Although over the years there have been many, many fan made “reconstructed” (bootleg) versions of what Brian Wilson really intended to do with his lost Beach Boys masterpiece Smile, in 2004 his Brian Wilson Presents Smile album and tour pretty much set the record straight. And if this wasn’t exactly what Wilson had intended back in 1967 (before Mike Love, new fatherhood, mental illness and various other factors buried the project) then at the very least it’s Wilson’s final word on the piece, what he once called his “teenage symphony to God.”
Wilson’s ill-fated Smile, of course, became legendary amongst rock snobs. In 1993 Beach Boys fans discovered just how far along Wilson’s unfinished project got. On the Beach Boys box set, Good Vibrations, author and filmmaker, David Leaf (The Beach Boys and The California Myth, 1978) sequenced a stunning 30 minute selection of Smile outtakes. I can tell you for sure, it was a mind-blowing thing to hear. Elvis Costello described hearing Brian Wilson’s original demo for “Surf’s Up” as like discovering a lost recording of Mozart and I must agree.
What we have here, though, is the so-called “Smile [Purple Chick bootleg]” put together by some Beach Boys fans using mostly original stereo Beach Boys recordings—using Wilson’s 2004 album as a guide—to step by step recreate Smile with these vintage sources. It’s fantastic! They re-edited, pitch shifted and used a few moments from Wilson’s BWPS album to connect the tracks and the results are quite good, a revelation even. Although I am not sold on their remake of Good Vibrations (my brain just refuses to accept it) I have to say that it’s entirely valid. After all it’s what Wilson did himself. Still, I swapped that track out on the CD I made for the car (and you might want to also).
A Good Smile Bootleg