Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Honey is Sweeter Than a Smile by Peter Reum

 Honey is Sweeter Than a Smile by Peter Reum

After the Beach Boys shelved Lei'd in Hawaii, the pressure for new Beach Boy music increased manyfold.  The trend in popular music to create increasingly ornate albums with elaborate production became pretentious and unlistenable for many listeners, bands, and even record companies .

Following the Gettin' Hungry single, which was a modest hit in some countries, but did not chart in America, Brian seemed to have some energy to write new songs with Mike Love, fulfilling a promise he had made to Mike before beginning work on Pet Sounds with Tony Asher. In essence, Brian decided to record Smile with Van Dyke Parks, and did not write with Mike Love as he had told Mike he would.

Mike was disappointed that Brian did not record songs written by him with Brian on the album following Pet Sounds (Smile) as he had understood the agreement he made with Brian when the Pet Sounds album was being recorded. Mike was not happy with the wordplay Van Dyke Parks had written for Smile songs, and expressed his frustration to Brian and the other Beach Boys. He asked Van Dyke Parks what certain parts of Smile's lyrics meant. Van Dyke, already unhappy with Smile, left the Sessions permanently in April 1967. Brian held a few sessions in early May, and then gave his attention to the Heroes and Villains single as released.

After Smiley Smile's reception in the summer and early fall of 1967, the abandonment of the Lei'd In Hawaii album, and Capitol's proposal to release Smile as a 10 track album, The Beach Boys realized that they were having a slow down in demand for domestic record sales of their lps and singles.  The Beach Boys kept their approach to Wild Honey straight forward and the album reflected a desire to dial back the elaborate productions of the past and to record tunes that were soulful and funky (for 1967).

Carl and Brian both understood the roots of Rhythm and Blues, the basic boogie woogie piano that Brian refers to in numerous interviews throughout the years--hence the track 'Boogie Woodie' from the Surfer Girl album. Carl, Brian, Dennis, and Mike had been singing rhythm and blues from the radio airwaves since the days at Mount Vernon and Fairway. There was Johnny Otis on the airwaves in LA. The production values in the released Wild Honey album reflected a desire to showcase another new major lead vocalist in the group...Carl Wilson. His prominence on the released Wild Honey is a bow to the need to let Brian take a rest.

In an attempt to help fans realize why Wild Honey was recorded the way it was, Stephen Korthoff (Brian's cousin) and Arny Geller wrote a warm and accurate assessment of Wild Honey that appeared on the album's back cover that is still true 50 years after it was released:

Honey, of the wild variety, on a shelf in Brian’s kitchen, was not only an aide to all of the Beach Boys’ health but the source of inspiration for the record, “Wild Honey.”

Soon after the R&B-flavored “Wild Honey,” came eight other new songs, and a Beach Boys version of “I Was Made To Love Her.”

We think this is a great album. We love to listen to it. We might just be biased because we work for the Beach Boys.

Please see what you think.


As for Brian Wilson, the unmedicated mental health concerns he had were not very obvious to his family and the Beach Boys. For this reason, Carl was quoted as saying "Brian was still too spacey to produce an album." Brian recorded some tracks for the early version of Wild Honey, identified as being on the Brother Records label with the catalog number 9003. His production chops were still amazing, and he showed that ability on then unfinished tracks such as I Love to Say Dada and Can't Wait Too Long (also known as Been 'Way Too Long). The preliminary track list as submitted to Capitol Records named 11 songs.

It is quite possible that the solo version of Surfs Up, which turned up as not identified on a master tape and then was released on the 2011 Smile release, was another track cut in the early days of Brian's beginning of production of the Brother Records 9003 version of Wild Honey which was incomplete.  The new Capitol double cd set Sunshine Tomorrow includes the tracks from Brother 9003, and gives listeners an idea of when Brian ceased producing and Carl Wilson steeped into the production role.

Sometime between Brian's early attempts to produce the album, and Carl's stepping in to finish it, the album's focus took on a snappy  Stax sound that baffled critics and long time fans. To quote David Leaf's excellent liner notes from the1990 combined Smiley Smile/Wild Honey cd:

"It seems that almost everybody…the public, the critics, the record industry and maybe even the Beach Boys themselves…was baffled by Smiley Smile. Shortly after it was released, the group returned to Brian’s house to record Wild Honey, the record that marked the birth of the second era of great Beach Boys music. For Wild Honey, given Brian’s disinterest in making a studio statement, the Beach Boys consciously decided to make a “simple” record."

For the touring group, Brian's more complex music, such as Pet Sounds and Good Vibrations, was a  major headache to perform live with just the touring group of 5 members. The group gave Brian that feedback during the latter days of the Smile Sessions, and it may have been a factor in his shelving that project. 

Sometime between Brian's early attempts to produce the album, and Carl's stepping in to finish it, Wild Honey's focus took on a snappy  Stax sound that baffled critics and long time fans. Brother 9003, the first "Wild Honey,' had some quite personal music of Brian's begun and then left behind. Wild Honey became an album different than perhaps what Brian originally conceived.

The original track lineup for Brother 9003, was submitted by Brian and Carl. Wild Honey became an album different than perhaps what Brian originally conceived. Brother 9003, the first "Wild Honey,' had some quite personal music of Brian's begun and then left behind. In my travels, I turned several Capitol memoranda which revealed that 9003, the great lost Wild Honey album begun by Brian, had the following track lineup: Wild Honey, Here Comes The Night, Let The Wind Blow, I Was Made To Love Her, The Letter, Darlin', A Thing Or Two, Aren't You Glad, Cool, Cool Water, Game Of Love, Lonely Days, Honey Get Home. Wild Honey became an album different than perhaps what Brian originally conceived.

It is apparent that this aborted album, Brother 9003, was for the most part, an album about love and being in the cycle of a relationship. Consider that Wild Honey is a discussion of a woman who is viscerally attractive....a woman who turns you on. This feeling is also expressed in A Thing Or Two, Here Comes the Night, and I Was Made to Love Her. The invitation into a true sexual and emotional relationship may be expressed by The Game of Love. Love in full bloom, perhaps marriage, is addressed in Darlin' and Aren't You Glad. They are both expressions of feelings of beneficence, that is, the rewards of being in a reciprocal loving relationship. While the relationship is in bloom, all is well and balanced. When things begin to crack, perhaps Lonely Days and Honey Get Home are expressions of the feeling of fear of loss of the intimacy, both emotional and sexual, which can be gone in a struggling, on-the-rocks relationship. The Letter potentially expresses the confrontational moment when one partner in the relationship expresses the feeling that the relationship is broken, and the other person rushes to his partner's side to try to salvage what is lost. Finally, Let the Wind Blow is that moment when the partner who didn't sense his partner's unhappiness pleads with fate to save the relationship.

It is no wonder that Cool Cool Water was shelved....it had no topical relationship to the rest of the songs on the original album's theme. Thus, the released Wild Honey bears more resemblance to an album of 11 songs, not necessarily connected by an overriding theme. The  “new songs’ consisting of Country Air, I’d Love Just Once to See You, How She Boogalooed It, and Mama Says (from Smile) changed the feel of the overall album to being more humorous, placing less focus on the relationship theme, and replacement of Cool Cool Water with a song focused on Country Air.

Whereas the early Wild Honey (Brother 9003) had some tunes that were at times more complex in approach, Carl's production role on what became Capitol T2859 evolved into the harder edged rhythm and blues sound that Carl loved and produced. Like many Beach Boys albums post-Smile, there was more than a listener might initially perceive to Wild Honey. Fans wondered if it was an essential album by the Beach Boys or a creative misfire. If the reader wonders why Carl stepped in for Brian, here is a Brian quote from 2015 which answers that question: In a January 2013 interview in Uncut Magazine, Brian shared that "It was always a challenge for me to live up to my name. It was a really big thing for me. People expected me to come up with great orchestral stuff all the time and it became a burden. I was getting tired of it. It still happens, too, but you just learn to live with it.  So the other guys started getting more into the production side of things. Carl [Wilson] really got into that. And we decided to make a rhythm ’n ’blues record. We consciously made a simpler album. It was just a little R’n’B and soul. It certainly wasn’t like a regular Beach Boys record. It was good to go back to the boogie-woogie piano I’d grown up with. Dear old Dad [Murry Wilson] taught me how to play that stuff when I was young. In its way, it’s very nostalgic. And we used the theremin again for 'Wild Honey'. Carl had fun singing on that." So Brian saw it as it turned out, to be a chance to let the other Beach Boys, particularly Carl, channel their creative energy in the studio, and to let Brian’s role be mainly singing and songwriting. To quote David Leaf again:

"It was Wild Honey’s lack of artistic pretension that bewildered the growing serious role of rock critic as well as the rapidly shrinking legions of Beach Boys fans. For a year, they had patiently waited for Smile. Smiley Smile had hardly mollified them, and many of those who decided to give the Beach Boys another chance were only further alienated by Wild Honey. Among other reasons, for Wild Honey, given Brian’s disinterest in making a studio statement, the Beach Boys consciously decided to make a “simple” record.

Seminal rock critic Paul Williams, who, like many fanatical Brian Wilson supporters, at first wasn’t crazy about Wild Honey, put his reaction in proper perspective in this excerpt from his classic 1969 book, Outlaw Blues: “We expected more (from Brian) than we would expect from any other composer alive, because the tracks we’d heard from Smile were just that good. Smiley Smile was…a confusion…and Wild Honey is just another Beach Boys record, which is only to say that it’s not Smile and it was necessary for us to forget Smile before we could appreciate what came later…I love Wild Honey because it is new and fresh and raw and beautiful and the first step in the direction of even greater things than what was once to be. I celebrate Wild Honey as a work of joy, and one more gift of music from probably the most creative musician alive.”

Unfortunately for the Beach Boys, Paul Williams was in the minority. Bruce Johnston had a humorous but insightful quote regarding rock critics' opinions of the musical approach to production of late Sixties Beach Boys' records: "We can't really keep our approach we have been taking musically if the only people who love it are 5 guys at Crawdaddy Magazine." As far as most rock critics were concerned, Smiley Smile and Wild Honey, released within months of each other, confirmed that the Beach Boys were musical lightweights. To the “hipster” crowd, the group had become passe. Yet, it’s a fact that in 1968, after Wild Honey had already come out, Bob Dylan released John Wesley Harding and the Beatles cut “simpler” records like “Lady Madonna.” And much of that year’s White Album was very basically produced. While there’s no evidence that either Dylan or the Beatles were following Brian’s lead, they certainly were all heading down the same path. Brian was the first to pull back from the production “race,” and to most of the Beach Boys long-time fans, or the recent converts who had been blown away by Pet Sounds, “Good Vibrations” and Sgt. Pepper, that wasn’t acceptable. They expected more “high” art from Brian because very few producers  could “play” the studio with the virtuosity of a Brian Wilson.

However, as Brian was  relinquishing his role as a cutting edge artist, Wild Honey could only reflect the new and baffling simplicity of his home based approach to music and life. Much of the late Sixties production work was done by converting Brian and Marilyn's living room into a home studio. The only problem was that the Brother Records mixing console traveled with the touring group whenever they were on the road, leaving Brian without an essential tool of his converting his raw songs into coherent and enjoyable productions. However, Brian did manage to somehow turn that low key approach into a new art form (best exemplified on Smiley Smile, Wild Honey, Friends, and on the first Paul McCartney solo album). It is hard to discuss live versus recorded performance without considering the psychology of musical experience. As with Smile, there will be those who argue that Wild Honey as a complete multisensory live experience would transcend any passive listening experience to these songs, even with headphones. For long-time Beach Boys fans like myself, hearing the entire Wild Honey album live would be a more complete experience….if Brian was present. To quote David Leaf again:

"More than anything, maybe the essential truth is that the Beach Boys really didn’t set out to produce either Smiley Smile or Wild Honey as major artistic efforts. Smiley Smile was a scramble, a struggle to piece together musical fragments to make songs. And Wild Honey was a new beginning…the Beach Boys rediscovering the joy of just making good, solid R&B based rock music. The piano lines in Wild Honey are, in their own way, as inventive as Brian’s more textured records…Brian happily going back to his roots, the boogie woogie piano that he had loved as a teen."

In 2017, Wild Honey sounds like nothing more than a band that, having lost their hip musical identity by using the environment sonically to be the ultimate studio instrument, instead, looking for its old identity as a rock group, trying to bury the resentments. The Beach Boys, for the first time since 1965, played on most of the instrumental tracks on the album. While the primitive feel of Wild Honey is part of its charm, that same lack of production is the reason it didn’t initially wear as well as the group’s mid-60’s albums. From a 2017 perspective, Wild Honey is a Beach Boys record that is looked back upon very fondly. Even though Wild Honey may not be rock music “high art,” it’s an album that has steadily grown in reputation as one of the Beach Boys' musical "jewels" that were released from the post Smile to the Holland album.

In thinking in a retrospective manner, there’s a lot of great music on Wild Honey, which meant that when hardcore Beach Boys fans, who had listened to Smiley Smile muttering "wtf!" to themselves, first heard Wild Honey, they at least saw that The Beach Boys were innovating again .” Is Wild Honey’s recent critical re-appraisal deserved? As a production transition album, Wild Honey often is thought to be slight, with good songs that were under-produced. Taken on its own merit, Wild Honey offers a new Beach Boy experience, as did every Beach Boys album up through Beach Boys Love You. That is, it is the same group, but there are new and exciting twists, turns, and blind curves that make each new Beach Boys album that one hears for the first time a revelation. That is like the joy of exhilaration that comes when you see your first Georgia O’Keefe painting in person, or discover a novel that takes you to a new world like Dune or the Harry Potter series. In my own perspective in looking Wild Honey 50 years later in 2017 - It has become my favorite "all-weather lp.

Here are two perspectives from group members:

Bruce Johnston: “I loved Wild Honey because I thought it was getting us back on the track again. It was probably the funkiest Beach Boys album, very little production, but a lot of music without any complications. I just remember we wanted to be a band again. The whole (Smile) thing had wiped everyone out, and we wanted to play together again.”

Carl Wilson offered another angle: “Wild Honey was music for Brian to cool out by.”

Billboard Chart Performance:

Wild Honey single: Recorded September 26-27, 1967
Charted at #22 in USA Charts
Flip Side: Wind Chimes (on Smiley Smile album)
Lead vocal by Carl Wilson

Netherlands Wild Honey/Then I Kissed Her Single Picture Cover
Please note the Smile Booklet Photos!

Darlin' single: Recorded October 27, 1967
Original Melody appeared on 1964 Thinkin' Bout You Baby Single in June 1964
Charted at #19 in USA Charts
Flip Side: Here Today (on Pet Sounds)
Lead vocal by Carl Wilson

USA Beach Boys Darlin'/HereToday Single Picture Cover 

Beach Boys-USA Wild Honey Album-Released December 18,1967
Recorded September to November 1967
Charted at #24 USA Album Charts

USA Wild Honey Album Front Cover

USA Wild Honey Album Back Cover

Artwork for the Beach Boys Sunshine Tomorrow Vault Release


1 Wild Honey (Stereo Mix / Remastered 2017)

2 Aren't You Glad (Stereo Mix / Remastered 2017)

3 I Was Made To Love Her (Stereo Mix / Remastered 2017)

4 Country Air (Stereo Mix / Remastered 2017)

5 A Thing Or Two (Stereo Mix / Remastered 2017)

6 Darlin' (Stereo Mix / Remastered 2017)

7 I'd Love Just Once To See You (Stereo Mix / Remastered 2017)

8 Here Comes The Night (Stereo Mix / Remastered 2017)

9 Let The Wind Blow (Stereo Mix / Remastered 2017)

10 How She Boogalooed It (Stereo Mix / Remastered 2017)

11 Mama Says

12 Lonely Days (Alternate Version)

13 Cool, Cool, Water (Alternate Version)

14 Time To Get Alone (Alternate Version)

15 Can't Wait Too Long (Alternate Version)

16 I'd Love Just Once To See You (Alternate Version)

17 I Was Made To Love Her (Vocal Insert Session)

18 I Was Made To Love Her (Long Version)

19 Hide Go Seek (Backing Track Master Take - Instrumental)

20 Honey Get Home (Backing Track Master Take - Instrumental)

21 Wild Honey (Session Highlights Instrumental)

22 Aren't You Glad (Session Highlights Instrumental)

23 A Thing Or Two (Track And Backing Vocals)

24 Darlin' (Session Highlights Instrumental)

25 Let The Wind Blow (Session Highlights Instrumental)

26 Wild Honey (Live In Detroit / 1967)

27 Country Air (Live In Detroit / 1967)

28 Darlin' (Live In Pittsburgh / 1967)

29 How She Boogalooed It (Live In Detroit / 1967)

30 Aren't You Glad (Live / 1970)

31 Mama Says (Session Highlights)

Disk 2

1 Heroes And Villains (Single Version Backing Track)

2 Vegetables (Long Version)

3 Fall Breaks And Back To Winter (Alternate Mix)

4 Wind Chimes (Alternate Tag Section)

5 Wonderful (Backing Track / Instrumental)

6 With Me Tonight (Alternate Version With Session Intro)

7 Little Pad (Backing Track / Instrumental)

8 All Day All Night (Whistle In) (Alternate Version 1)

9 All Day All Night (Whistle In) (Alternate Version 2)

10 Untitled (Redwood) (Instrumental)

11 Fred Vail Intro (Live / 1967)

12 The Letter (Alternate Mono Mix - Live / 1967)

13 You're So Good To Me (Live / 1967)

14 Help Me, Rhonda (Mono Mix / Live / 1967)

15 California Girls (Mono Mix / Live / 1967)

16 Surfer Girl (Mono Mix / Live / 1967)

17 Sloop John B (Live / 1967)

18 With A Little Help From My Friends (Mono Mix / Live / 1967)

19 Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring (Mono Mix / Live / 1967)

20 God Only Knows (Mono Mix / Live / 1967)

21 Good Vibrations (Live / 1967)

22 Game Of Love (Outtake / Live / 1967)

23 The Letter (Alternate Stereo Mix - Live / 1967)

24 With A Little Help From My Friends (Stereo Mix / Live / 1967)

25 Hawthorne Boulevard (Instrumental / Live in Honolulu / 1967)

26 Surfin' (Live In Honolulu / 1967)

27 Gettin' Hungry (Live In Honolulu / 1967)

28 Hawaii (Rehearsal Take / Live in Honolulu / 1967)

29 Heroes And Villains (Rehearsal Take / Live In Honolulu /

30 California Girls (Live In Washington, D.C. / 1967)

31 Graduation Day (Live In Washington, D.C. / 1967)

32 I Get Around (Live In Boston / 1967)

33 Surf's Up (1967 Version)

34 Surfer Girl (1967 A Cappella Mix)

Text Copyright 2017 by Peter Reum - All Rights Reserved

Copyright 2017 by Peter Reum - All Rights Reserved

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 Brian....it 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