In this section, I’m going to outline Brian’s New Age philosophies which he was into during the SMiLE sessions. This is ordered by how much I think each ideology was important to Brian, from most to least. For fun, I’m going to talk about ways each might be used to create fun new fan mixes.
The astrology section here was originally a standalone essay I published on the Smiley Smile forum around 2013. I realize the points made therein are redundant from previous entries in this series, but I think it’s important to see them all together under the overarching context of astrology. This particular philosophy will be expanded upon further in the next and final essay of this series.
I’ve been reading about astrology lately and since SMiLE dominates about half of my mind it was inevitable the two would be combined sooner or later. I think I may have finally, truly cracked the code about what this album is about. Of course, another year or two from now, I could completely change my mind again. [Spoiler Alert:I didn’t.]
I’ve posted a couple times here about how I think “Surfs Up” and “Vega-Tables” are the big closing tracks of each side. Whether one agrees with me on that or not, I do think each track was a particularly big deal to Brian and somehow connected in his mind. They’re the only songs that we know of which had “psychedelic sounds” skits definitively associated with them. These are the vegetable fight for Veggies and “George Fell Into His French Horn” for Surf. Those are the only comedy skits recorded by expensive Wrecking Crew musicians, implying Brian’s serious intention to include them in some way, and by extension how crucial these two tracks were to the album as a whole. Veggies and Surf got a double sided single release on the box set, further implying their connection. They’re also back-to-back in Brian’s 3-suite sequence of the music from 2003. (This is despite a jarring transition from the melancholy Surf to the upbeat Veggies.)
I’m wondering if the reason these two particular tracks are so connected is because they both have a hidden astrological meaning. Someone on the SmileySmile forum proposed that the weird spelling of Vegetables was a reference to the Star named Vega and by extension “Vega Tables” could be evoking astrology as a whole. The star Vega is the brightest in the constellation Lyra, a lyre gripped by an Eagle. I see this imagery as a summation of Side 1–American music. The association of an Eagle with the US is self explanatory, and a lyre is an ancient instrument. I think this goes a long way in proving that Vega-Tables belongs with the Americana tracks, NOT on Side 2 as one of the Elements tracks so many seem inclined to believe.
Now on Side 2 you have “Surf’s Up.” If you follow the Astrological Ages you know that we have either recently entered or are set to enter the Age of Aquarius. This age is said to herald in a breakdown of traditional authoritarian institutions, reevaluating priorities and worldviews, renewed emphasis on raising children, and general free-spirited open-mindedness. As far as I’ve always interpreted it, that’s what “Surf’s Up” is all about too. So I see this song as an embrace of Aquarius and its values. Society is breaking down, there’s so much exploitation and suffering…but there’s hope for the future. The innocence of children can serve to inspire us. The world we leave for them can be a freer, more interesting one if we work to make it that way. Aquarius is the water-bearer…water, ocean, surf…”Surf’s Up”? That’s not too much of a stretch.
This could give new meaning to “My Only Sunshine” as well. Now, it’s uncertain where this song would go on a 2-sided 67 LP. Brian has it with the other Americana tracks on his 2003 solo performance, many fans do likewise. Recently I’ve come to see it as a Side 2 Cycle of Life track myself. But either way, I’ve come to respect this song a lot more in recent months. I read it as Brian expressing that he was losing faith in traditional religion/ethos of Western society. This may still be true, but I also see it as the sun setting on an old age and bringing in the new, once this astrology context is applied. This interpretation is especially applicable when you consider that the constellation which the sun is in is what determines the astrological sign. And this could then mean that Brian has grown disillusioned with the Old Master Painter (again, a metaphor for God) as he’s been characterized in the Piscean Age. And yet, rather than give up, he’s setting to rediscover God in a new, more personalized Aquarian context. Again, I think this goes a long way in proving that “Old Master Painter” belongs with “Surf’s Up” on the album. It’s the curtain call for Pisces, an expression of disillusionment with the values associated with it, and then “Surfs Up” comes in with the Aquarian values we ought to follow going forward. (Amazing how Brian was able to say so much with just a ~2 minute mashup of two separate old standards!)
I realize I may be looking too hard into it.
Maybe Veggies is just a lighthearted track about Veggies, “Surf’s Up” is just a prose poem set to music and Sunshine is just a cover. But when you consider the zodiac signs are on the back of the intended sleeve, the alternate spelling of Vegetables, and the fact that Brian was really into astrology, numerology, alternative spirituality and various other New Age ideas at the time, I think there’s credence to this theory. I think it gives the album cohesion beyond “one sides about America and the other side is about Innocence” (or the natural elements, in some people’s mixes.) Now, not only is one side a retrospective on America and the other an introspective on life, but they represent the Piscean Age and Aquarian Age philosophies. The Age of Pisces is associated with monotheism, violence in the name of religion and uniting the east and west. All ideas that are explored in the Americana tracks. Aside from the values I listed above, the Age of Aquarius is associated with individuality, creativity and personal expression. I think the non-Americana tracks I have on my Side 2 embody these ideas well.
And I know I’m *really* reaching with this last thought, but maybe Brian saw himself as the “speaker” of the Aquarian Age the same way Jesus and Moses heralded in the ages of Pisces and Aries, respectively. Don’t think that I’m saying Brian saw himself as a soothsaying prophet or some religious leader on their level. Obviously not. But he did see himself making “a teenage symphony to God”/“music people would pray to.” Those are his own words, not mine, describing what SMiLE was intended to be. The whole idea behind Aquarius is supposed to be power in the individual, not some all-encompassing Church or dogma. I think it’s reasonable to assume Brian wanted to enlighten as well as empower his listeners, not dictate any set theology. I imagine his message was intended to be something like this:
“We failed as a people in the past, all this evil done in the name of religion/nationalism. The ethos of the new era should be individual thought and expression. I made this album to share *my* interpretation of the world. What will *you* do? The power is yours!”
Maybe this is why someone says “don’t think you’re God, just be a cool guy” in the later Smiley Smile version of “Wonderful”. Maybe this played into the scrapping of the album–Brian lost passion in, or faith in his ability to convey, such an important message. So with Smiley Smile he dropped this grandiose intent and just wanted to make a “cool” album.
I analyzed the twelve main SMiLE tracks (from the Capitol tracklist) according to numerology. These were the results.
9+4+9+5+7+9+5+1+2+1+8+1+7+5=73=1 (I’m in Great Shape)
3+8+9+3+4+9+1+6+1+2+8+5+9+6+6+2+8+5+4+1+5=105=6 (child is father)
2+8+5+6+3+4+4+1+1+2+5+9+7+1+9+5+2+5+9=88=16=7 (The Old Master Painter)
8+5+9+6+5+1+1+5+4+4+9+3+3+1+9+5+1=79=16=7 (Heroes and Villains)
5+9+5+4+3+8+9+4+5+1=53=8 (wind chimes)
3+1+2+9+5+5+1+1+5+5+3+5=45=9 (Cabin Essence)
2+8+5+5+3+5+4+5+5+2+1=45=9 (the elements)
Gotta say I’m disappointed. I was hoping half would add up to one thing and the other half something else. IE, a clue to which sides the songs would go on. Or that each would be a different number and the numeric order would show you where each song lay in the sequence. Or SOMETHING. Nah. I do think it’s interesting how they roughly pair up except for Veggies and Surf. But I’m not sure what it means or if its just a coincidence. Probably the latter. In any case, thought someone ought to test this out. Whether others buy it or not, I think looking at the album through an astrological context wielded some fascinating insight. I wanted to see if numerology would too. Was there any other philosophy Brian was into at the time I could try?
Instead of looking at the tracks individually, I worked this time to add up the totals of each SIDE of vinyl and trying to come up with equal numbers for each. Uh, if that makes sense.
So I added up all the songs in the first column of the Capitol tracklist compared to all the songs in the second. Here’s the results I had.
Side One: 30+79+70+71+53+45=348=15=6
Side Two: 73+46+31+105+88+45=388=19=1
With these, I used the totals from each title and added them up. But in numerology, if your total is any number besides 1-9, 11 or 22 you keep going. So I also experimented with adding those numbers together to see if anything changed.
Side One: 3+7+7+8+8+9=42=6
Side Two: 1+1+4+6+7+9=28=1
As long as I was doing this, I experimented with the numerologic totals of my two SMiLE mixes which used the same songs on the tracklist, Olorin and Romestamo. Just for shits and giggles. I started with Romestamo because as far as I’m concerned…well, that’s my version of SMiLE now. Here’s what I found doing that.
Romestamo 1: 4+7+7+9+9+1=37=1 or 31+79+70+45+45+73=343=1
Romestamo 2: 1+3+6+7+8+8=33=6 or 46+30+105+88+71+53=393=15=6
I think it’s interesting the pattern of 1s and 6s coincides with the Capitol list at least. But I’m trying to find a “balanced” sequence. Where the songs on each side total the same number numerologically. So I tried Olorin.
Olorin 1: 7+1+7+9+4+7=35=7 or 73+31+88+79+70+45=386=8
Olorin 2: 8+9+8+6+3+1=35=7 or 46+30+105+71+53+45=350=8
Huh. Well thats cool. I am a tad thrown tho that both methods didnt yield the same number though, as seemed to be the case for the other two sequences. Not sure what’s up with that, if that should count as some kind of disqualifier. I’d love to see a sequence were all four match up perfectly should one even exist. As a refresher, the track-listing I did in that mix was:
1: Worms, Great Shape, VegaTables, Heroes, Cabin, OMP
2: GV, Elements, WC, CIFOTM, Wonderful, Surfs Up
I only experimented with my mixes that used the “original songs” because if not I’d be doing this all night. Anyway, I’m curious if anyone else can find some balanced groupings with this method; that is, adding the titles of those 12 songs up numerologically. It might provide some neat insight. This could all be a total waste of time too, but Brian was really into stuff like astrology and numerology at the time. It’s just possible he wanted to work that in somehow.
I never got around to this before because as I recall the Vosse/Anderle/etc articles don’t mention Brian was into the I Ching at the time. However, according to Wikipedia and its sources he was, so I thought I’d examine this concept as it may or may not relate to SMiLE as well. Take it with a grain of salt, like all of these “___ology in SMiLE” essays, it’s just for fun. Im always curious for new ways to sequence and analyze this album. As far as Im aware, there’s no more complex ideologies to look into after this one–to my knowledge Brian wasn’t into Chakras, or Tarot cards, or the tree of life or geomancy or anything like that. If he was, shoot me a source to prove it and I’ll look into those next.
So to begin with, the I Ching is all about change. It’s essentially a form of divination, looking at an event or situation in your life and consulting how best to interpret or react to it. There are 64 different hexagrams made up of six broken or unbroken lines which represent different values. A broken line represents yin (feminine, earth, negative) and an unbroken line represents yang (masculine, heaven, positive). Hexagrams are made up of two combined trigrams, and before we continue let’s look at those for a second.
Essentially they can be thought of as elements, or physical features in nature. But they each correspond to various other qualities, as illustrated in these tables:
So, based on these tables, I thought it might be interesting to try to work out which trigrams (and therefore which hexagrams) each of the 12 main SMiLE songs might correspond to.
Worms: Water (due to the association with pilgrims), Earth (discovering America/new land), Mountain (due to the association with the Warrior because of the native american genocide), Fire (due to its ruling planet according to astrology)
CE: Fire (I’ve heard you can hear music from Fire the track in the chorus, train engines burn coal), Earth (destroying yet uniting the continent), Lake (due to its ruling planet according to astrology)
Heroes: Wind (due to its association with being wise, and the lyrics in the song corresponding to it), Earth (due to the association with mothers, since the mother of narrator’s children dies in the song), Water (due to its ruling planet according to astrology)
Veggies: Earth (where you grow Veggies), Lake (due to its association with joyousness), Thunder (due to its ruling planet according to astrology)
IIGS: Earth (barnyard…earth…idk) [Earth is also the trigram associated with its ruling planet in astrology. This was the toughest song to pick trigrams for due to how obscure it is. I tried going by barn animals, but then I’d have to choose like 6]
OMP: Earth (Faraway hills), Sky (God, sunshine, both in the sky), Thunder (along with sky, this is the element associated with its ruling planet in astrology)
Wonderful: Lake (associated with the 3rd and therefore youngest and most innocent daughter), Wind (gentleness and penetration and I always interpreted this as a song about rape), Water (due to its ruling planet according to astrology)
CIFOTM: Heaven (Father), Mountain (3rd/youngest son), Fire/Wind (depending on whether you use its ancient or modern ruling planet, these are the element associated with it)
GV: Thunder (oldest son, arousing), Fire (clinging, second daughter), Lake (due to its ruling planet according to astrology)
WC: Wind (obvious), Mountain (keeping still–staying at home) [the moon isnt included on the trigram’s associated planets]
SU: Heaven (Prayer was supposed to come after, creativity), thunder (arousing/initiative, starting a new movement), Mountain/Earth (associated by its ancient and modern ruling planets in astrology)
Elements: Thunder (arousing), Water (dangerous, in motion) [the sun isnt a trigram planet]
Just thought that was interesting. And if you’re so inclined, you could mix and match those values and their corresponding trigrams to give each individual track a series of hexagrams to change from. Now in this next section, we’re going to look at an alternate way to express the I Ching in SMiLE.
In modern times, the two most common methods of finding a relevant hexagram for a situation are thru the use of special dice that show the values 6-9. 6 and 8 are associated with “new” yin, with 6 being “old yin” and a changing value. 7 and 9 are associated with yang, with 9 “old yang” a changing value and 7 “new yang” an unchanging value. After six values have been found (starting from the bottom going up), the first hexagram is formed. And once the changing values have been flipped from yin to yang or vice versa, the second hexagram is found. Here is where a tie-in to numerology could have been cool–if all the songs’ numeric values were between 6 and 9 we might have used this method of the I Ching. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
An alternate method I thought of myself is using the elements to stand in for the yin and yang values. Consider the alchemy symbols for the classic elements:
So you could thing of Earth and Air (with their unbroken lines) as unchanging yin and unchanging yang. Then Fire and Water would be changing yang and yin, respectively.
Look at what elements each SMiLE track is associated with according to astrology (I will go into this in the next Chapter). The feminine elements would be yin and therefore broken lines, while the masculine elements are yang and unbroken lines. Each side of the album (6 songs) would then form a different hexagram.
I’ll just admit upfront that Im not really a firm believer in this, or as enthusiastic about it as I was with the astrology and numerology theories. It’s because this requires working in a lot of outside concepts (like the elements according to astrology) in order to work. But…yeah. It’s something I thought of tho so I figured I’d post it anyway. If there are any other fanatics like me out there looking for new sequences (and/or something to justify them) then this might help you out. Personally, I think in terms of the I Ching, it’s most likely Brian wanted to work in the idea of change, from one state of America to another, and demonstrate a corresponding change of an individual in Side 2. It probably didn’t go much deeper than that; the idea of working in actual hexagrams corresponding to the album or individual tracks is just for fun.