For Mike Love, the 2011 release of The ‘SMiLE’ Sessions was a case of too little, too late. This lost Brian Wilson project, which went unissued after sessions broke down in the late-1960s, killed the stunning momentum the Beach Boys had built up with the previous Pet Sounds — and, Love contends, the group never recovered.
“The problem was Brian was taking LSD at the time and he blew his mind,” Love tells the Irish Mirror. “He didn’t want to do it anymore. He shelved that album.”
Portions of the original project eventually found their way onto to subsequent Beach Boys releases, offering tantalizing glimpses into what SMiLE what might have been.
“The actual tracks and the actual vocals were insane — some of them were incredibly unique and far out,” Love admits. “I remember it being quite a stretch; there was a lot of experimentational stuff. That was the positive side. It was definitely something special musically, definitely. But you know, it got shelved so it’s kind of a moot point.”
By the time the Sessions set arrived, fans and critics alike were ready for a coronation. The album earned a Grammy after reaching No. 25 in the UK, and nearly equalling that in America. Unfortunately, both Carl and Dennis Wilson had passed. Dennis, like Brian, had dabbled in drugs for years. Carl died of cancer.
“What I wonder is what would have happened had there not been drugs involved in the Beach Boys history,” Love adds. “You know, not myself and Al Jardine and Bruce Johnston, we never got into that stuff. But the Wilson brothers are a different story, and it definitely had an impact on the trajectory of the Beach Boys. When you shelve an album that’s as remarkable and innovative as SMiLE, and don’t come out with it for 40 or 50 years, it’s definitely a momentum killer.”