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why the beach boys matter



A Close Listen


Side Two, Track Five:



Listened to one way, each side of Smiley Smile starts with the big hit and riffs off of that for the rest of the tracks. Listened to another way, the whole album is building towards "Wonderful."


Unlike the other chunks of Smile reworked onto this album, "Wonderful" exists in all versions as a complete narration. The Smiley version gets extended by the "hey bob a re bob/live party noise" interlude at around one minute and 20 seconds. This makes the story in the song more substantial, adding length and a bit of dramatic tension, especially as contrast to the breathy, intimate Smiley style vocals ala "Wind Chimes" that obtain ultimate breathy intimacy here, and do not appear on Smile.


In fact, "Wonderful" makes use of most of the sonic effects previously established on this particular and unusual recording. The organ drone returns to underscore and then conclude the first two thirds to be replaced by a piano in the final verse. The beginning harmony choral "wonderful" distorts a bit ala "She's Goin Bald," but in a pretty way. The final na, na, na, na, na, na, nas are sung with the care and precision a la "Little Pad" of a benediction. Which they are. An impact only possible within Smiley's less is more aesthetic.


These strategies are not for the most part commonly in use by the Beach Boys at this stage of their career, or really ever. Those extra-intimate vocals and subtle but peculiar production effects don't work on stage in concert, nor on late '60s or early '70s radio. So it's hard to imagine this version of "Wonderful" having this powerful an impact if encountered for the first time anywhere outside of, or even not at the conclusion of, Smiley Smile. The rest of the album becomes the preparation.


The song itself has an understandable, if pleasantly mysterious, plot line: a sort of spiritual and physical coming of age story. Our heroine leaves home, experiences the hey bob a re bob/ live party noise interlude, and returns home "in love with her liberty, never known as a non-believer" A happy ending!


Maybe she's also the female featured in "Good Vibrations" and "With Me Tonight." Maybe not. But she's of a piece of them artistically. And so the album internally resolves itself, as all great albums must.


Side Two, Track Six:

Whistle In