Smile (The Beach Boys Album) - Conception


The genesis of Smile was laid during the recording of Pet Sounds. On February 17, 1966, during the sessions for Pet Sounds, Brian Wilson started work on a new single, "Good Vibrations". Seventeen recording sessions took place over four studios at a figure reputed to have cost more than $50,000, making "Good Vibrations" the most expensive and complex pop recording of its time. "Good Vibrations" was created by an unprecedented recording technique: nearly 30 minutes of seemingly unrelated musical sections were recorded, then spliced together and reduced into a three-minute pop song. The song quickly became the band's biggest international hit yet, rising to number one in over half a dozen countries, including both Britain and the United States. Smile was intended to be an entire album produced in a similar fashion.

Crucial to the inception and creation of Smile was Wilson's meeting with musician Van Dyke Parks in February 1966. They had been introduced to each other by mutual friend Terry Melcher and became acquainted. Parks would often visit Wilson's home while he was working on Pet Sounds. When Wilson realized that Parks had an unusually elastic manner of speaking, he asked him if he could write lyrics for "Good Vibrations". Parks declined for the reason that he thought there was nothing he could offer the track.

In an October 1966 interview, Brian Wilson quipped that the Beach Boys' next project was to be "a teenage symphony to God". His plan was to take his work on Pet Sounds to a new level, with an album-length suite of specially-written songs which were both thematically and musically linked, and would be recorded using the unusual sounds and innovative production techniques which had contributed to the successes of the "Good Vibrations" single.

Wilson invited Parks to write lyrics for the new album in the spring of 1966, when the project was provisionally being called Dumb Angel. This time, Parks agreed to write the lyrics, and the two quickly formed a close and fruitful working relationship. In preparation for the writing and recording of the album, Wilson purchased several thousand dollars worth of marijuana and hashish and famously installed a sandbox and hotboxing tent in his home.

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