SMiLE (9/14) Psychedelic Sounds Disc 2 Commentary

Continuing from our last installment, this is my “commentary track” for the Psychedelic Sounds, now reacting to the tracks on Disc 2.

1. Taxi Cabber

We know this was an impromptu recording of an unsuspecting Taxi driver whom Brian thought had a humorous manner of speech. It’s truly not hard to see why when you listen. Something about him just seems so innocently self-important as he confidently gives them directions at length, even pointing out the precise amount of minutes they’ve been in the cab. He reminds me of a character from Fargo (1996) or a one-off Seinfeld character. I say all this not to make fun of him–I think his voice is adorable in fact. You can tell Brian wants to keep the guy talking, since several times he will interject a single comment knowing the driver will be compelled to respond at length. It shows a subtle yet effective way Brian could indirectly manipulate people into doing what he wanted, which is an aspect of him I’ve seen brought up several times on these two forums. Whether it was intentional or not (I’m leaning towards yes) I love Vosse’s pun “this is a good trip.”

I like to include highlights from this conversation in my mixes, usually with Worms and/or CE. I like how the Taxi is yet another form of transportation along with the trucks, trains, possibly planes, bikes and ocean liners mentioned in those two songs. I like how the taxi driver represents a little slice of Americana, with his good-natured, aw shucks persona and his northern “Fargo/Ya” accent. I love the humorous subversion of expectations it represents–the whole “journey across America” theme is probably the most widely advertised concept within SMiLE. When you hear something like that, you imagine a serious, Odyssey-like, purposeful trek by some worldly adventurer. Instead, you got two absent minded stoners with no clue where they’re going, playing it up like they’re high, and this borderline caricature of a cabby who is the perfect secondary character and travel guide. It fits so well with the “teenage symphony to god” coming wrapped in a childish drawing of a corner store with song titles like “do you like worms” and “surf’s up.” Or the Beach Boys freezing cold in a little boat in Boston. It fits perfectly with the subversion of expectations and questioning of identities that Brian clearly wanted to be a theme in SMiLE.

If I’m being honest, I doubt this conversation ever would have made the album but it fits too well with the spirit of it to pass up, as far as I’m concerned. If this were another band, or the sessions started later in ’67, I could see Brian playing the highlights from this conversation backwards or slowed down over Worms or Cabin Essence perhaps. Think “Third Stone From the Sun” or several other tracks from this year.

2. Bob Gordon’s Real Trip

This is one of the most WTF parts of Psychedelic Sounds. As it wasn’t part of the Nov 4 “session” which produced the Disc 1 tracks, I am utterly at a loss for the time, place or purpose of it. I do not know who Bob Gordon is/was. I assume from the title this is supposed to sound like a psychedelic trip and it succeeds. It’s essentially an audio collage of what sounds like splashes or rattling beads (probably an audio trick) and then ghostly whistling and barking (?) enhanced by echo effects. I will admit I find this track somewhat disturbing and I don’t know exactly why. If I had to guess, it’s probably because so little about it is certain and the fear of the unknown is primal. I recall working on my Aquarian SMiLE mix during a summer semester at school, alone in the computer lab at night, and my Olorin mix late at night at my parents house with no one else awake and being a little unnerved as I combed thru this track for usable highlights.

My guess is this track is just experimenting with audio tricks. It’s possible but also coincidental that the echo-explosion in IIGS/H&V as well as the rattling “it sounds like jewelry” percussion in Surf’s Up were tested or even outright discovered in the process of making this recording. That’s just pure speculation tho.

3. Basketball Sounds

This flows seamlessly from Bob Gordon, and seems very similar to the preceding two tracks. Like Taxi Cabber, Basketball Sounds involves covertly recording an everyday conversation (and basketball game). Like Bob Godon, it uses a lot of unsettling audio effects like the explosion sound after the conversation with the little girl and echoes/reverb of the game. This and the previous two tracks make excessive uses of echo effects and my guess is Brian wanted to try that out especially. Just the fact that it’s a basketball game potentially ties this to the fitness theme of SMiLE. Perhaps Brian was there for inspiration of how to work fitness into the elements/album, listing to the sounds of the game to try to know what to do later in the studio. Maybe he was going to a game anyway and thought it’d be a good opportunity to try out these audio experiments. Maybe both.

While I doubt anything from this track would have been on the album, I sometimes like to use the conversation with the little girl as an intro to Wonderful. That adorable voice seems to embody the young woman in the song very well, and while her conversation with Brian is completely benign, that terrifying sound effect that cuts it off makes me feel the foreboding of what the young woman in Wonderful is in for. I might just have my mind in the gutter, but I wonder if Brian wanted her to say 4:20 when he asked what time it was. 4:30 just seems way too coincidental, but I’m probably just looking for psychedelics/drug references. Either way having an innocent voice saying 4:20 would have been pretty cool/funny.

4. Dick [Lifeboat Tape]

By far the least interesting segment of the bootleg. There’s no illuminating glimpses into SMiLE‘s composition or Brian’s intentions. However there is a rare insight into Brian as an individual and how his “cool” hippie friends interacted together. I remember when I first heard this recording, not knowing who anyone was or any context, my overwhelming thought was “Brian seems so sad and isolated here, even when surrounded by supposed friends.” It reminded me of myself with some of my grade school and even some college groups I knew, where I’d chill with them but it always felt like I was the odd-one out. I’ve since learned that it’s better to be alone than with people who make you FEEL alone, as the Robin Williams quote states, and I’ve seen it argued that this is the lesson Brian learned as well during SMiLE.

Jules Siegal is the one with the annoying voice who describes the game by which this track derives its name. The game sounds sort of interesting but also not. I mean, why do I want to play a game if I have to leave the room and am thus cut out of the social gathering? When and how frequently must they vote someone off? Is it just a popularity contest or is it about something else? I think it could be an interesting game if the rules were expanded upon. For the purpose of a recording it could be interesting as well, to see how the conversation and interplay between the personalities involved determines a survivor. But since these people are all random nobodies…and Brian fucking Wilson (and VDP)…well, it doesn’t seem like an even matchup. Give me a game of Lifeboat with Brian, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Syd Barrett, Grace Slick, Arthur Lee, Joseph Byrd, Frank Zappa, Bob Dylan and Brian Jones.

There’s some interesting looks into the people involved, though it’s frustratingly hard to hear with everyone talking over each other. You get the feeling Jules is pretty full of himself and the others like to rib him based on the discussion of his article on Bob Dylan. You get the impression Brian favors Vosse, or the two are in on the setup since Brian asks Vosse to join him elsewhere for a minute. Diane Rovell seems sweet and conciliatory. You can also hear Brian and Vosse argue as the latter takes offense at being ordered around and left out of the group (though it’s ambiguous over whether this is genuine anger or a planned setup.) At least certain moments though, I feel like Vosse is genuinely annoyed at Brian.

Diane says “this is supposed to be an argument” so that was the tip-off this was another setup from Brian similar to the Vegetable Fight. But like with the Disc 1/Nov 4 session, he doesn’t give clear instructions and just expects everything to coalesce on its own. This time there’s also just too many people and too convoluted a setup for it to work like in Nov 4. I also feel like some of them (Vosse) take the “argument” part a bit too seriously. He keeps shouting down the others every time they begin to say anything interesting. Meanwhile Jules seems very tongue in cheek and puts down Vosse for his own enjoyment. The others try to have normal conversation among themselves but there’s too much yelling and clashing personalities for anything thought-provoking to happen.

“Why don’t you want to laugh? Why don’t you want to smile?” around 9 minutes in is a great quote. Someone could pull that out of context and put it somewhere else if they were going for an Alternate BWPS type mix.

Throughout the recording, they keep mentioning random mysterious figures that are supposedly in the corner of the studio but it’s unclear if the speakers are serious or joking. At 13 minutes in (roughly) you get another great out of context quote “I’m too down to smile!” And you also hear someone asking aloud why they’re here and what the point of this recording session even is. Brian, whatever his talents as a musician, is a horrible people person. He doesn’t give these people any direction whatsoever, just puts them in the studio and either leads by example (Nov 4 session) or tells them “its an argument” and just hopes they get it and do what he wants. Brian tries to get them to stop recording, wants someone to act depressed, and wants Vosse to cheer everybody up at various times. You can hear Jules asking bemused “so what is it like $100 an hour” (I presume he’s talking about how expensive it is to rent a studio recording room, presumably to poke fun at the uselessness of this outing.)

Eventually Vosse it seems, plays the outro of Worms in an attempt to corral the others. Someone basically dumps on it, (sounds like Brian but I cant be sure) while Vosse defends it as “groovy.” Honestly, it’s possible Vosse loved SMiLE more than Brian even. We get Vosse saying “fade Jules out” which is another indicator that he wasn’t well liked by the group. But the thing that’s so frustrating with this recording is every time the people involved start to go in a certain direction, someone tries to pull them back. They set up a potentially interesting elimination game, but then it’s ruined by Vosse yelling at everyone to shut up. Everyone’s dreary and annoyed, understandably, but then he starts telling them to smile and laugh. They start laughing and then someone says “who told you to laugh?” and kills it. This recording/group cannot settle on what it wants to be, so it’s just chaotic and stupid.

Brian begins to lose heart and clearly wants to abandon the idea if not outright leave the studio. Evidently whatever vision he had for this recording did not pan out and he’s lost the will to try to get it to be what he wants. Jules also sounds pretty done with it (“really Michael (Vosse), it’s getting boring.”) Only Vosse seems to want things to continue, and Diane encourages him. Jules makes a stupid “joke” about how easily amused girls are, that they have no mind, “you’re just a girl.” Not a fan of him for that. I can’t see how a “hip intelligentsia” as he fancied himself could be so backward to really believe that, or so immature to think it was funny.

Multiple times during the recording Brian tells people to stop laughing. It could be part of the setup (that was supposed to be an argument and all) but it doesn’t always sound joking or like a director trying to get everyone to stay in character. He often sounds genuinely annoyed, and in kind of a “If I’m not having a good time, nobody should be” funk. Then somebody (Brian?) just plays piano and ignores everyone else. It sounds like the others are still there but too far from the mic to really be heard at this point. You can hear somebody (Vosse?) say “that’s what he’s after” so I presume they’ve been discussing Brian and his intentions while he’s banging on the piano. It’s frustratingly hard to hear. I could barely make out Jules saying “that’s the nature of it” and someone else saying “I gotta come all the way here just to get in this kinda conversation.” Presumably they’re complaining about the whole thing, and it’s my intuition that even Diane agrees, though it’s hard to say for sure.

This recording is just an absolute unholy mess and a waste of time for all involved. Listening to it again tho, I don’t think it’s that the Vosse Posse were being bad friends so much as Brian was too impulsive for his own good. He’s not really a people person or a good director, he just seems to expect everyone to read his mind and then gets mad when they can’t. I don’t hold it against the others for being annoyed–so would you if you were asked to come out and do something like this without understanding what it was, why, or anything of that nature. The fact that Brian just sort of shuts down and will not even try to salvage the session is frustrating too–if you’re going to force your friends to do this cockamamie act for your amusement you at least owe it to them to explain what you expect rather than give up after 15 minutes. You could legitimately use the dialogue from this thing for an absurd play without having to change a single word.

Without having any background on what the goal was (Vosse evidently broke down and told the others at the end but Brian playing piano completely drowns it out, almost as if it’s deliberate.) It seems to have been an alternate take on the veggie argument and the “we’ve got to fight and then make up” mentioned in Psychedelic Talk. How the Lifeboat setup fits in, or if that was just something Jules brought up unprompted is unknowable. But if Vosse acting like a jerk and telling everyone to shut up after everything they said was supposed to start off an argument, that was a bad miscalculation on both their parts. If I’m being dragged into something like this for a friend and then I’m being told to shut up without knowing why, I’m going to leave, not start some dramatic and humorous fight.

More than anything, this recording is a glimpse into Brian’s illness and self-alienation manifesting itself.

5. Smog

This is my favorite track from this bootleg, bar none. Because of this, I’ve included it on my last three mixes even though I doubt it would have made the album. I absolutely love Brian’s delivery. Intentional or not, his voice makes it funny even though the subject is genuinely serious. The longer it goes on, the more overtly funny it gets too. Brian has a really earnest, cute voice that sells the material where if it was Mike, Vosse or just about any other human being talking this would come off as lecturing, phony or virtue-signaling instead of endearing.

The quote “in order to function, in order to live be happy and be able to think clearly, you’ve got to have the elements. You’ve got to have good air to breath.” is probably an accurate depiction of Brian’s worldview and more evidence for the fitness/biology undercurrent of the elements track. To Brian, the elements is very clearly intrinsically linked with the health and well-being of the individual. It’s further proof that the Breathing skit from earlier was a rough working idea for air, seeing as how closely Brian equates the elements and “good air to breathe.” This recording is thus a very rare and invaluable insight into one of the two (along with IIGS) most mysterious songs from the SMiLE Era.

I theorized once that not being able or willing to complete The Elements track was the event (or one of them) that broke the back of the whole album. Brian couldn’t just scrap that one track and move on, or flesh out Fire into a standalone song as Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow and leave it at that. The entire concept of the Elements was very clearly ingrained in the album as a whole and expressing it was crucial as far as Brian was concerned. I think Smog is proof of that, anyway. I also think Smog provides some clues for why this is the case. Brian is talking at length about how we need the elements, specifically good air to breath, and how not having this makes people physically and mentally unhealthy. Considering so much of the Americana tracks are about the white settlers destruction of nature, I think having a track about why this is bad not only morally but for our own biological well-being would be a fitting capstone to this theme of the album. It ties the two “suites” of nature/America and innocence/Individuality together, that one cannot exist without the other.

What’s more, his quote about “the way we can help is to make a record and present the facts in some interesting manner so that people can retain them” is a perfect summation of what SMiLE was, straight from the horses mouth, right in the middle of the ongoing sessions. Brian was trying to take all the ideological and philosophical concepts he thought could lead to a spiritually and biologically healthy life and put them into this one album. Humor, astrology, numerology, the elements, I Ching, physical fitness and longing for childhood innocence are undeniably the big components of that. Depending on your interpretation, the Side 1 Americana songs are also a condemnation of larger than life institutions (nationalism, organized religion, etc) while the Side 2 cycle of life tracks are celebrating individuality. 

6. Vega-Tables Arguments

By far, my favorite of the comedic skits in the SMiLE canon. I also think this is the best evidence that Brian intended these comedic sketches for some kind of official release. He would not have wasted Hal Blaine’s time if these PS experiments were truly just the “oh he and his friends were just stoned and someone recorded it, nothing to see here folks” waste of time as most claim. During the Nov 4 session we saw Brian spearhead two major comedy setups–falling into an instrument and a Vegetable fight that never got started (the others were just his friends doing improv but he didn’t seem interested in building off what they were doing with those.) Both of these outlines were then expanded upon, presented to professionals he’d worked with before, and recorded in the studio on his payroll. If anyone out there wants to pretend that means nothing and these sessions were wholly irrelevant to the big picture, that’s their delusion. Even if only for a month or two, these sessions were a piece of the puzzle vital enough to be revisited later and recorded professionally and included on the boxset.

The difference between this and the Lifeboat Tape (which was apparently supposed to be an argument as well) is night and day. Instead of just expecting everything to click, Brian actually gives clear instructions to everyone involved, and seems in good spirits. I think that speaks either to how much more he respected Hal and the professionals over his supposed friends, or else how much more capable he was sober vs stoned/drunk. It’s pretty clear that drugs were consumed during the Nov 4 session (compare how everyone sounds and interacts in the first tracks to the last two.) The Lifeboat Tape is less clear but I wouldn’t be surprised. The only other reason I can think of is maybe this was recorded after Lifeboat and Brian realized (or Vosse told him) that a social experiment where you try to covertly force a fight to happen is a bad idea.

I’m curious if we’re missing anything important in the setup of this skit, since the beginning is so sudden. Still, the first minute and a half is a great in media res opening. Right away you can tell we’re dealing with two (sometimes three) characters, the nonchalant intruder and the furious gardener trying to defend his vegetables. Hal is an absolute genius at improv–all but one or two of the funny lines in this session come from him. For better or worse Brian’s character is pretty unemotional and content to just shrug off every insult or threat Hal launches at him.

They do another version of the skit where Brian and Vosse are trying to buy some veggies from Hal, who is sort of made out to be something of a drug dealer/shady hustler. They start by eating bad vegetables and then buying the good stuff from Hal. I’m not sure what was going on with Vosse constantly repeating “eat your spinach.” That didn’t seem funny or melodic to me, just weird. But Brian seems to know what he wants to get on tape (“we’re gonna sound happier, then we’re gonna go in a whole new direction”/”there’s gonna be a part on here where we laugh.”)

After too long they take a break and begin discussing a meteor shower that’s supposed to happen the next day. Assuming this is the Leonid Meteor Shower, that means this session occurred just before November 18, 1966. So two weeks after the session that spans Disc 1, and about ten days or so after George Fell. The dates for the Disc 2 stuff are unknown, but it’s my gut feeling that this occurred after the disastrous Lifeboat Tape. I don’t think Brian would have bothered with that same setup if he already had such a fantastic argument series to splice highlights from.

When they start talking about the coming meteor shower, Brian launches into an almost certainly made up story about his dogs getting stiff and facing west and east. I don’t know whether that was just a private little joke to himself or if he expected the others to be more interested and ask funny questions or something. I think it’s interesting he’s telling a story about dogs sensing things people can’t since that was the inspiration for Good Vibrations.

You’ll notice that once they get back to work, Brian actually takes the time to establish a clear scene and motivations for Hal. Now you kind of get the backstory for why Brian (and/or Vosse depending on the take) is supposed to be in Hal’s garden. They’re stoners, or absent minded vegetable lovers and one has been told Hal is the man to see about some good veggies. He then enters the garden without permission and hilarity ensues.

In this new take, Brian and Vosse are in the scene together and are a lot more mean-spirited. They purposefully destroy the garden and seem to be deliberately getting a rise out of Hal. I love how Hal keeps it going even after Brian/Vosse break character and laugh. Hal is so much better at this than the Vosse Posse was–he’s the kind of person whom Brian ought to have been doing stuff like this with from the beginning.

Brian sounds satisfied with what they’ve recorded but tells Hal he wants him to get even madder than he was in the previous section. After a bit of this, Brian switches the scene to Vosse acting alone and being a lot more innocent/unassuming. This ends up being one of the better takes–with three people trying to improv at once it gets a bit cluttered, and the last take was too acrimonious to where it wasn’t even funny anymore. But when it’s Vosse alone and he’s more innocent, I think that’s a lot funnier when played off of Hal’s anger. Here the joke is in how Vosse is unaware of how much he’s pissing Hal off. I love how they start arguing about the pros and cons of using chemicals in gardening. I’m not sure if that’s what Brian had in mind but it just shows how with improv, anything can happen.

Where Hal starts to question Brian’s vision a bit is where he wants Hal and Vosse to throw vegetables at each other. (“Wait a minute, is this to be used in conjunction with those pictures of you? […] But that’s you! It’s your voice.”) Brian doesn’t seem to acknowledge this, or if he does he stopped the recording to do so. That said, when we start the next section, it’s Brian who’s recording with Hal, not Vosse.

The next take is the most iconic section of this recording. This is where the quotes from the Hawthorne Rarities release and boxset snippets come from. This is where I take my extended Vegetable Fight from that I’ve used in my last four mixes. I also think it’s the best take by far. Hal isn’t yelling so it’s the most pleasant to listen to–especially in conjunction with music. There’s only two of them so the back and forth is more natural. They don’t start to bond and have a good-natured debate on pesticides (that was charming, but hardly very funny in the way Brian clearly intended.) I think if you took the highlights from this section and spliced them after the second take where Vosse tells Brian he knows where to get the best vegetables you’d have a fully developed and pretty humorous standalone skit. That said I think opening cold with just Brian and Hal arguing is a lot more fitting if you’re just trying to overlay the fight somewhere on SMiLE.

Unfortunately, this track ends as abruptly as it begins.


After this more in-depth “reading,” my understanding of the PS skits and their place in SMiLE remain largely unchanged. Let’s summarize:

  1. Undersea Chant and Breathing were almost certainly proto-versions of the Elements for all the reasons listed above and in previous sections of this series.

  2. I don’t think the Veggie chants would have been on the album. Upon closer inspection that was someone else’s idea and Brian just ran with it. It’s possible he liked the chanting aesthetic and it inspired the later Mama Says, Whistle In and With Me Tonight, or maybe he would have done those anyway. But the vegetable themed chants themselves were either just placating his friends or trying out the idea of chanting itself and that’s it.

  3. Brian absolutely, undeniably wanted to get these two clear “falls into an instrument” and “argument and make up/vegetable fight” skits down somehow. The former is the very first thing he launches into in the Nov 4 session. He does 3 different variations on it until he’s gotten every scenario he could possibly want (inside and people acknowledge him, someone else falls in and he reacts, inside and nobody can hear him). Three days later he had the professionals record a “real” version of this idea with George Fell Into His French Horn, during a recording session for Surfs Up. The latter is something he tried to get going on Nov 4 but was overruled, so he tried again at some point with the Lifeboat Tape and then at some point before Nov 18 he did it with Hal Blaine. I think these two would have appeared on the album in some fashion, either as intros to Veggies and Surf’s Up, or bonus unlisted tracks at the end of each side, or maybe buried deep in the mix somewhere like Truck Driving Man to Cabin Essence, or slowed down/backwards over the music somewhere like “Third Stone From the Sun.”

  4. I think Bob Gordon, the Basketball Sounds and to an extent Taxi Cabber represent attempts to try out some audio trickery (mostly echoes) and not much else. Taxi Cabber was, to my understanding, an impromptu recording of an unsuspecting man with a charming manner of speech who represented a slice of Americana. The Basketball Sounds maybe represents another attempt to record a funny or interesting conversation with an unsuspecting stranger, this time someone who represents the innocence half of the album. Whether either one would have made the album I can’t say, although I do like to include them both.

  5. Then there’s the failed tracks, like Torture, Psychedelic Talk and especially Lifeboat Tape. The first two are from that Nov 4 session, as the drugs started taking over and the others get sick of placating Brian’s impulses, the night descends into lethargy and perhaps even conflict. Brian sounds more than a little hurt and subdued in those last two tracks on Disc 1. Lifeboat Tape was just a misbegotten experiment from the beginning, and Brian taps out completely barely 15 minutes into it. Who knows what he was trying to do (an argument according to Diane) but all that happens is everyone telling each other to shut up every time a conversation that could be interesting gets going. These tracks are interesting to hear for the peek at how Brian operated with other people (not well) and the interplay between him and his stoner friends. But that’s about it.

Finally that leaves Smog, alone, as a humorous diatribe from the man himself, as well as an invaluable insight into the true nature of the Elements and SMiLE itself. This is my favorite track on the whole boot, and I think it’s the most honest you’ll ever see Brian about or during the ’66-’67 Era. What starts as a humorous yet earnest public relations speech on smog becomes a stream of consciousness. I wonder if he really did slug walls and throw things around the house, and if so I think a lot of what he has to say on Smog is actually Brian inadvertently describing his condition and its effects.

Was Psychedelic Sounds a Separate Comedy Album?

There is a lot of talk in our primary sources about a comedy album and the supposition is that these Psychedelic Skits represent the recording of this separate project on the side. I cannot say for sure whether that’s the case but I can say that if separate, these two projects were still remarkably interconnected. They were both worked on by the same people–including the Wrecking Crew at official SMiLE sessions for example. And they utilized the same subject matters (veggies, a trip across America–in a taxi, destruction of nature and the need for elements, etc). If these were separate projects, they were either companion pieces, or Brian was so consumed by the themes present in his music that he couldn’t help but bring them into this new project.

Delving into speculation on this topic, I’ll say that if Brian did intend for a separate comedy album, I truly think he was out of his mind. I mean, this bootleg is interesting to me because I love SMiLE and theorizing about it. But if I was Joe Schmo, listening to these scattered off-beat comedic conversations would never be my idea of fun. Besides the “WTF” factor I wouldn’t find them that funny either. I’ve heard many other Brian fans say similar things. Besides this, Brian didn’t seem to have that many ideas–certainly not enough for a whole album of skits. He only has two in mind in Nov 4, and if you generously include Smog, Taxi Cabber and Basketball Sounds you have five skits. Each of these has only a few minutes of usable dialogue–Vegetable Argument is the longest and you can only maybe get 5 minutes off it, if even that. So either this whole idea was a big impulsive thing Brian jumped into without having a full plan, or we never heard whatever other ideas he had kicking around. 

Personally, I think it’s at least plausible that this whole comedy album is a red herring. I wonder if maybe Vosse and whoever else mentions the concept maybe misunderstood, or perhaps the two ideas melded together around November/December when the name changed from Dumb Angel to SMiLE. In the first place, all the albums prior to Pet Sounds had some kind of conversations or tongue in cheek humorous songs on there. I don’t see how George Fell would be out of the ordinary with this in mind.

The nature of the album changed drastically from what it had been in early Spring to Summer ’66 (a serious album called Dumb Angel) to what it was in Fall to early Winter ’66 (a more overtly funny album called SMiLE) and certain ideas from one didn’t gel with the other. This explains the seemingly discordant material (from melancholy music about grim topics to silly jokes and whimsical drawings) and why our primary sources seem to disagree on seemingly key facts. For example, why Brian calls Prayer an intro to the album while Vosse says point-blank it was the end. Most likely Prayer going into Worms was the original opening of an album called Dumb Angel, while SMiLE probably began with You’re Welcome going into Heroes and ended with Prayer coming after Surf’s Up.

This is just educated guessing though. At the end of the day we don’t know Brian’s true intent. But we know these tracks were at least tangentially (I’d argue strongly) related to the SMiLE music and themes. (If only for a few weeks–but you can say the same for just about anything related to this project. From the versions and structure of each song to whole songs altogether, the project changed drastically at least twice, the other being the post-December ’66 aimlessness.) It’s perfectly valid to use Psychedelic Sounds material in mixes.


  1. I remember reading an early draft of this two-part account while holidaying in Cornwall in June 2018. Actually, I read most of your SMiLE essays (plucked from a now defunct website) during that trip but this one was particularly fascinating!


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