throughout the 1970s and 80s they reiterate ad nauseum a collective dismissal of this historical ‘blip’. Brian Wilson himself could often be the most contradictory, curtailed (presumably) by a loyalty to his family. It thus took fans and enthusiasts to uncover the specifics about Smile.
People like David Leaf, Brad Elliott, Peter Reum and Byron Preiss (in the US), and Mike Grant and Kingsley Abbott (in the UK) collated their discoveries via fanzines such as Endless Summer Quarterly and Beach Boys Stomp – and ultimately all of this has coalesced into the full documentation of the Smile Sessions release.
Domenic Priore, as Smile‘s current historical custodian (and the author of the 60-page book that accompanies the 2011 release) deserves to get coronated or knighted or given some such similar fucking honour for compiling this :
being Dumb Angel Gazette #2: Look! Listen! Vibrate! Smile! (Surfin Colors; I traded in my 1988 edition for this Last Gasp revised & expanded version in the late 90s, as its binding was collapsing through overuse)
It’s a densely-packed 300 page ‘scrapbook’ of contemporary journalism, graphics and adverts (its title and cover art was an advertisement for Smile when it was still forthcoming), plus session photos and log sheets, Capitol Records in-house memos (and a little bit of original, and possibly-spurious speculation…)…so much stuff. It’s also the source of the diary entry above, as well as the NME Poll graphic used here. Of course it’s absolutely essential. Seems it’s also not too cheap to pick up these days, but you can fuck off borrowing mine, I’m lending it to Chris down the street first.
Much less essential however is this :
(Sanctuary, 2005), which is a kind of handy ‘pocket guide’, but should have been authoritative and isn’t (and especially after Priore was considered for a knighthood for services rendered)…a review on Amazon from someone with an opinion:
Priore’s 20-odd pages devoted to post-Smile fandom (Chapter 15, An Underground Train) was extraordinarily informative, to me anyway, especially in contextualising Darian Sahanaja’s path from Smile fan to the live Smile‘s ‘musical secretary’. I’m gonna go on about this some more in a later post.
I’ve read and reread this way too many times :
(Backbeat, 2004), because a reliable Beach Boys timeline is crucial in understanding Smile, and exactly how and why Brian Wilson lost his way over the years. The ‘on stage’/’in the studio’ dichotomy clarifies a whole bunch of otherwise inexplicable occurences – and the book ’rounds up’ most everything post-1976, because The Beach Boys stopped being interesting, began their ‘endless summer’, and cultivated their Reaganite/Morlock fan base. This is a book for the Eloi…
I got this from Newcastle’s Pet Sounds shop in the mid-90s, and it reprints in facsimile (ie. it’s a poorly-bound collection of photocopies) pretty much all of the useful and informative press about the band from the mid-70s up to the Capitol CD reissues in the early ’90s. So there are all three parts of The Last Beach Movie by Nick Kent (from the NME in ’75), Tom Nolan’s The Healing of Brother Brian from Rolling Stone in 76, and a Goldmine magazine overview of the entire Beach Boys catalogue (1990), as well as a whole bunch of Beach Boys™-sponsored ‘Brian Is Back’ bullshit…some of this is truly horrifying reading. I would imagine that this and its companion volumes were the basis for Abbott’s Back To The Beach, but I’ve yet to find a copy secondhand.
The Pet Sounds shoppie seemed thrilled to take my payment for this, maybe due to its monstrously-unattractive cover (though I do like the teeny-tiny Bruce Johnston..).
Wouldn’t It Be Nice – My Own Story appears to be written by someone called Todd Gold (‘coauthor of Little Girl Lost – The Drew Barrymore Story’) – it sure as hell wasn’t written by Brian Wilson. Various people attempted to sue Brian for defamation of character, as well as plagarism when this weird book was first published. If Brian’s own authorised autobiography has to steal from scurrilous and unauthorised hackjobs, and is prefaced with the caveat that, ‘to the best of my abilities, this book is how I remember my life up until this point’, one must exercise caution about any firsthand reportage. However there are a few useful details within (even if they’re nicked from other people).
Surf’s Up! – The Beach Boys On Record, 1961-1981 by Brad Elliott (Pieran Press, 1982) was at one time the motherlode of Beach Boys data, and contained some of the first accurate Smile-related information between (lovely clothbound) hard covers. These 7 pages (out of 500) might not seem like much now, but without Brad Elliott’s research (and his followup 1988 article The Facts About Smile, as reprinted in Look! Listen! Vibrate! Smile!, pages 144-160), Smile academia would be a far less well-informed discipline.
Heroes and Villains – The True Story of the Beach Boys by Steven Gaines (Macmillan, 1986) is only ‘true’ inasmuch as it covers some of the more unsavoury aspects of the Wilson extended-family saga (Charles Manson, sex, drugs, Mike Love). I bought this when it was first published (an expensive hardback, purchase subsidised with a Housing Benefit cheque), because I couldn’t stop looking at its Smile session pics on the Wilshaw’s bookshop display. Gaines, to his credit, popped up on a Beach Boys messageboard a few years ago and essentially apologised for some of the book’s more egregious claims. Admirable.
The Beach Boys by John Tobler (Hamlyn, 1978) – this is the spine of what we affectionately referred to as ‘The Beach Boys Annual’, a kind of pop music picture book, and from a time when the popular music idiom didn’t get too much academic consideration. I have a companion called West Coast Story which served a similar purpose, but that one still has its dustjacket; The Beach Boys Annual got so pockmarked (cos we used to skin up on it) that its jacket was eventually discarded. John Tobler was always a fan, and while some Smile rumour gets regurgitated here (Fire tapes destroyed etc.), it’s actually quite a respectable history, considering that (with dustjacket) it might easily have made the perfect Christmas gift, alongside that 1978 Whizzer & Chips Annual…
Point of all of this? Well certainly not to demonstrate erudition; even this long out-of-date list has books I have neither seen nor read (and especially those by David Leaf and Timothy White). I do, however, plan to make a few join-the-dots observations about Brian and The Beach Boys as this indeterminate series unfolds. And I would rather that some paper-based ‘primary sources’ have been, at the very least, consulted and considered, than write what reads like a rehashed rehash of a Wikipedia rehash.
Everything and anything you might ever need to know about anything is now online; there is no longer any excuse for ignorance. And I wouldn’t want to ever seem this dumb :
September 16, 2011This week marks the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s magnum opus. Here’s why it’s better than any of the rest.
Not the White Album. Not Gimme Shelter. Not Are You Experienced. Not even The Fabulous Little Richard. Those albums are all canonical, and surely there are other very important records in the history of rock ‘n’ roll that are contenders. But none of them are Nevermind, the breakout album of a previously little-known trio from the working-class logging town of Aberdeen, Washington.
Other albums might have influenced the sound of music in certain ways, might have been important to rock’s trajectory. But none of them changed the culture at large so vastly, so roughly and so immediately. Even the hippies of the ‘60s counterculture weren’t influenced and changed so distinctly as those of us living in a post-Nirvana world. In a way, the strange epoch we’re stuck with now is both a reflection and a result of the way Nevermind affected us; we are living the chaotic meaninglessness the album prophesied, even more than the shitshow that was the 1990s. If Nevermind was an existential statement, we’ve been blasted into the apocalypse.
I was unaware that the Rolling Stones’ ‘Gimme Shelter’ was ‘canonical’ – or even existed…but, you know, 1991 was so long ago…