When I was in college back in the late ’90s, my friends and I were obssessed with the legendary and unfinished Beach Boys SMiLE “album”. Like many other SMiLE-enthusiasts we tried to re-construct what COULD HAVE BEEN the greatest pop album of all time. This growing phenomenon unintentionally turned it into what some may call the world’s first “interactive album”, an idea which makes perfect sense considering that Wilson originally recorded the music in a modular fashion.
Culled from various bootlegs and box sets that we had, my friends and I would make our own “SMiLE mixes” (with CDs and cassettes!) – album length versions of how we imagined the legendary, unfinished album would have been sequenced. For us and the rest of the Beach Boys SMiLE community this became a ritual and an obsession that.
Why was it so much fun? Well, not only could one rearrange the existing, beautiful fragments of music into endless combinations that all sounded different and amazing, but the music’s reoccurring themes and epic narratives (Birth of America, Cycle of Life, The Elements of the Earth, etc) made it feel like some sort of high concept sound puzzle. It was like we had a hands-on connection to a pivotal part of forgotten music history. In a sense we were lending a helping hand to Wilson and the boys – helping them finish what they never could. Crowdsourcing before Crowdsourcing.
We never really thought we could make a finished version, nor did we really want to. It was just fascinating to experience the music in different ways and in different arrangments. No mix was ever really the same as another mix. They all told a similar story in a slightly different way. The coolest thing about making them was that there was no right or wrong mix, so we were free to just explore the possibilities and have fun with it. After all, we were convinced that there never would be an “officially” finished version anyway.
This all came to somewhat of a halt, when, in 2004 a version of SMiLE was re-constructed and re-recorded by Brian Wilson, Van Dyke Parks and Wilson’s band. They mimicked the sessions tapes beautifully and did an awesome job of arranging and filling in the missing pieces of the “SMiLE puzzle”. Sure, that version has been an absolute joy to listen to since its release and is most likely the closest thing we will ever see to a “complete SMiLE”. But that isn’t what is cool about SMiLE. What makes it cool and a truly rich experience is the fact that it will never really be finished, thereby allowing the music to freely be re-interpreted and remixed by anyone.
Now, with the upcoming November 1 release of THE DEFINITIVE SMiLE SESSIONS SET, The Beach Boys and Capital Records are doing their part to revive the inherent interactive and social aspects of SMiLE by launching a video contest where fans can submit their own videos for “Good Vibrations” and “Heroes and Villains” for the chance at winning a cash prize. Not to mention the new box set release contains endless re-mastered/unheard fragments and outtakes, which will most likely encourage fans to create all new types of re-constructions of what COULD HAVE BEEN. It would definitely bring a big SMiLE to this SMiLE nerd’s face.
With the full participation of original Beach Boys Al Jardine, Mike Love, and Brian Wilson, Capitol/EMI has, for the first time, collected and compiled the band’s legendary 1966-’67 sessions for the never-completed SMiLE album. Capitol/EMI and The Beach Boys are pleased to announce November 1 (October 31 internationally) as the release date for the long-awaited arrival of The SMiLE Sessions in multiple physical and digital configurations. Artwork and complete tracklists are also unveiled for what Rolling Stone magazine recently called “the most famous unfinished album in rock & roll history.”
In numerous sessions between the spring of 1966 and the summer of 1967, The Beach Boys recorded a bounty of songs and drafts for an album, SMiLE, that was intended to follow the band’s 1966 masterpiece, Pet Sounds. The master tapes were ultimately shelved, and The Beach Boys’ SMiLE has never been released. Drawn from the original masters, The SMiLE Sessions presents an in-depth overview of The Beach Boys’ recording sessions for the enigmatic album, which has achieved legendary, mythical status for music fans around the world.
For all of those who may be unfamiliar with the music, here is one of SMiLE’s most quintessential tracks recently re-issued as a 7″ leading up to the new sessions box set: