Last Tuesday marked the official release of The Beach Boys’ “lost” album, Smile. I grew up hearing the Beach Boys and honestly thinking they were a little cheesy. That was until I heard their 1966 album, Pet Sounds, the summer before my senior year of high school. I fell in love with it, and to this day I still think it’s the most beautiful piece of popular music ever recorded. Nothing else has had as strong an impact of the way I think about and write music as that album.
For anyone unfamiliar with the legend, Smile was supposed to be the follow up to Pet Sounds. The Beach Boys saw themselves as being in a production race with The Beatles – each band trying to top what the other could do. But instead it basically drove Brian Wilson crazy and was eventually shelved without a release. That’s why I was so excited to see it finally released this month. I’ve been listening to it continuously for the last week, and it is every bit as wonderful as I hoped it would be.
Still, the story of Smile will always be a sad one to me. What would have happened if it had been released in 1967 as planned? I feel like it surely would’ve lead to more great music. It would have influenced their peers and even their own future work in ways we can only speculate about now.
If you’ve never heard either Pet Sounds or Smile, I highly suggest you check them out soon. Smile is currently streaming on Spinner. You can also find the full 5-disc Smile Sessions with tons of outtakes and alternate versions of songs on Spotify. And of course, you can always just buy your own copy!