I am reviewing here the double CD release of The Beach Boys albums SMILEY SMILE and WILD HONEY put out by Capitol Records with six bonus tracks in 2001.
SMILEY SMILE originally came out on September 18, 1967 on Brother Records. It is The Beach Boys twelfth studio album. It came out after the much anticipated SMILE album was scrapped. It is said to be psychedelic rock/pop music and was mainly recorded in Brian Wilson’s home studio in June and July of 1967. It was the group’s lowest charting album to date, reaching No 9 in the UK and No 41 on the US Billboard charts. Carl Wilson said the album “was a bunt instead of a grand slam”. Nonetheless, Pete Townsend of The Who and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith are fans of the album. Dennis Wilson said it “was just something we were going through at that time connected with drugs, love, and everything”.
SMILEY SMILE opens with the second single ‘Heroes and Villains’, which finds Brian Wilson on lead and hit No 12. It was meant to be the heart of the abandoned SMILE album. It is a carefree pop story song that begins like this: “I’ve been in this town so long that back in the city/I’ve been taken for lost and gone/And unknown for a long, long time/Fell in love years ago/With an innocent girl/From the Spanish and Indian home of the heroes and villains”. ‘Vegetables’ was also meant for SMILE. It has Al Jardine on lead and includes the group and Paul McCartney munching on raw vegetables for percussion. The song has quite silly lyrics: “I’m gonna be round my vegetables/I’m gonna chow down my vegetables/I love you most of all/My favorite vege-table/If you brought a big brown bag of them/I’d jump up and down and hope you’d toss me a carrot”. Next up is ‘Fall Breaks and Back to Winter (Woody Woodpecker Symphony)’. This instrumental with some vocalizing would make for good videogame background music.
Mike Love takes the lead on ‘She’s Goin’ Bald’. At one point Brian speeds the tape up to make it sound like the group is inhaling nitrous oxide. This song should bring a smile to your face: “She drew her comb acrost her scalp/And brushed what she had left/I tried to salvage what I could/And threw it in a sack/She made a beeline to her room/And grabbed all kind o’ juice/She started pourin’ it on her head/And thought it’d grow it back/Ah ha haaaaaa/You’re too late mama/Ain’t nothin’ upside your head/No more, no more, no more, no more”. ‘Little Pad’ finds the guys daydreaming: “If I only had a little pad/If I only had a little pad/In Hawaii.../By the sea that’s where I’ll build a pad/In Hawaii”. ‘Good Vibrations’ was actually put out as a single in October 1966. It was the group’s first million-selling #1 hit! Brian Wilson calls it “a pocket symphony”. It makes use of the theremin and cellos and was nominated for 3 Grammy’s in 1967. This terrific pop song deals with infatuation: “I-I love the colorful clothes she wears/And the way the sunlight plays upon her hair/I hear the sound of a gentle word/On the wind that lifts her perfume through the air/I’m pickin’ up good vibrations/She’s giving me excitations (Oom bop bop)”.
Carl Wilson sings lead on ‘With Me Tonight’ which has simplistic lyrics: “On and on you go, dum be do/With me tonight, I know you’re with me tonight/For sure you’re with me, tonight/I’m sure you’re with me tonight”. ‘Wind Chimes’ is another track that was meant for SMILE. It is a mellow and sentimental song: “Now and then a tear rolls on my cheek/On a warm breeze the little bells/Tinklin’ wind chimes/Wind chimes, wind chimes/Close your eyes and lean back/Listen to wind chimes/Wind chimes, wind chimes/It’s so peaceful/Close to a lullabye/The wind chimes tinglin’”. Mike and Brian share the lead on ‘Gettin’ Hungry’, the album’s third single. This song is sometimes loud, sometimes quiet. The lyrics make it clear that the group has an appetite for the opposite sex: “Gettin’ hungry/Hungry for my kind o’ woman/I’m gettin’ hungry/Soon I gotta find me a woman/I’m gettin’ hungry/Searchin’ for a pretty girl”.
‘Wonderful’ was also meant for SMILE. It includes a strange laughing interlude and has been interpreted by some as being about a gal losing her virginity: “She knew how to gather the forest when/God reached softly and moved her body/One golden locket quite young/And loving her mother and father/Farther down the path was a mystery/Through the recess, the chalk and numbers/A boy bumped into her/Won-won-won-wonderful”. ‘Whistle In’, a repetitive mantra set to pop music, closes the album.
To many, SMILEY SMILE was a letdown after all the hype surrounding SMILE. I quite like the album though. Listening to it makes you feel like you are walking through a carnival. There are lots of experimental sounds and nice group harmonies here. I think it is brilliant and cutting edge! It is an album you won’t tire of. I’m rating SMILEY SMILE 88%.
WILD HONEY originally came out on December 18, 1967 on Capitol Records. It is The Beach Boys thirteenth studio album. It hit No 7 in the UK and No 24 in the States. It leans towards soul, pop, and R&B music. It has sparse production and was cut in just a couple of weeks. There is not a lot of group singing on it. Group members at the time were: Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Bruce Johnston, Mike Love, and Al Jardine. The front cover of the album is a beautiful small section of a stained glass window that was in Brian and Marilyn Wilson’s house in Bel Air.
The title track and lead single ‘Wild Honey’ starts things off. Honey was one of Brian’s favorite foods. The song uses the theremin and organ and finds Carl delivering a strained sounding lead vocal. The upbeat pop song tells of one who is smitten by a gal: “Mama I’m tellin’ you as sure as I’m standing here/She’s my girl and that’s the way I’m keeping it now mama dear/No good will it do you to stand there and frown at me/The girl’s got my heart and my love’s coming down on me/My love’s coming down since I got a taste of wild honey/You know she’s got the sweetness of a honey bee/Wild honey”. ‘Aren’t You Glad’ is a bouncy pop song that uses piano, guitar, bass, some percussion, and trumpet. Mike and Brian deliver the lead on this song of passion: “You know that I been a long time needing you/You say that you been a long time needing me/And don’t you know that there’s so much more to come/I got a heart that just won’t stop beating for you/I got a love I just can’t stop feeling for you”.
‘I Was Made to Love Her’ is a fast-paced R&B tribute to one of its writers, Stevie Wonder. The lyrics begin by reminiscing: “I was born in Lil’ Rock/Had a childhood sweetheart/We were always hand in hand/I wore hightop shoes and shirt tails/Suzy was in pig tails/I know I loved her even then/You know my papa disapproved it/My mama boohooed it/But I told them time and time again/’Don’t you know I was made to love her/Built my world all around her”. ‘Country Air’ finds the group on lead. It includes a crowing rooster and whistling. This catchy song will please environmentalists: “Come on/Get a breath of that country air/Breathe the beauty of it everywhere/Mother Nature, she fills my eyes/Get a breath of that country air/Breathe the beauty of it everywhere/Rise up early, the day won’t let you sleep/Ahahh-haaa (3X)”.
‘A Thing or Two’ is a less than stellar, jazzy rocker. It finds the Boys a bit frisky: “When I see my baby/When I look in her pretty eyes/When I get with my darling baby/I say my heart will start to beat like a couple of drums/She’ll get my temperature to rise to ‘bout a hundred and one/Yeah, do it right baby/Ahhh, haaa/Outta sight baby”. ‘Darlin’’ is WILD HONEY’s second single. It hit #19 on the charts. It was originally written in 1963 as ‘Thinkin’ Bout You Baby’ for a record Brian produced for a girlfriend of Mike’s, Shannon Marie. It is a great, breezy pop song with Carl on the lead. It speaks of how a lady can truly change a man for the better: “Ì was living like half a man/Then I couldn’t love, but now I can/You pick me up when I’m feeling sad/More soul than I ever had/Gonna love you every single night/Cause I think you’re too outta sight/Oh darlin’/I dream about you often, my pretty darlin’”.
Brian takes the lead on ‘I’d Love Just Once to See You’. It has playful lyrics: “I wash the dishes and I rinsed up the sink/Like a busy bee/I make up a song as I’m a-working along/No one’s watching me/I wish that you were here to help me dry/When’s the last time you baked me a pie?/You had a way of making it come alive/It’s not too late for you to take a drive”. ‘Here Comes The Night’ admits dependence on one’s partner for security: “Hold me, squeeze me, don’t ever leave me/Tell me I’m doing alright/Hold me, love me”.
‘Let the Wind Blow’ is a forgettable cut. It finds the group yearning for a long lasting relationship: “Let the bees make honey/Let the poor find money/Take away their sorrows/Give them sunshine tomorrow/But don’t take her out of my life/What would I do without her/Tell me now?” ‘How She Boogalooed It’ is the first song on a Beach Boys album (not including instrumentals and covers) written by the group members without Brian Wilson. It has an old time rock and roll feel to it. These lyrics from it are good for the weekend: “Oh the boys are with me to do some outta sight dancin’/Got a girl givin’ me some lessons/And now she’s gonna be my confession/Aren’t you glad we found our way in here?/Put another record up on the player”. An acapella ditty ‘Mama Says’ ends the album: “Eat a lot, sleep a lot, brush ‘em like crazy/Run a lot, do a lot, never be lazy”.
David Leaf says WILD HONEY was “the record that marked the birth of the second era of great Beach Boys music”. I disagree! The record at times doesn’t even sound like The Beach Boys. The vocals are at times shrill. The group was charting new territory, but the album comes across as being all over the place musically. There are a couple bright spots but for the most part this is an inferior record. It is ambitious, yet unable to connect. It would be like Michael W. Smith trying to make a hard rock album. I’m rating WILD HONEY 75%.
As previously mentioned, this 2001 double CD release by Capitol Records includes six bonus tracks. An inferior alternate take of ‘Heroes and Villains’ is up first. A couple of the tracks that partially show how ‘Good Vibrations’ came to be are pretty neat. ‘You’re Welcome’ is an invitational chant of sorts: “Well, you’re well, you’re welcome (3X)/Well, you’re welcome to come”. It was the B-side of the ‘Heroes and Villains’ single. An acapella cover of Bobby Troup’s ‘Their Hearts Were Full of Spring’ follows. Last up is ‘Can’t Wait Too Long’ with Brian on lead. It is the song of a lonesome man: “I miss you darling/I miss you so hard/Miss you so hard/Now.../Way too long/Been way too long baby.” For more info visit: www.thebeachboys.com.