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In Their Own Words:
Lyrics and Themes

"The album will include lots of humor -- some musical and some spoken. It won't be like a comedy LP -- there won't be any spoken tracks as such -- but someone might say something in between verses."
- Brian Wilson (source and date?)

“Brian was consumed with humor at the time and the importance of humor. He was fascinated with the idea of getting humor onto a disc and hot to get that disc out to the people”
- David Anderle (“Heroes And Villains” by Steven Gaines. 1986)

"As life goes on, you learn a lot. It's the same here with the boys and Brian. He writes about his experiences in life. That's all you can write about. You can't write about things you don't know. That's what we're doing with Smile."
–Dennis Wilson ("Dumb Angel: the Life and Music of Dennis Wilson" by Adam Webb, 2000)

“I remember Brian saying that he wanted Michael Vosse and myself and him to go to a bar somewhere and he wanted me to start a fight with somebody in the bar and he would record it because he thought that would be very humorous. I said, ‘Well Brian, what happens if the fight goes on beyond, you know?’ He didn’t even think of that”
– David Anderle (A&E BIO BRIAN WILSON- aired 6-20-99)

“I wrote with Van Dyke Parks…more than anybody else he’s my favorite collaborator. Initially, we wanted to do an album called Smile…but we don’t work as much anymore.”
– Brian Wilson (THE BEACH BOYS-AN AMERICAN BAND - video)

“Van Dyke Parks is [a] music man who I think is just amazing. He got involved with me quite heavily and steered me in some good directions and turned on some light.”
- Brian Wilson (“The Beach Boys & The Southern California Myth” by David Leaf. 1979)

“There was an obsession to reject anything that smacked patriotism. The Beach Boys vibe was to me an ideal platform to talk about what we knew”
- Van Dyke Parks (A&E BIO BRIAN WILSON- aired 6-20-99)

“He and I hit it off very well…he…real fast you know? Quick and we wrote a lot of quick songs real fast.”
- Brian Wilson (ENDLESS HARMONY- VH1 TV special 1998)

“I wrote lyrics for Brian Wilson mostly….for an album called Pet Sounds, which redied us for the next album, which is still an unexplained event. I don’t understand it. It’s just after the Beach Boys were in litigation with Capitol Records.”
- Van Dyke Parks (filmed outside of Tower Records in 1976) (THE BEACH BOYS-AN AMERICAN BAND - video)


“I have no excuse sir.”
- Van Dyke Parks (“Heroes And Villains” by Steven Gaines. 1986)

“I wasn’t close enough to the other guys. I was in a position of defending my lyrics…it went from ‘ding witty pearl hang-ten’ …I mean, I didn’t know that language…to….ah, like…’Columnated Ruins Domino’. Mike Love said to me one day…he said, ‘Explain this, ‘Over and over the crow cries uncover the cornfield.’ And it was an American gothic trip that Brian and I were working on, and I said, ‘I don’t know what these lyrics are all about, if they aren’t important throw them away’…and so they did.”
- Van Dyke Parks (filmed outside of Tower Records in 1976) (THE BEACH BOYS-AN AMERICAN BAND - video)


“Now why do you want to talk to ME about that? I like Van Dyke Parks…he’s a nice person. But, I asked him once, “Van Dyke, what does that lyric mean?’ He says, ‘I don’t know, I haven’t a clue.’ (laughs) And I said, ‘Exactly!’”
- Mike Love (ENDLESS HARMONY- VH1 TV special 1998)


“’I’ve been in this town so long that back in the city I’ve been taken for lost and gone and unknown for a long, long time’…he said, ‘now that’s a sentence!”
- Van Dyke Parks (source and date?)


“I loved Van Dyke's lyrics. I just loved how he painted the songs with words. His ideas were great. I didn't care what they meant. It didn't matter to me. Love was always trying to pinpoint Van Dyke saying, “What does this mean?” And he would go, “I don't know, I was high.” [laughs] Mike would go, “That's disgusting. That doesn't make any sense.” [laughs] But it didn't have to make sense, it didn't have to have a hook. If it works, it works.”
-Al Jardine (Goldmine- “A Beach Boy Still Riding The Waves” July 28, 2000)

“I met Brian during Pet Sounds when the inclusion of the cello-which I recall was my idea-was important to the development of that sound on record. Brian generously did everything he could to help me along-so I became, as it were, an exercising lyricist. I just started writing the words for him.”
-Van Dyke Parks (“The Beach Boys” by Byron Preiss. 1979)

“I think Van Dyke is one of the few, very few people that Brian looked on as an equal, or maybe that’s a little presumptuous to say. Van Dyke blew Brian’s mind and I haven’t seen anyone else do that.”
-David Anderle (“The Beach Boys” by Byron Preiss. 1979)

“We just started working a few weeks after we met. We just wrote songs.”
-Brian Wilson (“The Beach Boys” by Byron Preiss. 1979)


“A panorama of American history filled the room as the music shifted from theme to theme. The tinkling harpsichord sounds of the bicycle rider pushed sad Indian sounds across the continent; the Iron Horse pounded across the plains in a wide-open rolling rhythm that summoned up visions of the Old West; civilized chickens bobbed up and down in a tiny ballet of comic barnyard melody; the inexorable bicycle music, cold and charming as an infinitely talented music box, reappeared and faded away…”
-from “Goodbye Surfing!” (“The Beach Boys” by Byron Preiss. 1979)

“We were touring a lot. I wasn’t involved in working in the conception a lot at that time.”
-Mike Love (“The Beach Boys” by Byron Preiss. 1979)

“I wasn’t there. I heard about it just like anybody else…I was home.”
-Al Jardine (“The Beach Boys” by Byron Preiss. 1979)


“I never objected to musical progressions…the only thing I ever objected to was lyrics-I think lyrics should be used to communicate. Music or sound which will communicate a feeling. Meaning and feeling together make a musical whole…Although I thought they were far-out, I didn’t relate to them. When I heard a lyric that made no sense to me, I could appreciate it on an aesthetic level, but it didn’t sit right with me. I had a difference of opinion of those who did.”
-Mike Love (“The Beach Boys” by Byron Preiss. 1979)

“they’re all vignettes. You see, that’s Brian Wilson’s greatest work-not the sustained riffs of a blues band, but the little musical vignettes-ten or twenty seconds or verse, a chorus, a shot here or there and then out. And that’s what the whole Smile era was-vocal trips, musical trips, little trips, experiments, they’d go down this allay and maybe it would be a dead end. It didn’t mean it wasn’t good, it just didn’t fit with something, and sometimes things were dropped. Sometimes things fit together and sometimes they were dropped. There’s no way it could be made sensible and logical. It doesn’t follow any patterns you could trace.”
-Mike Love (“The Beach Boys” by Byron Preiss. 1979)


“[Dumb Angel] was just a passing title. Smile was more cheery, so we used the more cheery title.”
-Brian Wilson (“The Beach Boys” by Byron Preiss. 1979)


“None whatsoever…total lyricist…and sometimes an instrumentalist…and would play what he said he wanted…like everybody else at the date. Ideas weren’t necessary…”
-Van Dyke Parks (BBC Radio 1 "Smile" special 8/13/95)

“I think Brian was looking for lyrics that were not about extolling the virtues of internal combustion and sexual conquest. I think that he was looking for lyrics that did ANYTHING but that, and perhaps that was his only idea, because he wanted legitimacy in his own mind… wanted the independence to do the music he wanted, and I think that these lyrics accomplished that.”
-Van Dyke Parks (BBC Radio 1 "Smile" special 8/13/95)

“Brian always made a melody, and the words were slapped on that melody. The melody wouldn’t have asked him to change a syllable.”
-Van Dyke Parks (BBC Radio 1 "Smile" special 8/13/95)

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