Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 138
Sun. June 16, 2013
Brian Wilson & The Beach Boys
1966, 1967, 1972 & 1995
We all know how much The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and “God Only Knows” were influential to The Beatles and especially Paul McCartney during the late 1960’s. But there’s another song that may have sparked the sound of The Beatles’ Lonely Hearts Club Band. I believe, after getting an advanced preview of Smile, especially the glowing harpsichord beauty that is “Wonderful,” it was this Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks song that originally sparked Paul McCartney to craft the backing track brilliance of “She’s Leaving Home.” Even though the original “Wonderful” was left on the cutting room floor until 2011, without Smile there would’ve been no Sgt. Pepper’s.
Even though, Mike Love’s resistance to Brian’s opus Smile has been well documented, Wilson admitted why Smile was never released when he said, “I’ll tell you from my heart. In 1967, the reasons why I didn’t finish Smile was: I thought it was too experimental. I thought that the “fire” tape was too scary. I thought that people wouldn’t understand where my head was at the time. Those were the reasons. It’s just that I felt personally beaten up by it, cause I didn’t complete it.” One of the four songs that Brian composed with lyricist Van Dyke Parks, to get their creative juices flowing, Wilson had a sandbox built in the living room in his home, explaining, “We wrote “Heroes & Villains”, “Cabinessence”, “Surf’s Up” and “Wonderful” in the sandbox. Yeah, it was a great sandbox!” Here’s a demo of Wonderful, I love calling the Sandbox version.
After The Beach Boys and Brian Wilson, reluctantly shelved The Smile tapes and with the studio assistance of his brother Carl Wilson, The Beach Boys re-recorded “Wonderful” for 1967’s Smiley Smile. A more restrained mix, this version reflects Wilson’s insistence that even though critics and the public were underwhelmed with Smiley Smile, this 1967 album has some mental and medicinal value when he explained, “In Fort Worth, Texas, there is a drug clinic which takes people off the streets and helps them get over bad LSD trips. They don’t use any traditional medical treatment whatsoever. All they do is play the patient our Smiley Smile album and apparently this acts as a soothing remedy which relaxes them and helps them to recover completely from their trip.” Relax and enjoy this laid back Smiley Smile trip of 1967’s “Wonderful.”
During the 1970’s The Beach Boys couldn’t escape the overshadowing by the ghost of Brian’s 1966’s Smile sessions. In 1972, Carl introduced guitarist Blondie Chaplin and drummer Ricky Fataar from their South African band The Flames, attempting to bring some new life into The Beach Boys sound. That same year, on November 23 at the band’s historic appearance at New York City’s Carnegie Hall, Carl and Mike Love suggested combining Brian’s tender original with The Flame’s “Don’t Worry Bill” creating the dynamic medley The Beach Boys redubbed “Wonderful Bill.”
Unfortunately, the “Wonderful” sound of Brian’s Smile stayed in the Beach Boys archive until 1995 when producer Don Was created the Brian Wilson documentary I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times. This more acoustic based, stripped down version of “Wonderful” reflected a renewed interest of the unreleased Smile tapes, as Domenic Priore wrote in Smile: The Story of Brian Wilson’s Masterpiece, “[…] without denial or hindrance, Marilyn Wilson [Brian’s wife] gave her personal view, clearly explaining how The Beach Boys relationship with Brian soured from 1965 through to 1967, speaking with honesty about how proper encouragement could have helped at that time. Her point was driven home with a performance by Brian of “Wonderful” in its original Smile arrangement.”
Finally, thanks to Brian Wilson’s successful Smile tour of 2004, in 2011 The Smile Sessions were finally released. Although, historically Mike Love never hid his displeasure in some of Van Dyke Parks lyrical choices for the songs in Brian’s Smile, Love did shower some praise telling Mojo 60’s in 2011, “You know, it’s so dynamic and powerful. And Wonderful is so beautiful and sensitive. Wonderful makes you cry. And although I didn’t agree with Van Dyke’s lyrics on every single thing, I thought he did a marvelous job on that.” Wilson claimed his goal for ‘Wonderful” and Smile as a whole, telling Goldmine Magazine, “I wanted the listeners to realize just how beautiful harmony really is, vocally and spiritually. I was looking inside of me and was hoping that people would do the same. I wanted them to look inside and see/feel the love.” Speaking of Love, Brian’s cousin was so proud of “Wonderful” before the release of The Smile Sessions in 2011, Mike raved saying this, “When you hear Brian Wilson sing “Wonderful” on the original Smile tapes it’s unbelievable.”
Talking about “Wonderful,” Van Dyke Parks told Domenic Priore, “Musically, it’s entirely different from anything else. And I thought that it was a place, an opportunity, to begin a love song. It wasn’t that we were trying to climb and ivory tower or get away from boy-meets-girl. I always believe that it would be wonderful to write the love song, like the great American novel, something that doesn’t seem to have been written quite yet.” And Van Dyke Parks & Brian Wilson succeeded with “Wonderful.” Say what you will about Pet Sounds’ inspiration on the Fab Four, one spin of the original or the myriad of renditions of “Wonderful” you will realize, without Smile there would have been no Sgt. Pepper’s. Enough chatter, drop the needle on the record player, press play and fall in love with the “Wonderful” sound of Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys once again.