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Topic: Link Tracks?

Posted January 01, 1999 23:11:22


That SMiLE would have continuous linking tracks ala Sgt. Pepper's seems to be a popular theory (or is it just me), but is that what Brian really intended for SMiLE? Well, I'm glad you asked because I'm itchin' to blab my opinion.

There are no quotes, that I've seen anyway, from Brian or Van about the intended assemblage of SMiLE. It's quite possible that Van had little or no knowledge of how SMiLE was to be mixed/sequenced/assembled, that was Brian's job. Brian did however talk about the assemblage of the album preceding SMiLE, Pet Sounds.

"If you take the 'Pet Sounds' album as a collection of art pieces, each designed to stand alone yet belong together, you'll see what I'm aiming at." BW [PSBS, inside front cover]

Would the same apply to the SMiLE album? Maybe. Brian did give us one clue as to the structure of SMiLE, it would be a "teenage symphony to God."

Webster's defines symphony as "a usu. Long and complex…instrumental musical composition typically of…movements in contrasting forms and keys…for symphony orchestra". A musical movement is defined as "a distinct structural unit or division…or an extended musical composition". Much of SMiLE seems to be orchestral for sure. Brian's use of the term "symphony" applied to the album as a whole. That would seem to mean SMiLE [the album] was to be a complex composition made of distinct, separate parts [the 12 tracks]. But is it that simple? There were two developments concurrent tot he making of SMiLE, that could be seen as events that might have influenced Brian towards a connected track album. The genesis of the Album Oriented Radio format and the making of the Beatles' connect track album, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band".

AOR was invented by DJ Tom Donahue at KMPX-FM. Could the advent of a new whole-album radio format have inspired Brian (or the Beatles) to produce a connected whole-album SMiLE? A new album format to match a new radio format? Probably not. There is evidence that Donahue was developing the long format concept beginning in April '67 but the album oriented format was not in full swing until the Summer [June?] of '67, long after SMiLE had been re-invented as Smiley Smile. Also, there is a question as to whether Brian could have even heard the fledgling format during the late SMiLE era since it was isolated to KMPX which, at the time, was a small, struggling, foreign language station in San Francisco. Brian may have heard OF it late April or May through someone like DJ "Humble" Harv Miller, but by then it probably was too late for SmiLE. It is documented that Humble Harv Miller visited Brian at least twice during the SmiLE sessions. It might be that the "Heroes and Villains Demo" on the Beach Boys recent "Endless Harmony" was played for Humble Harv. Humble Harv was playing "heavy" (non-Top 100) new tracks but not whole albums. Evan if Brian did know of AOR in time to influence SmiLE, and if he recognized it as a coming trend (which wouldn't surprise me), would he see a "connected" track album as a viable product in the predominately singles dominated market? I doubt it and that brings us to Sgt. Pepper's.

Sgt. Pepper's was a connected track album, recorded during the same period as SmiLE, for the same record company. Brian had visited with Paul and George in August '66 and again with Paul in April '67. It's not known how much they discussed their projects-in-progress but it is known that on April 6 '67 the first master tape of Sgt. Pepper's was made with no gaps between songs. On April 10 '67, Paul visited the Beach Boys at a Vega-tables session where he reportedly brought an acetate of "A Day In the Life" and played, at the piano, his composition "She's Leaving Home". Did the two discuss the idea of a continuous track album? No one has said but I doubt it considering the friendly rivalry between them.

There is nothing, to date, to suggest that Brian ever considered a connected track assemblage for SMiLE: there is nothing to suggest that Paul ever shared the idea with Brian; I doubt the idea of connected tracks even occurred to Brian. If he had considered it, I think we would have seen him apply the principle to at least part of the heir to SMiLE, Smiley Smile. He didn't.

Brian was the product of a 45 rpm single centered popular music industry and no one has any evidence that SMiLE was to be anything but a conventionally mastered album with 12 separated individual tracks.

Where did this connected, linking track album theory come from anyway?

"Here's a coherent line-up directly from the asteroid of Mr. Wizard…Oh yeh, be sure to edit the songs as closely as possible…" [LLVS 2}

I think it has grown from this suggestion by Dom Priore for a home-made SMiLE. Dom never said it was what Brian intended.

I hope that made sense.

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