Click On Each Title Below For A Full Page Review of Each Track:
Sometimes cited when labeling Smiley Smile a stoner album. As if, closing out side one, we still need proof.
In fact "Little Pad" pulls away from the organized disorientation of the last three (or maybe four) tracks, to settle into a charming three verse song. Only the opening 15 seconds have that Beach Boys Party self-mocking vocal smartassedness. After that they sing it straight.
Well, sort of. We aren't quite all the way back to "In My Room" and "Their Hearts Were Full of Spring." But we're not back to "She's Goin' Bald" either. As side one concludes we have opened up and explored the implications of "Heroes and Villains" enough to travel from cynicism to whimsy. To end at an achieved intentional innocence.
The complete lyrics. "If I only had a little pad in Hawaii. Sure would like to have ALPIH. By the sea that's where I'll build ALPIH." Who can argue with that? It's not the hip faux simplicity of "Vegetables." Nor the grand ambition of Smile.
Nor the "Hawaii" track off 1963's Surfer Girl LP of bigger waves and nothing but raves. Just a little pad. Foreshadowing the hippie domesticity of the 1970s. The revamped Carole King, the turn away from big themes. The inner life. The set up for the Beach Boys Wild Honey, only three months later.
But the song would lose the power of its charm if it was only about "a little pad in Laurel Canyon (or Malibu)." On top of the clever modesty, similar to the Beatles "When I'm 64," there's a nod to the notion of paradise. Their paradise. Surfer's paradise. The only state in the USA that's west of California.
That geographic metaphor is also put to use in sweep-of-American-history Smile, and "Little Pad" borrows from Smile's "In Blue Hawaii." With Smile's 37 year delay we can either hear "Little Pad" as the echo, or "Blue Hawaii" as the elaboration. Or both.
Or neither. "Little Pad" can stand on it's own. It doesn't sound like a fragment because it has the structure of a typically simple-yet-complex Brian Wilson pop song. And whether we are hearing it now or when it was released, with or without any knoweldge of Smile, we can catch its Beach Boyistic frame of reference.
"When I'm 64" pleasantly manipulates the Beatles self-knowledge of their youth and position as British Invasionists. But even at their outset the best of those Brits as well as American folk-rockers like Dylan displayed an understanding of their position inside the culture they were exploring.
The Beach Boys on their first ten albums were singing a kind of popified rock era folk music. As intentional and thoughtful as the Carter Family or Chuck Berry, but not self-referential. Not until the end of side one on Smiley Smile. Here's where they really catch up with the Beatles.
Of course, this only works if the song works as a song. The final achievement of innocence over distance, of whimsy over cynicism, of structure over disintegration rests on the musicality. A close listen reveals every hum, every ukulele strum, every slide guitar note as essential. Reveals the Beach Boys at the peak, if that's the right word, of their powers, whether it took two months in three different studios or one hour in Brian Wilson's home.
We are ready for side two.