Books
Songs
???


Beach
Sun
SMiLE

Hi folks. This website has been here for well over 12 years. As you can imagine it has gone through numerous changes but still remains true to the idea that the SMiLE album was a new spiritual form of music, comparable to Zen riddles, with the potential to promote spiritual enlightenment.
As such it deserves a place among the finest examples of psychedelic art ever made.
The 'riddle/mystery to bring about spiritual enlightenment' solution came first (and it solved all of the mysteries of SMiLE: it made SMiLE the spiritual album Brian claimed it to be, it turned SMiLE into the mind-blowing unified concept album it was supposed to be, it explained the unexplanable events surrounding the project, and it explained the reason why the project was inappropriate). These webpages are an attempt to back up the solution with as much supporting theory & evidence as possible (not easy when dealing with an intentional riddle/mystery).
The most recent webpage we made is The Out-Of-Sight! SMiLE Site. Please feel free to visit. That is the most evolved of our efforts. The earlier webpages are here with all their flaws (for example, the Surfing Saints article references should be discounted as they aren't actual Brian Wilson quotes. Surfing Saints is a collection of various surfer's quotes regarding the ultimate religious experience circa 1967-68. Because of this the quotes are comparable & relatable to Brian Wilson's comments as well as lyrics from the SMiLE era. The reason is because SMiLE is about the ultimate relgious experience--Surfing Saints is on topic but it's not actually Brian). You can access the original pages through the link in the left margin. They're still pretty interesting. Hope you like them.
-Bill Tobelman

The Winter 2008 issue of Endless Summer Quarterly magazine ran my latest article. It was very nice of ESQ to do that. The printed version however did omit a few paragraphs from my original essay. What follows is the original article with the missing passages included (in blue).
As you will see there are some chances taken with this piece (actually it's two essays combined; one is serious while the other is an attempt at serious comedy) as some of the things stated here will not be found elsewhere. It is also worth noting that it's a given that the lyrical interpretations that follow could obviously be interpreted in a number of different ways. That's to be expected from psychedelic lyrics, and a fair point. But, on the other hand, similar lyrics (with similar double meanings) cannot be located in other SMiLE material.
Here it is original article. Hope you like it.

Mysteries Full Of Meaning

Beach Boys fans are familiar with the Pet Sounds era composition “Let Go Of Your Ego” and how it later became “I Know There’s An Answer.” The original lyric had a lot to do with LSD and the idea of ego loss or ego death. This caught the attention of Mike Love who encouraged a less obvious lyrical direction be taken for the song. The lyrics were changed to avoid such obvious associations.

The Beach Boys’ next album, SMiLE, was an even further exploration in the direction of LSD & ego & its positive parameters.

Popular literature at the time, such as The Psychedelic Experience and The Joyous Cosmology, pointed to a positive future through ego death and spiritual rebirth. The Beatles were quoting The Psychedelic Experience in one song, “Tomorrow Never Knows,” and singing “I know what it’s like to be dead” in another, “She Said She Said.” Brian Wilson wanted to challenge the Beatles but it would be hard for him to get away with the same kind of obvious references with the likes of Mike Love censoring the sensimilla.

Matters such as ego death would have to escape detection, and escape they did. Ever recall an article about SMiLE’s hidden ego death lyrics?

Make no mistake about it, Brian Wilson WAS thinking in terms of ego death and spiritual rebirth. The ego death & rebirth idea can be found in Jules Siegel’s famous article Goodbye Surfing Hello God! where Brian talks about the movie Seconds & how “birth and death and rebirth” sums up his whole life. There’s also talk about being “reborn” and “finding out that you really can’t die” in the Surfing Saints article from CHEETAH!.

These same ideas can be found in the SMiLE era’s “Heroes And Villains.” The baffling lyric, “…she was right in the rain of bullets that eventually brought her down. But she’s still dancing in the night unafraid...” points toward death & rebirth. The bit about being “unafraid” is likely related to Brian’s “finding out that you really can’t die” realization.

Brian had experienced an LSD trip that involved ego death as well as death by fire (this is his second trip as presented in his flawed autobiography). This trip occurred in ‘65 and Brian obviously emerged from his ego death experience alive and well. This may account for the lyric, “at three score and five, I’m very much alive.” The major point to take from this is that the ideas of ‘fire’ and ‘ego death’ are related by way of Wilson’s personal experiences.

Now we can go back to the dancing girl in “Heroes And Villains” and note that her body “fanned the flame of the dance” and group the idea of ‘fire’ to that of ‘ego death & rebirth.’

“Cabinessence” has a number of fun fire references. There’s the “fire mellow” and then “I’ll give you a home on the range” which, considering the double meaning of “range” (Frank Holmes’ later artwork for “Cabinessence” includes a kitchen range!), could lead to a toasty experience. That leads us to the “iron horse” section which author & music professor Philip Lambert notes (no pun intend) is musically relatable to SMiLE’s “Fire” music. Such pressing hot topics might lead a backing vocalist to ask “who ran the iron?”

SMiLE artist Frank Holmes once pointed out that “Cabinessence” is a pun on ‘cannabis.’ This extreme stretch of a pun helps justify some of the stretches that are going to be put forward while discussing “Surf’s Up.”

“Surf’s Up” has the most ego death lyrics. There’s the “die, manned neck lace,” the “pit and the pendulum,” “drawn,” “hung,” “velvet over, taken me,” “the music holocaust,” “a costly bow,” “all is lost,” “a muted trumpeter,” “strike the street,” “quicksilver,” “adieu or die,” “the dim last toast,” “heart hardened,” and “a broken man.” There are also the ego death related fire references such as “lamp light,” “strike (got a match?) the street,” “the fired roast,” and the “last toasting.”

When Brian and Van Dyke did “Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE,” they added a few more references such as “is it hot as hell in here,” and “if I die before I wake.”

Mike Love has referred to the SMiLE lyrics as “acid alliteration” so he did pick up on the LSD connection, but he hasn’t yet caught on to the ego death references in SMiLE. My heads off to Brian and Van Dyke for doing such a masterful job!

The job Wilson and Parks did was soooooo masterful that it seems that nobody, I mean NOBODY ever picked up on this sort of thing. Gee, and after I spent all that time on my bike selling GRIT so that I could buy & read all the Beach Boys’ books and mags…it kind of bugs me…five years selling GRIT…okay, now I’m REALLY BUGGED!

I’ve kind of had it with people telling me what SMiLE is about and what it means. Read all the books & articles and watched all the videos and DVDs. Van Dyke Parks’ explanations give me a headache. Carl Wilson’s explaining doesn’t make it any clearer either.

There’s only one little phrase that really makes it for me. It’s from Brian Wilson’s dreaded “autobiography” but it’s not from any of the SMiLE chapters. Regardless of its position in the text, what’s important is that it solves all my SMiLE problems. The incredible number one killer-diller phrase is...(are you ready?)...(hope you didn’t cheat by reading the title of this essay)... “mysteries full of meaning.”

See!!!

Doesn’t that solve all of your SMiLE interpretation needs? What? You don’t get it?

Let’s take “Our Prayer.” What does it mean? Brian wanted it as a little intro to the album to make people feel spiritual. Is that right? Spiritual about what? Why? At the recording session Brian didn’t want to consider it a track. Then it appears as a track on an album. What’s up? Is it a track or not? Darn, now I’m all messed up. What the heck? #!!!#?

Now here’s where the magic of “the phrase” comes in (remember it’s “mysteries full of meaning”)! Does “Our Prayer” present us with a mystery? Yup! Does “Our Prayer” appear to have some meaning of some sort? Yup!

See that, you can now totally understand “Our Prayer.” It’s a mystery full of meaning. Done.

Let’s take the “Bicycle Rider” thing. Jules Siegel called the music “cold” and Brian spoke to Paul Williams about the history of the bicycle. Van Dyke noted that the inspiration came from a deck of cards and Frank Holmes noted the C.C. Ryder connection. Fans of psychedelic music note the use of bicycle imagery in that genre’s offerings and LSD fans note Albert Hoffman’s first intentional ingesting of the compound involved a bicycle ride. I could go on but the point is that I’m getting pretty confused. I think it’s time to whip out “the phrase” (remember it’s “mysteries full of meaning”).

Okay, so obviously “Bicycle Rider” is “full of meaning” right? There’s a whole heck of a lot of meaning there...maybe too much. But it doesn't matter. The explanation is simple and easy. “Bicycle Rider” is a mystery full of meaning. Done.

Let’s see. Is there a SMiLE track that ISN’T a mystery full of meaning????

Here’s one (maybe)… “Heroes And Villains (intro)” from the Good Vibrations 30 Years box set. Let’s even forget the bit about how this music ends up with “Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow” instead of “Heroes And Villains” on Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE.  Let’s just take the music. Okay, what does it mean? Uh. Dang, I have no freakin’ idea. So it’s a mystery and it probably has some meaning attached to it somehow…maybe for Brian. The music reminds me of when I was a kid you’d go out to the backyard and look up at the sky and spin around till you got dizzy and collapsed. There’s some meaning for me. Hey, “the phrase” works!

Frank Holmes had some similar personal recollections enter into his explanations of his SMiLE art. That worms behind the curtain thing was a reference that only Frank got. It was based, in part, on a Van Dyke Park’s lyric that probably had meaning for Van Dyke. Heck, wait, I seem to recall Van Dyke once stating that his SMiLE lyrics had meaning for him (“him” meaning Van Dyke Parks). 

So you can see that if Brian’s music has meaning (remember Brian’s quote about people “getting the music”? If you are gonna “get it” you’re gonna “get” the meaning right?) and Van Dyke Park’s lyrics have meaning and Frank Holmes’ groovy SMiLE drawings have meaning (dig Franks’ ‘splaining at the back of Dom Priore’s latest SMiLE book) then the whole SMiLE album is totally FULL of MEANING!!!

All hail “the phrase” (remember it’s “mysteries full of meaning”)!

And the whole SMiLE album, even after Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE, STILL comes across as one big mystery full of little mysteries. I mean that’s what has been causing all my SMiLE based frustrations in the first place. All those books and articles and videos and DVDs ‘splaining stuff to me and giving me headaches are all messed up because they never can explain it all. Never.

They aren’t using “the phrase.” They aren’t saying, “hey Bill, SMiLE is one big mystery full of meaning.” And they are most certainly not saying that SMiLE is INTENTIONALLY a mystery full of meaning. They most certainly aren’t saying that.

But brothers and sisters the amazing power of those magic four words should not be overlooked. They’ll set you free. Use their power for good. Finally you can explain SMiLE and end up in a hang-up free zone.

And if you want to further investigate “the phrase” and learn the context from which those four precious words were taken you’ll find them on page 129 of Brian’s dreaded “autobiography.” Perhaps that larger context will help further explain SMiLE. 

Come on. Dust off that old copy from your bookshelf and check it out. I mean, at the very least, take out your yellow highlighter and help four uncanny very special words stand out from the pack (remember …“mysteries full of meaning”).

The Original Zen Interpretation Of SMiLE webpage

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

It has been this webpage's contention from the start that the Beach Boys' SMiLE album was, in essence, a Zen koan or riddle. Ever since this idea first came to me (based upon a single Zen reference: that being from Jules Siegel's article) there has been a continuous stream of information that has solidified my original position, and so, from this writer's point of view--SMiLE definitely appears to some sort of Zen koan; Brian Wilson's musical version of a Zen riddle.

In 1998 my wife and I set about presenting my findings to the general public by making a website (click on the link in the margin to the left to access the original webpage). But I messed up by making the site too Zen oriented, and also by trying to prove my case using analogies. It didn't work and few were swayed by the presentation.

Frankly, the "Zen" thing may simply turn people off. That's okay. If people want to go with the idea that SMiLE is in no way Zen, but rather, a "mystery" presented to promote spiritual enlightenment, that would be an acceptable explanation.

But to this day, there is not a single mention of any such "mystery" or "Zen" to be found in books, articles, or even the award winning DVD about the story of SMiLE. Brian Wilson has even given interviews in which he has basically said there was no Zen influence at all in SMiLE (thanks go out to Ear Candy & ESQ for asking the question).

Brian's insistence that there was no Zen influence flys in the face of some pretty solid evidence that this is not the case. The Jules Siegel article, the Humble Harve "I'm In Great Shape" preview, David Oppenheim's film notes, as well as some actual SMiLE lyrics seem to indicate a definite Zen influence.

So why then won't Brian just admit that it was just another passing topic of interest at the time (like health, vegetables, chants, swimming, I Ching, etc.)? Maybe by not saying, Brian is perserving the "mystery."

"You know, any sane magician would never reveal his method of deception. And I don't think that a sensible musician would either."
-Van Dyke Parks

In any case, the webpage you're now reading exists to prove to you that SMiLE is essentially a Zen riddle. And since the burden of proof belongs to those who make the claims, here's yet another attempt to prove that SMiLE was, and is, some form of Zen koan....

"Well, the first thing Brian will come up with is a concept,
an album concept..."
-David Anderle

Domenic Priore does something commendable in his recent SMiLE book. He locates the reader in the mid sixties at the time of SMiLE and lets you know some of the events going on at the time of SMiLE's creation (and if you check out Domenic's new Riot On Sunset Strip book you'll see the inflence of beat culture upon the scene as well). Good idea. But Priore fails to dive deeply enough into the spiritual basis of the youth culture. He cites the April, 1967 TV show, Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution, quoting members of the younger generation. But what Priore misses is that what the younger people are really trying to say gets missed in the translation. The kids understand each other but can't seem to express themselves in a way in which the older generation will understand. There is a lack of common experience (the psychedelic experience) and this creates a division between the two groups.

Brian Wilson understood this division between the psychedelicized "enlightened" people and everybody else. He knew there were problems in communicating the experience to those who hadn't experienced it firsthand. "I can't teach you, or tell you, what I learned from taking it (LSD)," Wilson told Tom Nolan, "but I consider it a very religious experience." Another time Wilson said, "...if you don't know, man, don't expect anyone to tell you." Brian understood that the only way for people to understand the experience was to experience it firsthand.

Brian's LSD experience, at least the one he wanted to express through SMiLE, had been a very religious event, and this experience was the basis for his new "spiritual" musical direction, the direction for SMiLE. Brian ("...the seeming leader of a potentially-revolutionary movement in pop music") outlined all of this for writer Tom Nolan but what is missing from Nolan's article is the term "psychedelic."

Brian once stated that, "psychedelic music will cover the face of the world and color the whole popular music scene. Anybody happening is psychedelic" and it should be noted that at the heart of true psychedelic art is the artist's desire to express & communicate the psychedelic experience. This is exactly what Wilson wanted to do via SMiLE. Most people seem to miss this point. Brian Wilson's "teenage symphony to God" is based upon the religious psychedelic experience. It is a spiritual work because Wilson's psychedelic experience was a spiritual experience. SMiLE is psychedelic art; art meant to communicate the spiritual psychedelic experience.

But if, as was stated before, the experience can only be experienced firsthand (a concept Wilson understood) then how can the religious psychedelic experience be expressed in a manner that recreates the experience in others? Or maybe the better question to ask first is--is there any real sign that Brian Wilson was actually thinking in such terms? Is there anything to support the notion that Wilson was trying to help people have a spiritual experience?

In the Beautiful Dreamer DVD Michael Vosse states that Brian, "...felt that the moment somebody laughed, that while they're laughing, that all control was gone, they cannot control themselves. And that, at that moment, they can have a spiritual experience." SMiLE, as David Leaf once noted, is Brian's humor album. Humor, resulting in laughter, could be used to help trigger a spiritual experience.

Another time, Brian told Vosse, "I want people to turn on to vegetables, good natural food, organic food. Health is an important ingredient in spiritual enlightenment," and so Wilson created a SMiLE song to promote vegetables and health. The apparent reason for this, based on his own quote, was that he wanted to promote these things because they were, "an important ingredient in spiritual enlightenment." Brian wanted you to eat vegetables & be healthy in order to promote spiritual enlightenment.

Being physically fit also seems to be part of the spiritual experience equation. Brian especially liked the swimming pool during SMiLE. "A lot of swimming. It's physical; really Zen, right? The whole spiritual thing is very physical. Swimming really does it sometimes." The "it" that swimming does may well be to trigger the "spiritual thing" but then again I may be reaching. In any case it is interesting to note Brian's connecting of swimming and the physical to the spiritual and to Zen (for those who seek a simple explanation of Zen; Zen is about attaining spiritual enlightenment).

The humor of SMiLE along with the promoting of vegetables, health and fitness, all seem part of the same goal; to help people have a spiritual experience.

Zen's koan is another "device" that promotes the spiritual experience and so it would make perfect sense if Brian Wilson employed the koan via SMiLE. But what evidence is there that Brian even knew of Zen koans?

It is fairly well known that Brian Wilson loved the comedy album How To Speak Hip during this time. Brian even memorized bits & pieces from the LP. At one point in the album John Brent (playing the part of Geets Romo) says, '"Like in Zen...the Zen Buddhists have these koans, you know, they're riddles that you meditate on. And the whole purpose of the riddles is to hang you up, like, "We know the sound of two hands but what is the sound of one hand?" Now that's had Buddhist monks hung up for years."' How To Speak Hip is pretty definite proof that Brian had some exposure to the idea of Zen koans.

Another way in which Brian could have learned about koans is through his influential friend Loren Schwartz. Schwartz was once described as being, "....very skillful at asking people what 'the sound of one hand clapping' was," which indicates that Loren was likely familiar with Zen koans.

Brian's biography tells of an acid flashback that Brian has in a bookstore. After the flashback Brian remembers, "Loren once explaining that hallucinations were comparable to Zen riddles, mysteries full of meaning," which would not only further indicate Loren's knowledge of koans but also Brian's exposure to such knowledge through Schwartz.

Loren Schwartz also seems to have encouraged Brian in the spiritual direction. Brian states in his bio, "I'd definitely developed a spiritual awareness. Loren was always discoursing on spirituality, religious books, inspiring me to make music that would evoke such feelings." The last part of that quote seems worth repeating ("...inspiring me to make music that would evoke such feelings") as it meshes with the goals outlined for SMiLE earlier in this essay. One way to accomplish this goal would be to employ the Zen riddle, a concept that both Schwartz and Wilson were familiar with.

When Brian was searching for inspiration for what would eventually become Pet Sounds he consulted his astrologer. "I then told the astrologer about the hallucination I'd had in the bookstore last December, presenting it as a riddle. Genevelyn thought about it for a moment, then explained something that made perfect sense to me. If I wasn't able to find inspiration for songs outside myself, as in books, then I had to look someplace else. I had to look inward. I had to write about the spirituality I felt in my heart." This quote is a mind-blower.

Brian tells Genevelyn about the hallucination (after which Brian recalled, "Loren once explaining that hallucinations were comparable to Zen riddles...") in riddle form! And this riddle is presented as Brian seeks inspiration for his next album!

It really isn't too far a logical leap from this point to figure out that there is a great possibility that Brian employed the Zen riddle concept for the SMiLE album. The Zen koan idea is completely in line with SMiLE's spiritual goals as well as with the goals of the early psychedelic movement. It's totally far-out AND it totally makes sense.

It's too bad that the same people who claim the loftiest of goals for SMiLE and the supreme hipness of Brian Wilson do not embrace a viewpoint that truly substantiates such claims. They miss the big picture.

Often people compartmentalize SMiLE in order to explain it. They divide SMiLE into various "themes" (i.e.- God, Americana, laughter, childhood, cycle of life, earth, air, fire, water, ecology, etc.) and relate those themes to Brian's life, his work, and the world around him.

Brian Wilson, however, never spoke in such diverse terms when explaining SMiLE. For Brian, it was always about the experience, the religious spiritual experience. Those so-called "themes" are all related to the spiritual experience.

There also seems to be a trend on the part of SMiLE chroniclers to bring Brian Wilson's mental problems into the story of SMiLE. I've been criticized in the past for claiming that these problems have nothing to do with SMiLE as originally conceived. But as you can see by the essay you are now reading, the whole mental illness issue need not enter into an explanation of what SMiLE actually is.

At this point the chroniclers claim that there was no original conception of SMiLE (therefore reducing all claimed on this webpage to coincidence and fabrication) and once again I have to disagree. Historians are misinterpreting Wilson's impulsive working methods as SMiLE's raison d'etre. Brian had a definite direction planned for Pet Sounds though Tony Asher was unaware of any overarching concept. So why then don't SMiLE historians pick up on the idea that Brian may have had a predetermined direction for SMiLE?

Wilson has stated that SMiLE was "too advanced" for the sixties. And based up recent books, articles, and DVDs it appears that SMiLE is still "too advanced" for those who attempt to explain it.

In Brian's bio he describes his best acid trip as "...the ultimate in LSD joyrides...four hours of enlightenment and spirituality" and my research reveals SMiLE to be this trip (the ultimate joyride) presented as a riddle (similar to the way Brian presented his bookstore hallucination experience as a riddle to Genevelyn for LP inspiration). The riddle is to help people attain "enlightenment and spirituality."


Why Are There All Those SMiLE Songs That Brian Wilson Didn't Write?

In the above essay it states, "my research reveals SMiLE to be this
trip (the ultimate joyride) presented as a riddle (similar to the way Brian
presented his bookstore hallucination experience as a riddle to Genevelyn
for LP inspiration)," and so I'm forced, by the rules of good theory, to
view SMiLE's unoriginal material in light of this position.

Brian's trip to the bookstore, as presented in his bio, offered up a totally
unexpected event for Brian, an event that left him with questions galore and
no answers.
The experience was presented without explanation
(similar to the way Brian presented SMiLE to the Beach Boys in 1966 and similar to
the way Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE was presented to the public in 2004).

If Brian made SMiLE in the form of his bookstore experience
he had to adapt that experience to fit a number of requirements.
To begin with, simply reciting from the great classics wouldn't suit a
Beach Boys album. There needed to be music and lyrics (enter Van Dyke Parks).
Songs lyrically concerned with the subjects broached during Brian's bookstore
visit, those such as philosophy, Existentialism, and world religions, simply
wouldn't cut it as Beach Boys' fare. So it was decided (by Brian and
Van Dyke) that the Beach Boys' inescapable all-American image could be
turned from a negative into a positive and used as a vehicle for Brian Wilson's new
spiritual music. In this way Wilson's new personal music
(visit the
Out-Of Sight! SMiLE Site for more on this) could also be
Beach Boys' music. The bookstore experience had to translate into a pop record.
The store would become the album (think of Frank Holmes' original
storefront SMiLE cover art), and the books would become songs.

Van Dyke Parks' use of Marty Robbins' "El Paso" as a guide for "Heroes
And Villains" is noteworthy. Parks is incorporating an outside source for his lyric.
That's pretty amazing considering it's the first song Wilson & Parks worked
on. Think of it. They, Parks & Wilson, brimming with creative energy deliberately
aped an outside musical source for inspiration. That seems pretty amazing and
significant. How "un-Pet Sounds," how "un-Good Vibrations."
Wilson & Parks clearly seem to be up to something.

Okay, so back to the bookstore (even though we may already be in the
bookstore except that we're using hit songs for inspiration instead of books. Heck,
maybe we're having a flashback in a bookstore and a record shop at the same time!).

In the bookstore, Pickwick Books, Brian was digging the written works
of other people while having an acid flashback. On a record album that might translate
to digging the songs of other people and presenting them in some altered flashback form,
right?

Let's consider "Gee" from Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE and how that might
apply to his bookstore experience.
The bio begins, "'I (Brian) walked into the
store anyway. The clerk, who knew me, said hello and mentioned that he was
crazy about "Barbara Ann," which was all over the radio.'"
Now on BWPS, after
the opening prayer, we start off with "Gee" which is similar to "Barbara Ann" in
style & feel & genre classification (find "Gee" and "Barbara Ann"
on Rhino's Doo Wop Boxes, Vols. 1 & 3 respectively).
"Gee" is presented coming from a radio much like the way
"Barbara Ann" would have been coming over the radio during the
time of Brian's bookstore visit. "Gee" is also presented in altered form.
For instance, the lyric "gee" doesn't appear on the SMiLE version.
"Gee" fits into the bookstore flashback scenario perfectly.

But what about the other unoriginal titles on SMiLE?
What about "Old Master Painter," "You Are My Sunshine," and "I Wanna Be Around"?
How does Brian's bookstore thing translate into their appearance?
Okay, let's revisit Brian's flashback as presented in his "bio."

"Moving slowly into the aisles, I concentrated on reading the book titles
and their authors. In the philosophy section, I paged through books by
Sartre, Camus, Kant. I tried the religion section and picked up the Bible,
the Bhagavad Gita, and the I Ching. I stared at the pages, tried to read,
but the letters all vibrated on the pages and I couldn't make sense of
anything....The moment was completely surreal. Then I saw the books melting
down the shelves, dripping like wax down the side of a candle."

As we can see Brian consulted a few books by various authors during his acid flashback.
On a pop music album this would translate into the appearance of a few songs by other artists.

Brian only visited a few pages or small sections of the books he encountered in the
bookstore. Similarly, on SMiLE we are presented with only brief sections of
the songs by outside sources.

One neat comparison to consider is Brian's bio's description of the "books
melting down the shelves"
and how the ending of "You Are My Sunshine" may be
a musical depiction of such an event.

The acid flashback experience would obviously change one's perception of
things and it is noteworthy that all of SMiLE's songs by other folks are
never presented in their traditional form.

Probably the most baffling of all SMiLE tracks is the opening part
to "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" (as presented near the end of BWPS)
which appears as "Heroes And Villains (intro)" on the Good Vibrations box set.
This lyricless track doesn't seem to have much to do with books or music
but it does musically (and visually if you count the SMiLE tour's light show) mirror
the later part of the acid flashback experience as described in Brian's bio:
"The room began to spin. I was in the center of a giant spinning top.
Turning, turning, turning. The moment was completely surreal."

What we are presented with in SMiLE is consistent with
what Brian was presented with at Pickwick Books.

There have been a number of times in recent years when fans have noted
similarities between VDP's SMiLE lyrics and various literary sources and we
shouldn't overlook the possibility that Van Dyke used the bookstore setting
to inspire his SMiLE lyrics. That is an obvious connection to Brian's
bookstore experience. Classic books inspire classic lyrics. It's a cool idea, very
sophisticated, and the kind of heady idea that would have set SMiLE apart
from the pack in 1967.

Van Dyke Parks recently said, "...when Brian and I
started to work, I was was going to pretend like I'd read ee cummings,
the great Beat poets, Walt Whitman...".
Sounds like listening to SMiLE might be a lot like a visit to Pickwick Books.

"As the buzz subsided into a manageable burned-out sensation, I remembered Loren once
explaining that hallucinations were comparable to Zen riddles, mysteries full of meaning.
What had mine meant? I had driven to the bookstore, looking for what? Inspiration?
Instead, I'd seen books melting, unable to grasp the knowledge contained in them.
If that was a riddle, I wanted to know the solution."

Brian Wilson's bookstore experience serves as a template for SMiLE.
A bookstore contains titles by various authors, and so, similarly,
the SMiLE album includes songs written by various composers.

Brian interpreted his acid flashback experience as a riddle.
Similarly, we should interpret the SMiLE album as a riddle.

Brian Wilson has given interviews in which he has noted that through his music he has spiritual power in the world.
And it seems that with SMiLE Brian was going all the way and exercising his spiritual powers to their fullest.

Of course, some people would consider a record album made in order to give people a genuine spiritual experience some sort of mystical witchcraft.

"We were doing witchcraft, trying to make witchcraft music."~Brian Wilson quoted in Nick Kent's The Dark Stuff (pg.27.)

The "witchcraft" quote (from the 70's) is often pooh poohed by Beach Boys aficionados. The original interviewer (Nick Kent), however,
seems to stick by the words he first transcribed. Kent most recently used them in a 2004 magazine article. Here's another witchcraft reference;

"We cut a song called Fire and we used fire helmets on the musicians and we put a bucket with fire burning
in it in the studio so we could smell smoke while we cut. About a day later a building down the street burned down.
We thought maybe it was witchcraft or something, we didn't know what we were into. So we decided not to finish it.
Plus I got into drugs and I began doing things that were over my head."
~Brian Wilson

Similar quotes have Brian fearing he had started the fire "mystically."
The "witchcraft" quotes indicate that SMiLE was something more than a typical LP.
And the idea of a record album embedded with some kind of unknown
mystical power,
and the potential of such power, might tend to scare some people.
It might even scare the album's creator (i.e.-the "Fire" tapes incident is an
example of the creator being scared by his music's mystical power).

"...I've gone beyond him (Phil Spector) now. I'm doing the spiritual sound, a white spiritual sound.
Religious music....That's the whole movement. That's where I'm going. It's going to scare a lot of people....
That's where I'm going and it's going to scare a lot of people when I get there."
~Brian Wilson quoted in Jules Siegel's article, Goodbye Surfing Hello God!

"(Ed. note: BT tells me he's close to decoding Brian Wilson's true meaning behind 'Smile'. Please take a moment to join me in wishing Bill a speedy recovery)."~Jeff Jarema, HERE 'TIS Magazine #8 (pub. 1997)

The Zen Interpretation of SMiLE

My claim that tv's Charlie Rose asked Brian about "witchcraft" was apparently incorrect as I couldn't find the reference in a transcript from that tv interview.
Sorry, correction made. If anybody finds any other errors on this page please let me know. I can be reached by
email. Thanks.
-Bill Tobelman 2007



The Good Humor SMiLE Site!