Welcome to smileysmile.org the website devoted to explaining why Smiley Smile is the best Beach Boys album ever.
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Submitted signed essays will be posted here if they are more or less in the Smiley Smile quirky and clever yet positive groove.
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Interesting Events 1966
January: Julian Bond barred from elected seat in Georgia House of Representatives for opposition to War in Viet Nam
May: Large anti-war March on Washington.
Bob Dylan releases Blonde On Blonde.
June: B52s bomb Hanoi and Haiphong
September: Dr. King leads march through Cicero, Illinois protected by 2,000 National Guard. Supremes' You Can't Hurry Love tops singles chart.
October: Four Tops' Reach Out I'll Be There tops singles chart.
November: Ronald Reagan elected Governor of California
Interesting Events 1967
January: Packers win first Super Bowl
April: Muhammad Ali stripped of Heavyweight Champ title for refusing the draft.
May: Carl Wilson indicted by Federal Grand Jury for draft evasion, misses first Beach Boys concert in Dublin at beginning of European tour.
June: Aretha Franklin's I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You tops album chart.
July; Detroit erupts. 5 days, 43 dead, 1,189 injured, 7,200 arrested, 2,000 buildings destroyed.
August: Thurgood Marshall first African-American appointed to Supreme Court.
Doors' Light My Fire tops singles chart.
October: Anti-war march on
November: Supremes Greatest Hits replaces Sgt. Pepper at top of album chart.
December: Rolling Stone magazine knocks Beach Boys in editorial for "pointless pursuit" of the Beatles, citing Smiley Smile's failure.
The release of the Beatles Revolver in the late summer of 1966 confirmed the suspicion that (some of) rock 'n' roll was turning into rock, an art form believed to be progressing in sophistication and ambition.
And for awhile the Beach Boys appeared to be participants in this unfolding drama.
By the second half of the decade, their early '60s surf and car hits were dismissed as relics from a simpler, bygone era. Although Pet Sounds had not sold as well in the States as that earlier material, the album was considered an advance; admired in England by the public, the critics, and the Beatles themselves, at a time when British pop taste was believed to be at least one step beyond American. If you were listening for such connections it wasn't hard to notice that Here, There, and Everywhere from Revolver was a homage to Pet Sounds.
Then, in October of 1966 Good Vibrations was released - a perfect single: groovy, unique, elegant, and accessible. A million selling number one hit.
And so . . .fitting in with the march-of-historical-progress-rock theory, the next Beach Boys album, Smile, was understood to be in development as a try-and-top-this reply to Revolver, which would then be topped by the Beatles, and so on. The PR was in place, the press was on board, and the public was primed.
And then the release of Smile kept getting delayed.
In June of 1967 the Beach Boys canceled out of the Monterey Pop Festival, the pre-Woodstock, Summer of Love anointing of the Byrds, the Dead, Joplin, Hendrix, the Who, Otis Redding, and Ravi Shankar. Was Brian Wilson worried that the Beach Boys were too square for the hippies?
And then the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper.
Finally, in September of 1967 the Beach Boys released . . . . Smiley Smile.
This wasn't progress. This wasn't an advance. This was a collapse, or maybe a retraction, or even a surrender. Not the next Pet Sounds or Sgt. Pepper. Or an improvement on Pet Sounds. This was . . . what exactly?
Of course, not every consumer bought every album the day it came out or ever. Yet there remained a feeling about the Beach Boys that something was missing. Where was their Sgt. Pepper? Their late '60s bona fides?
The years rolled by and at best Smiley Smile would occasionally receive a puzzled mention while the Beach Boys transformed into an artistically with-it concert draw and eventually returned to the top ten album charts. And a public biography got pieced together outlining the collapse, withdrawal, and eventual rehabilitation of Brian Wilson.
This emerging Brian bio fit a tortured artist/troubled genius framework that was part of a perspective on the 1960s that developed in the 1970s and '80s. Looking back, that earlier decade came into focus as an era of dramatic changes, some absorbed easily, and some not so well, full of casualties and triumphs, social, political, and personal. In such a context, the failure to finish Smile was understood as typically late '60s in its unrealized, maybe unrealistic ambitions.
Because, as it turned out, the Beatles themsevles never did top Sgt. Pepper. We all have our favorites, but few fans would claim Magical Mystery Tour or Let It Be as progressions. While the Rolling Stones attempt at a Sgt. Pepper, Their Satanic Majesty's Request is remembered, if at all, as a sloppy psychedelic interlude.
The decades passed: disco, punk, funk, alt and hip hop complicated any simple rock 'n' roll to rock pop music history, if not the entire idea of pop progression.
Finally, in 2004, after all the speculation and anticipation, Smile would get patched up, performed, recorded and released by Brian Wilson and the wonderful back-up band he had assembled, to acclamation accompanied by relief. Then, using that template, the original Beach Boys Smile tracks, many parceled out on '60s and '70s albums, would themselves be compiled and released as a nearly complete, sequentially accurate album as well.
With over 35 years of pop music hindsight, Smiley Smile could now be appreciated as the beginning of Wilson's long but, as it turned out, temporary withdrawal. An improvised echo of an anticipated event that would not materialize until the following millennium.
This made Smiley Smile understandable as a momentary musical detour in the career of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. An oddball pop footnote. A place holder for the real album that would only surface decades later.
And yet . . . all along some of us, although thrilled by the rehabilitation of Brian Wilson and the release of Smile, would still consider Smiley Smile the best Beach Boys album ever. Not a detour at all, but the beginning of a trip down a road regrettably left more or less unexamined after one more album.
Smile is great, Pet Sounds is great, Wild Honey is great, Shut Down Vol II is great, Sunflower is great. But Smiley Smile is better.