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The Beach Boys' "Smile": An Unfinished Masterpiece

Anne is a writer with a passion for self-expression and publishing.

The Lost Album

A picture of the original concept are for the Beach Boys' unrelease album, SMILE.

A picture of the original concept are for the Beach Boys' unrelease album, SMILE.

Where Did It Come From?

The Beach Boys' unfinished album SMiLE, which was set to be released between 1966 and 1967, was Brian Wilson's masterpiece. He took ideas and concepts from their previous album Pet Sounds and added even more experimentation into his project SMiLE. While this album still remains a mystery to many as to how it would have turned out had it been complete, there is still some information out there in regards to the project, and you can even listen to some of the unfinished tracks in "The SMiLE Sessions". Clearly, Brian Wilson was an innovator in his time and way ahead of the times when it came to music composition, and this breakthrough album shows that in many ways.

Hard To Finish

One of the main reasons that SMiLE was so difficult to finish as an album was because of the creative differences of the band. Brian Wilson recognized the need to branch out musically and experiment with more psychedelic sounds, while the rest of the band thought that was too risky and that they should stick with their original sound. Bands such as The Beatles were branching out into this new psychedelic rock sound, and Brian wanted to create something that could surpass even his wildest dreams. However, arguments arose among the band, and this ultimately led to the incomplete sessions that are known today.

The Geniuses Behind "SMILE"

Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks collaborated on the album to create something no one else had heard before in music.

Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks collaborated on the album to create something no one else had heard before in music.

The SMiLE Sessions

The SMiLE Sessions is a collection of the unfinished tracks from The Beach Boys back in 1966. It contains some tracks with backing vocals and no main vocals, instrumentals, and just many holes in the music that you can clearly hear. However, if one were to close their eyes and imagine the magic that is in the music, you can picture Brian directing the songs, rhythmically waving his hands over an orchestra, standing in the studio with a fireman's cap on directing the weird and frightening sounds of the track "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow". The incomplete tracks, rather, give us this haunting sense of incompletion, like a ghost from the past that's soul has never been set free. Not too many know what happened in that studio during the production of this album, but while listening to these tracks, we can imagine what we might see.

Finishing His Masterpiece

In 2004, Brian Wilson took it upon himself to finish this project. For as long as he could remember, his heart had been aching, yearning to finish this album. It was one of the greatest things he had come up with, and many speculate his spiral into depression over the years to be directly attributed to the incomplete album itself. As all great artists, he work tirelessly to get a group together to help him finish the album. Unfortunately, many of the recordings were so mixed up and tapes were missing that it didn't come out complete. When he wrote the original album, the lyrics were written by a friend of his, Van Dye Parks, who had taken his experimental sound back in the late 60s and turned it into something poetic with his lyrics. Now, Brian was more determined than ever to finish what they had started with the project.

On September 28th, 2004, "Brian Wilson presents Smile" was released. Although it was not everything he wanted, it was the closest to the original ideas he had for the album with the Beach Boys. Finally, Wilson could see his dreams becoming a reality after all this time. In February of 2004 at the Royal Festival Hall in London, Wilson performed his album with his band. The world was captivated by the experimental sound, the mixture of beachy sounds and nature, and the extremely beautiful vocals. It has been reported that Wilson took some time to form his band and pick out all of the vocalists for his band, but once he had them, they created a beautiful and dynamic sound. The interesting thing here, too, is that there were some female vocalists in his band at this point, which might not have happened in the original music with The Beach Boys, but the addition of female vocals really gave the album the tone and sound that it needed. Wilson had completed his masterpiece and was proud to finally show it to the world.

The Finished Product

The album cover for Brian Wilson's finished masterpiece, SMILE.

The album cover for Brian Wilson's finished masterpiece, SMILE.


The 2004 album received some backlash from former Beach Boys, namely Mike Love. In an interview, he stated that he felt since the original music was created by the Beach Boys, that they had some ownership and copyright over it. However, it seems the lawsuit did not gain that much traction in the end. In the end, it was apparent that Mike Love's jealousy over Brian's success was just being shoved in Wilson's face once again.

The Future

After his release of Smile, Brian went on to complete five more studio albums, including a special album called "In The Key of Disney" in which Wilson sings classic Disney songs such as "You've Got A Friend in Me", composed by Randy Newman, "Bare Necessities" from The Jungle Book, and "Kiss the Girl" for Disney's The Little Mermaid. Disney believe that the compilation was the perfect mixture between Walt Disney's visions and Wilson's beachy, California sound. Wilson's most recent album, released in 2015, is entitled "No Pier Pressure", again, playing off of that beachy vibe. Wilson has created so much magnificent music over the years, even through all of the emotional and mental struggles in his life. He definitely deserves much recognition for his many contributions to the music industry over the years. In his most recent Twitter post, Wilson reflects on the band's 2017 tour, as well as discussing an upcoming documentary "Long Promised Road".


Brian Wilson's album "Smile" was truly ahead of its time, and the fact that it took so long to produce and finally be heard by the public just speaks volumes to the amount of dedication and hard work that went into his album. Even though it was not released during the time it should have been, fans around the world have gotten to experience this amazing album, and Brian is finally at peace with his music. Who knows what would have happened if this album had come out in the 60s. We might be living in a very, very different world.


Lady Dazy from UK on May 11, 2021:

The Beach Boys made some great records . Their music still sounds great today.

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