Thursday, September 22, 2011

A look back at SMiLE

So, is there anything left 2 B said? Is there anything new that CAN B said at this late date about this wonderous psychedelic classic, this masterwork in which the Beach Boys & their resident genius Brian Wilson caught the imagination of the public & ushered-in the Love-Filled Spring of '67?
Perhaps it's enuf 2 just recap how this amazing album changed the face of pop music all those years ago....
Brian & his Xtended family delivered SMiLE on-schedule as a sort of Christmas present in mid-Dec 1966, just a few months after their psychedelic hymn "Good Vibrations" had topped the charts. Tho it's safe 2 say that at 1st radio programmers & listeners alike were blown away by this new music, within days radio stations across the country were playing the album from start 2 finish, sometimes around the clock.
The 1st single, "Heroes and Villains," was released at the same time as the album, & reached the #1 spot after only a coupla wks. Tho more complex than "Good Vibrations" -- & featuring a strange, arty & fun "Part 2" on the B-side, the single went on 2 sell a million & SMiLE's success was assured.
But the Boys & Capitol Records didn't stop there -- after "Heroes" had its run, Capitol released the gorgeous, maze-like Western folktune "Cabinessence" as a follow-up, & the song's unique cinematic production & marvelous vocals made 4 another chart-topper.
The SMiLE hat-trick was completed when the gorgeous & dramatic "Surf's Up" hit #1 a coupla months later.
By then SMiLE had already sold a coupla million copies & new fans were flocking 2 C the Boys on their latest tour -- which climaxed with them performing B4 the "peace, love & flowers crowd" at the Monterey Pop Festival, where they performed the entire SMiLE album flawlessly, then encored with all their old hits. They brot down the house, & witnesses claimed that then-new acts such as Jimi Hendrix, The Who & Otis Redding were in awe of Brian & the Boys' ability 2 perform their complex new music in a live environment.
Meanwhile, fans were discovering that beyond the hits, the album was a nearly bottomless treasure trove of gems -- like the airy & bubbly "Wind Chimes," the hilarious singalong "Vegetables," the mournful "Old Master Painter/You Were My Sunshine," the comical bopping chickens in "Barnyard," the gorgeous 1-of-a-kind vocals in "Child is Father of the Man," "Our Prayer" & "Gee," the eerie "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow," the bouncy & breezy "On a Holiday," & the spooky "In Blue Hawaii." & of course there was "Good Vibrations" 2 top it all off....
The album went on 2 win a ton of Grammy Awards: for Best Album, Best Pop Vocal Performance, Best Producer, Best Instrumental ("Mrs. O'Leary's Cow"), & Best Engineering. At last count SMiLE had sold more than 8 million copies.
But that was just the beginning. You could say SMiLE changed the face of pop music, ushering in the psychedelic era, pointing the way 2 a lighter, airier approach 2 popular music & composition. SMiLE also created a more optimistic, sunny outlook in the counterculture -- a development that was 2 have long-lasting effects....
The 1st big impact from SMiLE was when the Beatles announced they were retiring. The formerly-Fab 4 were in England working on their intended masterpiece, SGT. PEPPER, when they received an advance copy of Brian & the Boys' work. Beatle John Lennon said later that hearing SMiLE destroyed their sessions. They had bn unable 2 complete an intended epic-masterwork called "A Day in the Life," a psychedelic collage called "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds," & a nightmare called "I Am the Walrus." All 3 trax eventually were bootlegged in unfinished, fragmentary form.
Beatle Paul McCartney said later that when the quartet realized they couldn't finish these adventurous productions or reach the heights of Brian & the Boys, the Fabs knew there was nothing left but 2 give up. The writing was on the wall. Lennon said it took him years 2 recover.
It could B said that SMiLE changed the world, as well. The optimistic outlook of the counterculture -- & of many Americans who heard the album -- led the U.S. 2 withdraw from the Vietnam War B4 the end of 1967. Sen. Bobby Kennedy latched on2 this optimism & rode the wave 2 B elected President in 1968. The States went on 2 remain the world's top superpower -- but with a kinder, gentler, more optimistic, more HUMAN outlook when dealing with our neighbors around the world.
The results of this "gentle revolution" can B seen in the peaceful, friendly, bustling, technology- & success-drenched world we all see around us 2day -- a world where everybody has a place & where every1 has a chance 2 succeed....
No suprise that Brian was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 4 his efforts in bringing peace & enlightenment 2 the world....
Brian retired after SMiLE, choosing 2 stay at home in Bel Air & write occasional ditties at the piano in his sandbox. He said he'd written his "Teenage Symphony to God" -- he claimed there were no more masterworks in him.
But the Boys kept touring, & Brian occasionally wrote or co-wrote hits 4 them, when it amused him 2 do so. These pleasant hits -- perhaps less adventurous but still very enjoyable -- continued thru the late-'70s: "Darlin'," "Do it Again," "I Can Hear Music," "This Whole World," "Add Some Music to Your Day," "It's About Time," "Long Promised Road," "Feel Flows," "'Til I Die," "Marcella," "Sail On, Sailor," "California Saga," "The Trader," "Good Time," "Johnny Carson," "Good Timin'" -- I'm sure you know the list....
The long-term impact of SMiLE is all around us, each day. The roots of the peaceful, tranquil, high-tech world we live in can B traced straight back 2 the philosophy Xpressed in that modest little album with the "Smile store" cartoon on the front cover, released in December of 1966.
Just try 2 imagine what the world would B like if Brian & the Boys somehow never finished it...?

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