Friday, March 04, 2011

5. Brian Wilson presents SMiLE (2004)

45 years, 45 LPs, 45 days...
Brian Wilson presents SMiLE (2004)
9.30.2004: B.Wilson at the 
Orpheum in Minneapolis
On September 30, 2004 I was one of the fortunate Americans who saw the national stage premiere of Brian Wilson's SMiLE, just two days after the mythical long-lost masterpiece was released in record stores. The experience was without a doubt one of the most surreal of my life. I never thought I would hear a completed SMiLE, let alone see and hear it performed live by the master himself.
My first exposure to the magic of SMILE
One of the earliest records my brother and I owned as kids was the "Good Vibrations" 45.  I always loved the song. By the time I entered college I had become full-blown Beach Boys nut, listening to and reading everything Beach Boys that I could get my hands on. Like many hardcore Beach Boys fans I became a devotee of the abandoned Smile album in the 1980's when long-circulated collector tapes started making their way onto vinyl.

80's SMiLE boot + repro of original SMiLE booklet
I had read about the SMiLE project before hearing most of its individual segments. There were a handful of songs that I'd known through official Beach Boys releases: "Our Prayer" & "Cabinessence" (from 20/20), "Heroes & Villains",  "Vegetables", "Wind Chimes", & "Wonderful" (from Smiley Smile), and "Surf's Up" (from the album of the same name), but it wasn't until 1985 when I got my first Smile bootleg that I discovered the true brilliance of this unfinished masterpiece. Bits of songs such as "Do You Like Worms",  "Barnyard" and "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" were fascinating little tracks. The lo-fi sound of my bootleg LP only added to the mystery of the music; it was as if I was getting a peek into what might have been.

2004 SMiLE tour programme
In 1985 nobody would have believed that Brian Wilson would come back the way he did in the late 1990's. In 2000 he and his new band took Pet Sounds on the road, playing in many towns with local symphonies.  Bolstered with a renewed confidence, plus the unconditional love and support of his band and family, Brian stunned the music world by announcing that his next project was to finish and perform SMiLE in concert.

I was early in line at the box office on the day Brian's SMiLE show went on sale. Even after getting my ticket I couldn't quite believe that I was holding admission to what I believed to be the most unimaginable musical event of all time. It wasn't until I was in my seat hearing the opening notes of "Our Prayer" that I felt the enormity of what I was a part of that night. It was actually happening, and I was actually there in the room with the man who had made the journey from 1966 to 2004 with this music. Thinking about it now still gives me the tinglies.

1 comment:

John Medd said...

Bolstered by his band, indeed. And what a band - let's here it for The Wondermints! J