The Beach Boys – Smile (Redux)

I suppose that it was only a matter of time before I had a crack at this. ‘Smile’ by The Beach Boys is the the Holy Grail of unreleased records. The whole things started with the release of the ‘Good Vibrations’ single. Sounding like nothing that had been before, and since, ‘Good Vibrations’ was made up of sections edited together to make a whole. Essentially what we got was a pocket symphony lasting just over three and a half minutes. 

This was a complete departure musically with the lyrics reflecting the burgeoning psychedelic movement. Brian Wilson’s approach was justified as it was a top ten single in most of the major record buying markets, and went to number 1 in the USA and UK. Emboldened by the success of the single, Wilson looked to make an album using the same modular approach as ‘Good Vibrations’. Over a ten month period, sessions for ‘Smile’ would continue before collapsing for a myriad of reasons. These included:

The band (who were not involved in the majority of the Smile sessions in a musical way since Wilson used the legendary Wrecking Crew of top notch sessions musicians to interpret his vision) were confused by this new direction. For the early sessions, they had been away on tour and were unaware of Wilson was up to in the studio. 

Brian Wilson was gradually becoming more unstable during the recording sessions. This became apparent during the recording of the song ‘Fire’ when Wilson felt that the music had caused conflagrations in the area around the studio. This increased stability and paranoia may have increased due to his drug intact.

The band decided to take out a lawsuit against their record label for the non payment of royalties. Even if the album had been ready to go in mid 1967, it is unlikely that it would have been released at that time until the lawsuit was settled. With the music scene in the 60s never sticking to one genre too long, a delayed ‘Smile’ may well have been out of place musically and that would have effected sales.  

The fact that the method Brian Wilson was using to put this album together was taxing at best, and near impossible in reality. With all of the music committed to tape, the only way to fit all of the sections together was by cutting and splicing the material together. Wilson had also spent so much time listening to the music, he could not longer see where the project was going as he couldn’t make up his mind what sections were worth using and where they would fit together. 

These were not the only reasons why this album was not finished but it could be argued that these were the core. The Smile album has hung like a weight around the neck of the bands ever since the sessions collapsed in 1967. A version of ‘Heroes & Villains’ was released as a single, but did not match the success of ‘Good Vibrations’. Wilson felt that ‘Heroes & Villains’ would take the band away from the girls and surf music songs that they had been known for. It also ended Wilson’ self imposed need to compete with The Beatles. The failure of that single was taken to heart by Wilson and he slowly distance himself from the creative process. 

‘Smile’ was never finished but that did not stop The Beach Boys from raiding the archive to include songs form the project to fill out that gaps left by Brian Wilson’s lack of creativity. ‘Cabin Essence’ and ‘Our Prayer’ would both appear on the ’20/20’ album. Sound effects from ‘Workshop’ would be included as the coda to the ’20/20’ version of ‘Do It Again’ ‘Surf’s Up’ would become the title track of their 1971 album with Carl Wilson recording the lead vocal that Brian was either unwilling or unable to record (due to the damage to his voice from smoking and drug habit). This version would also include the ‘Child Is The Father To The Man’ vocals included in the coda, which was included by Carl. ‘Mama Says’ from ‘Wild Honey’ was based on a section from the song ‘Vega-Tables’ and a part for the bridge if ‘Little Bird’ from the ‘Friends’ album also has a nod to the ‘Smile’ project in the form of the brass sound that was ultimately used.

Still ‘Smile’ refused to go away. When the band negotiated a contract with Warner Brothers Records in 1969, it was stipulated that they needed to provide a complete ‘Smile’ by 1973. Even though Carl Wilson said that the release was imitate, ‘Smile’ still didn’t appear. In the late 70s, the idea of releasing the sessions as a series of records, but this and a similar idea that was put forward in the early 80s came to nothing. It would take until 1993 and the ‘Good Vibrations: 30 Years of The Beach Boys’ box set for the first officially sanctioned release of ‘Smile’ material. At the same time, the sessions were becoming widely bootlegged, especially when CD replaced vinyl as the format of choice for the listener. It would take until 2004 for something resemble Smile to come out. 

After the success of taking ‘Pet Sounds’ out on the road, Wilson was persuaded to go back to ‘Smile’ and a series of live concerts were performed at the Royal Festival Hall in London in 2003. An album followed in 2004, which did not include any of the original sessions and with original lyrical contributor Van Dyke Parks coming on board to finish off the words that had been left unsaid in the 60s. The concerts were a huge success and I was lucky enough to see it on opening night. The album was Wilson’s most successful solo work to that date. This in turn lead to the release of 2011s ‘The Smile Sessions’ where a version of ‘Smile was presented using the 2004 release as a template. It also include a number of sessions as well as a comprehensive guide to the recording sessions. The release was a success and won the Grammy for best Historical Album.

So why produce my own version? The great things about ‘Smile’ is that because it was never finished, nor a running order set out until 2004, it is easy to make your own. Using the 2011 mix as a guide and only including material from the box set, I split the music into two sections. Section 1 is labels ‘Heroes & Villains’ as the riff used for that song crops up in a good number of the tunes included here. This finishes with Cabin Essence. Section 2 is The Elements. This includes songs that reference each of the four elements; earth (‘Vega-Tables’), water (‘Cool, Cool Water’), air (‘Wind Chimes’) and fire (Mrs O’Leary’s Cow’). Apart from the fire element, these songs did not make up Brian Wilson’s proposed song cycle for this suite, but like so much of ‘Smile’ he did not record all of the pieces so I have just utilised some of the material for my own ends. As a bonus song, I have included the double sided ‘Heroes & Villains’ single that was included in the 2011 box set. 

A number of these songs were never destined for the original ‘Smile’ record, but as they were all on the 2011 box set, they were fair game as far as I was concerned. This is also a rare compilation for me as I did not look to make the music fit to the playing time of a vinyl record. This was designed to utilise the expanded playing time of a CD. Enjoy. 

  1. You’re Welcome
  2. The Heroes & Villains Suite
  3. Barnyard
  4. My Only Sunshine (The Old Master Painter/You Are My Sunshine)
  5. Wonderful
  6. Wonderful (Version 3)/ Child Is The Father Of Man
  7. Do You Like Worms (Roll Plymouth Rock)/Love To Say Dada Pt.1
  8. He Gives Speeches
  9. I’m In Great Shape
  10. Cabin Essence
  11. Our Prayer
  12. Good Vibrations
  13. Holidays
  14. Wind Chines
  15. The Elements: Fire (Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow)
  16. I Wanna Be Around/Workshop
  17. Vega-tables
  18. Love To Say Dada Pt.2
  19. Look (Song For Children)
  20. Cool, Cool Water
  21. You’re With Me Tonight
  22. Surf’s Up
  23. Good Vibrations (Reprise)
  24. Heroes & Villains (Part 1)
  25. Heroes & Villains (Part 2)

For the cover artwork, I decided against using the sleeve that was produced back in 1967, but instead went for a fan version. This was produced by Dillon Carson and I did need to do a little bit of editing on it as his track listing did not match my own. I also added in the Capitol Records logo. You can find more of his work can be found on his website: https://www.dilloncarson.com.

He is also responsible for responsible for the cover artwork on the 2021 Beach Boys box set, ‘Feel Flows: The Sunflower & Surf’s Up Sessions 1969-1971’.

(RSD Special) Dana Gillespie – The Complete Pye Singles

Dana Gillespie has had an interesting career. She was once the British junior water-skying champion, appeared in the West End in musicals such as Jesus Christ Superstar, was cast in a number of films and recorded numerous albums since her first was released in 1968. That album was ‘Foolish Seasons’. It was recorded with a number of famous session players such as Big Jim Sullivan and Herbie Flowers as well as John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page before they formed Led Zeppelin. The album was only released in the USA at the time and became a bit of a collectors item. It was finally released in the UK including two previously unreleased songs and new cover artwork for Record Store Day in April 2022. However, this LP was not Gillespies first time on vinyl. 

She has started her recording career in 1965 by releasing ‘Thank You Boy’. This was the first of three singles she released on Pye Records, each of whom contained a cover but the B-Sides were all written, or at least co-written by Gillespie herself. Not bad for someone who was 15 years old when their first single came out. None of the singles troubled the charts but as far as I can tell, they have not been compiled in one place before. To complement the re-release of ‘Foolish Seasons’ on the last Record Store Day, I thought it would nice to follow that up with a compilation of all of Gillespies’ Pye Singles. 

Side A

  1. Thank You Baby
  2. You’re A Heartbroken Man
  3. Donna Donna

Side B

  1. It’s No Use Saying If
  2. Pay You Back With Interest
  3. Adam Can You Beat That

The Beach Boys – Endless Bummer Vol.2

I am not be the first person to come up with the concept of looking at the worst recordings from an artists back catalogue. I believe that the first was the infamous bootleg, ‘Elvis’ Greatest Shit’ which was released in 1982 showcasing some of the worst recordings from the King’s career. This is also not the first time I have looked at some of the worst recordings of The Beach Boys. ‘Volume 1’ in this series was posted back in November of 2021. This collection was not only inspired by the aforementioned fake Elvis album, but a Beach Boys bootleg called ‘Endless Bummer, The Very Worst of The Beach Boys’. As I said back in November of last year, it sure does live up to its title. There is a drunk Carl Wilson trying to make his way through ‘Good Vibrations’, Mike Love making a quick buck on some adverts, a Spanish language version of their massive mid 80s hit, ‘Kokomo’ as well Brian Wilson’s father berating him in the recoding studio. However, all of these recording have not been released commercially as far as I can tell, and it is unlikely that they ever will be. 

In these collections, I look at songs that the band officially released and in this case, they all come from their albums. This collection looks at the period between 1967 and 1979. This is a much wider span of years than ‘Volume 1’, but that is down to a number of factors. 

The group became more of a band after the collapse of the ‘Smile’ sessions. Each member contributed songs, and therefore the work load that had once sat on Brian Wilson’s shoulders has now been distributed around a lot more evenly. The release schedule of the albums was a lot more spread out. Where as between 1962 and 1967, the band released 13 studio and one live album. Between 1968 and 1973, they released one new studio album a year. There was then a break of three years before releasing a record a year between 1976 and 1980. 

That period between 1968 and 1973 could be seen as a real purple patch for the band. The albums always contained some excellent material and this was their most consistent period. None of the albums is a classic but as a whole, they are a lot more constant than the period before ‘Pet Sounds’. The amount of filler is dramatically reduced. Like Dylan though, they seemed to leave a lot of A-Grade material in the archive. Thankfully, this has been making its way into the world via bootlegs but more recently archive releases by the band. 

The three year gap between records during the period 1973 and 1976 derailed the band somewhat. A compilation was released called ‘Endless Summer’ which contained some of their most popular songs from the sixties. The compilation sold millions and their manager told the band to start playing some of this material in their sets. The band obliged and with this rise in popularity, they became one of the must see live bands of the mid 1970’s. Brian Wilson meanwhile had taken the death of his father badly and retreated into drug addiction which took him out of action for about two and half years. The knock on effect of both of these events was that The Beach Boys became more of an oldies act. 

What followed were a series of underwhelming albums which has pretty much been the way of The Beach Boys ever since. Instead of setting the trends, they were now following them, trying to stay relevant. This will become more apparent in ‘Volume 3’. So what goodies as it were are served up in they second helping?

Side A

  1. A Day In The Life Of A Tree (Surf’s Up)
  2. I’d Love Just Once To See You (Wild Honey)
  3. Transcendental Meditation (Friends)
  4. Take A Load Off Your Feet (Surf’s Up)
  5. Johnny Carson (Love You)
  6. Solar System (Love You)
  7. I Wanna Pick You Up (Love You)

Side B

  1. TM Song (15 Big Ones)
  2. Match Point Of Your Love (M.I.U. Album) 
  3. Some Of Your Love (Keepin’ The Summer Alive)
  4. Hey Little Tomboy (M.I.U. Album)
  5. Sumahama (L.A. (Light Album))
  6. Shortening’ Bread (L.A. (Light Album)

A Day In The Life Of A Tree – Written from the point of view of a tree and how pollution was slowly killing it. Very much ahead of its time, but according to Al Jardine, it was so depressing that they conned their manager Jack Riley into singing it. Riley may well have been a good manager, but a singer he was not. 

I’d Love Just Once To See You – not a terrible tune by any stretch of the imagination, but it is the lyrics that are the problem here. Something that will come up time and again on this compilation. It is a song about a mundane day but with a little bit at the very end that would have been funny to a very young person, but not for everyone else. Once you know the payoff, it does’t warrant to many repeat listens. 

Transcendental Meditation – I thought that meditation was all about being relaxed. Well, this does not make me relaxed. The brass instruments jar against the noise the rest of the musicians are making and the lyrics sound like they are being sung purposefully badly. A weak effort on an otherwise pretty good album. 

Take A Load Off Your Feet – Who needs a song that tells you how to look after your feet? Well, Al Jardine thought we did. Compared to what was also recorded during the sessions for the ‘Surf’s Up’ that was left in the archive, this was a weak effort. It might have been fun to make but a good song this is not. 

Johnny Carson – Johnny Carson was best known as a talk show host, but mostly in the United States. Anyone not living or at least visiting the USA between 1962 and 1992 when the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson was airing would not have had any idea who this guy was, and why there was a tribute song to him on a Beach Boys album. When the man himself was asked about the song, he said “It was not a work of art”. 

Solar System – Brian Wilson has written some of the greatest pieces of music of all time, but even thought the man himself says he is proud of this effort, this is just a song about stars and planets. The lyrics also sound a bit lazy. “If Mars had life on it, I might find my wife on it”. Oh dear. 

I Wanna Pick You Up – Bring Wilson said this was about a girl/woman (it is unclear which) who is too big to pick up. Is this song about song about an infant even? The lyrics state “pat, pat, pat on her butt, butt”. If it isn’t an infant, then what the hell are these lyrics trying to tell us? 

TM Song – Starting off with a fake argument (the band tried this track on ‘Cassius’ Love v ‘Sonny’ Wilson’ contained on ‘Volume 1’), this is another song about Transcendental Meditation. Still not the most relaxing of listens. 

Match Point Of Your Love – The tune is pretty good, but the lyrics are absolutely terrible. How many tennis metaphors can be made in a song? Too many in this songs case. 

Some Of Your Love – Judging by the lyrics, this sounds as though it was written about a girl in school. the age of the girl is not revealed but by this point in their lives, The Beach Boys were all pushing 40 years of age. Not creepy at all then.

Hey Little Tomboy – In these times of gender fluidity, I’m surprised that there hasn’t been some complaints about this song. Being it is a bit obscure might have helped. The songs is about trying to stop a girl being a tomboy and start being more feminine so the boys would like her. The fact that the songs narrator is Mike Love and tells the tomboy to sit on his lap whilst he is thinking about all of the changes he sees for her could be the most unsettling thing The Beach Boys ever recorded. Remember, this is the band that recorded a song written by Charles Manson. 

When Girls Get Together – Originally recorded for the ‘Sunflower’ album, ten years earlier, this song details that all women seem to talk about are the men in their lives. They don’t have time to waste on what the weather is or that they can’t solve a mystery. Another lyric that has not stood the test of time. 

Shortening’ Bread – Brian Wilson was fixated with recording this song. This is a traditional song and Wilson had the band record numerous versions of this song. In fact, he played it so often that he caused Iggy Pop to proclaim him nuts after subjecting Mr Pop to one of his numerous renditions, that went on and on and on etc. Only one version has been released. In future, we might get a whole album dedicated just to Brian Wilson’s recordings of this song. I do hope not. 

Ding Dang – At under a minute, this must be one of the shortest Beach Boys song. Written by Wilson and Roger McGuinn of The Byrds one night when the former had visited the latter to acquire some amphetamines. Wilson obsessed over this song as well, recording numerous versions but ultimately the one that came out was the same as the version McGuinn and Wilson worked on a few years before. 

I was tempted by a number of songs from ‘Smiley Smile’, especially ‘Little Pad’ which starts off with The Beach Boys obviously stoned, but the rest of the track is pretty good. Shame they didn’t edit out the start. 

Various Artists – A Whole Lot Of Rainbows

It is the start of the summer months, so in the UK that normally means lots of rain. However, that does not mean that the music must match it so here is the first of a series of compilations featuring songs that I hope will bring a touch of sunshine to your day. 

Disc 1

  1. Spinning, Spinning, Spinning – The Ballroom
  2. Stoned Soul Picnic (Mono) – Laura Nyro
  3. You Showed Me – The Turtles
  4. Groovin’ – The Young Rascals
  5. Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In – The 5th Dimension
  6. Five O’Clock World – The Vogues
  7. Walk Right In – The Rooftop Singers
  8. Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head – B. J. Thomas
  9. Monday, Monday – The Mamas & The Papas
  10. Daydream – The Loving Spoonful
  11. The 59th Bridge Street Song (Feeling Groovy) – Simon & Garfunkel
  12. Pleasant Valley Sunday – The Monkees
  13. Windy (Mono 45 Mix) – The Association
  14. Good Morning Starshine – Oliver
  15. Yellow Balloon – Yellow Balloon
  16. Ain’t Gonna Lie – Keith
  17. Only You Know & I Know – Delaney & Bonnie
  18. Crystal Blue Persuasion – Tommy James & The Shondells
  19. I Can’t Let Maggie Go – Honeybus
  20. Baby You Come Rollin’ ‘Cross My Mind – The Peppermint Trolley Company
  21. What The World Needs Now Is Love – Jackie De Shannon
  22. Both Sides Now – Judy Collins
  23. This Girl’s In Love With You – Petual Clark
  24. Look, Here Comes The Sun – The Sunshine Company
  25. Angel Of The Morning – Merrilee Rush

Disc 2

  1. Come To The Sunshine (Mono 45 Mix) – Harpers Bizarre
  2. Judy In Disguise – John Fred & His Playboy Band
  3. Good Day Sunshine – The Trembles
  4. Sunshine Superman – Donovan
  5. My Name Is Jack – Manfred Mann
  6. Hair – The Cow-sills
  7. Elenore – The Turtles
  8. (There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me – Sandie Shaw
  9. Eli’s Coming (Mono) – Laura Nyro
  10. Take My Hand – Lee Mallory
  11. Sunshine Girl (Mono 45 Mix) – The Parade
  12. Light My Fire – José Feliciano
  13. Let’s Go To San Francisco – The Flowerpot Men
  14. Elusive Butterfly – Bob Lind
  15. Daydream Believer – The Monkees
  16. A Beautiful Morning – The Rascals
  17. You Didn’t Have Top Be So Nice – The Lovin’ Spoonful
  18. Younger Girl – The Critters
  19. The Rain, The Park & Other Things (Mono 45 Mix) – The Cowsills
  20. I Saw Her Again Last Night – The Mamas & The Papas
  21. Everything Is Sunshine – The Hollies
  22. A Melody For You – The Grass Roots
  23. Mr. Bojangles – Nina Simone
  24. Talking To The Flowers – The Everly Brothers
  25. Back On The Streets Again – The Sunshine Company
  26. I Just Can’t Help Believing – B. J. Thomas

The cover is adapted from a 2005 Warner Brothers compilation of the same name.