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SMiLE Primer
Beginners Guide for the Beach Boys SMiLE Album
Note: Disclaimer: this is in no way intended to be the definitive SMiLE guide! It's just a brief overview for those that are new/curious about SMiLE.


Now for a "just the facts, mamm" background on SMiLE:

The tale of SMiLE really begins in May 1966 with the release of the Beach Boys PET SOUNDS. The album (of which Brian said, "I'm gonna make the greatest rock-and-roll album ever made") received critical acclaim, but lackluster sales. "Good Vibrations" (actually started during Pet Sounds), in October of 1966 was a huge leap in Brian's recording development. On "Vibes", Brian used a modular ecording technique, linking the song segments together into a coherent song. Brian's formula worked, giving the Beach Boys their biggest worldwide #1 hit to date. Brian figured, why not use this formula for a whole album? SMiLE, a.k.a. Brian's "teenage symphony to God" was born. Originally entitled "Dumb Angel" ***, SMiLE was slated for a January 1967 release. But, something happened along the way, and in May of 1967 Derek Taylor announced that SMiLE was "scrapped". The album was never released in its intended form, although parts of SMiLE songs have appeared on subsequent Beach Boys albums over the years.

SMiLE is the classic case of "coulda, woulda, shoulda". Yes, SMiLE "could have" been bigger than Sgt. Pepper. It "would have" made some sort of impact. And, it "should have" been released! But the possible influence of SMiLE is all speculation. Just like the reasons for the albums demise. There have been many excuses for the non-release of the album: Brian's drug intake (although, a listen to the studio bootlegs pretty much shoot this theory down!), the reluctance of the other Beach Boys to Brian's new songs, the Beach Boys lawsuit with Capitol (which probably pushed the album's release back even further, causing them to "miss the boat"), and the Beatles release of Sgt. Pepper.

(*** "Dumb Angel", the first working title of "Smile", is said to have be an expression of Brian Wilson's insight into the character of his brother Dennis. -"Dumb Angel: the Life and Music of Dennis Wilson" by Adam Webb, 2000)

What we DO know are the titles of the songs intended for the album:

  • Do You Like Worms
  • Wind Chimes
  • Heroes and Villains
  • Surfs Up
  • Good Vibrations
  • Cabin Essence
  • Wonderful
  • I'm In Great Shape
  • Child Is the Father of the Man
  • The Elements
  • Vega-tables
  • The Old Master Painter


Over the years, bits and pieces of SMiLE have appeared on other official Beach Boys albums. Here is a brief overview of what is available officially: