Re: Beach Boys!
Posted: Fri Jun 09, 2017 5:50 pm
Oliver Judd wrote:I tried uploading 3971 about a year ago with no luck... it got taken down within the hour. Youtube's odd like that.
That's a major shame. Thanks for the comment. I won't even bother then.
Re: Beach Boys!
Posted: Fri Feb 09, 2018 2:47 am
Responding to an interview request (for a book!) about my 2012 edit of SMiLE, the 3971 edit:
My father is a hard-right conservative, and I'm definitely not, I'm the opposite of that, but he raised me with sort of an old-fashioned sense of what music is. Not as old-fashioned as it would be now! This was in the 80s and 90s, and he really loved the early rock music of the 50s and 60s. It was all a lot more doo-wop than psychedelic. I heard more of the early Beatles and Beach Boys than their later, more experimental or bluesy stuff. He even used to get out an old hand-cranked Victrola which played 78 records from the 30s and 40s, and play those. Hank Williams Sr. He liked Elvis, Carl Perkins, Little Richard, Dion, Bing Crosby, Phil Spector.
So I was growing up in the 80s without much idea of what had happened in music in the 70s, but I knew the early 60s very well. And I loved the Beach Boys. I knew the early songs about surfing and girls and cars. I knew Pet Sounds. I didn't know what had happened with SMiLE, and that was something I learned about much later. And that fascinated me, that Brian had gone into this experimental direction and wanted to make a little masterpiece of an album, and he wasn't able to do it. That Mike Love and some of the others didn't support him in it. That Brian was going through a lot psychologically, and that trying out psychedelic drugs had maybe been a bad match for him. That his mental health would really crash in the 70s, and the failure to finish SMiLE would haunt everyone as this great lost album. There's a lot of tragedy to that.
In the 80s and 90s, and still to an extent today, Mike Love and the band had really reinvented themselves as a nostalgia factory, as "America's Band." They'd play the old hits about surfing and cars, and were very square, like Mike and Bruce are. And you forget that they were ever the band that made stuff like "Feel Flows." If you go through the post-SMiLE albums, most of which were not very successful at the time, there's a lot of weak tracks and a lot that are incredible. When I did that edit of SMiLE I also made a disc for myself which was my favorite tracks from the later Beach Boy albums.
But I know that around 2002, when I was in college, I still loved The Beach Boys from childhood but was kind of embarrassed about them too because I thought of them as corny. And I had a girlfriend at the time who would just say, "Brian Wilson was a genius." I thought she meant she just loved the Beach Boys, but she wanted to be a rock critic and that was the consensus on Brian. And Pet Sounds is great of course but beyond that you had to do a little digging to know why Brian was regarded like that, as this great genius who fell apart for awhile.
So in 2004, Brian Wilson puts out his new version of the SMiLE album, and it gets perfect reviews all across the board. And it was such a triumphant moment for him, to be able to reclaim this masterpiece of his in a form that people could really just enjoy and understand as an album.
Back in the original SMiLE sessions he'd purposely recorded a lot of stuff where he was just experimenting, and the technology of the time would have made it hard to put it all together right, so it's always been this sort of puzzle that people want to figure out. They want to know exactly what the album would have been, and there is no one hundred percent correct answer to that, but the 2004 album is as good an answer as any. Maybe Brian doesn't have the greatest memory about all that but it was all about finishing the unfinished tracks and solving the puzzle of what that album could have been based on what was recorded back then.
The other tragedy of it is that Brian had the voice of an angel back then, and by 2004 that voice was long gone. Brian loved The Four Freshmen, and The Beach Boys were this incredible close harmony barbershop group when they wanted to be. This very square, old-fashioned harmony which was so stunningly beautiful.
You go back to those original SMiLE-era sessions in 66-67 and it's some of the best stuff the group ever did. Good Vibrations and Heroes and Villains obviously, for a start. When you listen to Smiley Smile, it's a scary, depressing album that sounds like Brian had just given up. It's a bad trip. But most of the major SMiLE session tracks had been released by that time, so I could listen to the Purple Chick bootleg album, or whatever, and get a good sense of what the album could have been like in a 1967 version. And it sounds beautiful in a way that the 2004 version can't match for the obvious reasons. It's also very obviously unfinished while the 2004 album sounds like a finished piece, a complete thought.
So I think for a lot of people, the finished, perfect version of SMiLE as an album doesn't actually exist, but it exists in our heads because we've heard the 60s sessions, and we've heard the 2004 version, and our minds can fill in the blanks.
The thing about me is, I'm an artist and I'm a filmmaker, and as a hobby I've always done film restoration, on an unofficial basis. This is because I love a lot of obscure films and TV shows and whatnot that are hard to find now. Maybe they're things I grew up with, or works by a filmmaker I admire. And they're things I wish more people could watch and enjoy, but maybe you can't get them on video in their original form, or at all. So as a hobby I try to track down these rare things and restore them, put them back together if I need to. I spent eight years restoring a film called The Thief and the Cobbler. It's a film by Richard Williams, who animated Who Framed Roger Rabbit and won three Oscars. A lot of people think he's the greatest animator alive and he literally wrote the book on how to animate well. But he spent thirty years trying to make one feature film and he never got to finish it. Warner Bros financed it after Roger Rabbit but they got cold feet and took it away from him. It never got finished. So I spent years tracking down the original animators and as much material as I could, and made this unofficial version, the Recobbled Cut, which is a cult favorite in the animation world now.
I took a lot of liberties with that edit, because I was creating new stuff and combining radically different versions of the same film which weren't intended to go together. If you're the original director, maybe what I'm doing is sacrilege but the goal is to make the most watchable version of the movie possible, under the circumstances of its very strange production.
Now if they were to hire me officially, to make a version of The Thief and the Cobbler for Blu-Ray, it would be a very different edit I think, because you'd have to be respectful of the director's wishes, and there would be rules and legalities and you wouldn't mix versions so much and there would be a lot of things you Just Don't Do. It might be just as good an edit, but it would be very different, and less finished looking. But this was my hobby, so I could just do what I felt was best for the film, and make the version I wanted to see.
In 2007 and 2008 I shot a low budget feature about the Marvel superhero the She-Hulk, where she's making a feature film about herself, and wondering how best to tell her story, and worried that if she makes a bad movie she'll ruin her career. I didn't ask for permission, we just did it.
So SMiLE, the 3971 Edit, was a quick project I did, to put together the version of SMiLE that I wanted to hear myself. In October 2011, the SMiLE Sessions box set came out, and I found the whole thing really exciting, so I was back to listening to SMiLE and thinking about it a lot. And obviously the 66-67 sessions are unfinished, and the 2004 album is revisionist with an older Brian, so both versions are going to fall short of what the original album could have been.
I was also used to Purple Chick and other bootlegs, and the SMiLE Sessions versions were different - often better and occasionally worse for me. I think we all have our own preferred versions of these tracks that we like to hear. The Sessions version of Vega-tables is definitive I think, and it was full of surprising bits like in My Only Sunshine.
But they were also limited in what they could do, a little bit, because they have to play by certain rules. They made a big deal out of releasing the album in mono, because Brian is half deaf. I think we'd all prefer stereo, but they really pushed the mono version. That was also true of the Beatles remasters. All those Beatles albums could sound incredible if they'd remix them from scratch digitally, but the surviving Beatles and the estates all get their say so when they rerelease those albums they have to play by the rules. So usually you just get the same albums remastered, not remixed at all.
I think in a professional context, if you were actually releasing this stuff on CD, it would be pretty ridiculous and sacriligious to cut back and forth between the original SMiLE Sessions and the 2004 recording. Absurd. It's completely different musicians, different recordings, different decades, a different Brian. And you're crossfading back and forth. You'd never get away with it.
But that's exactly what I wanted to hear, so I did it. I wanted to hear the whole thing in stereo, and I wanted to include anything important from the 2004 recording that doesn't exist in the 60s sessions. Using vocals from the older Brian lent a certain haunting poignancy to the whole thing. I also wanted to mess around with 60s recordings that the 2004 tracklist didn't bother with, like He Gives Speeches/She's Going Bald, Cool Cool Water, Little Pad, You're Welcome and so on, even if just as bonus tracks.
1967 + 2004 = 3971.
The 2004 album really shows the ambition of the piece, that it's experimental and old-fashioned at the same time, and a pretty well thought out history of the United States and of American music generally. I guess they really were "America's Band." Weaving all that back into the superior 60s sessions makes for pleasant listening.
I was at an internet forum called Smiley Smile at the time, and a user called Bruiteur had just used software to isolate Brian's 60s demo vocals from Barnyard and Great Shape, taking out the piano sounds. So this could be placed over the 2004 instrumentation. I also used Bruiteur's "Wonderful," which married the 60s vocal to the 2004 instruments. And I used other work that others had done which made the whole thing easier.
It's not impossible that an official release could do something a little bit like this, but you couldn't just fade from version to version like I did.
And it felt at the time like there was a lot of resistance to doing this at that forum. A lot of "you can't do that." I was pleasantly surprised, when you contacted me, to Google the 3971 edit and discover a lot of people talking about it six years later and calling it their favorite version of the album. Somehow it's still online, and while that's technically illegal I'd assume that everyone downloading this edit has the SMiLE Sessions and the 2004 album in some form legally already.
I'm glad you liked it, and thanks for listening.