Sunday, September 22, 2013
The Beach Boys - SMiLE (1967)
The Beach Boys – SMiLE
(soniclovenoize 1967 mix)
Sept 2013 UPGRADE
1. Our Prayer
2. Heroes and Villains
4. Do You Like Worms?
5. Child Is Father Of The Man
6. The Old Master Painter
7. Cabin Essence
8. Good Vibrations
10. I’m In Great Shape
11. Wind Chimes
12. The Elements
13. Surf’s Up
This is an UPGRADE to my reconstruction of The Beach Boys SMiLE album. The goal of this reconstruction is to recreate what the SMiLE album would have sounded like in 1967 if it had actually been finished. To do this we must discard any notion of the “correct” tracks sequence from the 2004 album Brian Wilson present SMiLE, as well the first disc of the 2011 SMiLE Sessions box set. All original Beach Boys recording are used; no anachronistic “fly-ins” from Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE were used. Also no digital pitch-shifting or digital extraction was used. This is an attempt to be as authentic to the material as possible and offer a strictly 1967 version of SMiLE. My mix is all mono (as it would have been released in 1967) but an alternate custom-made stereo mix is also included for those curious audiophiles. The best possible source-tapes were used, almost exclusively material found on the 2011 The SMiLE Sessions box set.
The upgrades in this Sept 2013 edition are:
- The true stereo 1967 “Our Prayer” from the Made in California boxset (as opposed to my synch of the mono 1967 version with the stereo 1969 version)
- My own upgraded stereo mix of “Child Is Father of The Man”, increasing the volume of the vocal track.
- A completely new stereo remix of “Cabin Essence” sources from recreated mutlitracks.
- My own upgraded stereo mix of “Old Master Painter” with a more accurate synch of the backing and vocal tracks
- The mono mix of “Good Vibrations” from the 2012 Smiley Smile remaster replaces the previous version, the mono master from the 40th Anniversary EP, because of better dynamic range/less brickwalled compression.
- My own upgraded stereo mix of “Good Vibrations”, increasing the volume of the vocal track.
- My own upgraded true stereo mix of “Wonderful” instead of my previous ‘duophonic’ mix. Note that this even improves upon my new stereo mix from last week’s update of my 2004 SMiLE. Here, I used the backing vocals from 2011’s The SMiLE Sessions, synched to the mono mix found on the 1993 Good Vibrations box set. The slight variance of EQ and pitch between the 1993 and 2011 remasters are enough to make the synched backing vocals really stand out and give it a larger perceived stereophonic spread.
- A completely new mono edit of “Wind Chimes” with a different recording as the tag, closer to Brian Wilson’s vintage acetates. A new stereo mix was also made of my new “Wind Chimes” edit.
Much has been written about the unreleased album SMiLE; even more so in recent history due to The SMiLE Sessions boxset. The first disc of the set was purported to be an accurate reconstruction of what SMiLE would have been. But is it so? In fact it is not: the tracklist is based upon the sequence found on Brian Wilson’s 2004 solo album Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE, in which the great artist finally “finished SMiLE”. Well surely, that was how SMiLE was supposed to sound? It is not: that sequence was devised by The Brian Wilson Band musical director Darian Sahanaja for the purpose of the previous year’s SMiLE Tour, as an interesting live performance that showcased all of the known and popular SMiLE tracks. Furthermore, his vision of SMiLE seemed to be greatly influenced by sequences found on known bootlegs in the 1990s as well as fan fiction on their own SMiLE mixes. As a matter of fact, Brian Wilson himself has admitted that what we think of as the “finished SMiLE” is not what it would have sounded like in 1967; Wilson himself didn’t even know what it would have sounded like, even in 1967! By spring 1967, the album itself was abandoned and he focused on two songs for a single release (“Heroes and Villains” and “Vege-Tables”) and the structure of those two songs changed from day to day! By the time Wilson had finally resolved upon a final “Heroes and Villains”, the song was convoluted and lacking the magic of the original versions, as well as the magic the rest of the albums’ sessions implied.
How could we possibly assemble something that Brian Wilson himself couldn’t? Fans and SMiLE aficionados have been spending the last 40 years making their own SMiLE mixes, so it’s not an unreachable dream. After a decade of research, I believe I have found a method to make an extremely educated guess to what the album contained and how it was structured. First and foremost, I offer that SMiLE would have been a singular two-sided album of 12 pop-songs, just as Pet Sounds was; not three conceptual suites or movements. Although, I do believe it was Wilson’s intention to make the 12 individual pop songs mostly connected or related—modulations of a theme over an album, just as each of the 12 songs were written in a modular fashion. Evidence of this can be seen in how the discarded pieces of “Heroes and Villains” became their own songs as well as re-occurring musical motifs and arrangements. So while each of the two sides of the album may be segued as a continuous piece, they are not necessarily organized by a “concept”.
But of all the many pieces recorded for SMiLE what would be included? Our first clue is found in a handwritten tracklist addressed to Capitol Records, which was used to manufacture LP mock-up artwork for the album. The tracks included, in this order: “Do You Like Worms?”, “Wind Chimes”, “Heroes and Villains”, “Surf’s Up”, “Good Vibrations”, “Cabin Essence”, “Wonderful”, “I’m In Great Shape”, “Child Is Father Of The Man”, “The Elements”, “Vege-Tables” and “The Old Master Painter”. Any astute listener who can make a playlist will know this is a terrible track sequence for an album; there is no flow or cohesion and the two sides do not time-out correctly. A listen to this sequence is honestly rather jarring and confusing. My theory is that this was not the specific track order but instead this is a shortlist of the songs that would make the final album. For a more authentic 1967 SMiLE, we must base our tracklist on these 12 songs. Thus certain SMiLE staples not included on the list such as “Look”, “He Gives Speeches” or “Holidays” would be excluded from the final running order. The one exception is “Our Prayer” used as an (uncredited) opening track outside of the twelve, which was Brian Wilson’s intention at the time.
Our next step is to take these twelve (thirteen counting “Our Prayer”) and organize them into two sides of an LP. My theory to create an authentic 1967 reconstruction is to make what I call a ‘SMiLE Sandwich’. First we must get two slices of bread for our sandwich: the opening and closing tracks of each side of the LP. If SMiLE was simply going to be a modest follow-up to the previous album Pet Sounds, then we can postulate that it could have followed industry standards in the 1960s with each side of the album beginning with one of the songs promoted as a single. While this rule of thumb is of course not universal, it at least is the case with both Pet Sounds and Smiley Smile and I believe would have a high probability of being true. For my reconstruction, I chose “Heroes and Villains” to open side A (directly after “Our Prayer” of course) and “Good Vibrations” to open side B. I do not feel “Good Vibrations” would have closed the album, as that was a specific choice by Darian Sahanaja as a casual-fan-favorite set-closer, based on 30 years of hindsight that “Good Vibrations” has become the quintessential song of the 1960s, let alone of The Beach Boys’ career. It seems more likely in 1967 it would have been simply tagged on to the beginning of side B as Capitol Record’s cash-cow. More-than-coincidentally, that is exactly how the song appeared on the final Smiley Smile album anyways.
To close each side of the LP, I took the ethos of George Martin, the producer of Brian’s chief competition and self-proclaimed ‘brother across the ocean’: close each side with the song that simply can’t be followed. Out of the ten remaining songs left on our shortlist, “Surf’s Up” and “Cabin Essence” are the two most epic songs, and both actually closed the Surf’s Up and 20/20 albums years later. Since “Surf’s Up” is probably the greatest achievement of this album and praised as one of Brian Wilson’s greatest songs, I chose to conclude side B of the album with it, relegating “Cabin Essence” to close side A. Now we have the ‘bread’ of our ‘SMiLE Sandwich’: “Heroes and Villains” and “Cabin Essence”; “”Good Vibrations” and “Surf’s Up”.
Next we arrange the ‘meat’ of our ‘SMiLE Sandwich’… We have ten remaining songs, many of them linked musically and conceptually. I offer that we abandon the notion that the songs are linked thematically and conceptually. I believe the belief that the songs fit into two conceptual movements (‘Americana’, ‘Elemental’) is a modern invention, first an observation by SMiLE researcher Domenic Priore and perpetuated out of convenience, never truly confirmed by Brian Wilson in a primary source. Instead we must focus solely on the musical connections. We can match up a number of the songs that correlate musically: the ending of “Child Is Father of The Man” is literally the beginning of “The Old Master Painter” thus the two should be paired; the arpeggio piano ending of “Do You like Worms?” fits into the similar arrangements in “Wonderful” and even closer to “Child is Father of The Man”, thus making two different possible song-sequences; the end of “Wind Chimes” segues easily into many of “The Elements” pieces (notably both “I Love To Say Dada” and “Fire (intro)”), which opens some possibilities. Knowing how these aforementioned songs should be grouped together we can easily fit eight of these ten remaining songs into the LP sides: “Do You like Worms?” into “Wonderful” into “Child Is Father of The Man” into “Old Master Painter” completing side A; the remaining “Wind Chimes” into “The Elements” on side B. This leaves just the stand-alone tracks “Vege-Tables” and “I’m In Great Shape” to fill in the gap on side B. While this was my original intention for an “authentic” 1967 tracklist, I found the album sides a bit lopsided with a 20-minuite side A and a 17 minute side B. A solution can be found in the final tracklist of Smiley Smile: if you swap “Wonderful” to side B and “Vege-Tables” to side A, the result is two 18-minte sides. Perfection!
A thorough track-by-track examination of my 1967 SMiLE reconstruction opens with “Our Prayer” which is followed closely by what is known as the ‘Cantina’ version of “Heroes and Villains”, what I believe would have been the version of the song released on the SMiLE album in 1967. It is most certainly not what I call 'The Kitchen Sink' version that appeared on BWPS and TSS and we need to accept that many, many song fragments will be left on the cutting room floor. It is of relevance however that many extra sections—including “Gee” and it’s variations, the experimental ‘Swedish Frog’ segment’ and the ‘Prelude to Fade’ segment—constitute what I believe is the theoretical “Heroes and Villains part 2” track, what many believe would have been the b-side to the single. These specific segments were all recorded after the ‘Cantina’ version was prepared, yet before the album was abandoned and “Heroes and Villains” got a complete facelift. They theory is that Brian Wilson recorded these parts specifically for the b-side rather than for “Heroes and Villains” proper. Regardless, “Heroes and Villains part 2” is not included in this album reconstruction, as it would not have been on the album in 1967. My stereo mix of “Heroes and Villains” is 75% in stereo, as the verse sections in this ‘Cantina version’—which contained the superior vocal performances—are not available in stereo, existing only in a mono master.
In a move similar to what was officially released on Smiley Smile, “Heroes and Villains” is followed by “Vege-Tables”. Its construction follows the blueprint found on TSS, as the song never really had a finalized structure in the first place. One alteration I made was the removal of the third verse as I thought it was lyrically redundant and it disrupted the gradual ‘winding-down’ flow of the song.
My own unique construction of “Do You Like Worms?” follows. Although based on Mark Linett’s construction from 1993, it presumably follows how Brian intended the structure to be. Note that in my stereo mix—created from synching the isolated vocals to the assembled backing tracks—the tack piano of the ‘Bicycle Rider’ theme pre-chorus travels from right to left stereophonically, reminiscent of the Pilgrims and Pioneers during the Western Expansion of the US—who The Bicycle Rider presents!
A slight fade and hard edit into the similar arpeggio of “Child Is Father of The Man”, Mark Linett’s mix is used since he emulated vintage Brian Wilson edits found on 1967 acetates. My stereo mix here is created by synching the mono mix with vocals to the assembled stereo backing tracks to create a convincing stereophonic spectrum.
The ending is crossfaded into “The Old Master Painter” (is it a coincidence that one song ends with the cello playing the exact same phrase? I think not!). My stereo mix uses the mono mix with vocals to literally replace the isolated right channel, which would ordinarily include the cellos anyways. Also the track concludes with the alternate, re-recorded “Heroes and Villains Fade”. We know that at one time the original “Heroes and Villains Fade” that was used in the ‘Cantina’ mix featured here was also at one time used to end “You Are My Sunshine” but with an alternate vocal. Since the fragment is already in use on my mix concluding “Heroes and Villains”, it cannot be used to conclude “The Old Master Painter”. The solution is to use this alternate re-recording, which features a more appropriate bird whistle anyways.
The side concludes with “Cabin Essence” of course. My stereo mix was created by remixing from a facsimile mastertape: a synch of the stereo backing tracks found on TSS, the backing vocals found on TSS and the isolated lead vocals extracted from a Center Channel Elimination technique (out-of-phase) applied to the Good Vibrations box set master of the track. The result is a fuller stereophonic mix with the instruments panned left and right and the lead vocals center, rather than vice versa as per the common 20/20 version.
Side B opens with the label’s aforementioned ‘cash cow’ “Good Vibrations” which some believe was never meant to be on SMiLE in the first place, but was forced on by the label. Regardless of the truth to that rumor, it fits sonically and compositionally and its placement here is much like that on the final Smiley Smile album. My stereo mix synchs the mono mix with the stereo backing tracks, effectively removing the ‘tape wow’ in the first verse as well as prolonging the fade-out that ends, in my opinion, much too quickly.
“Wonderful” follows, one of the few songs actually finished in 1966 by Brian. The single version is used here, as that is the version that would have been on SMiLE. My stereo mix is a synch of the mono mix found on the Good Vibrations box set panned at one o’clock, to the isolated backing vocals found on TSS panned at seven o’clock. This creates the illusion of a wider stereophonic spectrum, something that was never previously possible without messy digital extraction or ridiculous duophonic mixing.
Next is “I’m In Great Shape”, one of the great mysteries for SMiLE historians. What exactly was this track supposed to include? Surely the minute-long fragment was meant for more, or at least intentionally contained more? There are some who believe that Brian Wilson intended a four-part barnyard suite for SMiLE, stemming from a 1970s interview with Brian. While this was never verified past that singular reference (and others assume Wilson was mistaken and in actuality confused it with his four-part Elements suite), my reconstruction makes the extrapolation that “I’m In Great Shape” was this four-part barnyard suite. In order to complete it, we need to find its three brother pieces. An easy task, as the fragment “Barnyard” is an obvious choice and fits as an introduction to the suite (it is in the same key as the “I’m in Great Shape” fragment and both originate as castoff fragments/ideas for “Heroes and Villains”). We also know that the songs “I Wanna Be Around” and “Workshop Song” were labeled as “Great Shape” on the recording tape box. Assuming they were labeled correctly we can tag these two fragments to the end of the “I’m In Great Shape” fragment—the same conclusion Sahanaja came to in 2003!—and conclude our four-part ‘barnyard suite’ as the longer piece “I’m in Great Shape”. Contrary to Carol Kaye’s quip, I do not believe “Workshop” is “rebuilding after the fire”, but in fact building a barn.
Following is “Wind Chimes”, the second song that was actually completed by Brian Wilson in 1966/1967. Here we use a model of the Linnett mix on the Good Vibrations boxset--modeled after vintage Brian Wilson acetates--but utilizing the better sources found on TSS boxset. The separate ‘triple piano’ tag replaces the tag from the full-band recording on TSS, giving the track an even more extreme dynamic range.
The final great SMiLE mystery is the track “The Elements”. What exactly constituted each of the four-part suite? We know that “Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow” was the ‘Fire’ sections, but that’s about it. My reconstruction postulates, as many others have before me, that the separate song “Wind Chimes” represented the ‘Wind’ section and “I Love To Say Dada”—the song that eventually evolved into “Cool Cool Water” represented the ‘Water’ section. Many postulate “Vege-Tables” as the ‘Earth’ section, but I propose that “I’m In Great Shape” is a more appropriate contender for the ‘Earth’ section; surely barnyards and the ‘the great agriculture’ is more earthy than sleeping a lot and brushing your teeth? Thus the actual track “The Elements” are the combinations of ‘Fire’ and ‘Water’, the two elements that did not receive their own separate track proper. Here I used the “Heroes and Villains Intro” as many others have as an introduction to ‘Fire’ (the sound of firetrucks!); while this was not a vintage Brian Wilson decision, the piece is fair game since it was not used in the actual “Heroes and Villains” track. Following my own edit of “Mrs O’Leary’s Cow” with three repeats of the main musical passage before the breakdown and ending, we then have the assembled two sections of “I Love To Say Dada.” Instead of using the common mix with Mike Love’s (quite literally) infantile lyrics, I have chosen to create an entirely new ‘Water’ section by synching up the “Underwater Chant” from TSS, as well as inserting the flute and percussion flourishes from a completely different recording of the song. The result is a more conceptual elemental track that fits much better with its sister “Mrs O’Leary’s Cow”. Also note that the droning “Water Chant” piece found preceding “I Love To Say Dada” on BWPS and TSS was excluded as it was recorded a year after SMiLE was abandoned, and was thus not part of the intended album.
My SMiLE reconstruction concludes with the only song that could possibly conclude it, “Surf’s Up”, SMiLE’s “A Day In The Life”. Here I simply used Mark Linnett’s mix from TSS that reinstates Brian’s vocal to the instrumental and the album concludes with the reprised musical themes from side A, specifically “Child Is Father of The Man”. The stereo mix is sourced from the double vinyl TSS.
This resulting SMiLE is concise, yet articulate in direction. Sure, it lacks many of the sections and secondary songs we’ve grown to love over the years, but really, would there have been a place for EVERYTHiNG on SMiLE? Probably not. My conclusion is that many modern SMiLE reconstructions—notably BWPS and TSS—suffer from the aforementioned 'Kitchen Sink' phenomenon; we forget that just because it could fit, doesn’t mean it should. SMiLE would have been as modest as Pet Sounds, albeit her more eccentric sister. Everything is a progression and evolution is a slow, gradual process. SMiLE in 1967 may not have been the epic symphony for God as it was in 2004 or 2011, but had it been released in 1967 as it is reconstructed here, who knows what could have followed in 1968 or 1969?
Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of The Beach Boys (1993 CD box set)
Good Vibrations (2006 40th Anniversary CD EP)
Made in California (2013 CD box set)
Smiley Smile (2012 CD remaster)
The SMiLE Sessions (2011 CD box set)
The SMiLE Sessions (2011 LP, son-of-albion vinyl rip)
flac --> wav --> editing in SONAR, Audacity & Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
*md5, artwork and tracknotes included