Welcome to smileysmile.org the website that believes Smiley Smile is the best Beach Boys album ever.


Click on the boxes below for other pages in this website and beyond


track by track


historical context


final thoughts


extras and links


why the beach boys matter




Click On Each Title For A Full Page Review of Each Track:


Heroes and Villians




Fall Breaks & Back To Winter


Shes' Goin' Bald


Little Pad


Good Vibrations


With Me Tonight


Wind Chomes


Gettin' Hungry




Whistle In

The Front and Back Covers


album cover strip 1

The surf and car metaphors from the beginning of the Beach Boys' career worked not only as subject matter but as visual identifiers. If the imagery failed to suggest the subjectivity and introspection tucked away inside "In My Room" or "Don't Worry Baby" the first five album covers did place the boys as California teenagers when that had a national, and as it turned out, global impact worth unraveling.


These weren't just head shots. These were graphics informing you that this group made music about Something. There was more Something in those cars and surfboards than the covers might suggest, but they sent you in the right direction.


When that first set of metaphors got exhausted, Summer substituted in the lyrics and the graphics. That worked well enough, but didn't really represent where the group, or at least Brian Wilson was headed. Visually, the summer theme managed to sustain two albums, but things hit a snag with The Beach Boys Today!


In the future, meaning for at least the last thirty years, Today! would be considered the moody, artsy precursor to Pet Sounds. Don't Hurt My Little Sister, When I Grow Up To Be A Man, She Knows Me Too Well, In The Back of My Mind. But how to represent that visually?


The cover shows the boys lined up and smiling beside a swimming pool in crew neck sweaters, a look that I can verify was popular at suburban high schools in 1965. No surfboards, cars, sailboats, or beaches here. And not much else. There's little to suggest the inward turn taking place on at album cover strip 2 least half the tracks inside. Unless the sweaters, potentially drained swimming pool, and brown and gold toned palette are meant to signify an autumnal seriousness in southern California.


By now they were in competition with the Beatles and other Brits, who at their best were self-aware, often out of art school, maybe with a theatrical English feel for stage presence. Early album covers that hit the States from across the Atlantic visually telegraphed "we know who we are and want you to know we have a bit of poetry and drama going on here." Bob Dylan's album photo shoots, haircut, and choice of scarves and jackets displayed a similar mastery of self-projection.


At the time, the Beach Boys were still performing in striped shirt Kingston Trio imitator outfits while their music was evolving and needed newer wardrobes, on stage and album covers. But visual presentation at this point proved a puzzle.


Pet Sounds itself was dogged by the same dilemma. A clever word play in cover photograph and title for Brian Wilson's groundbreaking neo-Spector symphonic pop song masterpiece, with the boys now suitably up-to-date attired and groomed, it still failed to transmit the serious ambition and depth of feeling attempted and achieved inside.


Smiley Smile would be their first packaging since at least All Summer Long, or maybe even Shut Down Vol II, that got it right. The cartoonish hippie drawing that channels post-impressionist Henri Rousseau as re-imagined by Walt rouseau plusDisney and the harmlessly bogus but charming Indian wisdom on the back cover caught the mood of counter-cultural domesticity and withdrawal sprinkled with some light weight spirituality in tension with modesty and ambition that informed the album as a whole.


Up to Pet Sounds their covers largely colored blue with red accents, establishing the continuity from surf to cars, except for outliers Now! and Party! The former, as I've stated, was so to speak mislabeled, and the later was unique, and probably deserves its own in depth discussion.


The greens in Smiley echoed Pet Sounds' green banner top that bleeds into the foliage behind the boys and goats at the San Diego Zoo, solidifying a new color theme reused in future albums endless summer such as Friends, Holland, and Surf's Up. Even 1974's Endless Summer blockbuster anthology of their surf, car, and summer highpoints, quotes Smiley visually. The return of their teenage cannon to pop culture prominence is announced by bearded, brooding Beach Boys peeking out from green Rousseau/Smiley foliage.


On Smiley's front and back covers there are no photographs or drawings of the Beach Boys, individual or group. For the first time they completely disappear from both sides of an album. Off to some imaginary, bucolic cabin from out of the past and future. It looks inviting. Or perhaps just necessary. For awhile.


A Close Listen, Track by Track