SMiLE, the Beach Boys’ idiosyncratic, long-unfinished 1966-era follow up to Pet Sounds, found Brian Wilson collaborating extensively with Van Dyke Parks — leaving Mike Love out of the process.
Ultimately, the project was shelved, reduced into 1967’s Smiley Smile, reinvisioned as 2004’s Brian Wilson Presents ‘SMiLE’ and then celebrated with a massive 2011 reissue titled The ‘SMiLE’ Sessions.
Through it all, Love has been steadfast in his feeling that the drug-fueled sessions were leading the Beach Boys down a path away from commercial success, and that his own involvement might have altered the album’s star-crossed path.
“I have mixed feelings about it,” Love tells the Austin Chronicle. “I think there was some great music on SMiLE, some incredible tracks. But at that point in time, there were so many drugs being taken by Brian and other members of the group, and there was a lot of collaborating with people other than myself. I had literally nothing to do on anything on the SMiLE album, so naturally I was a little upset.”
Several other SMiLE-era tracks eventually saw the light of day — among them “Cabinessence” and “Our Prayer” (which appeared on 1970’s 20/20) and “Surf’s Up” (which became the title track of a 1971 album) — but the bulk of the original project remained unreleased for decades.
That lent SMiLE an air of mystique among fans and collectors. But not for Love.
“I collaborated with Brian on so many hits, but I wasn’t under the influence of anything during the writing of that stuff,” he adds. “There was such weirdness going on at the time. I’m not trying to poo-poo it, but it was just a little too weird for my taste. Then Brian shelved the album, and whenever you have an unfinished symphony it takes on mythological proportions. I do think there’s some beautiful tracks, like ‘Wonderful’ and ‘Heroes and Villains,’ but there’s a negative side to it too.”
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