Sunday, August 20, 2017

Smiley Smile: The Little Album That Could by Peter Reum

Smiley Smile: The Little Album That Could by Peter  Reum

The effort to assemble the Smile album was effectively tabled by Brian Wilson in late December 1966, when he was told by David Anderle that a new single was overdue. In Paul Williams pioneering rock journal, Crawdaddy, Anderle said telling Brian that a single was overdue was the hardest thing he had to do while at Brother Records. Brian, who had Smile roughly 75% complete, had to shelf the album in favor of working on a new single.

In a frantic manner, in the winter of 1967, Brian recorded several segments of Heroes and Villains, shuffling the segments in a manner that seemed unfocused. In several subsequent interviews through the years concerning why Smile was shelved, Brian attributed his difficulty in finishing Smile to losing his focus and perspective. As time marched into late Spring 1967, Brian's inactivity spoke volumes about his exhaustion and mental health's deterioration. March 1967 was consumed with a lawsuit stating Capitol Records owed Brother Records a substantal amount of money for unpaid royalties due to an outdated policy Capitol used in the 1940s to charge off to artists' 78 rpm records that broke in shipment.

In April 1967, Brian set Heroes and Villains aside like he did Smile, and began work on a new single--Vegetables. Nearly all of his studio time in April was concerned with Vegetables.  In effect, both Smile and the first single, Heroes and Villains, from the album were set aside.

Brian, exhausted from 6 years of hectic work as a songwriter and producer, had a nervous collapse, which led to him telling the Beach Boys that he wanted more involvement from the group in studio work, and that he needed the guys in The Beach Boys to take over production of future singles and albums, because he needed to rest following his nervous collapse in May 1967. A quote from Carl Wilson regarding Brian's emotional frailty during and after this breakdown intimated that had the group pushed Brian during his collapse to produce the single and album, they might have never gotten Brian to do any future work for the Beach Boys. In June 1967, The Beach Boys, with Brian and Carl Wilson co-producing, used both Wally Heider's Studio 3 and Brian's Home Studio, still a makeshift studio under construction, to record this most eccentric of Brian's albums with The Beach Boys. The  use of Brian's home studio had to accommodate use of the mixing board on Beach Boys Tours in the late Sixties.

Smiley Smile was recorded in very primitive conditions, partly in Brian's new home studio, and it tends to show. Nevertheless, it has some great innovation. Coming on the heels of the Derek Taylor Smile publicity horse opera, it was probably commercially doomed from the start. Smiley Smile is the antithesis of what Smile was promoted by Taylor to be.

Smiley Smile Back Cover Art

Whereas Smile was ornate, broad brushed Baroque Rock Opera bathed in Americana and Elemental Mythology....Smiley Smile was a Zen Koan, a riddle, Minimalist in its approach, full of intuitive cues that were at once humorous, eerie, silly, and unexpected. To illustrate, some of the chants, spoofs, and some of the Van Dyke Parks written lyrics were retained for Smiley Smile, and others were shelved for future use. The influence of the shelving of Smile cannot be understated with respect to the minimalist approach on Smiley Smile. In a 1983 comprehensive interview with Geoffrey Himes, Carl Wilson reaffirmed the exhaustion and feelings of ambivalence Brian had after he ceased recording Smile. There is an observation by Carl in that interview that had The Beach Boys not understood Brian's state of mind after canning Smile, that "we might have lost him for good." It appeared to several observers at the time that the failure of Heroes and Villains to enter the top ten singles charts across the country drove Brian  further into self-doubt and fear, leading to sparse home brewed recordings in 1967. It is also likely that Brian's compulsive shuffling of recorded bits for Heroes and Villains led him to rewind his approach to studio recording, resulting in the homemade, subtle approach to Smiley Smile. In an interview that this author did with engineer Jim Lockert prior to his passing away, Lockert observed that Brian suspected several groups of spying on the Smile Sessions, with Brian then assembling Smiley Smile from five modular taped recordings into a finished album, thereby ensuring Smiley Smile's sound would not be copied by competing groups. In that sense, Smiley Smile was the first completed modular production approach album which was successfully assembled and then released in rock.

Author and musical analyst Daniel Harrison in a 1997 chapter in a book about musical structure made a crucial point that given the approach Brian took to Smiley Smile, it could not be regarded as a piece of art that could be compared to their albums of the late Sixties, and to compare it to those works does a disservice to Brian and his creativity. In a separate interview with Tom Nolan from a 1971 two part Rolling Stone article on The Beach Boys and Brian, fellow producer Terry Melcher makes two critical observations about the era of Smiley Smile. First, he recounts a story in which Brian and his friends formed a line of cars that went to a radio station in Los Angeles to offer that station the debut broadcast on radio of Heroes and Villains. The midnight disc jockey, not sure what to do, turned Brian down at first, then called his supervisor who screamed "put it on, you idiot!!!" Melcher goes on to say that the experience of not initially playing Heroes "killed was like someone kicked him in the stomach and deflated him." With distance and perspective, it appears to this writer that whatever self-confidence Brian had regarding his songs being commercial disappeared forever. Later on, in 1975, Bruce Johnston and Terry Melcher signed an agreement with Brian to produce 15 sides for their Equinox Records label. Both men remarked in separate interviews that Brian was loathe to touch the mixing board, and thereby could not meet the requirements of his Equinox contract. Terry Melcher remarked that "they ought to give Brian a grant to be able to write and record whatever he wants without any expectations so he could follow his own muse." The simple fact is that Brian's commercial instincts ebbed after Smiley Smile, partially due to his internal voices, partially due to his refusal to step on the commercial recording treadmill again, and partially due to his inability to produce artists on Brother Records, and his own doubts about his ability to produce hit records.

Smiley Smile Front Cover Art

None of the factors cited above in any way diminish the beautiful simplicity of Smiley Smile. The creative heart of Smiley Smile is the non-verbal musical humor embedded in the tunes. When Carl Wilson called Smiley Smile "an album for Brian to cool out by," it was hard to imagine the levels of exhaustion and cross-talk that Brian was experiencing in his brain. The stark beauty of Smiley Smile, the subtle and idiosyncratic humor therein, and the overcoming of true and abject fear that Brian experienced because of the hostile voices he was hearing gave birth to Smiley Smile, but for Brian, the creative load was no longer bearable. The phrase "Produced by Brian Wilson" did not appear as a complete album credit until 15 Big Ones, recorded almost 10 years after Smiley Smile.

Here is a revised section on Brian's use of humor in recording partially taken from my article entitled Light the Lamp, with new material included, which I first wrote with the goal of searching for the sources of Brian's musically humorous approaches and expressions:

...So we begin our search for Brian Wilson's laughin' place....We know that Brian valued humor as a child and as a young adult from anecdotal evidence from childhood friends and The Wilson Brothers' own stories of his antics at home in Hawthorne, at school, later on the road, or in the studio. We also see that the albums we have enjoyed through the years have all had differing types of humor that evolved and changed as Brian grew older, became more worldly, and was more responsible for his extended family.

If we accept the definition of humor as outlined by Steven Sultanoff, Ph.D. from a well done 1997 article at the American Academy of Therapeutic Humor website entitled "What is Humor?", we find a definition in several parts. First, Dr. Sultanoff makes the point that "one way to experience humor is to experience incongruity in a familiar situation." Musically, this could be as complex as a song with a paradoxical twist at the end of it, a musical unexpected moment, or simply a picture of people that does not fit with standard behavior. An example of a musical punchline almost approaching a Zen koan in its emotional suddenness is the version of Wind Chimes on Smiley Smile. We are lulled into somnambulence listening to our wind chimes, almost to the point of total relaxation. If Brian were to loop the singing, it would surely have the quality of reducing distances between people. For Brian, humor was one way for a very shy and gifted teenager who was always on the edge of several social circles to be able to be accepted. This is well documented by David Leaf in his interviews with Rich Sloane and other high school friends of Brian's. A high school friend of Brian's tells the story of Brian's high school graduation, where Brian asked several friends to limp across the stage to get their diplomas. He told each person "everyone is doing it." Second, in the end, only Brian decided to limp. What would motivate Brian to do this?" The most likely answer is that Brian wanted to do something funny that would make the gesture by Brian the most memorable event at graduation.

Using Dr. Sultanoff's definition, the third purpose for humor is to dispel anger. In Brian's chaotic, abusive, alcoholic home, the major emotion he witnessed was anger. His father's volcanic temper could be tamed by two of Brian's gifts, music and humor. Brian used one or the other as often as he could in order to lighten the emotional tension in his mom and brothers' lives. There are several interviews with Brian, Dennis, and Carl which mention Brian telling funny jokes or singing songs to reduce the anger and fear that the boys routinely experienced and its consequential anxiety, which was always at a high level throughout their childhood. In this sense, we can attribute to humor a third and critical purpose for Brian, which was to alleviate anger, depression, and to reduce stress generated anxiety.

Another notorious part of Brian's sense of humor is the "put on." Even his best friends report difficulty determining at times whether the answers they are getting in conversations they have with him are complete fabrications or on the level. Don Was tells the story of asking Brian how he wrote Til' I Die during the I Just Wasn't Made for There Times Film. Brian replied by telling Don that he was trying to compose a song by "only playing the black keys." Don admits not knowing whether Brian's reply was true, or "Brian was just entertaining me." 

Dr. Sultanoff mentions a fourth purpose of humor as deflating or ridiculing the seriousness of a highly important topic. The song She's Going Bald is an example of this form of humor.  The song begins with a modified Brazilian jazz sound, with the topic of going bald being probably one of the worst problems a woman who values her appearance can have happen to her. Derived from a brief fragment in the Smile Session known as "He Gives Speeches,"  Mike Love added some lyrics that amplified the absurdity of the song. The sarcastic and angry tone of He Gives Speeches was altered to emphasize silliness instead of a more critical and sarcastic focus. One of the brilliant musical touches of humor Brian employed was to alter the vocals of part of the song using an Eltro Information Rate Changer. The Fifties tune "Get a Job" is quoted, only adding to the absurdity of the tune. The third part of the song mocks the urgent nature of the problem, a woman going bald. Finally, the call and response section of the tune's end, quoting a Fifties Rhythm and Blues type of singing breaks the news to the woman...."You're Too Late Mama, Ain't Nothin' Upside Your Head No more, No More, No More...."

Another purpose of Brian's Smiley Smile humor is  to dispel feelings of fear or being scared. Fall Breaks and Back to Winter (Woody Woodpecker Symphony) uses the same chord progression as Mrs. O'Leary's Cow from Smile.  Brian, quoted in an interview about Smile, remarks that the ominous chord progression from Mrs. O'Leary's Cow did not  have to be a "big and frightening tune." Instead,  he states that Fall Breaks and Back to Winter can be a "candle" instead of a "big scary fire."

The rest of the tunes on Smiley Smile can be placed in one or more of Dr. Sultanoff's purposes for humor. Smiley Smile's version of Wonderful, unlike the almost chamber music tone of the Smile version, is presented with an unusual spoken word bridge that is humorous instead. The song's bridge is somewhat discordant, lending an almost "musique concrete" feel to the song. The overall impression one takes away from repeated listens is an almost bemused wonder, bringing out the subtle smile the album's title evokes. The same feeling is generated by Little Pad and Whistle In, two modified "chants" which parallel some of Brian's work on Smile. Both tunes are repetitive. Whistle In simply repeats the phrase "Remember the day, remember the night, all day long...Whistle In." Little Pad is a little more developed, but still has the feeling of a Smile type of chant that has been modified to offer a feeling of living a more simplified life in Hawaii. The overall feel is a wistful type of happiness, as the listener places himself or herself in the vocalist's place.

A promotional album from the Smiley Smile period released by Capitol has an interview with Brian about the song With Me Tonight, in which Brian is asked why there is a loud "GOOD!!!" included in the otherwise hypnotic sounds of the song. Brian responds by saying "oh that was Arny Geller, and we liked how it sounded so we just left it in." This almost Zen acceptance of what could have been considered a blown take of the song again illustrates the whimsy and humorous attitude Brian and The Beach Boys took  in recording Smiley Smile. Brian instinctively understood the necessity of humor in his childhood to distract his younger brothers from the fury of Murry Wilson's outbursts of rage. Humor became a prime coping method for Brian to be able to laugh off the fear of his father when intoxicated, which in turn was also protective of his younger brothers using distraction to dispel their fear as well.

Gettin'  Hungry is the first tune written by Brian and Mike Love with Brian fulfilling his promise to write an album's worth of songs with Mike. This promise was made just before recording Pet Sounds, and the Smile Sessions using Van Dyke Parks as lyricist delayed the keeping of that promise, with Mike possibly feeling cast aside. Brian, deciding to keep his promise to Mike, wrote Getting Hungry with Mike, and this second single from Smiley Smile was not released as a Beach Boys song, but as performed by Brian Wilson and Mike Love. Gettin' Hungry was a hit in some parts of the world, but not in the USA. The organ and other instruments in the song are more Rhythm and Blues in tone, making it sound more like a Wild Honey tune than a Smiley Smile track. It may have fit better there.

Vegetables is a song that makes fun of, yet promotes the dietary benefits of eating vegetables and fruit. The Los Angeles region of California has historically been obsessed with being healthy and trying to maintain a youthful appearance for as long as possible. Brian toyed with exercising and maintaining a healthy diet, but did not maintain a consistent approach. A few years later, Brian's Radiant Radish health food store graced the Hollywood area for roughly a year. The reversed laughs in the tag of Vegetables are from the Smile version.

For Brian, humor is indeed a gift from God. He has been quoted repeating that idea in several interviews down the years. For him, the good feelings and relief that came from being funny and getting laughs generated from brothers and friends were a lifesaver. Dr. Sultanoff mentions in his article that as anxiety increases, a person's ability to maintain healthy self-esteem, realistic self-perspective, and ultimately, sanity, decreases. He mentions that the effect that is commonly seen therapeutically is that "without humor, peoples' thoughts become increasingly  stuck and narrowly focused."  That phenomenon is one of the primary reasons Brian stopped working on Smile.

Brian got a form of emotional release from crippling social anxiety and humorous relief from seeing conflict. He scripted a scene at a rehearsal for Heroes and Villains after the 1967 Hawaiian Live Concerts in which Mike Love actually reads a Brian authored script making fun of Brian for having a less successful sales result with the Heroes and Villains single than anticipated. Brian is making fun of Mike making fun of Brian and Van Dyke's art during Smile's recording several months beforehand. There is a complex form of humor which is a form of payback for Mike's discomfort with Van Dyke Park's lyrics for Smile, yet Brian is also ridiculing himself for thinking that Smile would be accepted by the group as a Beach Boys album. Self-deprecation is a major form of expression of humor that Brian finds funny. 

If we carefully listen to Brian's humorous songs. we have a window into his feelings. For Brian, humor was the safe outlet to express the anger and hostility he felt for the wrongs that life had dealt him as a child and young adult. The Cassius Love vs. Sonny Wilson script is one written mostly by Brian on Shut Down Volume 2, and reflects some of the frustration Brian felt with his relationship with his cousin, but more importantly, his father, Murry. We see that Brian found humor in replaying the arguments of his childhood in his art. The famous story about Brian wanting to have his Smile era pals go out and provoke a bar fight to be tape recorded for Smile was serious. There is also Brian's skit from April 1967 which has Hal Blaine (imitating Murry) arguing with Dennis about whether Dennis can have some Vegetables because he is hungry. Hal says "get outta here you punk, and take your dog with you!" Does anyone else catch the similarity to the lines of a certain witch in the Wizard of Oz?

Above, in this article, we asked what Brian finds funny, and why he might limp across the stage at his high school graduation. One answer is that Brian finds the opportunity to sneakily get back at those who he perceives as hurting him as funny, and the actual act of doing so hilarious. To limp across the stage at his high school graduation was to say to his tyrannical father, "Hah! you won't be able to tell me what to do much longer, because I'm going to be my own boss. Screw you for wanting this to be a dignified occasion!" Brian finds humor in being able to put one over on people he considers intrusive, rude, pushy, or as bullies. 

Perhaps the ultimate expression of what Brian finds funny is his complex, yet hilarious send up of himself and his father regarding the ongoing and terribly damaging conflict in their relationship in I'm Bugged At My Old Man on Summer Days. The absurdity of a millionaire Beverly Hills musician singing 12 bar blues about having his phone ripped out of the wall and having boards tacked up on the windows, while "dad is out there eating steak" is brilliant, and went over everyone's heads in 1965. This is a valid yet hysterically funny expression of Brian's incredible anger at his dad for all that had happened in his life, most recently his dad's infidelity to his mom, which also spawned the more emotionally wrenching Let Him Run Wild, also on Summer Days.

Brian also is highly interested in the use of visual humor, and began to utilize pratfalls, camera tricks, absurdity, and even Three Stooges gags to illustrate his music beginning with Pet Sounds. We see Brian, in the Sloop John B promotional film greeting what we assume to be Brian, only to have the unseen person turn around and be Carl. They all carry a life raft into a swimming pool, then proceed to swamp it, turning it over and falling into the pool. In the Good Vibrations Promotional Film, several Beach Boys slide up a fire station pole after sliding down. In another Pet Sounds Promotional film, Brian employs the use of masks to create a surreal atmosphere involving confused identities. These ideas, had they been further developed in Smile, would have likely resulted in some ground breaking performance art comedies of the type later used on MTV. There were discussions of a complete album related to comedy with accompanying visuals. Instead, Brian's incorporation of humor into Smiley Smile was primarily expressed in sound, which helps distinguish the overall difference of Smiley Smile from Smile. 

Returning to the subject of therapeutic humor, Dr. Sultanoff's article points out that humor is a highly idiosyncratic experience which is unique to each human being. We are left to wonder what else Brian himself finds humorous. His use of humor in his music has had the effect of bringing him and his fans together. This phenomenon has been substantiated by several researchers in the field of humor. What we subjectively find funny is something that Brian intuitively grasped from the very first Beach Boy album, with its self-deprecating descriptions of the five band members in the song Chug-a Lug. Brian realized that in order to connect with his audience, he had to share humor with them in such a manner that they could find a universally common frame of reference in his music. The audience can picture themselves in The Beach Boys' place in Chug-a-Lug. His music transcended its immediate California locale to become something even teenagers in landlocked states and frosty foreign countries could understand. Humor in Brian's music had the quality of replacing mundane feelings of life with pleasurable experiences that everyone could feel were honest and truthful. 

According to humor researchers, we experience humor in three ways...through our intellect, emotions, and physiology. Brian's music primarily connected with us emotionally in the early years. We felt the honesty in his records, and how they reflected our experiences in life.  Smiley Smile began a shift from emotional humor, often called mirth, to cognitive humor, called wit. 

Brian had been influenced by the creative use of humor in the work of Jan Berry throughout his career, and at the same time Pet Sounds had been recorded, Jan had issued an album designed to piggyback the mid Sixties Batman television show craze. Undoubtedly, Brian admired Jan's ability to express humor on Jan & Dean records dating back to Schlock Rod Parts 1 & 2 on their Drag City album. Brian heard the Jan & Dean Meet Batman Album, and decided perhaps there were some ideas to develop there on Smile. By the time of Smile's distillation into Smiley Smile, humor was the central motif presented. 

During the Smile Sessions, Brian had the advantage of working for the first time with a musician whose abilities equaled his own. Van Dyke Parks brought a literate sense of word play in the writing of lyrics, hearkening back to the 1930s and 40s in American popular music when brilliant songwriters  like Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and the Gershwin Brothers dominated music with snappy wit and beautiful melodies. If Brian were aiming for a new American Musical Style, he had found his match. 

Parks' lyrics presented the listener with the challenge of deciding whether to take them somewhat literally or at levels of deeper meaning. There are multiple options for interpretation in each tune, and the lyrics to songs such as Heroes and Villains and Wonderful offer puns  double entendres, and whimsy, often quoting other American classics and favorite children's songs. Brian's musical tracks continued to connect on an emotional basis. What is fascinating is that for the first time , we consistently experience a multi-modal attack using humor on Smiley Smile. In Vegetables, for example, we hear funny pouring sound effects while listening to puns and whimsical lyrics at the same time. In Wonderful, the lyrics we hear are those that remind us of archetypal images from fairy tales such as Little Red Riding Hood. In Heroes and Villains, the picture of Bugs Bunny and his ongoing battles with Yosemite Sam in the Old West emerge, while also referencing a rooster's call in the lyric "what a dude'll do in a town full of Heroes and Villains.

It is ironic that in the recording sessions for Smile from 1966, an album that was intended to celebrate humor and its healing properties, caused Brian to become so anxious and out of self-control that his ability to see the big picture became narrower and narrower, to the point that he believed that he had to scrap Smile to save his life, his sanity, and his emotional balance and perspective. Brian instinctively drew back from Smile, and shared what had become the overbearing burden of creativity with his band mates. Together, in an environment of stoned silliness, Brian shifted some of the burden of creativity to his brothers, cousin, and friends, deciding to work on healing his fractured psyche  using the very human resilience that had preserved his human resilience for a future he did not think was possible until the Post Landy period of his life.

Smiley Smile, as released in 1967, began to take on the added dimension of highly pictorial musicak performance, giving we listeners the chance to interpret some of the nuances heard in this 1966-67 recording. In Smiley Smile, the intellectual and emotional connecting experience was turned on its ear by the use of slapstick, a third approach to humor, evoking deep laughter, the physiological component of humor. For the unprepared listener in 1967, Derek Taylor's publicity campaign had created an unprecedented anticipation for an American Rock album. Why did it leave Brian emotionally spent? Brian lost the ability to find the humor in his own Smile music, consumed with his rivalry with The Beatles. However, in asking for the group's help on Smiley Smile, Brian was able to back away from his work on Smile and to allow the other Beach Boys to contribute in a fully creative manner, creating a multi-modal approach that transcends his previous work by using and blending various types of humor to create a new form of art. Dr. Sultanoff, in a 1994 article entitled "Exploring the Land of Mirth and Funny" makes the following important observation...."the fullest, and most powerful experience of humor is one that is experienced with all three components (wit, mirth, and laughter) simultaneously."

We are left to wonder how Brian instinctively knew that his creative muse would return by inviting his fellow Beach Boys to contribute to the creation of Smiley Smile. For the close listener, the chance to experience humor in all its forms awaits on Smiley Smile. Perhaps it is the very resilience of Brian Wilson himself and his ability to see humor in the most tragic of circumstances that enabled him to create an work of art with his group that is so powerful that it meets we listeners on all possible planes of human levity.

If resilience is the ability of people to bounce back from the most deadening of experiences in life, it is no coincidence that Smile would be the most resilient of Brian Wilson musical works. We are left with a few thoughts from people about humor.... 

"Tragedy plus time equals humor." Carol Burnett 

"Humor is a great, the great thing, the saving thing, after all. The minute it crops up, all our hardnesses yield, all our irritations and resentments slip away, and a sunny spirit takes their place." Mark Twain

"Humor is sacred, a gift from God." Brian Wilson 

Dr. Sultanoff's ground breaking work may be found at his website: HumorMatters 

Some Final Reflections on Smiley Smile:

Both Smile and Smiley Smile were recorded using modular formatting, but whereas Smile proved too complex to assemble, Smiley Smile was completed in a roughly three week period, and recorded "dry" without echo. Recorded in modular format and assembled in a final mix by Jim Lockert, Bill Halverson, and Stephen Desper, it proved that the modular method of recording was not only feasible, but capable of being used for an entire album.

Brian's self-preserving instincts seemed to tell him that if had kept up the pace of the first 5 years, under Capitol Records contract, he would have ended up either in a straight jacket or suicidal. In effect, Smiley Smile was the first "therapeutic album" that Brian did, some 10 years before 15 Big Ones, Adult Child, and Beach Boys Love You. Little did he realize that it would prove therapeutic for thousands of listeners as well. Carl Wilson, in a number of interviews from the Seventies and Eighties, often termed Smiley Smile "music for Brian to cool down/chill out while recording." Smiley Smile was also seen as a "back to basics album" in which Brian help produce but which other Beach Boys were expected to contribute actively as well. In a late Sixties interview, Brian termed Smile "music that was too personal to release."

Track by track:

Heroes and Villains

Undoubtedly my favorite Beach Boy 45. Incredible in its power. An example of how amazing the human voice can be used as an instrument. Had it been released at another time, when art rock was more accepted, e.g. after Hey Jude and MacArthur Park, it would have been a better seller. A perfect marriage of music and lyrics, it was rock critic Paul Williams's favorite single,  and is mine as well. A wealth of ideas in roughly three and a half minutes, and based on the River Deep Mountain High baseline, it is the aural equivalent of a three ring circus, with so much to hear that it reveals more upon each play. Recorded in small sound snippets, Heroes was the single tune that proved hardest for Brian to sequence and complete. He worked the equivalent studio time of recording and sequencing for entire previousBeach Boys albums on the Heroes and Villains single. From October 1967 until 1990, Brian refused to sing Heroes and Villains in live concerts. Since 1990, it has become a song Brian loves to sing with his incredible backing band.


This should have been the second single off Smiley Smile, but got shunted aside by group vote. A nice version, certainly commercial, with a catchy tag. The reverse laughs at the end are a marvel of rock music singing. The humor here is more subtle than on the Smile version. The heartbeat bass, the sounds of juice being poured, the crunching and "mmmms", and the break into  a Stephen Foster bridge just before the end all add a more subtle approach than one might expect.

Fall Breaks and Back to Winter (Woody Woodpecker Symphony)

Composed during the Smile period after a camping trip to Redwood Country, it of course contains the chord progression and vocals intended for Mrs. O'Leary's Cow. I have always believed this piece was linked to Elements in some manner. It has a similar chord progression to MOLC. In the true stereo mix, it sounds quite spooky. The distorted bass vocal combined with the various harmonicas make the tune at once gently mocking and foreboding. The tone of the tune is reminiscent of death and decay, with the promise of new life in the coming spring signified by the call of the woodpecker. The tune has a way of reminding me of Randy Newman's classic song "Snow."

She's Going Bald

Credited to Van Dyke as co-author, he can't remember writing it. It is possible his credit was put on here as a practical joke. The dope influenced tape effect and sophmoric lyrics are typical of Beach Boy humor of the time. Probably as close to an obvious humor track on this album as exists. Obviously derived from He Gives Speeches. Perhaps this is why it is partially credited to Van Dyke. He Gives Speeches was targeted at Murry, and it is likely that this reframing of the tune was Brian's way of not pulling the trigger in a negative manner and making fun of his father like he did on Summer Days.

Little Pad

This tune is a model of modular recording. Using five recorded modules with two of them repeated, Brian schools the group in how to assemble a full length tune. Great track, great Hawaiian guitar effect, nice wordless singing section. Like many of Brian's songs from here on out, an idea left incomplete. This one is an obvious stoner tune. The song begins with a "Do it!", then proceeds to a section shared by Mike's lead vocal, laughs, and kazoos. The Hawaiian Guitar module kicks in at 16 seconds into the tune, then lasts for 23 seconds, followed by a finger snap, then roughly 20 seconds of ukelele, then into Carl's second verse  at 60 seconds, followed by a reprise of the Hawaiian Guitar module for another 23 seconds, the ukelele section with wordless vocals pops in for 20 more seconds, Brian comes back in for a brief third verse, followed by the third reprise of the Hawaiian Guitar segment to fade.  The Hawaiian Guitar module is repeated three times, and the ukelele section is repeated twice.

Good Vibrations

Probably the Sloop John B of Smiley Smile. It doesn't fit with the rest of the album, but probably was needed for sales of this album. In this Minimalist context, it became more of a reminder of what was lost when Smile was shelved, and in this sense, it became a cement overcoat when The Beach Boys were doing their best to tread water.

With Me Tonight

An undeveloped tune based off a riff written during Smile. The weird "good" that you hear about 30 seconds into the song is by Arny Geller. It is one of those little Brian surprise artifacts that  make the album a Zen type of experience.  Better developed by Sandy Salisbury than by Brian himself. The Salisbury version should have been a hit, but got buried on the Together records label and disappeared.

Wind Chimes

Incredible example of Brian's subtle use of humor in his music. Brilliantly recorded and executed, perhaps the most influential Smiley Smile track on other musicians. The whole tune is a prank, lulling the listener into a near trance, then shocking one back to reality with an unexpected fuzztone. If you were stoned listening to it, you'd be even more shocked. I love the Yogi  Bear sounding ting-a-ling by Mike twice toward the end...more humor.

Gettin' Hungry

The last track recorded for the album, and sonically closer to Wild Honey. A departure from the rest of the album soundwise, it has a computer sounding organ piece alternating with a breathy lead vocal from Mike. Chosen to be the album's second single with the provision that it come out as a Brian Wilson/Mike Love single. Gettin' Hungry was also a gesture on Brian's part to make peace with a bruised Mike Love, who had been told by Brian that there would only be one ornate "arty" album, only to be put on hold for Smile. This song was chosen by Brian over Vegetables, which was the intended second single. A political "family peace" move.


A dramatic departure from Brian's almost classical approach to this tune for Smile, the track is riddled with sounds that play against each other, such as a clarinet playing out of tune notes, the sounds of children playing, and on the incredible bridge to the song, Brian singing "cool it....just cool it" over against Carl saying "don't think your God Vibrations will make it off the record." The bridge has been cited by numerous choral composers as a  radical use of the spoken voice to make music. A minimalist tour de force, and certainly the most radical of the innovations on an already innovative album.

Whistle In

The coda to the album....a fitting conclusion to an album so Minimalist, so subtle that it is missed by most who listen to it. Can you imagine the sound of one hand clapping????

Copyright 2017 by Peter Reum--All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Anhedonia by Peter Reum

There are no words that provide answers
Why sadness dogs we who are depressed
It's said it is a neurochemical imbalance
For those afflicted there is ongoing unrest

Churchill called depression an everpresent
Black dog that can never be tamed
Despite wonder drugs showing promise
We distrust pill-schillers making us flamed

Burnt crisp we trudge onward
Limping through life without comfort
It is awfully tempting to isolate
From those who seek us we build ramparts

People often ask if I wish for normality
My answer is never the same
It depends if they show pity
False compassion is a putrid game

Pills are a double edged feeling
For those of us who pretend to be normal
Even if I faithfully take time to ingest
I still would like to be like the rest

Copyright 2017 by Peter Reum - All rights reserved 

Sunshine Tomorrow Cross-Pollinated: Wild Honey in Stereo and Other Recordings From 1967 by Peter Reum

Wild Honey has always been my favorite post Smile album by The Beach Boys. That said, Capitol's phony stereo has always been an abomination for my ears. After a few false starts, the Beach Boys canned Lei'd in Hawaii and Lei'd at Wally Heider's. The group, with Brian active and writing with Mike Love, then began the studio work for what became Wild Honey. Having had problems in the two Hawaiian shows performance-wise, and having had trouble at Wally Heider's studio in Los Angeles over dubbing audience response, Brian decided to shelf the two live recordings, and entered the studio to begin Wild Honey.

In other articles, I have quoted Brian stating that he became completely emotionally worn out after the initial recording for Wild Honey (Brother 9003) began. Before asking Carl Wilson to take over studio leadership for Wild Honey, a number of tracks had been begun by Brian. Two prominent tracks are Cool Cool Water and Can't Wait Too Long.

It became evident that Brian's post Pet Sounds and Smile drive to make finished music had become exhausted. Several reviews of Sunshine Tomorrow have remarked about the group's cohesion and democratic decision-making during the Wild Honey sessions. It is no coincidence. Carl Wilson was a leader who respected each member's suggestions throughout the time he was the lead producer for the Beach Boys. This resulted in nearly every group member writing and co-producing their songs in the years that followed. A close listen to Friends, 20/20, Sunflower, Surfs Up, Carl and the Passions, and Holland will bear out this trend and group growth during Carl's years as lead producer. Carl's willingness to take Brian's work as it was, even incomplete, and either finish it or polish it for release resulted in numerous memorable songs from 1967 to 1973.

Beach Boys' 1967-Sunshine Tomorrow CD Cover Art

The Beach Boys came to a realistic perspective regarding  Brian's exhaustion with the Wild Honey sessions. Brian had gamely tried to produce Smiley Smile and Lei'd in Hawaii, with results that were innovative for Smiley Smile, in that he successfully changed the scope of Beach Boys' recordings from grand and complicated during Smile to unfettered and humorous during Smiley Smile. Many reviewers, including myself, have offered the opinion that Smiley Smile as an album was closer to Brian's expression of humor in music than Smile. After Smiley Smile hit the charts peripherally in the summer of 1967, failing to achieve the spectacular results that previous Beach Boys albums had garnered, Brian realized that his ear for music had undergone significant change after Smile was shelved.

The insular pot humor of Smiley Smile was ahead of its time. The failure of the Hawaiian shows to meet the group's high standards for concert related performance albums brought a WTF??? reaction from the group as a whole and possibly Capitol Records as well. For Capitol, it justified their  "Best of..." reissues philosophy as the top vehicle for Beach Boys album sales. For Brian, his focus on recording "perfect" songs in home sessions was compromised by the American Entertainment need for the mixing board on the road in live Beach Boys concerts.

The answer for the Beach Boys was to limit Brian's studio efforts to Beach Boys records exclusively, thereby losing the group called "Redwood" who later morphed into Three Dog Night. This nullified Brian's creative motivation, and led to him eventually to what Bruce Johnston called "Brian's living room greatest hits." Brian's version of Time to Get Alone for Redwood is an example of his having studio chops when he was in a creative time and space. The Honeys' Tonight You Belong to Me single from 1968 is another example of beautifully produced pop music outside of The Beach Boys. As timed marched on, most of Brian's musical ideas stayed unrecorded, with very few exceptions. The Spring album offered some Brian productions that were finished, with the rest of the album being recorded by David Sandler and Stephen Desper.

The Brian Wilson promise to write a whole album of songs with Mike Love was finally fulfilled by the excellent set of their tunes on Wild Honey. This resulted in relative calm during the Wild Honey period with concomitant results. Wild Honey became an album about male/female relationships, which is often overlooked in essays and critical appraisal by music writers and critics. As the Beach Boys got older, relationships took center stage in lyrical content on Beach Boys albums. There were no songs about bicycle riders, cornfields and wheat fields, or deeply autobiographical themes, such as Surfs Up or Wonderful.

Some of Brian's first phase Wild Honey tunes were later finished in subsequent albums. The most prominent of these is Cool Cool Water, finished in 1970 by The Beach Boys at the insistence of Mo Ostin and Lenny Waronker. The 1967 Beach Boy sessions documented on Sunshine Tomorrow and covered in album notes, prepared excellently by Howie Edelson, are illustrative of a change of guard in production of albums that resulted in seven more productive years of Beach Boys studio and live lps, primarily overseen by Carl Wilson. The Beach Boys became a more democratic type of band in their decision-making, and this change also helped move every group member to compose songs and to produce them.

The stereo Wild Honey is a revelation, offering new dimensions soundwise that the mono version does not have. As was customary in the late Sixties, Wild Honey was mixed in monaural sound for the benefit of the AM section of the radio dial. The Capitol "Duophonic"  version, supposedly designed to emulate true stereo, was a disaster for the Beach Boys and any listener who purchased it. The true stereo mix on 1967 Sunshine Tomorrow of Wild Honey is a listener's delight, offering some subtle and not so subtle sounds that neither a mono or a "duophonic" mix could even approach. Songs that sounded "flat" in the old Wild Honey mixes, are clear and have new dimensions added that essentially rework the entire tune. Two examples of this phenomenon are How She Boogalooed It and Darlin'.

This writer has already covered the content from the Lei'd in Hawaii and Lei'd in Wally Heider Sound Studio in a separate article on this blog. The Hawaiian tapes reveal a Beach Boys group that included the original five members. Brian's organ dominates the instruments and the tunes have a "stoned" sound that many bands would share in their live albums over the five years or so after  The Hawaiian concerts. There are highlights, a rehearsal version of Their Hearts Were Full of Spring, for example, and three Beach Boys covers of Beatles, Mindbenders, and Box Tops tunes, With a Little Help From My Friends, The Game of Love, and The Letter. The Wally Heider Sessions offer almost a sterile approach to some of the Hawaiian Concert songs, and also sound like those sessions were "herbal" as well. Still, the live highlights of the proposed live album are excellent, such as a great version of Gettin' Hungry, performed as the single by Brian and Mike was being released, the Hawthorne Boulevard introduction to the concert, and an eye-opening version of Heroes and Villains live that delivered all the studio version promised.

Personally, I love Brian's sketches of tunes during late 1967, such as Cool Cool Water, Can't Wait Too Long, and Time to Get Alone. Brian seemed to fold during these early Wild Honey Sessions, possibly due to being told that he could not share his compositions and/or produce them with groups outside of The Beach Boys. This seemed to have a negative effect on Brian, and his contributions to Beach Boys albums dwindled over the next nine years, until 15 Big Ones, by which time anti-psychotic medications and self-abusive overuse of substances had altered his day by day functioning, mostly in a deleterious manner.

The incomplete productions on 1967 Sunshine Tomorrow date from the canning of Smile through the second half of 1967. The unfinished "sketches" of ideas for tunes offer tantalizing glimpses in the subtle yet creative process that took a group member's idea from inception to what amounted  to incomplete status in the group's creative process.

Some of the fragments are complete versions that have been "pruned" to a shorter, more concise final version. Examples of this "pruning"  process on Sunshine Tomorrow are Stevie Wonder's I Was Made to Love Her from Wild Honey and Vegetables from Smiley Smile. Some selections on Sunshine Tomorrow are  Wild Honey tracks without vocals, such as Honey Get to Home and Hide Go Seek.

The sessions from which several Wild Honey tracking sessions were developed are deceptively simple sounding and offer some insight into Brian and Carl's studio work methods. As on many other Beach Boy tracking sessions, the work done by Brian and Carl on the pieces done on sessions work and the effect of their clarity made Wild Honey an immediately accessible album.

Songs like Wild Honey, Darlin', Country Air, Let the Wind Blow, and Aren't You Glad in the sessions presented on Sunshine Tomorrow illustrate the "complicated simplicity" that Brian and the Beach Boys' best work exhibits.

The live show tunes presented on disc 1 of this set dating from 1967 through 1970 are examples of how Beach Boys tunes played live in those years retained their infectiously melodic arrangements but did not show any difficulty in live performance that Brian's more complex songs had. The group had expressed their frustration to Brian about performing tunes in concert such as Good Vibrations and Heroes and Villains during the Smile recording sessions.  Tunes from Smiley Smile, Wild Honey, and 1968's Friends albums amply demonstrate the ease that the Beach Boys tunes could be played live.

Sunshine Tomorrow's second cd covers some sessions from Smiley Smile and the various tries at recording a live record which would help reduce the number of album's that The Beach Boys owed Capitol. The group's united desire to be done with the onerous Capitol Records contract which burned out Brian and the group united them in studio work in the late Sixties.

The selections showing Brian and the group's work on tunes from Smiley Smile comprise one of the most fascinating parts of Sunshine Tomorrow.  Brian's track for the single version of Heroes and Villains is as amazing as his work on Heroes during the Smile sessions. Backing tracks are also presented for Wonderful and Little Pad. The track for Little Pad easily illustrates the modular approach that began with Good Vibrations. The Smiley Smile album is the first successfully completed album using modular recording, a method that is nearly universally used in today's recording process, often on huge soundboards. There was no protools software in 1967. Brian simply rehearsed the group ad nauseum until he could get the harmonic blend he heard in his head.

The tracks selected for illustration of how Smiley Smile was recorded are quite insightful. The two most fascinating segments are a different soundmix of Fall Breaks and Back to Winter and a tiny segment labelled "Redwood" which is quite different from anything else on this set. My personal favorite is  the Fall Breaks and Back  to Winter alternate mix, which inverts the note heard on the fourth note of the repeating theme. The note is high, rather than the lower note heard on the fourth beat of the repetitive theme. The snippet of tape labelled "Redwood" offers some unusual clicking sounds that are unlike anything Brian recorded with The Beach Boys. The alternate versions of All Day All Night are mostly unusual artifacts, as is the chant titled With Me Tonight, done in a more interesting version by Sandy Salisbury on Together Records in 1968.

My friend Fred Vail introduces the Lei'd' in Hawaii shows on tape, and the tracks that follow are pulled from the Honolulu concerts, a separate session that I like to call Lei'd in Wally Heider's Studio. The array of tracks from the Hawaiian Shows and the Heider Studio sessions is unique. For example, the group does Surfin' live with Brian announcing that they will do it in commemoration of The Beach Boys' Anniversary. The anniversary that is so young for the group  is an undisputed 6th anniversary.

Having written  an extensive article on the Lei'd in Hawaii shows in this blog, I will say that the versions of The Letter and the two versions of With a Little Help From My Friends are interesting artifacts cut at Wally Heider's Studio and are very good cover versions of those two tunes. I wondered why the versions of The Game of Love might not sound as great as the others. I 'll
suppose that radio people would appreciate the more fm stereo radio sounds these types of tunes potentially offer.

There are some clear and unique sounds on this double CD set, illustrating the creativity and the originality that Brian still had, despite his emotional condition. Lyrically, Brian's utilization of Mike Love brought a consistent theme to Wild Honey. Harmonically, Brian's use of different blends of sounds was a positive addition to the album. Clearly,  Carl Wilson's growth as a lead singer added a dimension to vocals that was new and unprecedented. His production skills, honed by watching Brian produce,  brought a fairly rapid change in participation in songwriting and production that had been Brian's domain until Wild Honey.

As an album, 1967; Sunshine Tomorrow stands as as one of the most well assembled and illuminating reissues in the Beach Boys catalog. It answers many questions regarding The Beach Boy's transition into a more diversified and productive group. The obvious growth of the other five Beach Boys in songwriting, production, and adult lyrical themes is close by.....check out the songwriting credits on their next studio album-Friends from 1968.

Copyright 2017 by Peter Reum-All  Rights Reserved

Thursday, August 3, 2017

International Treasures: This Is Their Planet Too by Peter Reum

The reach of unbridled capitalism is exacerbating the delicate balance of this world that we all live on. I am mystified by the craven slovenliness that we treat our fellow residents with on this planet. As humans, we are as responsible for other species on this planet as for ourselves. There is not a continent or an ocean that has been spared the destructive footprint of homo sapiens. The more oil we drill for, precious metals we mine, the fracking of our aquifers, the toxification of our oceans, rivers, lakes, and streams, the warming and polluting of the atmosphere, and the devastation caused by nuclear reactor accidents, the more we hasten our own extinction.

The indigenous peoples of this world have learned to  keep the balance of this planet's ecosystems in check. They realize that overheating, overfishing, and removing the native ground cover of their homelands will  lead to their own demise. What is it about humankind that overwhelms every region of this planet? What moves humans to devastate our own homes and moves us to ruin the homes and lives of our cohabitants on this Earth?

We seem to chase wealth and comfort that allows ourselves to be free to reflect upon our lives and accumulate "things." It seems that as a species, we fool ourselves with the belief that we are superior to the flora and fauna that are here with us. There are more species lost every day. Using somewhat of a utilitarian approach to life, we overuse species that are helpful to our lives, and we devalue species that do not serve our purposes. Witness your own thoughts on exotic species that experience our misanthropic "value filter." Consider that wealthy class that has hunted various species to extinction, and feels little to no responsibility for  their destructive lifestyles. At what point does freedom for one form of life irretrievably harm another? These are questions that are ignored daily by the people who are chasing power and wealth without reservation worldwide.

Recently, I have witnessed a growing alliance of Indigenous  tribes, "Green thinking and acting people", scientists, progressive Christians, and students who consider themselves to be members of a larger community of species that have an interlocking bond to leave a light footprint upon Mother Earth. Conversely, we are witnessing the dying gasps of a money worshipping destructive class of earth raping, conscienceless, exploiting oligarchs who want the middle class in developing  and developed nations eradicated.

There have been victories intermittently. Bristol Bay in Alaska, an undesecrated ecosystem that Native Alaskans and area Alaskan residents whose livelihood depends upon clear fresh water and clean ocean water. The streams around Bristol Bay which rise inland are treated as the treasures they are. The salmon run there is one of the world's largest.

The Arctic North Shore of Alaska inside the Arctic Wildlife Refuge has been closed to mineral development and offshore drilling for gas and oil for a decade. This area is being considered for development, mostly by several oil companies. The various environmental groups that have fought Big Oil had success in the years of the Obama Administration. Things have turned somewhat dire with the Trump people, and most environmental groups are hoping that, with enough stink made, the various industries like  Big Oil will be denied entry into express their colluding to ruin Bristol Bay, The Arctic Wildlife Refuge, and other pristine ecosystems.

Under The Obama Administration, there was a concerted effort to bring various groups, companies, and states together on an issue where needs of all parties that have interests can express their desired outcomes without being shouted down and ridiculed despite their not having all of their views adopted. The outcome desired of the group as a whole was  what was usually adopted. Perhaps some interest groups had a better outcome than other groups. In the end, most groups felt okay about the outcome of the process.

If we do not continue to use this process, the groups with the most money will have the best outcomes. The process will inevitably become a sham exercise that is performed simply to rubber stamp what big oil, the nuclear power groups, mining interests, or corporate farms need to continue business as usual. It is very important that each environmental group working for building pristine ecosystems and maintaining them keep the common interests of the country, state, and regions within each state at the forefront. Many industries are trying to diversify to make their interests known and can be merged into an entire position presentation for several ecological and other advocates to make known.

The oil industry probably is planning for when a paradigm shift will radically revise what energy model is used worldwide to replace Big Oil. Countries worldwide know that, like the tobacco companies in the mid Twentieth Century, that when a business plan that uses an outmoded framework is used, the companies doing so are riding on a river of change with a water fall just ahead. There are examples of partnerships where, despite being superfund status, some parties have united to build plans that make a gradual cleanup of such a site possible. There are superfund states all over the United States, and in the Marianas Islands where nuclear testing made island like Bikini Atoll unfit for native Bikini people to return to their traditional homes and fishing sites some seventy years past the testing.

When the Interstate System in the United States was constructed in the mid to late 50s and 60s, oil was the fuel dominant in transportation. As a country, we employed a huge number of people in the construction and maintenance of the Interstate System. We must look hard at the use of high speed rail in various countries around the world, and evaluate what sort of trains are apropos for long-term development. Countries such as Japan, France, and a few others have made building and maintaining such rail systems their highest ground transportation priority.

Japanese Bullet Trains are the fastest in the world with exceptional safety histories

There has even been discussion of using single person high speed tubes as a possibility. The position of the Republican Party, and some people in the Democratic Party regarding energy and transportation national policy is desperately in need of revision. It is imperative that young people alive today, and the needs of people whose time has not yet arrived be considered in this important discussion.

Among the myriad organizations who fight these battles are Greenpeace, Sierra Club, The World Wildlife Fund,  and dozens more. These groups must continue to build consensus among themselves and tribes/people who want a clean environment in a specific location which is of interest to the consortium of groups as a whole. Of particular interest to this writer is the various of going into the such organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, and so forth, who realize that if the ecological balance is disturbed, that there will be a ripple effect among all species. The controversies enveloping the various organizations must be set aside to effect a broader consensus that will be in effect for the environmental areas that are still salvageable. The number of sites or areas where species and plant preservation are on the agenda must contend with a Cro-Magnon Republican Party whose slogan seems to be "frack, baby, frack!

Fracking Literally Makes People Sick, New Study Finds (from Eco-Watch-1/20/14 issue)

A new study provided more ammunition for what public health experts and environmental activists have been saying since fracking became widespread in the last half decade: chemicals used in the natural gas drilling process can be hazardous to health. Fracking Literally Makes People Sick, New Study Finds

  FThe Yale-based research team that produced the study looked at families in southwestern Pennsylvania's Marcellus shale region who use ground-fed water wells.

A study "Proximity to Natural Gas Wells and Reported  Health Status: Results of a Household Survey in Washington County, Pennsylvania," published in Environmental Health Perspectives, found that people who live near fracking sites have more health problems than those who don't.

The Yale-based research team that produced the study looked at families in southwestern Pennsylvania's Marcellus shale region who use ground-fed water wells. Surveying 492 individuals in 180 households, researchers found a significantly greater number of skin and respiratory problems among those who lived within one kilometer of a natural gas well than those who lived two kilometers away.

A new study provided more ammunition for what public health experts and environmental activists have been saying since fracking became widespread in the last half decade: chemicals used in the natural gas drilling process can be hazardous to health.(See Graphic Above)

Washington County Pensylvania, where one study was done, has 624 active gas wells with 95 percent of those fracked.

"Despite assurances by the drilling industry and numerous government officials that fracking chemicals do not pose a risk to nearby populations, scientists and environmentalists have repeatedly voiced concern over the high volume of chemicals used in the process and the potential for both groundwater and airborne contamination," writes Lauren McCauley at Common Dreams.

The researchers explained the impetus for the studying saying, "Little is known about the environmental and public health impact of unconventional natural gas extraction activities including hydraulic fracturing that occur near residential areas."

Again, quoting the same study, "While much of the hydraulic fracturing process takes place deep underground, there are a number of potential mechanisms for chemicals used in the fracturing process as well as naturally occurring minerals, petroleum compounds, and other substances of flow back water to enter drinking water supplies," they warned. "If contaminants from hydraulic fracturing activities were able to enter drinking water supplies or surface water bodies, humans could be exposed to such contaminants through drinking, cooking, showering, and swimming." That same study also suggested that there could be airborne contamination through flaring, operation of diesel equipment, and leakage. And with stress from the noise and other activities around the wells mentioned by many respondents, they suggested this could be impacting health outcomes as well.

Their conclusion: "While these results should be viewed as hypothesis generating, and the population studied was limited to households with a ground-fed water supply, proximity of natural gas wells may be associated with the prevalence of health symptoms including dermal and respiratory conditions in residents living near natural gas extraction activities. Further study of these associations, including the role of specific air and water exposures, is warranted."

They also warned of even greater potential danger lurking down the road. Since most of the wells are only five or six years old, they said, "one would not yet expect to see associations with diseases with long latency, such as cancer. Furthermore, if some of the impact of natural gas extraction on ground water happens over a number of years, this initial survey could have failed to detect health consequences of delayed contamination."

The information concerning the deleterious effects of hydraulic fracturing appeared in Eco-Watch in the January 20, 2014 issue. Article author is Brandon Baker.

Four months after the publication of a batch of internal Monsanto Co. documents stirred international controversy, a new trove of company records was released early Tuesday, providing fresh fuel for a heated global debate over whether or not the agricultural chemical giant suppressed information about the potential dangers of its Roundup herbicide and relied on U.S. regulators for help.

By Tomorrow, We Will Have Consumed More Resources So Far This Year Than the Planet Is Capable of Regenerating

We humans use a lot of stuff — so much stuff, in fact, that we consume more in a year than the planet is capable of regenerating. That wasn't a problem until a few decades ago. Back in 1987 the "overshoot" date for Earth's resources was December 19, less than two weeks before the end of the year. That's not too bad, right?

Gulf of Mexico's Dead Zone Could be Largest Ever, Thanks to the Meat Industry

Scientists predict that so much pollution is pouring into the Gulf of Mexico this year that it is creating a larger-than-ever "dead zone" in which low to no oxygen can suffocate or kill fish and other marine life. The Guardian reported that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is expected to announce this week the largest recorded hypoxic zone in the gulf, an oxygen-depleted swath that's even larger than the New Jersey-sized, 8,185 square-mile dead zone originally predicted for July.

 Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone Chemical Sources/Areas

Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone Range (22,000 square miles and growing)

Levels of Toxicity of Dead Zone in Gulf of Mexico
(deep red zone = high toxicity causing sea life death)

Our chances of keeping warming under dangerous levels by the end of this century are increasingly slim, according to two new studies published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.
The first study took a statistical approach to examine likely warming scenarios by 2100, finding a less than five percent chance of holding warming below two degrees C and a less than one percent chance of keeping it under 1.5 degrees.

Chemical Spill in Virginia ​Kills Tens of Thousands of Fish

About 165 gallons of an agricultural-use chemical leaked into a Roanoke, Virginia-area creek over the weekend, resulting in fish kill estimated in the tens of thousands, Virginia officials announced Monday. The chemical was identified as Termix 5301, a type of surfactant (detergent-like substance) added to herbicide and pesticide products before application, according to the Virginia's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)

Roanoke Tinker Creek After Chemical Spill

Thirteen Louisiana residents who live in the shadow of one of the most toxic factories in the country recently filed a lawsuit against the facility's co-owners, DuPont and Denka, in an attempt to stop or reduce the production of an air pollutant linked to serious health problems, including cancer.
The plaintiffs are currently seeking approval from a local judge to file a class action lawsuit that would allow anyone who has lived, worked or attended school within a defined boundary around the plant over the past five years to take legal action against the plant's owners.