This has nothing to do with Mardi Gras, except that hearing about it makes me want to dance in the streets!
Perhaps the most highly-regarded unreleased record in rock history, the Beach Boys’ SMiLE, is reportedly getting its official release 37 years after its creation, in fall 2004. According to a recent report from BBC News Online: “A few months ago Wilson revisited the SMiLE tapes in Capitol Records’ vaults and went on to finish the album with his original lyricist, Van Dyke Parks.”
Recorded between April 1966 and May 1967, SMiLE (working title Dumb Angel) was to be Brian Wilson’s “teenage symphony to God,” an album that would at once best the Beatles and surpass Wilson’s latest masterpiece, Pet Sounds. Working with avant-garde lyricist Parks and the session players featured on Pet Sounds, Wilson crafted the album away from the other Beach Boys, who were then touring. Upon their return from the tour, the group met the album with mixed feelings, arguing that SMiLE’s obscure lyrics and insanely dense compositions strayed too far from the norm to be considered for release.
Wilson continued to experiment with the studio through the recording of SMiLE, but also suffered bouts with severe drug addiction and mental instability that further delayed the album’s completion. In perhaps the most-cited example of Wilson’s paranoia, he reportedly became convinced that his music was responsible for a series of fires in the vicinity of the recording studio. Another oft-repeated legend says the reclusive genius cancelled several expensive recording sessions due to ‘bad vibes,’ distancing himself from his musicians, bandmates, record label, and Parks alike.
Though nearly half a million record covers and booklets were printed in preparation for the release of SMiLE, Wilson abandoned the project in May 1967 and has scarcely spoken about it since. Pending ligitation with Capitol Records (over unpaid royalties), clashes between Mike Love and Parks over the themes and lyrical content of SMiLE, and Wilson’s growing disillusionment with the project all led to its being permanently shelved. That June, Wilson holed up in his home studio with his bandmates and recorded the clumsy Smiley Smile, featuring neutered renditions of SMiLE material– including a severely altered single of “Heroes and Villains” that was partially recorded in Wilson’s drained swimming pool.
It’s hard to imagine bigger news than this in the pop music world. I suppose if there were a newly-discovered full-length album by The Beatles, that would come close. But the thing about SMiLE is that everybody knew about it, everybody has had many of the bits and pieces available to construct their own theories … but before now no one could know for sure what SMiLE should have sounded like. Now we can all hear it for ourselves.
This is huge. Even if you think the Beach Boys suck, this is still huge.Powered by Sidelines