brian wilson – smile

Not mad anymore
Brian Wilson, this evening

I’m not sure what to write about seeing Brian Wilson tonight, apart from the fact that a) middle of the front row is a nice place to sit, and b) I’m hardly surprised that Smile affected him the way it did.

From start to finish, it’s a breathtakingly lunatic piece of music. At one point (during ‘Vegetables’ of course), the string section can be seen banging carrots and celery together, but this is merely the most visible sign of the delirium on show. Most of the songs sound like snippets of dazzling concepts rather than fully-realized visions, as if Brian had created a series of thirty second symphonies to showcase his most brilliant ideas (and there’s no denying the brilliance of this music – in some parts there’s so much happening it’s almost ludicrous, yet the basic melodies are never anything less than beautiful), then faltered when he realized he actually had to finish the songs.

Having so many ideas bouncing around your head would be enough to send anyone off the rails. Truly staggering stuff.


  1. Actually, I think “Smile” is a wonderfully resonant metaphor for anyone who has ever overreached themselves and burnt themselves out in the process. Listening to the MP3 of last Friday’s debut performance (easily findable on P2P), I’m struck with similar observations to your own – and I can’t help thinking that “Smile” worked better as an unheard, mythical embodiment of unattainable perfection.

  2. Great comment.

    It was weird. I’ve had a couple of bootlegs of the album for years, so I kind of knew what to expect, but it was still quite shocking hearing it played. I don’t know what I thought would happen – maybe for all the ideas to be turned into fully-fledged songs, but that wasn’t the case. I’ve really no idea what sensory overload is, but that’s what it felt like – several times during the performance I actually laughed out loud – simply because there was so much to take in at once.

  3. I agree.
    I saw the gig on Friday and it was absolutely incredible. The bootleg doesn’t really do it justice, although it is good and well worth tracking down.
    I have no idea what I was expecting from the gig, but I have to say that what I heard was far more coherent than I expected. The Smile songs have never really connected into a whole before, but I think that what I heard on Friday gave me a glimpse of what Wilson was after. I wouldn’t have missed it for worlds.
    Also, I saw Supergrass in the foyer on the way out, which was nice.

  4. That’s much better than the pair of dubiously talented celebrities I spotted the night I went – that c*nt Jonathan Ross and that other c*nt David Baddiel.

  5. I’m also pretty certain that I saw Elton John. But not 100%. If it wasn’t him, it was someone who could make a very good living as an impersonator.

  6. All I can say is……..

    ……. Sublime, never experienced anything quite like it.

  7. Was at the Bournemouthg gig last night….sheer perfection which would be impossible to put into words! Help me out here… Where can I download Smile?? Someone give an idea,cant find anything on Kazaa

  8. Try downloading Soulseek and searching for Brian Wilson Smile.

  9. Frase – why doesn’t my version of Soul Seek work anymore? When I search for songs I get no results!

  10. My son and I saw Brian last night in Birmingham, UK.
    I saw him last year when the second half of the show was taken up with PET SOUNDS, that is the work of a REAL genius!

    We both enjoyed las night, because I love Brian and thank God, that against allt he odds, here is still here for us to enjoy.

    His music is still relevant and the new stuff is great, ‘Love & Mercy’ being an example.

    I do hope that he does NOT release ‘Smile’, because it will NOT sell, the world was not ready for this LP in the sixties, it certainly is not ready for it now.

    PLEASE Brian, call the next tour ‘The Emotions Tour’ and concentrate on doing what only you can do, open your sole and by doing so put us in touch with ours!

    How many people feel utter sadness during the first 20 seconds of God Only Knows, just listening to the french horn – and that is before a word is sung.

    The man IS a genius, his work is staggering!

  11. SMiLE as a live event surpassed my wildest dreams,even if it was nothing more than a K-Tel best of SMiLE truth there was never room for it all on a mid sixties lp,even the gig runs to 50 mins and it represents a tiny fraction of the hours of lunacy and genius that I have on various ribbons and steel sheets,as an introduction to SMiLE the concert is EVERYTHING a fan could want,music/lyrics old and new mesh effortlessly,The band turn out the sophisticated harmonies with nary a whimper,as well as swapping instruments at will,I spent an hour with Van Dyke post the opening show and he was elated,as much for Brian as himself,he exuded a self satisfaction borne from the fact that far from being a disjointed relic of a bygone age,SMiLE truly did represent the last hurrah of pop,Peppers was way too sterile,The Doors and Freak Out too mannerist and Satanic Majesties too sloppy,SMiLE encompassed everything that had gone before and elevated it to almost religious staure,truly a “teenage symphony to God” Brian,Van Dyke and Darian I send a huge thank you,it was without doubt the finest gig I have ever seen…

  12. I saw the third Smile concert at the RFH. It was stupendous. I’ve heard bits and bobs over the last couple of years, but what struck me was how the whole was was way more than a sum of the parts. Each segment built on the previous one, packing an amazing punch.
    I only wish they’d played it all through a second time. I couldn’t really appreciate the likes of ‘Fun, fun, fun’ in the encore. (Don’t get me wrong, I love the mid-60s poppy stuff, it just doesn’t match Smile.)
    As for celeb spotting, I saw two members of Paul McCartney’s backing band, but not Macca himself.

  13. I saw Brian Wilson -Smile in Grand Prairie, Texas last night. It was the best show I have ever seen. It was delightful to see people that came in with a cane, standing and rockin

  14. When my college roomie tried to turn me on to The Beach Boys, I dismissed them as pop pap. In my limited scope of Brian Wilson’s (& let’s be honest about this; Brian WAS The Beach Boys!) talent & vision, I’d relegated them to little more than the pioneers of the Surf ‘n’ Drag scene. However, having been “forcefed” the likes of “God Only Knows”, “Surf’s Up”, et al, I gladly ate crow. Although I still wasn’t a fan, per se, I recognised the man’s genius & appreciated the fact that his siblings & bandmates were strong-arming him into keeping with “The Formula”.

    23 October 2004 is a date that is etched permanently in my mind.

    I’d known ancillary details about Brian’s unfinished masterpiec, “SMiLE”, as well as its pale pretender to the throne, “Smiley Smile”, but that was really about it. Not being a devout fan, I never felt the need to track down all the bootlegged versions of “SMiLE”, or argue which one was the best compilation of an incomplete album with no official running order.

    When I saw Brian & The Wondermints perform “SMiLE” onstage in Houston, Texas, it was the closest to a religious experience I’ll likely ever have without ringing at the Pearly Gates directly! Although Brian wasn’t in the best of voices (he was either sickening for a cold or flat-out exhausted), the mood from onstage set the tone & the musicians, while respectful of this music, weren’t reverent or pretentious about it (however, one couldn’t fault them for acting so; imagine getting the chance to not only perform but help complete an “unfinished” concerto with your favourite composer).

    The show opened with acoustic versions of BB classics, then segued into full band versions, featuring the likes of “Sloop John B” & the hauntingly passionate “God Only Knows”. After a short intermission, the band & Brian returned to perform the mythical “SMiLE” in its entirety. There was not a bored face in the audience!

    In between moments of becoming lost in the music, an overwhelming sense of musical history playing out before the audience washed over the crowd.

    And there in the midst of everything, placid as a newborn, was Brian Wilson, looking for all the world like he didn’t comprehend why everyone was so buzzed by this music. It’s this type of self-deprecation that keeps this man beloved by all who follow his career.

    As I said earlier, I wasn’t a fan of Brian Wilson prior to that evening.

    After I left, I was not only a follower, but also a believer.

    God bless you for sharing your gift with us, Mr Wilson.

  15. Hello All!

    It has caught my attention that you are all friends and fans of the incredible Brian Wilson. It seems he has influenced us all with his music. Our beloved Brian has taken his influence a step further and will now be one of the many star judges for the 2006 International Songwriting Competition (ISC). This will be Brian Wilson\’s first year as one of the premiere judges. For those who don\’t know, ISC is a competition for passionate musicians around the globe. ISC is open to musicians, artists, and songwriters at every level from amateur to professional. Anyone with a passion for music, talent and of course… a song may enter the competition. Imagine… This is your unprecedented chance to have the legendary Brian Wilson listen to your music! The 2006 International Songwriting Competition (ISC) is now accepting submissions!

    ISC has added two new categories this year, expanded its number of judges, and increased its overall prize package to over $150,000 in cash and prizes including an Overall Grand Prize package of $25,000 (US) in cash and over $20,000 in merchandise, unmatched by any other songwriting competition. ISC continues its commitment toward helping songwriters and artists further their careers by helping them gain exposure and have their songs heard by the music industry\’s top professionals. It is truly an unparalleled opportunity, but if you still need more convincing check out our latest review on Pitchfork.

    Since its inception, ISC has become internationally renowned for having the most prestigious judging panel of any songwriting competition in the world.

    2006 ISC judges include: Tom Waits; Brian Wilson; Sean Paul; Charlie Walk (President, Epic Records); Monte Lipman (President, Universal Records); Mona Scott-Young (President, Violator Records); Jerry Lee Lewis; Cassandra Wilson; Robert Smith (The Cure); Craig Morgan; Rosanne Cash; John Mayall; Isaac Brock (Modest Mouse); John Scofield; Mark Chesnutt; Amy Ray (Indigo Girls); Darryl McDaniels (Run DMC); MercyMe; Macy Gray; Tiësto; Peter Hook (New Order); Frank Black (Pixies); Jeff Stinco (Simple Plan); Medeski Martin & Wood; Charlie Musselwhite; Blue Man Group; Steve Lillywhite (Senior VP A&R/Producer, Columbia Records – credits include U2, Rolling Stones, Peter Gabriel, etc.); Angel Carrasco (President, Discos 605/Sr. VP A&R Sony/BMG Latin America; Larry Willoughby (VP A&R, Capitol Records, Nashville); Alexandra Patsavas (Owner, The Chop Shop Music Supervision – credits include The OC, Grey’s Anatomy, Without A Trace, Carnivale, Rescue Me); Barbara Sedun (VP Creative, EMI Music Publishing Canada); Bruce Iglauer (Founder/President, Alligator Records); Cameron Strang (President, New West Records); Cory Robbins (Founder/President, Robbins Entertainment); Dan Storper (President, Putumayo World Music); Thomas Brooman (Co-Founder/Artistic Director, WOMAD); Danny Epstein (Music Supervisor, Sesame Street/Sesame Workshop); Tara Griggs-Magee (Executive VP Gospel/Urban Music, Sony Records); Emily Wittmann (Vice-President, Nick Records); Leib Ostrow (CEO, Music For Little People); Betty Pino (DJ, WAMR and pioneer of Latin musc radio); and Manolo Gonzales (Senior VP, Regional Mexican A&R and National Promotion, Univision Records).

    The International Songwriting Competition website is Please feel free to browse around! Again, ISC is now accepting submissions so spread the word. We appreciate your help in getting the word out about the competition to musicians and artists in your reach, and thank you in advance. Please feel free to contact me should you need additional information or have any questions about the competition.

    Hope to hear you soon,
    Tom Russo

    International Songwriting Competition
    1307 Eastland Ave
    Nashville, TN 37206
    Phone: 615.251.4441
    Fax: 615.251.4442

  16. Actually, I think “Smile” is a wonderfully resonant metaphor for anyone who has ever overreached themselves and burnt themselves out in the process. Listening to the MP3 of last Friday\’s debut performance (easily findable on P2P), I\’m struck with similar observations to your own – and I can\’t help thinking that “Smile” worked better as an unheard, mythical embodiment of unattainable perfection.