Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Brian's back: Smile to be released

Undoubtedly the most famous and critically acclaimed (by those who've heard what exists of it) "lost" album in music history is the Beach Boys' Smile. Last Friday, a miracle happened: Brian Wilson, after years of clawing his way back into functional human existence following the nervous breakdown that derailed the album in 1967 -- after years of refusing to even talk about the project that destroyed him -- debuted the finished work in concert in London.

I was able to download a bootleg mp3 of the concert over the weekend, and I can tell you that it more than justifies the existence of file-sharing networks. And in even better news, a finished studio version of the album is scheduled for release in the fall.

Make no mistake: Brian Wilson was as big a rock-and-roll casualty as one could be without actually being dead. A complete basket case for years, he pretty much was dead. It's strangely fitting that Brian's triumphant re-emergence should be simultaneous with the public murder-trial downfall of his idol/rival Phil Spector -- the man whom a paranoid Brian feared as a "mind gangster" out to psionically destroy him.

Whatever the reason, now the slogan "Brian's Back" -- a half-truth first used in the late seventies when the other Beach Boys dragged a fat, bearded, and terror-stricken Brian out of bed and propped him up behind a keyboard in order to sell concert tickets -- seems finally to be completely true. To me, at least, this is a more exciting resurrection than the one with the guy in that Mel Gibson snuff film.

Update: Salon has a nice article telling the story of the album here.


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