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SMiLE NEWS - Thursday October 28th 2004


Long lost missing Smile tape featuring Kerry's contributions

Kerry watches "Inside Pop" in 1967

Brian Wilson and John Kerry (far right) working on Smile in 1967 after Van Dyke Parks departure

Brian Wilson and John Kerry recently discussing Smile.



We recently broke the news of a 43 year old recording of John Kerry's high-school rock ‘n' roll band (The Electras) which featured a young John Kerry pioneering the use of feedback! This was years before it became “trendy” to record audio distortion. It has long been thought that John Lennon of the Beatles, Pete Townshend of the Who, and Jimi Hendrix were the pioneers of feedback But now we know that it was John Kerry who really invented its use!

Well now there has been another discovery, which only strengthens Kerry’s claim to rock and roll fame. The tape, which was recently found, contains many elements of Smile that would have made the album more controversial in the 1960’s. Along with the tapes were a few black and white photos, one of Wilson and Kerry in the studio in 1967 and the other is of John Kerry watching Brian’s appearance on the 1967 TV special “Inside Pop”. “Inside Pop” was the catharsis that started the whole collaboration between Wilson and Kerry. After Kerry saw the performance of “Surf’s Up”, he knew there was something “definitely happening with Brian. I just wanted to help him write even better songs!” “Borrowing” some money from his trust fund, Kerry made the trip to LA, showing up unannounced at the recording studio while Brian was inside.

Insider Michael Vosse recalled, “I just remember this real hip cat outside the studio. It must have been about March of 1967. He was wearing striped pants, had a straw hat on, a stethoscope around his neck and a knapsack full of redid-whip! I commented on his hat and stethoscope and he just gave them to me. I invited him inside and he struck up a friendship with Brian during one of the breaks in the recording sessions.”

Brian Wilson was in a sort of quandary. His partner for Smile, Van Dyke Parks, had left the project in March to pursue a solo career with Warner Brothers. The Smile album, which had been promised as early as December of 1966, was hopelessly behind. There were gaps in the storyline, which had to be filled to complete the story and the album. As Brian was explaining to Kerry why the project was running behind, Kerry immediately pulled some of his lyrics from his knapsack to show Brian. Brian was impressed enough to make Kerry his new partner on Smile. However, Brian was sadly mistaken if he thought that the rest of the Beach Boys would approve of Kerry – especially if they hadn’t taken to the esoteric lyrics of Van Dyke Parks.

Kerry’s main contribution to Smile was taking the storyline to (then) modern times. That meant discussing Vietnam. Character Barnyard Billy gets drafted, leaving his lovely bride Marguerite behind as he fought in the jungles. On duty he happens upon an abandoned Buddhist temple and is hit by a revelation. However, Mike Love violently objected to any reference of Vietnam in the lyrics of the Beach Boys. Kerry explained, “Carl had been drafted and was facing a legal battle and Mike didn’t want to rock the boat and have J. Edgar Hoover come down on the Beach Boys. So, they left my lyrics out.”

The whole story of Kerry’s involvement in Smile has been a guarded secret, almost as mysterious as Smile itself. It was by chance that a music fan came across a suitcase at a garage sale, thought to be once owned by Murry Wilson (The Beach Boys onetime manager and father of the Wilson brothers). The tape lasts some 30 minutes and features a total of 4 completed songs, as well as a few “fragments” (Brian “modular” recording technique of the time incorporated tying various of these fragments together to create complete songs). Several people have made serious offers for the tapes, but Kerry remains noncommittal. “These will only come out if my political aspirations do not come to fruition in November. Then, there might be some kind of release and tour. I am now in negotiations with Mike Love about the possibility of backing me live to tour my version of Smile. And of course I will play bass.”

John Kerry recently appeared backstage at a Brian Wilson Smile concert for the obligatory photo-op. One reporter asked if he intended to join Brian’s band on bass. Kerry shook his finger, saying, “I did not play bass on his album. I repeat, I did not play bass on the new Smile album.”


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