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The Beach Boys' Smile
Smile is not merely a great unfinished album, but a living work of art that is all at once expansive, indeterminate, and resolutely pop.
In the early 1960s, The Beach Boys rose from the suburbs of Hawthorne, California to become emissaries of a post-war American dream that fused middle-class aspiration and mobility with images of youth. Led by dream master Brian Wilson, their music gave voice to a Southern California mythos and compelled an audience across the nation and beyond to live out their own versions of the fantasy. By 1966, the encroaching counterculture added new dimensions of creative possibility to popular music. Looking to revise and expand, Brian Wilson sought collaboration with a brilliant musician named Van Dyke Parks. Together they began work on Smile, an ambitious album of music that refracted The Beach Boys' naivete into a visionary exploration of American consciousness. Smile edged so close to greatness it seemed destined to become one of the most significant musical advances of its time. But the story didn't end quite like this.
In this book of evocative essays, Sanchez traces the musical journey that transformed The Beach Boys from West Coast surf heroes into America's pop luminaries, and ultimately why Smile represents a tumultuous turning point in the history of popular music.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
Reviewed -- Bob Baker Fish * CyclicDefrost.com * As the latest edition to the (unfortunately) obscure 33 1/3 series, Smile provides the cultural and historical background to one of rock's most mythical records that almost never happened. Author Luis Sanchez begins with the unique nature of The Beach Boys: a teenage vocal group that streamlined their version of Southern California teen living directly into America's consciousness. Sanchez details the popularity of surfing and surf rock as counterculture, how the Beach Boys were anything but counterculture and how they were able to convey such sincerity through their pop music in a way that anyone who listened could capture the carefree, suburban teen's American dream. As their fame grew to an even level with counterculture rock stars like The Beatles and Bob Dylan, the Beach Boys risked exploring new territory in the realm of pop music, which eventually led to the creation of Smile. The main character behind all of this is the unassuming musical savant Brian Wilson. Sanchez explores the inspirations behind Wilson's genius- from maniacally studying the work of Phil Spector to embracing, rather than rebelling against, the suburban lifestyle. Smile is a deep glance into the formation of pop music and one of its greatest minds. -- Justin Gallegos * SLUG Magazine *