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Smiley Smile

Smiley Smile
An illustration of an area with excessive greenery occupie d by a few smiling animals. In the distance is a small boutique with a smile displayed above its door; chimney smoke spells out the album's title.
Studio album by
ReleasedSeptember 18, 1967 (1967-09-18)
RecordedFebruary 17, 1966 (1966-02-17) – July 14, 1967 (1967-07-14)
StudioSunset Sound Recorders, United Western Recorders, CBS Columbia Square, Beach Boys Studio, and Wally Heider Studios, Los Angeles
ProducerThe Beach Boys
The Beach Boys chronology
Best of the Beach Boys Vol. 2
Smiley Smile
Wild Honey
Singles from Smiley Smile
  1. "Heroes and Villains"
    Released: July 24, 1967

Smiley Smile is the 12th studio album by American rock band the Beach Boys, released on September 18, 1967. It reached number 9 on UK record charts, but sold poorly in the US, peaking at number 41—the band's lowest chart placement to that point. Critics and fans generally received the album with confusion and disappointment. Only one single was issued from Smiley Smile: "Heroes and Villains". "Good Vibrations" and "Gettin' Hungry" were also released, but the former was issued a year earlier, while the latter was not credited to the band.

Conceived as a simplified version of their then-forthcoming Smile—a much more elaborately constructed LPSmiley Smile contrasts significantly with its stripped-down approach and lo-fi production. Following principal songwriter Brian Wilson's declaration that most of the original Smile tapes were off-limits, the majority of recording sessions lasted for only six weeks at his makeshift home studio using what was predominantly radio broadcasting equipment, a detuned piano, electronic bass, melodica, found objects for percussion, and a Baldwin theater organ. The unconventional recording process juxtaposed an experimental party-like atmosphere with short pieces of music edited together in a disjointed manner, combining the engineering methods of "Good Vibrations" with the loose feeling of their 1965 album Beach Boys' Party!.

From 1966 to 1967, Smile was repeatedly delayed as the Beach Boys were subject to a considerable level of media hype that proclaimed Wilson as a "genius". After settling payment disputes with Capitol Records, Smiley Smile was distributed in collaboration with Brother Records, a new record label and holding company founded by the band. The album's production was unusually credited to "the Beach Boys" rather than Wilson alone, marking the point where he began relinquishing his hold as the group's creative leader. Smile was ultimately left unfinished as the group embarked on a brief tour of Hawaii, and then, the recording of their next album, Wild Honey, released only three months later.

Smiley Smile opened a seven-year string of under-performing Beach Boys albums, but has since grown in stature to become a cult and critical favorite in the Beach Boys' oeuvre. Its music is often cited for having positive effects during an LSD comedown, and was used by at least one drug clinic to help relieve users from bad trips. Regarded as a forerunner to certain bedroom pop acts, in 1974, it was voted the 64th greatest album of all time by NME writers, and in 2000, it was one of 100 albums featured in the book The Ambient Century as a landmark in the development of ambient music. Some session highlights from the album are featured on the compilations The Smile Sessions (2011) and 1967 – Sunshine Tomorrow (2017).


According to Van Dyke Parks, Smile was partly intended to reclaim popular music from the influence of British acts like the Beatles (pictured in 1964).[7]

The Beach Boys' album Pet Sounds, issued on May 16, 1966, was massively influential upon its release, containing lush and sophisticated orchestral arrangements that raised the band's prestige to the top level of rock innovators.[8] Early reviews for the album in the US ranged from negative to tentatively positive,[9] but the reception from music journalists in the UK was very favorable.[10] The group had recently employed the Beatles' former press officer Derek Taylor as their publicist.[11] Bothered by the popular view of the Beach Boys as outdated surfers, leader and songwriter Brian Wilson requested that Taylor establish a new image for the band as fashionable counterculture icons, and so a media campaign with the tagline "Brian Wilson is a genius" was initiated and promulgated by Taylor.[12][nb 1]

In October 1966, the group followed up Pet Sounds with "Good Vibrations", a laboriously produced single that achieved major international success. By then, an album titled Smile had been conceived as an extension of that song's recording approach, with Wilson composing music in collaboration with lyricist Van Dyke Parks.[16][nb 2] Wilson envisioned Smile as an outlet for all of his intellectual occupations,[17] such as his fascination with spirituality and its relationship to humor and laughter.[18] He told Melody Maker: "Our new album will be better than Pet Sounds. It will be as much an improvement over Sounds as that was over [our 1965 album] Summer Days."[19]

Bel Air, Los Angeles, where Brian Wilson relocated to in March 1967 and set up a home studio.[20]

After months of recording and media hype, the original Smile project was shelved due to corporate pressures, technical problems, internal power struggles, and legal stalling.[21][nb 3] Business partner David Anderle attempted to form Brother Records, an independent label, with the intention of giving "entirely new concepts to the recording industry, and to give the Beach Boys total creative and promotional control over their product."[24] A February 1967 lawsuit seeking $255,000 (equivalent to $1.92 million in 2018) was launched against Capitol Records over neglected royalty payments. Within the lawsuit, there was also an attempt to terminate the band's contract with Capitol before its November 1969 expiry.[25] Wilson decided to construct his own personal home recording studio as a measure against suspected tape leaks[26] and to eliminate the inconvenience of booking studio time.[17]

Band quarrels led Parks to leave the project in April 1967, with Anderle following suit weeks later.[27] Dennis Wilson explained that the group had become "very paranoid about the possibility of losing our public. ... Drugs played a great role in our evolution but as a result we were frightened that people would no longer understand us, musically."[28] Brian said that Smile leftovers like "Surf's Up" were left unreleased because he lacked a "commercial feeling" for those songs, surmising that "Maybe some people like to hang on to certain songs as their own little songs that they've written, almost for themselves. You know, what they've written is nice for them ... but a lot of people just don't like it."[29] Carl Wilson reflected on the period: "To get that album [Smile] out, someone would have needed willingness and perseverance to corral all of us. Everybody was so loaded on pot and hash all of the time that it's no wonder the project didn't get done."[30]

On May 6, 1967, Taylor announced that Smile had been "scrapped".[31][32][nb 4] The Beach Boys were still under pressure and a contractual obligation to record and present an album to Capitol.[34] On June 2, Brian declared to his bandmates that most of the material recorded for Smile was now off-limits.[35] According to Carl, "Brian just said, 'I can't do this. We're going to make a homespun version of it instead. We're just going to take it easy. I'll get in the pool and sing. Or let's go in the gym and do our parts.' That was Smiley Smile."[30] In interviews conducted over the next year, Brian intimated that he had run out of ideas "in a conventional sense", and that he was "about ready to die". He says: "I decided not to try any more, and not try and do such great things ... And we had so much fun. The Smiley Smile era was so great, it was unbelievable. Personally, spiritually, everything, it was great. I didn't have any paranoia feelings."[36][page needed]

Style and content

Modular approach and recording atmosphere

Since the recording of "Good Vibrations" in 1966, Wilson had established a new method of operation. Instead of working on whole songs with clear large-scale syntactical structures, Wilson limited himself to recording short interchangeable fragments (or "modules"). Through the method of tape splicing, each fragment could then be assembled into a linear sequence, allowing any number of larger structures and divergent moods to be produced at a later time. Smiley Smile continued this approach.[37] The album also continued Brian's exploration of "party tracks"—a form of music which includes the sounds of people shouting and making noises, as if at a party.[38][nb 5] Brian had enacted this approach with Beach Boys' Party! in 1965,[38] thereby mixing that record's style with the modular composition method he devised for "Good Vibrations".[39]

Most of Smiley Smile was recorded at Brian's improvised home studio in Bel Air from June 3 to July 14, 1967.[41] The core instrumentation consisted of organ, honky-tonk piano, and electronic bass[42] played by the Beach Boys themselves, rather than the session musicians employed in much of their previous work.[43] Brian became obsessed with a three-tiered Baldwin organ during the album's recording, resulting in a more minimalist approach to the new arrangements.[40] The organ gave the album its central timbre.[44] Most of the piano was played by Brian, and most of the bass was played by Carl.[45] Tape manipulation was another prominent feature, with varispeed being applied to a few vocals.[46] On "She's Goin' Bald", a new device called the Eltro Information Rate Changer was used to raise the pitch of the group's vocals without affecting the tempo.[47]

It was the first album for which production was credited to the entire group, instead of Brian alone.[48] Dennis explained: "He wanted it that way. He said 'It's produced by the Beach Boys.'"[49][nb 6] When asked if Brian was "still the producer of Smiley Smile", Carl answered, "Most definitely."[51] Brian acknowledged: "We had done about six months work on another thing, but we jumped and ended up doing the entire thing here at the house with an entirely different mood and approach than what we originally started out with." When questioned on why the band took the approach they did, he stated, "We just had a particular atmosphere that we were working in that inspired the particular kind of things that were on the album."[52] Music journalist Domenic Priore notes that when the Beach Boys were taken out of professional studios, "the discipline of the clock, rates and overtime disappeared".[53][nb 7] In 1976, Mike Love, recalling how "She's Goin' Bald" was a song about fellatio, commented: "We were stoned out of our heads. We were laughing our asses off when we recorded that stuff."[54] Later, as he remembered the album's recording for his 2016 memoir, he wrote that "these were not pleasant memories for any of us."[55]

In his book about psychedelic music, author Jim DeRogatis referred to Smiley Smile as a work of the "ultimate psychedelic rock library".[4] Conversely, Stylus Magazine's Edwin Faust wrote in 2003 that the album "embraces the listener with a drugged out sincerity; a feat never accomplished by the more pretentious and heavy-handed psychedelia of that era. It is for this reason Smiley Smile flows so well with the more experimental pop of today".[56] According to music theorist Daniel Harrison, Smiley Smile is not a work of rock music as the term was understood in 1967, and that portions of the album "can be thought of as a kind of protomiminal rock music".[57] He continues:

Smiley Smile can almost be considered a work of art music in the Western classical tradition, and its innovations in the musical language of rock can be compared to those that introduced atonal and other nontraditional techniques into that classical tradition. The spirit of experimentation is just as palpable in Smiley Smile as it is in, say, Schoenberg's op. 11 piano pieces. Yet there is also a spirit of tentativeness in Smiley Smile. We must remember that it was essentially a Plan B—that is, the album issued instead of Smile.[58]

Technical aspects

The Beach Boys recorded using what was predominantly radio broadcasting equipment, which lacked many of the technical elements and effects found in an established studio.[59][nb 8] This led to unconventional ways of achieving particular sounds at the home, such as a replacement for what would be achieved by an echo chamber. The album's engineer Jim Lockert recalled how "Brian's swimming pool had a leak in it and was empty, so we put a microphone in the bottom of this damn near Olympic-size pool and the guys laid down inside the pool and sang so the sound would go down the wall of the concrete pool into the microphone – and that was part of the vocals on one of those songs."[59][nb 9] Some recording accidents were used to their advantage, such as in "With Me Tonight", which contains an informal link between the verse and chorus by way of a voice saying "good", as in "good take", spoken by the band's road manager Arnie Geller from the control room.[52][46] Lockert spoke about other peculiarities of the sessions, including vocals being tracked in the shower:

The Smiley Smile album was done on eight track in segments that were never put together in one tape. The intro was on one reel of tape, the first verse was on one reel of tape ... When you take a song you have an intro, first verse, a chorus, second verse, a chorus, and then you have an ending. Each segment of that thing was on a different tape for each cut of the album. We had all the component parts with all the first verses on tape.

We went into Wally Heider’s Studio Three one night at five o'clock, we mixed the intro of each song as we went to a two track, then we mixed the first verse ... They didn’t want to make copies of it to put it together. So we'd do the first verse and mix it down and then we'd wipe off the vocals on it and then go in and sing all the harmony parts and lead parts for the second verse and record it onto the tape. ... We mixed each piece of this down as we went along ... so that the song was almost together by the time we were through. Almost every cut was this way. "Vega-tables", "Little Pad", "She’s Goin’ Bald".

When we came out the next morning at six o'clock, the album was mixed down, cut together, and was complete. One of the guys from Wally Heider was my second engineer and he said, “Well, I never believed in miracles but I saw one tonight.” That’s the way they did it. It wasn’t my idea. They mixed it chorus and verse, chorus and verse and intro, and all the levels had to match.[59][excessive quote]

Differences from Smile

Carl Wilson famously compared Smiley Smile to "a bunt instead of a grand slam".[61][62] From the vast sum of material Brian had recorded for Smile, only portions of the backing track for "Heroes and Villains" (recorded October 1966) and the coda for "Vegetables" (recorded April 1967) were used for Smiley Smile.[44] "Heroes and Villains" was modified substantially during the Smiley Smile sessions before being issued as a single preceding the album's release. Comparing Brian's original Smile mixes with the single version, Al Jardine called it "a pale facsimile ... Brian re-invented the song for this record ... He purposefully under-produced the song."[63] "Good Vibrations", which was recorded sporadically from February to September 1966, appears with no differences from the original single.[44] Brian reportedly objected to the placement of "Good Vibrations" on Smiley Smile, but for the first time, he was outvoted by his bandmates, who insisted on its inclusion.[64]

"Wind Chimes", "Wonderful", and most parts of "Vegetables" were completely rerecorded with dramatically scaled-down arrangements.[63] "Vegetables" was reworked as a kind of campfire song,[44] "Wonderful" traded its harpsichord, strings, and horns with a haphazardly-played organ, high-pitched backing vocals, and a doo-wop sing-along section,[65] and the marimbas in "Wind Chimes" were replaced by organ and dissonant noise.[66] Other tracks took elements of Smile era compositions to make something slightly different; "She's Goin' Bald" borrows the verse melody from a Smile fragment known as "He Gives Speeches",[63] "With Me Tonight" is a variation on "Vegetables",[67] and "Fall Breaks and Back to Winter (W. Woodpecker Symphony)" lifts a recurring melodic hook from "Fire".[68][nb 10] David Anderle thought that "what Brian tried to do with Smiley Smile is he tried to salvage as much of Smile as he could and at the same time immediately go into his [long-discussed] humor album."[70] Jardine felt that "there are some pretty cool songs on that album but I didn't like rehashing some of the Smile songs. That didn't work for me."[40]

Smiley Smile was produced without any direct involvement from Van Dyke Parks.[71] The only songs that appeared to have no connection to the original Smile album were "Little Pad" and "Gettin' Hungry".[61] In addition, while the Beatles' Paul McCartney was present at an April 1967 session for "Vegetables", the recording where he allegedly provides celery biting sounds was not used on Smiley Smile.[72]


Capitol settlement and Hawaii shows

The group at Zuma Beach in Malibu, July 1967

Before the album's commercial release, the Beach Boys were involved in the conception of the Monterey Pop Festival, which was held in June 1967. At the last minute, the band declined to appear at the event.[73] Biographer David Leaf explained: "Monterey was a gathering place for the 'far out' sounds of the 'new' rock, and the Beach Boys in concert really had no exotic sounds (excepting "Good Vibrations") to display. The net result of all this internal and external turmoil was that the Beach Boys didn't go to Monterey, and it is thought that this non-appearance was what really turned the 'underground' tide against them."[63] Publicly, the band said that they couldn't play for reasons pertaining to Carl's military draft, but many of the people involved with the festival thought that the group was simply too scared to compete with the "new music". As author Steven Gaines writes, the decision "had a snowballing effect" that came to represent "a damning admission that [the Beach Boys] were washed up".[73]

Expectations for the release of Smile lowered as the year wore on.[74] In the interim leading up to the release of Smiley Smile, Wilson's image was reduced to that of an "eccentric" figure as a multitude of revolutionary rock albums were released to an anxious and maturing youth market. From February to May, this included Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow, the Jimi Hendrix Experience's Are You Experienced, the Velvet Underground's The Velvet Underground and Nico, and the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.[33][nb 11] In retrospect, rock critic Paul Williams wrote that Anderle's idea to form Brother Records was reasonable, "but the time it takes to put this type of thing through the courts was not conducive to the production race that was important during this period of radical change in pop."[75] Until this point, the Beatles were the only act that posed a competitive threat to the Beach Boys.[76] Wilson was concerned that if Smile followed in the wake of another critically successful release by the Beatles, then his album would be received with unjust comparisons. Once the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper, his race was effectively lost.[77][nb 12]

The Capitol lawsuit was eventually settled out of court, with the Beach Boys receiving the royalties owed in exchange for Brother Records to distribute through Capitol Records, along with a guarantee that the band produce at least one million dollars profit.[80] Capitol A&R director Karl Engemann began circulating a memo, dated July 25, 1967,[81] in which Smiley Smile was referred to as a "cartoon" stopgap for Smile. The memo also discussed conversations between him and Wilson pertaining to the release of a 10-track Smile album, which would not have included the songs "Heroes and Villains" or "Vegetables".[82][83] This never came to fruition and, instead, the group embarked on a tour of Hawaii in August.[84][nb 13] Bruce Johnston, who was absent for most of the recording sessions, did not accompany the group, although Brian did.[85] Their performances were limited to two shows at an auditorium in Honolulu, which were filmed and recorded with the intention of releasing a live album, Lei'd in Hawaii. On stage, the band continued to exhibit a more minimal sound.[43][nb 14]

Initial reception

Sure people were baffled and mystified by Smiley Smile but it was a matter of progression. We had this feeling that we were going too far, losing touch I guess, and [our next album will bring] us back more into reality.

—Mike Love, December 1967[86]

In July, two singles were issued on the Brother imprint: "Heroes and Villains" and "Gettin' Hungry".[81][nb 15] The former peaked at number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100.[87] The latter was not credited to the Beach Boys, but instead to Brian Wilson and Mike Love.[64] On September 18, 1967, Smiley Smile was released in the US.[88] The LP peaked at number 41 on the Billboard charts,[48] making it their worst-selling album to that date.[89][nb 16] It spent most of its 21-week chart time bubbling under 100 and 197.[87] When released in the UK in November, it performed better, reaching number 9 of the UK Albums Chart.[91]

Critics and fans were generally underwhelmed by the album[92] and controversy involving whether the band was to be taken as a serious rock group ensued into the next year.[93] Anderle said that whatever new fans the group had brought with Pet Sounds were "immediately lost with the release of 'Heroes of Villains,' then with the album."[94] Leaf wrote: "By the time Smiley Smile was released ... the Beach Boys had become cultural dinosaurs. And it happened almost overnight."[63] According to writer Scott Schinder, the album was released to "general incomprehension. While Smile may have divided the Beach Boys' fans had it been released, Smiley Smile merely baffled them."[48]

A review in Hit Parader praised the album for "probably [having] more a cappella harmony than on any album since the fall of the singing-group era in the late 1950s", but that they "still like Pet Sounds better".[95][nb 17] NME wrote of the album: "By the standards which this group has set itself, it's more than a grade disappointing."[32] Hi Fidelity said: "... they are making the psychedelic route ... perhaps in the unforgettable city of Fresno. Until they reach the San Francisco Bay Bridge or return to the shores of Malibu ... their work can only receive partial approval."[15] Rolling Stone referred to it as a "disaster" and an "abortive attempt to match the talents of Lennon and McCartney."[98] On December 14, 1967, the magazine's editor and co-founder Jann Wenner printed an influential article that denounced Wilson's "genius" label, which he called a "promotional shuck", and the Beach Boys themselves, which he called "one prominent example of a group that has gotten hung up on trying to catch The Beatles". He wrote that "for some reason, [Smiley Smile] just doesn't make it ... [the songs] just don't move you. Other than displaying Brian Wilson's virtuosity for production, they are pointless."[99]

The Milwaukee Sentinel praised the LP as "probably the most valuable contribution to rock since the Beatles Revolver" and for being unlike anything the Beatles had done.[15] The magazine Cheetah gave the album a rave review, observing that "the mood is rather childlike (not childish)—the kind of innocence that shows on the album cover, with its Rousseau-like animals and forest, and the smoke from the cabin chimney spelling out the title. ... The expression that emerges from this music is very strange: it's a very personal mood."[34][nb 18] Journalist Richard Goldstein remembered his review for The New York Times: "I was struck by its fragile melodies and their relationship to sacred music; those familiar ride-the-curl voices, now 'hushed with wonder,' reminded me of the Fauré Requiem, but they were utterly American."[100][nb 19]

Retrospective reviews

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars[101]
Blender5/5 stars[102]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music4/5 stars[103]
MusicHound Rock4.5/5[104]
Pitchfork Media9.5/10[76]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide3/5 stars[105]

Priore reflected: "Actually, the [only] reason most people didn't care for Smiley Smile is that it came out in place of Smile."[63] Richie Unterberger concurred, rating the album four out of five stars, and suggesting that media-hype of the collapsed Smile project was to blame for Smiley Smile's lackluster reception in the United States. He called it a "rather nifty, if rather slight, effort that's plenty weird".[101]

In a 2007 issue of Rolling Stone, Robert Christgau and David Fricke named it one of the 40 essential albums of 1967; Christgau declared: "Towering it's not; some kind of hit it is."[106] In 2001, Spencer Owen of Pitchfork awarded the album a 9.5/10 score, and wrote "Smiley Smile is a near-masterpiece. Without any awareness of Smile's existence, this album could have been a contemporary classic ... and although the album isn't anywhere close to the sonic revolution that Sgt. Pepper had already brought, Wilson's innovative production and arrangements still bring out the best in every single track."[76] Daniel Harrison compared Wilson to classical composers such as Schoenberg, with a key difference being that Wilson "required the services of a record company to mass produce and distribute his work", and lamented that the album was incompatible with the commercial demands of the music industry.[58] Bruce Johnston called the album "a thousand times better than the [original Smile] ... It's just the most underrated album in the whole catalog for me."[107]

Journalist Nick Kent maintained that the album "undersold the worth" of Smile with "dumb pot-head skits, so-called healing chants and even some weird 'loony tunes' items straight out of a cut-rate Walt Disney soundtrack".[108] The Guardian's Geoffrey Cannon viewed Parks' lyrics as "pretentious", believing that Parks "messed Brian up" during Smiley Smile.[109] Paste's Bryan Rolli ranked it at number 2 in a list of the "10 Most Disappointing Follow-Up Albums", calling it a "disjointed collection of minimalist recordings and a capella bits that are not so much songs as fragments of a shattered psyche".[110] In the 2004 edition of The Rolling Stone Album Guide, the reviewer described Smiley Smile as "inconsistent" and said that, given the context of its release in September 1967, "the album was like a strange throwback – it highlighted how out of touch these suburban California surfers had become with the psychedelic times."[111] It was voted number 415 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums in 2000.[112]


The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys performing on stage with an array of backup musicians. From the group, Al Jardine, Carl Wilson, and Mike Love are pictured.
The Beach Boys performing at Central Park, 1971

Smiley Smile became the first in a three-part series of lo-fi Beach Boys albums (preceding Wild Honey and Friends)[2] and the first in a seven-year string of under-performing Beach Boys albums (ending with the 1974 compilation Endless Summer).[113] The Smile era is generally viewed as the ending of the Beach Boys' most artistically creative period,[92] and the point after which Brian began relinquishing his hold as the group's creative leader.[114][nb 20] After Smiley Smile, Carl took Brian's place as the most musically dominant member, and Brian would not be credited as producer for another Beach Boys album until 1976's 15 Big Ones.[115] Journalist Brian Chidester designed the nominal "Bedroom Tapes" label as a catch-all term for the work produced by Wilson in between his "full retreat as leader of the Beach Boys [in mid 1968] ... following a brief stint in a mental institution" and his admittance under Eugene Landy's 24-hour therapy in late 1975.[2][nb 21] By 1969, Wilson was increasingly known for his reclusiveness, and could be found managing a health food store in West Hollywood called the Radiant Radish.[116]

Much of the group's recordings from 1967 to 1970 continued the pattern of sparse instrumentation, a more relaxed ensemble, and a seeming inattention to production quality.[117] Harrison opined that this experimental songwriting and production phase lasted until Sunflower (1970), after which their albums "contain a mixture of middle-of-the-road music entirely consonant with pop style during the early 1970s with a few oddities that proved that the desire to push beyond conventional boundaries was not dead".[118]

After Smile was cancelled, some of its tracks continued to trickle out in later releases, often as filler songs to offset Brian's unwillingness to contribute.[119][nb 22] "Cool, Cool Water", an outtake from Smiley Smile and Wild Honey sessions, was partially rerecorded and issued as the closing track for Sunflower.[121][nb 23] When The Smile Sessions box set was released in 2011, co-producer Mark Linett acknowledged that "there's things that some people think – should Smiley Smile sessions be there – [with tracks such as] 'Can't Wait Too Long', we get into a very fuzzy area".[123][nb 24] In 2017, additional session highlights from the album were released on the rarities compilation 1967 – Sunshine Tomorrow.[125] The compilation was followed several months later with two more digital-exclusive releases: 1967 – Sunshine Tomorrow 2: The Studio Sessions and 1967 – Live Sunshine.[126]

Influence and cult following

At the time of its release, it appeared like the single most underwhelming musical statement of the sixties, the work of a bunch of doo-wop singing acid casualties. ... Twenty-five years [later]... it would become regarded as a top-rate 'chill-out' album for those looking for something a bit spooky and otherworldly to float down from, after a long lysergic exploration of the senses.

Nick Kent[108]

Smiley Smile has since grown in stature to become a cult and critical favorite in the band's oeuvre.[113] At least one drug treatment center played the LP for patients to help relieve their use of drugs,[127] as Carl told the NME in 1970: "In Fort Worth, Texas, there is a drug clinic which takes people off the streets and helps them get over bad LSD trips. They don't use any traditional medical treatment whatsoever. All they do is play the patient our Smiley Smile album and apparently this acts as a soothing remedy which relaxes them and helps them to recover completely from their trip."[128]

After a 1974 reissue, the negative response to the album mellowed,[113] the same year that NME writers voted it as the 62nd greatest album of all time.[129] According to Matjas-Mecca, following the mid 1970s, the album "began to acquire a fan base that heard magic in Brian's lo-fi production ... In the 2000s, it began to appear on various lists of must-hear albums, and is now considered an important work in Brian's catalog. In a world that embraces lo-fi art, the album is considered a masterpiece."[113] In 2017, Pitchfork ranked it the 118th greatest album of the 1960s, with Mark Richardson writing: "it basically invented the kind of lo-fi bedroom pop that would later propel Sebadoh, Animal Collective, and other characters."[6]

Dedicated tribute albums include Smiling Pets (1998)[130] and Portland Sings The Beach Boys "Smiley Smile" (2013).[131] Pete Townshend of the Who is a known admirer of the record, as is Robbie Robertson of the Band.[63] XTC's Andy Partridge considered it one of "the most influential records for me"[132] and it was a direct inspiration for his song "Season Cycle" (Skylarking, 1986).[133] In an interview with Time, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith stated that his "island" music picks include Smiley Smile, "Just for the melodic fuck all."[134] In 2000, it was one of 100 albums featured in the book The Ambient Century as a landmark in the development of ambient music.[135] Keiichi Suzuki and Hirokazu Tanaka, who composed music for the Japanese role-playing video game series EarthBound, cited Smiley Smile among influences on the games' soundtracks.[136] The New York Observer's Ron Hart believes that Smiley Smile contains sounds that foreshadow the work of Harry Nilsson, Elvis Costello, Stereolab, the High Llamas, the Olivia Tremor Control, and Father John Misty.[137]

Track listing

Side one
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocal(s)Length
1."Heroes and Villains"Brian Wilson3:37
  • Wilson
  • Parks
Al Jardine2:07
3."Fall Breaks and Back to Winter (W. Woodpecker Symphony)"Wilsoninstrumental2:15
4."She's Goin' Bald"
Mike Love2:15
5."Little Pad"WilsonCarl Wilson and B. Wilson2:30
Side two
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocal(s)Length
1."Good Vibrations"
  • Wilson
  • Love
C. Wilson with Love3:37
2."With Me Tonight"WilsonC. Wilson2:17
3."Wind Chimes"Wilsongroup2:36
4."Gettin' Hungry"
  • Wilson
  • Love
B. Wilson and Love2:27
  • Wilson
  • Parks
C. Wilson2:21
6."Whistle In"WilsonC. Wilson with Love1:04
Total length:27:36
Smiley Smile / Wild Honey 1990 CD reissue bonus tracks
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocal(s)Length
23."Heroes and Villains" (alternate take)
  • Wilson
  • Parks
B. Wilson3:00
24."Good Vibrations" (various sessions)Wilsoninstrumental6:57
25."Good Vibrations" (early take)WilsonC. Wilson with B. Wilson3:03
26."You're Welcome"Wilsongroup1:11
27."Their Hearts Were Full of Spring"Bobby Troupgroup2:33
28."Can't Wait Too Long"WilsonB. Wilson with C. Wilson5:34

Lead vocals per 1990 CD liner notes by David Leaf.[63] On its original release, Van Dyke Parks was not credited for "Wonderful".[138]


Per David Leaf:[63]

The Beach Boys

Additional musicians and production staff
  • The Beach Boys – producers
  • Chuck Britz – engineer
  • Jim Lockert – engineer


Chart (1967)
  • Peak
  • position
UK Albums (OCC)[139] 9
US Billboard 200[140] 41


  1. ^ His efforts are widely recognized as having been instrumental in the album's success due to his longstanding connections with the Beatles and other industry figures in the UK.[11] By the end of the year, NME conducted an annual reader's poll that placed Wilson as the fourth-ranked "World Music Personality"—about 1,000 votes ahead of Bob Dylan and 500 behind John Lennon.[13] Another concurrent NME poll placed the Beach Boys as the world's top vocal group, ahead of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.[14] In 1976, Wilson reflected: "Once you've been labeled as a genius, you have to continue it or your name becomes mud. I am a victim of the recording industry. I didn't think I was a genius. I thought I had talent. But I didn't think I was a genius."[15]
  2. ^ Smile drew from what most rock stars of the time considered to be antiquated pop culture touchstones, like doo-wop, barbershop, ragtime, exotica, pre-rock and roll pop, and cowboy films.[16] Parks said: "Everybody wanted to sing 'bettah'', affecting these transatlantic accents and trying to sound like the Beatles. I was with a man who couldn't do that. He just didn't have that option. He was the last man standing. And the only way we were going to get through that crisis was by embracing what they call 'grow where you're planted'."[7]
  3. ^ By December 1966, Wilson had completed much of the album's backing tracks. When his bandmates returned from their tour of Britain, they were confused by the new music he had recorded and the new coterie of interlopers that surrounded him.[22] Friend Michael Vosse recalls: "The vibe was getting worse and worse. Brian was trying to complete one of the most ambitious projects in pop music. But the people close to him were rolling their eyes and saying, 'Are you sure?' And that really got to him."[23]
  4. ^ It is unlikely that Brian was aware of Taylor's announcement, which was printed in the British journal Disc and Echo, as he proceeded to record the Smile track "Love to Say Dada" only days later.[33]
  5. ^ The Beatles' "Yellow Submarine" and Bob Dylan's "Rainy Day Women#12 and 35" (1966) were similar examples of party tracks.[38]
  6. ^ In 1976, Brian denied that it was a conscious decision for the group to become more democratic.[50]
  7. ^ He also writes that a number of session musicians have reported that the Beach Boys were "not a distraction" for Brian while at the established studios, and that when the move occurred, they begun "shov[ing] their weight around".[53]
  8. ^ The studio set up at Brian's house was, in its mid-1967 incarnation for Smiley Smile, in its infancy. Due to the sporadic nature at which Brian decided to produce the record at his home, there was little time to fully outfit the Bel Air residence as a proper equipped recording studio.[59]
  9. ^ Dennis mentioned that it was "Heroes and Villains" that was recorded in a swimming pool.[34]
  10. ^ The new "Wind Chimes" coda also shares the same melody as the ending of "Holidays", a Smile instrumental,[69] while "Fall Breaks and Back to Winter" recycles the music quotation of Woody Woodpecker's laugh heard in "Surf's Up".[63]
  11. ^ In the weeks following Smiley Smile's release, "three distinct, but equally important albums" also came out: Cream's Disraeli Gears, the Who's The Who Sell Out, and the Moody Blues' Days of Future Passed.[33]
  12. ^ A similar fate befell the Rolling Stones when they released Their Satanic Majesties Request, which was viewed as a pretentious, poorly conceived attempt to outdo the Beatles and Sgt. Pepper's.[78] When asked in a 1987 Rolling Stone interview whether Smile would have topped the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper, Wilson replied: "No. It wouldn't have come close. Sgt. Pepper would have kicked our ass."[79]
  13. ^ Music historian Andrew Doe speculates that the memo may have reflected Brian "being his usual agreeable self and telling people what they wanted to hear ... or a simple misunderstanding."[81]
  14. ^ Jesse Jarnow of Pitchfork opines that the Hawaii performances "most definitely would not have passed the Monterey acid test against the likes of the Who and Jimi Hendrix."[43]
  15. ^ Their respective B-sides were "You're Welcome" and "Devoted to You", both non-album tracks. The latter had been released on Beach Boys' Party! two years earlier.
  16. ^ Their 1962 debut Surfin' Safari reached 32.[90]
  17. ^ The column entry was juxtaposed with a review for Pink Floyd's debut LP Piper at the Gates of Dawn.[96][81] After Piper, co-founder and songwriter Syd Barrett resigned from the band's live performances and was known as "Pink Floyd's Brian Wilson" only to suffer a mental breakdown in the middle of their second album and leave the band completely.[97]
  18. ^ The same review bemoaned the absence of "Surf's Up", writing that the song is "better than anything that is on the album and would have provided the same emotional catharsis as that 'A Day in the Life' provides for Sgt. Pepper."[96]
  19. ^ When Goldstein found the opportunity to ask Wilson about the Fauré connection, accordingly, "He [Brian] looked like I had pulled a knife on him. 'I never heard of that guy,' he muttered."[100]
  20. ^ According to session drummer Hal Blaine: "I think the main period of hit-making ended when they put that studio in the home, because the other guys were around 'making decisions' and getting in the way."[53]
  21. ^ Wilson's home studio was actually dismantled in 1972.[2]
  22. ^ The band was still expecting to complete and release the album as late as 1973 before it became clear that only Brian could comprehend the innumerable fragments that had been recorded.[120]
  23. ^ "Cool, Cool Water" evolved from the Smile instrumental "Love to Say Dada".[122]
  24. ^ "Can't Wait Too Long" is an unfinished song recorded between late 1967 and mid 1968. It was included as a bonus track in the 1990 reissue of Smiley Smile and Wild Honey. It may have evolved from a short vocal riff, "I Believe in Miracles", another outtake from Smiley Smile that frequently appears on bootlegs, where it is often paired with "Can't Wait Too Long".[124]


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Further reading

External links