51 Years Great

May 16th, 2017

Although the Pet Sounds 50 year tour is still ongoing, the greatest album ever turns 51 today. Here is what I said about it a year ago.

SMiLE Track-By-Track XIV: Wind Chimes

May 15th, 2017

Windchimes have a distinctly spiritual quality and this song pays tribute to these popular household items, as well the air element. As with much of SMiLE, there is a real sense of contrast, especially between the slow, ethereal first part of the song and the quite heavy instrumental fadeout. Of course, the element air is one of contrasts- it can be the light breeze, or the raging hurricane.

Never-Ending Pet Sounds

May 12th, 2017

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5073209bc4aa6253939f5db3/t/58b9855503596e5565caf002/1488553407840/01.png?format=500w OK, it will never equal Dylan’s “Never-ending” tour, but the extension of Brian Wilson’s Pet Sounds tour well into the 52nd year of the album’s existence is pretty impressive. 2017 will now see 83 shows, slightly down on 2016, but still meaning that Brian and his band will spend almost one in four nights in 2017 on the road.

SMiLE Track-By-Track XIII: On A Holiday

May 7th, 2017

This is an interesting track, a bit of a break (holiday?) from the elements theme. Instrumental sections called Holiday were known to collectors, but on the completed 2004 album, it becomes a fully realised vocal track called On A Holiday. The “pirate” lyrics gave the track and album a certain coolness, and there was speculation whether the pirates referred back to the abovementioned collectors. Nick Walusko did his pirate rap and overall, this was one of the fun moments on SMiLE.

Things get a bit more serious at the end with the beautiful “long long ago” and the “whispering winds” section leading into the next part of the “elements”…

SMiLE Track-By-Track XII: Vega-Tables

May 5th, 2017

Generally regarded as the “earth” section of the elements, Vega-Tables focuses on the theme of healthy living, tying back to the I’m In Great Shape section of the previous track. One can see again the humor element of SMiLE coming through in the goofy instrumentation and the offbeat lyrics that turn around the traditional dislike that people, especially children, have for vegatables. However, a deeper message can be seen in the idea of looking after your body, and by implication, the earth around us. Also listen to great segue from the previous workshop sounds into this track.

SMiLE Track-By-Track XI: I’m In Great Shape / I Wanna Be Around / Workshop

April 29th, 2017

The fragmentary nature of SMiLE is nowhere more noticeable than here – in less than two minutes, we have three distinct and completely separate sections- a brief new song, an old standard and then the sound of workshop instruments. We are now in the final section of SMiLE, which can be described as the “elements” and while these sections don’t seem to directly follow that theme, we get a taste of healthy living (possibly linked to the “earth” element, a broken heart and then that heart being fixed. As I have blogged before, the sound of the workshop can be quite therapeutic -just think of it as your heart being repaired.

Central Europe Intermission

April 23rd, 2017

I’m in Central and Eastern Europe for a few days, so the blog is on a bit of an intermission but we’ll soon start looking at the third movement of SMiLE. Meanwhile, in the spirit of where I am, here is a 1969 performance of one of my favorite songs in Prague.

SMiLE Track-By-Track X: Surf’s Up

April 16th, 2017

It is appropriate to (re)post my Surf’s Up write-up on Easter Sunday – and a time when we all need “a children’s song.”


Surf’s Up is the centerpiece of SMiLE in many ways- close to the middle of the album and lyrically, the richest track on the album. Indeed there is so much going on lyrically that one could write a dissertation on it. Van Dykes Parks word-play reaches a new level here (“The music-hall – A costly bow/holocaust”) and the very title turns the Beach Boys early surfing roots on its’ head. We’re not playing some superficial ocean sport now, we’re diving into the very reality of human existence.

I believe this is one of the songs that lends itself to individual interpretation but the overall sense to me is someone who has lost their humanity in a superficially opulent situation (represented by the grand opera house), gets close to a breakdown (always been moved by lyrics “a broken man too tough to cry”) and then finds redemption in children and simplicity (“a children’s song”).

Brian’s music makes the song, and there is a spiritual quality to the many soaring musical phrases, and you can really sense the “teenage symphony to God” that Brian said he was trying to put together in this album. There is certainly a religious sense of redemption even although the lyric isn’t specifically spiritual, and musically this is marked by the change as we get to the “Surf’s Up” chorus with the almost wordless sense of wonder and change.

And so, the second movement of SMiLE ends in a sense of wonder, rebirth and astonishment at the cycles of life. What a ride!

Going To Glastonbury

April 12th, 2017

Year 2 of Pet Sounds 50 seems to be ever-expanding, with the latest concert being announced at Glastonbury -not the main festival, but the separate Glastonbury Abbey event. He will be playing with the Black Dyke Band -who were on one of the very early Apple releases.

SMiLE Track-By-Track IX: Child Is The Father Of The Man

April 9th, 2017

This is a piece of music that can simply be described as beautiful. Child Is The Father Of The Man is the most classical-sounding piece on the album. Of course, it was known to many as the coda to Surf’s Up and some instrumental versions of the stand-alone song existed “unofficially”, but once again, it makes much more sense in the completed version. The brief lyrics have a postive message that fits in well with what ultimately meant to be an uplifting album.