Written By: Marian Lochrie
The Sasquatch Inn is one of those rowdy, rural, biker bars you would hear stories about if you lived in Mission, B.C. – stories of lust, violence, murder: descent and damnation. I really want to go; I don’t really want to go; I don’t really know, so I test the concept out on my girl-friend: “I’m going to the Sasquatch tonight. Wanna go?” Her eyes open wide. They protrude slightly, for a long, significant second, saying, “What? Are you crazy?” Then, snap! Her steadfast squint spits an incredulous “no way” my way. I am serious, so I wait for her verbal reply: “No thanks,” she says, “There is no way my husband will let me go there.”
Certainly, I have nothing to be afraid of. My man has my hand, I know the band, I know the bartender, I know the waitress; but I also know the crowd. I have been here before. I go to loot treasure – solid gold-hued blues – out of a cavern, a dark, dank hole that reputedly houses a sleeping dragon. (Some swear that there is no dragon at all; but they do talk of a large, hairy, ape-like beast living there -- he’s carved of wood, and they call him the Sasquatch!) Though I have seen no beast, and no dragon, his drunken, bloodthirsty, belligerent bawl echoes through the valley. Perhaps needless to say, as I return today, I take my steps gingerly, keeping and eye over my shoulder.
The row of a dozen, or more, fire-breathing Harleys parked right outside the front door keeps me cautious. The Sunday afternoon sunlight strikes hard on their hardware – flame-emblazoned and scaled in chrome. The million shards of refracted, reflected rays make me dizzy and desiring a seat in this seedy house of hidden treasure. I am hypnotized by the still and quiet that always precedes a sunny Sunday afternoon’s rafter-raising in the country; I am vaguely aware of a breath of country honey and hops in the air outside - sickeningly sweet, sweetly sickening.
I heave my heart against the heavy, old wooden door, and an apparition of “home sweet home” swallows me whole. I am greeted by welcoming friends, familiar conversation, and that same old smoky stickiness that pervades any place that houses cigarettes, beer, and beast. My feet stick to the floor, my glass to the table, and the smoke to my clothes, eyes, lungs, and hair. The moose head, horseshoe, and hockey sticks stick to the walls. Me? I stick to my fiancé. I stick really close to avoid the offense in leering male eyes. Black and white pictures of whiskey-whiskered wanton men on the wall give the place a nice sense of timelessness. Today, I watch the fleshed and blooded out versions passing time, then passing out. The people really do make the place.TOP
Gerald Charlie towers on stage like a rock and roll giant. He is a short, heavy-set, man, but his presence suggests a towering inferno. He has got bad black boots, big black clothes, a black felt hat, a long black braid, and smoldering black eyes as he sings “Low Down Reserve Blues.” (The Scowlitz Reserve is a stone’s throw down the road.) His words are earnest, deep, booming, real: “Well it’s a low-down, a low-down crying shame…” He bellows with honesty, tenderness, and uncertainty – baffling Jimi Hendrix vocal insecurity! His playing is similarly charming and passionate – the kind that conducts electricity in a crowd. Though there is no smoke bellowing from his guitar, though there is no fire flaming, everyone pretends that there is. Gerald does. His fingers fly off the fret board so fast, you’d swear it was burning up. The people do. They swarm the dance floor, and stomp-stomp-stomp, hard and fast, in a manic, vain display. Their attempts to relinquish the flame are destined to fail; the licks just keep on coming.
Our extended table roars. His extended family beams. Mother Mary, the gentle matriarch, purrs. All is well with the world when family and friends coincide with contentment, pride and happiness. I remember the Friday nights we raised our glasses for toasts before every drink. Every drink we share is given due pomp and ceremony. Each sip is special, sacred – and the next is even more valuable than the last.
Soon we engage in our traditional hooting and hollering for the bartender. We want him to come and sing us a song. Timmy is great. He is the Shaftsbury Cream Ale man. He has been asked to participate in various Shaftsbury functions; his likeness to the man atop the Shaftsbury Cream Ale tap handle is uncanny. He is portly, balding and jovial. He sports a pair of wire-rimmed glasses and a crisp, white apron, but he is quite a master of disguise. On stage, he effortlessly transforms himself into a sixties soul diva. He becomes queen of the stage. He sings Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Cold Shot” with a sexiness that only a woman could bring to the song. His voice jumps and dips. It is husky and sultry, strong and steamy. He runs his hands down the sides of his body, and then throws them in the air. He orchestrates the band with his gestures. He accentuates rawness and rhythm. He is all prowess and power. “Go girl!” we scream and whistle just loud enough so that he can’t hear. The guys giggle; the girls go crazy… Oh baby… Sunday afternoons at the Squawch
I was afraid to go the Sasquatch Inn; the fruit was temping, but foreboding. The dragon was breathing fire; but the fire was not sinister, just sly and sinuous. The beast’s baleful bawl was not painful, but passionate - not evil, enlightened. The band played on: “Well it’s a low-down cryin’ shame that our people all live on poverty, misery, and pain.” The band played on until the last spark of light fell from the sky and darkness descended. I walked back through the graveyard of shimmering Harleys - hand in my man’s - as the wooly, black blanket was securely tucked around the world. A short time later, even the band went home, leaving the wind to carry the tune: “It’s a shame, my people…”
BACK TO TOP
ESSAY 1: Smile-Pass It On
Written By: Marian Lochrie
The Beach Boys' Smile is generally considered to be the most famous un-released record in rock history. Its fame can largely be attributed to the frustrated writings of Beach Boy fanatics, those self-proclaimed “aurally enlightened pop archaeologists” (Priore, “Heroes” 287) who write with affection and bewilderment: Why has Smile remained unreleased for thirty-two years? Those of us who have heard Smile recognise its aesthetic brilliance and historical importance. We seek snippets from altered official releases, poorly compiled or incomplete bootlegs, and well connected personal acquaintances. Our ultimate goal is to fully piece together—itself a process of meticulous research—our very own Smiles. Inevitably, every home-job is incomplete. Songwriter, producer, and head Beach Boy Brian Wilson abandoned his Smile project in 1967. His songs were never smoothed into the slick productions for which the Beach Boys are so well known. To this day, the songs remain in the Capitol Records vaults as broken, though autonomously complete, sections. This material simply must be released. It is innovative and inspiring. It possesses great commercial potential. It deserves its place in Beach Boy history, rock and roll history, and social history.
In order to understand why Smile was never released as scheduled back on January 15, 1967 -- and perhaps to understand why it has not been released since—we must focus our attention on the insecurities of creator Brian Wilson. Smile was a continuation of Brian's “good vibrations” theme. It was intended to spread happiness and good cheer—hence the title. Unfortunately, Brian began to feel his music possessed destructive, as opposed to constructive, qualities. For example, when a rash of fires broke out in Los Angeles, the eccentric and uncertain Brian Wilson attributed the phenomenon to the bad vibrations caused by his intense song, “Fire”, and reputedly, burned the master tapes. “I was dabbling in some kind of musical witchcraft. I can't let it happen again” (Wilson, Brian Wilson 156).BACK TO TOP
Brian increasingly began to doubt to Smile's merit, and his ability to attain that polished, pop perfection, due to lack of moral support. The other Beach Boys continually scoffed and sneered at Brian's strange new music. The Smile tracks would be extremely hard for them to pull off on-stage due to their orchestration—played by studio musicians—and they resisted singing abstract lyrics they could not understand. Inevitably, Brian would side with his beloved brothers and troublesome cousin. Smile lyricist and collaborator Van Dyke Parks soon departed. The whole Smile entourage followed. Brian's work on Smile came to an end. Creatively, the project was squashed; commercially, it was stalled. Brian became entangled in a lawsuit with Capitol Records and set about the monumental task of setting up his own label, Brother Records.
Then, on June 2, 1967, the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. This sealed Smile's unfortunate fate. The very next day, Brian began working with the Beach Boys—Smile was Brian's own project—on the sparser, “pruned-back and minimal” (Smucker 247), Smiley Smile. Those who knew Brian knew that he liked immediacy (Anderle 241). He liked to be on the cutting edge. To Brian, releasing Smile after Sgt. Pepper would be like admitting defeat. Friendship with the admiring Paul McCartney notwithstanding, Brian was ever the competitor fraught with jealousies and insecurities. Beatles and Beach Boy publicist Derek Taylor noted, “He was only interested in these ‘Who Is The Best?’ heats” (Kent 262). These “heats” and hipness ratings played a dominant role in 1960s music media. Smile was supposed to have been Brian's personal and public triumph over the Beatles. Now Sgt. Pepper was being touted as the first concept album, and “the best album of all time.” Because Sgt. Pepper came first, it would set the standard against which Smile would be measured. Such potential comparisons scared the competitive but chronically insecure—the self described “pyschedelicate” (Wilson qtd. in Duncan 282) -- Brian Wilson. He was supposed to have been the innovator, not the follower.ACK TO TOP
Ironically, forty years later, Brian Wilson is the innovator. Musicians continue to be inspired by Brian's elusive Smile mini-symphonies. Now, he cannot be lacking confidence or moral support. Brian is considered a leader. Indeed, the tracks off Smile “don't just sound fresh today, they sound as revolutionary today as they were in 1967” (Leaf, “Flash” 255). They have certainly achieved that cutting edge Brian so desired. Further, the vibes we get from the music are not destructive—as Brian irrationally feared they would be. Rather, they are constructive, inspirational, and positive. The vibes are influential. Surely Brian's insecurities have finally been put to rest. Surely Brian's “psychedelicate” nature has been fortified by years of fanatical praise.
On the 1998 TV Special, Endless Harmony—The Story of the Beach Boys, John Lennon’s son Sean literally radiates with adoration and enthusiasm when interviewed. “Smile is unbelievable; it's the most amazing thing I've every heard", he gushes. (This from JOHN LENNON's son!) Smile fans know he is not exaggerating. Smile is unparalleled in depth and texture. In terms of song writing technique, Brian has created this compelling texture by laying counterpoint harmonies, or alternate melodies, atop one another. Every track, whether it be instrumental or vocal, provides a beautiful, catchy and complex melody in its own right. In terms of production, Brian is able to effectively balance each track. He has manipulates the elements of sound to capture a lush, all-encompassing feel. Brian has already proven himself expert in this regard. No one can listen to his early music and not get that summery feeling. Smile is especially compelling because Brian captures more than just a summer feel; he evokes an emotional and visual landscape. The music has been described as “a panorama of American history…the music shift[s] from theme to theme” (Siegel 86). Often this is done with sound alone. (However, part of the credit for the album's strong images must be given to Brian's brilliant lyricist Van Dyke Parks.) Further, due to excellent engineering and production, we are able to distinguish a single melodic instrument amidst a myriad. We can attempt to deconstruct Brian's intoxicating “feels”. Thus, to musicians, producers, engineers, and enthusiasts, each Smile track is an endless source of learning:
Generation after generation
of vital young rock & roll groups... continue to deliver the goods
and draw inspiration
from the excitement of Brian Wilson's initial impetus. Therefore it remains extremely important that future generations
of kids are able to enjoy the music created for Smile. Without common access to the music, the future of pop is denied
a vital resource (Priore, “Heroes” 286).ACK TO TOP
Creatively, the project was squashed; yet it continues to breathe in the works of many resourceful young bands. Commercially, the project was, and continues to be, stalled. “Part of the reason for Smile's non-appearance today has been the abundance of tape, myths and uncertainty as to just what pieces of music [should] be included” (286). Such excuses can not be considered valid justification for withholding the album. Though the conflicts inevitably “cause confusion at the already inept corporate level” (286), the confusion can easily be eased with the help of the many eager and willing Beach Boy experts (287). Our frantic search is evidence that, quite simply, we want all the Smile music we can get our hands onto. Even the incomplete sections are highly sought for their aesthetic and educational appeal. In 1998, Capitol released an extensive The Pet Sounds Sessions box set. Pet Sounds is the critically acclaimed album that was produced just months before Smile. Why not release an extensive Smile Sessions box set too?
Undoubtedly, Capitol Records and Brian Wilson are concerned as to its commercial appeal. This was a constant source of concern to Brian. In a post-Smile interview, he explained, “I didn't think the songs were right for the public at the time. I just didn't have a feeling…a commercial feeling about some of those songs that we've never released” (Wilson qtd. in Hanes 173). However, in a pre-Smile interview he notes, “We're excited about the album because it means a lot to us to produce an LP throughout, to work hard on every track more of less like each one was a single” (Wilson, “?. Time” 65). Indeed, Brian had so much faith in the Smile material that he initially resisted any attempts to include the million selling single “Good Vibrations” on the album. Commercially, the album would have done extremely well, not only due to the proliferation of single material, but also because Smile was highly anticipated. It still is. It is hard to speculate how Smile would fare commercially today. However, there is great commercial potential in promoting that brilliant Beach Boys album you could never buy. (The number of bootlegs available is testament to Smile's commercial potential.) Furthermore, it would not cost Capitol much to release this already recorded, partially produced material. In fact, it would make sense for the record company to recuperate the costs it has already expended. Carl Wilson himself suggested the same thing in the seventies. Though, to no avail. Smile remains unreleased contrary to commercial logic.TOP
Smile should be released because it represents a distinct chapter in Beach Boy history. Many argue that it represents Brian's creative peak. The Beach Boys were at the height of their critical acclaim and popularity when Brian began recording Smile (Priore, Look! 7-20). Brian himself thought that Smile was his “renaissance” (Wilson qtd. in Hanes 172): “He was always talking about a new plateau…all the time: ‘The next record will create a new plateau for the Beach Boys in terms of creativity and acceptance’” (Kent 262). Those who do not consider Smile to be the best of the best, must, at least, agree that it is part of Brian's natural musical progression. At the time of Smile's inception, Brian himself said that he was “expand[ing] and grow[ing] naturally” (Wilson, “?. Time” 65). Smile combines Brian's old surf landscape/wall of sound “feels” with the more recent, complex, Pet Sounds sectional arrangements. Still, Smile sounds all new. Paul McCartney describes this as a strength: “The strength of any act is doing something that you wouldn't associate with them” (Qtd. in Priore, Look! 6). A band's appeal is strengthened when the listener is “pleasantly surprised” (6). If Smile were released, perhaps the Beach Boys would make fans even out of those listeners who dislike them due to their surfer persona.
Just as Smile deserves its place in Beach Boy history, so it deserves its place in the history of Rock and Roll. “Without Smile, the entire history of this period in Rock ‘n’ Roll is missing one of its richest and most important chapters!” (Hanes 173) There is nothing more frustrating than having to accept its absence from every history of rock and roll book or television special. If released, it would have been one of the first concept albums. Further, many fans consider it to be the greatest work of one of America's certifiable geniuses. Finally, the old recording techniques captured a classic feel, virtually unattainable today: “the guts of 60’s music can not be achieved without an unusual amount of work, by today's standards, which most engineers figure isn't worth the time to be specific about…but to the feeling of the music, [this work] is essential” (Priore, “Flash” 254).K TO TOP
Just as Smile deserves its place in Beach Boy history and in Rock and Roll history, so it deserves a place in social-cultural history. Timothy White, in his book, The Nearest Faraway Place: Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys, and the Southern California Experience, argues that the Beach Boys sun and fun music is an extension of the American dream. Images in early Beach Boy songs are strikingly similar to the aggressive ads that drew thousands of pioneers to the sun-kissed Californian paradise. The Beach Boys represent a slice of social history. Their optimism is very Californian and very 1960s. Smile reveals musical growth, individual growth, and cultural growth. Brian was shedding the innocence that characterized his era. He became very environmentally aware. During a camping trip in the woods at Big Sur, right before he began Smile, Brian “got in touch with ‘the elements’” (Priore, “Smile Music” 101). (Hence, the Smile track, ‘The Elements’, which, is essentially, a suite of mini-songs representing earth, air, fire, and water.) “Nature became a big part of the music as Brian became patriotic in a very ‘real’ sense. He loved what was inherently available in this land” (101). Brian felt in touch with his spiritual side, and he felt attached to his American home. He described Smile as “religious white spiritual music…a teenage symphony to God” (Wilson qtd. in Duncan 283). He and Van Dyke Parks wrote about heroes and villains, the Spanish and Indians, Chinese laborers on the railroads, and homes on the range. They wrote about God and spirituality, about growing up and parenthood, about class and culture, and about health and humour. “Smile in its virgin conceptualized form, was probably meant to be a work documenting and simultaneously epiphanasing the American heritage performed by the most consistently patriotic rock band in the country's history” (Kent 266).
Smile is universally acknowledged, among those who have heard it, as an extremely important album. It is innovative, captivating, and inspiring. It represents a slice of American pop history, and will continue to play a role—an even bigger role if released—in rock and roll history. After all, “the medium thrives and grows on the efforts and accomplishments—even the …failures—of the genuinely creative artist” (“Liveliest Art” 3). Thus, to withhold Smile—especially those locked away pieces that even the most vigilant fanatic has never heard—is to suppress and inhibit the medium of rock and roll. Surely, a major record label and a dominant creative force should not be responsible for this type of repressive behavior. This is one brilliant Smile that is simply uncontainable, a Smile that is characteristically catching. Capitol Records and Brian Wilson would be well advised, for the sake of good business and artistic integrity, to finally release this material.CK TO TOP
Anderle, David. “Brian: Part Three.” Interview by Paul Williams. In
Listen! Vibrate!Smile! Ed. Domenic Priore.
Hong Kong: Last Gasp, 1995.
The Beach Boys. Smile. Red Robin Records, T 2580, 1991.
Duncan, Michael. “American Psychedelicacy: Digging for Worms with Brian Wilson.” In Look! Listen! Vibrate! Smile! Ed.
Domenic Priore. Hong Kong: Last Gasp, 1995.
Endless Harmony—The Story of the Beach Boys. Delilah Films. Television Program. 1998.
Hanes, Bob. “It’s Alright Ma…He’s Only Smilin’.” In Look! Listen! Vibrate! Smile! Ed. Domenic Priore. Hong Kong: Last
Kent, Nick. “The Last Beach Movie: Brian Wilson 1942 -- .” In Look! Listen! Vibrate! Smile! Ed. Domenic Priore. Hong
Kong: Last Gasp, 1995.
Leaf, DAvid, and Domenic Priore. “Flash!!! Where It’s At.” In Look! Listen! Vibrate! Smile! Ed. Domenic Priore. Hong
Kong: Last Gasp, 1995.
Leaf, David, and Peter Reum. “The Essential: The Beach Boys.” In Look! Listen! Vibrate!Smile! Ed. Domenic Priore. Hong
Kong: Last Gasp, 1995.
“The Liveliest Art.” In Look! Listen! Vibrate! Smile! Ed. Domenic Priore. Hong Kong: LastGasp, 1995.
Priore, Domenic, and David Leaf. “Flash!!! Where It’s At.” In Look! Listen! Vibrate! Smile! Ed. Domenic Priore. Hong
Kong: Last Gasp, 1995.
Priore, Domenic. “Heroes, Villains, and the 1988 Capitol Tape Box Memo.” In Look! Listen!Vibrate! Smile! Ed. Domenic
Priore. Hong Kong: Last Gasp, 1995.
Priore, Domenic, ed. Look! Listen! Vibrate! Smile! Hong Kong: Last Gasp, 1995.
Priore, Domenic. “The Smile Music (With Keen Perception and A Lot of Listening).” In Look!Listen! Vibrate! Smile! Ed.
Domenic Priore. Hong Kong: Last Gasp, 1995.
Siegel, Jules. “Goodbye Surfing, Hello God.” In Look! Listen! Vibrate! Smile! Ed. Domenic Priore. Hong Kong: Last Gasp,
Smucker, Tom. “A sixties Epic—Part Two.” In Look! Listen! Vibrate! Smile! Ed. Domenic Priore. Hong Kong: Last Gasp,
White, Timothy. The Nearest Faraway Place: Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys, and the Southern California Experience. New
York: Henry Holt, 1994.
Wilson, Brian. “?. Time with Beach Boy Brian Wilson.” Interview by Ann Moses. In Look!Listen! Vibrate! Smile! Ed.
Domenic Priore. Hong Kong: Last Gasp, 1995.
Wilson, Brian, and Todd Gold. Brian Wilson: Wouldn’t It Be Nice—My Own Story. NewYork: HarperCollins, 1991. CK TO TOP