On a hot afternoon, in 1966, Brian Wilson drove Al Jardine around the parking lot of the William Morris Agency (where Brian's friend Loren Schwartz worked), trying to get Al to take LSD. Brian was, in Al's words, "explaining to me about this great trip he'd just taken," and Brian seemingly had few reservations, if any, about sending Al on a similar journey.
Brian's belief in the positive outcome to such a trip was so strong that his next album would mirror his enlightened trip experience. The album would, in essence, be the LSD trip that Brian described for Al Jardine, but more importantly the album would be presented in the form of a riddle. For it was a riddle that drove Wilson to go on this great trip in the first place and it was that same riddle that Wilson contemplated during the actual trip.
Brian's great LSD trip is represented in its most elementary form on Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE by "The Elements" AKA "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" and "In Blue Hawaii."
The setting for the trip is the beach (at Lake Arrowhead, California!).
"Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" opens with the presentation of the mystery, or riddle. This is the mystery that Brian was presented with during his bookstore acid flashback. During the flashback Brian felt that he was in the middle of a giant spinning top and this music goes round and round recreating the bookstore flashback.
It seems that there was a bird, or some birds, present during Brian's beach trip. This is represented by the bird calls present in the opening part of "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow."
Brian contemplated the mystery. The sun began to rise over the horizon. It was a very red sun that morning. What had his mystery meant? Brian thought of his prior LSD experience.
Then comes the "Fire" music. This is Brian flashing back to his prior LSD trip (his second trip) and the fire paranoia that gripped him during that trip. Brain also relived his past during this trip and the battles that he had had with his father while growing up. The fire music also represents the negativity, the hell, of Brian's life.
The vocal part from "Fall Breaks and Back to Winter (W. Woodpecker Symphony)" present on "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" adds yet another bird connection.
Is it hot as hell in here, or is it me?
The "Fire" part of trip has engulfed Brian in his personal hell.
It really is a mystery.
The mystery had taken its toll on Brian's ego, and had left him for dead (ego-wise, that is).
If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take my misery--
Like a soul lost on the desert sand, beaten down by mystery and fire, Brian craved water.
I could really use a drop to drink.
Then something wonderful happened. The red sun broke from the horizon taking away the fiery vision.
Feel like I was really in the...PINK!
The sky turned pink.
It started to rain. Cool, cool, water!
Dig the lake, the pool, the sink, the snow, the fountains, the rain.
His misery was gone. His prayer had been answered.
Brian replayed the trip in his mind. This trip would make one pretty cool record album. The idea of making people happy via an album made Brian even happier.
"In Blue Hawaii" conveys Brian's happiness.
Brian then envisioned the production of his next single, "Good Vibrations."
Pretty cool trip!
Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE
The negative "Fire" part of Brian's positive trip experience could be expanded into a whole movement. The battles of Brian's past (that he relived during his second LSD trip) could be part of this movement. Keep in mind, Brian was on a beach looking at the sun rising over America.
"Our Prayer"- An intro to the blessed event. This track conveys the religious significance of the LSD experience.
"Gee" - A song by The Crows starts it off. Note the bird reference a la "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow."
"Heroes And Villains"- Brian relived fights from his past during the "Fire" episode. This song is about a fight between Brian and his Dad, and Brian and Marilyn, and Brian and some of the Beach Boys. It's spiritually enlightened Brian and the unenlightened crowd.
"Roll Plymouth Rock"- Inspired by Brian's first LSD trip, this song presents us with a journey, a "trip." We're tripping through the past just as Brian had revisited his past during the "Fire" trip.
"Barnyard"- Fire and water are opposites, and Brian's groovy trip had given him an understanding of opposites. "Barnyard" is the opposite of "Vega-Tables." "Barnyard" is the meat to the vegetables of "Vega-Tables." And yet, "Barnyard" is similar to "Vega-Tables" as it is humorous and promotes fitness which Brian believed were two important ingredients for spiritual enlightenment.
"Old Master Painter/You Are My Sunshine"- From the beach Brian looked out upon the "faraway hills" (from "The Old Master Painter" lyrics). The sadness of Brian's past (relived during the "Fire" trip) is represented by the sad rendition of "You Are My Sunshine."
"Cabin Essence"- Brian's fiery second trip had taken place in an apartment. Brian's third trip (Lake Arrowhead, California) likely originated in a lakeside cabin. Remembrances of his second trip stoked the woodsy setting creating a "home on the range" which is a stove top reference to his "Fire" experience. The "iron horse" is the fire engine whose siren is recreated musically in "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow." While Brian was reliving the "Fire" episode on the beach his sight was cast upon the "faraway hills" which are represented in "Cabin Essence" by the lyric "facing waves of wheat" as well as the "cornfield" and the "wheat field." The "truck driving man" reference refers to Brian driving during the "Fire" trip. The crow that cries is another bird reference and, like the song by The Crows that opens the movement, can be related to the bird references contained in "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow."
The second movement of Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE is what happens between the "Fire" music and the "Water" music ("Water" being the "I Love To Say Da Da" music of "In Blue Hawaii"). The second movement is the movement that coincides with the spoken part that opens "In Blue Hawaii"; the "Is it hot as hell in here or is it me" bit. This is the ego loss movement.
"Wonderful"- The female opposite to the male that closes the second movement via "Surf's Up" (just as the fire based "hot as hell" lyric has an opposite in the water based "drop to drink" lyric). We're still located in the forest. This song, along with the others in this movement, exemplify the spoken lyric, "It really is a mystery."
"Song For Children"- Brian, still on the beach, continues to contemplate the mystery as the sun continues to rise.
"Child Is Father Of The Man"- With its title taken from the Wordsworth poem about viewing a rainbow in the sky (implying rain!), this song finds Brian in a similar situation, viewing a sunrise.
"Surf's Up"- "While at port" is Brian, still on the beach. The "now, now, now" backing chant from the spoken part of "In Blue Hawaii" is represented in "Surf's Up" by the lyric "all is lost for now." "In Blue Hawaii"'s "If I die before I wake" is "Surf's Up"'s "Adieu or die," and "I could really use a drop to drink..." leads to "Surf's Up"'s "look for a title wave." The "come about hard" lyric is Brian turning around on the beach only to discover water; "Surf's Up."
The positive "Water" part of Brian's positive trip experience could be expanded to a whole movement. Brian replays his positive trip expanding on the idea of the elements that inspired the SMiLE album in the first place. Brian is feeling healed and healthy. He is "in the pink!"
"I'm In Great Shape/I Wanna Be Around/Workshop"- Here's the answer to the"If I die before I wake I pray the Lord my soul to take my misery" prayer; his misery has been taken. Brian is spiritually reborn. "I'm In Great Shape" begins with Brian waking up, misery free, and obviously in better shape than ever. Brian has been healed. "I Wanna Be Around" expresses a desire to help heal others. [Brian had once referred to "Workshop" as "rebuilding after the fire" and by seeing the entire SMiLE album as representing his fire/water trip, this quote makes sense. Brian rebuilds himself after the fire and the ego loss experience.]
"Vega-Tables"- The opposite of "Barnyard" and part of the whole spiritual enlightenment health trip that Brian promoted following his positive fire/water LSD trip experience. This is the end of the feeling "in the pink" stuff and it's time to replay the positive trip in order to help heal other people.
"On A Holiday"- Brian heads to the beach for his fire/water beach LSD trip experience. We're about to take a trip, the same trip as side one's "Roll Plymouth Rock," a happy trip.
"Wind Chimes"- Brian's first trip done in an elemental way to suit the third movement. The LSD kicks in.
"Mrs. O'Leary's Cow"- Brian contemplates his bookstore flashback mystery only to have a fiery horror movie served up right before his eyes. This is the negative part of the positive experience. The "Fire" will eventually be elongated into SMiLE's first movement, so the "bells & whistles" music that precedes the "Fire" music can rightly be called "Heroes And Villains (intro)."
"In Blue Hawaii"- At the point when things seem bleakest...salvation! This is the positive part of the positive experience. Brian replays his trip envisioning the SMiLE album. The lyric, "lay before me. Wholly Holy Cow!" is Brian seeing "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" in elongated form. Through SMiLE Brian can unite the unenlightened people with the enlightened people.
"Good Vibrations"- The negative and the positive go together to form Brian's happy LSD trip experience. We are left with good vibrations.