Pet Sounds was elaborate and orchestral. Pet Sounds was rock and roll, but it was different. It was made to be heard, not to be danced to. Many people wondered how the Beach Boys, notorious for their particularly shallow brand of poppy rock and roll with messages rarely going deeper than cute girls and surfing, had composed such a work of art. What had happened is that Brian had stepped back from touring with the band (and would rarely ever return again) to spend his time on composing. Working with lyricist Tony Asher, Brian composed what he considers a solo album in all but name.
|Brian Wilson (left) and Mike Love (right) in the studio|
during the "Pet Sounds" sessions
Now Brian had the attention of the people, with mixed messages being thrown his way. The fans of earlier works by the Beach Boys were alienated, but an entirely new crowd of listeners was coming forward to hear what was next. The Beatles, who Brian has identified as the single largest source of his insecurity as a musician, immediately began work on an album to save face after the Beach Boys of all people had done something they had never come close to doing (which would become Sgt Pepper's). The old fans wanted the old music. The band wanted the old music. The new fans wanted more. Brian announced that there would be more.
Brian announced SMiLE, the album that he expected would blow Pet Sounds out of the water. The band was not pleased. As the band toured without him, Brian again went into a composing phase. They would periodically come by and record tracks for him, but none of it made sense. They would ask to listen to pieces, but what they heard was hardly music as they knew it. Brian is driven by those around him. He is hyper-aware and paranoid. The new fans wanted more, and he reached toward this source of stimuli for his writing. Now the old fans, his band, and his label lost faith in him, demanding a return to the band's (profitable) roots. Stretched in both directions, Wilson began to wear thin.
Mentally ill, damaged by years of drug use, and now in an extremely stressed and helpless position, Brian Wilson's mental breakdown came as no surprise. When Wilson was nearly done working on SMiLE, the Beatles released Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Wilson heard it, and he broke down. In his fragile State, he believed that Sgt Pepper's had beaten him to the punch on all of his ideas that he had considered revolutionary, and he ceased all work on SMiLE. He became bedridden for around 3 years, contributing minimally to anything in his life, and his continual downhill spiral would eventually lead to his ejection from the Beach Boys (after his band released a few lackluster albums scraped together using unfinished SMiLE session recordings and their own less-than-impressive compositional skills).
Wilson, motivated by his need to prove something about his ability, and his need to please those around him, eventually doomed himself. He tied himself to the dock and set sail. After decades of SMiLE living in infamy, almost as a legend among the musical community, Brian eventually got his mind together enough to release SMiLe in 2004 (under his own name rather than as a Beach Boys album). Many people criticize this move. Wilson himself has admitted that the album differs from his original vision substantially, and anybody can hear that Brian's voice is not what it used to be. In 2011 the original SMiLE sessions were released in their entirety, to critical acclaim. The world may never know what SMiLE would have sounded like, or what it would have done to the world had it been released in its intended time.
|Original planned album art, used in the 2011 sessions release|
Collins, M. A., & Amabile, T. M. (1999). Motivation and creativity. In Robert J. Sternberg (Ed.)Handbook of Creativity.New York: Cambridge University Press.