You probably know the story. Riding high in 1966, Brian Wilson and lyricist Van Dyke Parks began work on a new Beach Boys album. It would include the group’s #1 single, “Good Vibrations”, and be called Smile. It was going to be an amazing record (even Leonard Bernstein was impressed). But Brian eventually gave up. Various reasons have been given: opposition from at least one of the Beach Boys; Brian getting cold feet, thinking Smile wouldn’t be sufficiently “commercial”; his drug-fueled paranoia; and his inability to figure out how to put all the pieces together. Even hearing “Strawberry Fields Forever” on the radio in February 1967 (“they got their first”).
Brian finally released his version of Smile in 2004, calling it “Brian Wilson Presents Smile”. The reviews were rapturous (“better 37 years late than never”).
But fans — some of them very talented — have been using the recordings from 1966 and 1967, both official releases and bootlegs, to create their own versions of Smile. Brian left so much music to play with.
Earlier this week, someone who calls himself “Mtt_Brand” on Reddit and “jsp444” on YouTube, whose real name is apparently Jack Stedron, uploaded a version of Smile that he says he worked on for three years. My first reaction was that Smile might have sounded something like this if it all had worked out in 1967.
This recording, Smile: the JSP Mix, uses technology that obviously wasn’t available in the 60s. It might be the ultimate fan mix of Smile. It’s certainly the best I’ve ever heard.