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Domenic Priore is a writer and television producer specializing in pop culture and music. He is the author of Riot on Sunset Strip: Rock 'n' Roll's Last Stand in Hollywood (foreword by Arthur Lee of Love), Beatsville (with Martin McIntosh), Pop Surf Culture: Music, Design, Film and Fashion From the Bohemian Surf Boom (with Brian Chidester) and Smile: The Story of Brian Wilson's Lost Masterpiece (with forewords by Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks). As a result of that project, Domenic wrote the liner notes, sourced photographs and helped sequence the music for The Beach Boys: Smile Sessions box set (Capitol Records), which won the 2013 Grammy for Best Historical Album. He was also the main writer on the AMC documentaries Hollywood Rocks The Movies: The Early Years 1955-1970 (hosted by Ringo Starr) and Hollywood Rocks The Movies: The 1970s (hosted by David Bowie). A Los Angeles native, Priore has returned to SoCal after living in New York City and San Francisco.
Domenic Priore had previously published a curious book called "Look Listen Vibrate Smile" which was in effect a scrapbook of press clippings from the sixties about the "Smile" album. For a while that messy, offbeat primary source collection stood as the only book completely devoted to the subject of the famous lost Beach Boys album, and as such it was woefully insufficient. It has long been hoped that 1.) Brian Wilson would finish his odd masterpiece album and that 2.) somebody would sit down and write a proper, readable, blow-by-blow account of the original album's making - its writing, recording, detailed contents, business wrangling, emotional crack-ups, etc. Hope number 1 was fulfilled in 2004. Hope number 2 has not been fulfilled (though at least Keith Badman's book "The Beach Boys - the definitive diary" gives us a solid chronological overview.) This Priore book is short, spotty and sycophantic. It does not deal with the making of the original album in enough significant detail, though it does address the songwriting aspect a little bit with a few choice quotes from Van Dyke Parks (that is, when you can decipher whatever the heck Van Dyke is trying to say. He really is a convoluted speaker.) The book is filled with the author's own quirky opinions and is not terribly well organized or written, nor does it support many of its assertions with confirmation from more than one source when possible. Most of Brian Wilson's own significant emotional problems and eccentricities are glossed over. Famous "Smile" anecdotes are ignored and not investigated. The photographs included are scant; one might hope for more, especially studio shots which are known to exist. Also absent are many memories and input from musicians who worked on the original album.Read more ›
Smile has taken on almost mythical status over the years. Rivers of ink have been spilled, speculating as to its exact content, its possible impact had it been released, and the circumstances that derailed the project, along with its creator's peace of mind, back in 1967.
In his new book, Smile historian numero uno Domenic Priore de-shrouds the myth and dispels decades of misinformation -- much of it PR spin spewed out by the Beach Boys organization-to deliver the real story of "Brian Wilson's Lost Masterpiece," from its inception in 1966 in the wake of Pet Sounds to its resurrection and final delivery almost 40 years later. The author based his work on interviews with all the main figures, including Van Dyke Parks and Wilson himself, along with an extensive archive of press material. The book includes forewords by both Wilson and Parks, plus a photo section, including many never before published shots.
Priore writes in a passionate but clear-headed style, placing Smile in the larger context of its time and place: the creative ferment of mid-`60s Los Angeles centered on the Sunset Strip. He emphasizes that the album was not, as many have claimed, the work of a troubled loner frying on acid in his living room sandbox, but rather a collaborative effort driven by a musical genius riding a tidal wave of creative inspiration that surged across Southern California in 1965-67.
The erudite Parks provides fascinating insight into the songwriting process of the team, the meanings behind his often elliptical lyrics, and the album's grand theme of Americana. The project's many recording sessions are also covered in detail, as is the creation of album's original cover art by Frank Holmes.Read more ›
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When the author, Domenic Priore, isn't presenting his own outrageous opinions as absolute fact, he's giving incorrect factual information. It also doesn't help that there are several sections in the book where the author exudes attitude and immaturity, such as his rather unnecessary use of the F word. He does know a lot about The Beach Boys, but his sense of context of the music world of the time is where most of his errors creep in. Many of his cases of citing one particular record as the inspiration for another are highly questionable (I'd wager something substantial that neither Roger Waters nor Paul McCartney ever told anyone their bass parts on "See Emily Play" and "Tomorrow Never Knows" were directly inspired by the bassline of The Byrds' "Eight Miles High," yet this book states they were.)
I wouldn't call this book a total bomb. It certainly presents some interesting quotes from the 'Smile' crew and scenesters of the day, but I urge any readers to be wary of any factual tidbits contained within. I personally would love to see noted rock writer Richie Unterbeger write about 'Smile.' He always has a keen sense of historical perspective, and is more trustworthy that Priore.
Obviously many people expected a book in the vein of The Making of Pet Sounds, which was very good, but this is a different kind of book - much like Smile is a different kind of album. Pet Sounds has been for over 30 years my favorite album and will remain so, but Smile (in its original form) is a close contender. Count me among the many who have been patiently awaiting the "Smile Boxed Set" but were overjoyed that Brian finally finished it with the help of Van Dyke Parks. I saw the live show at Disney Concert Hall and it was incredible!
As to Domenic Priore's book, I believe it was essential to shed some background on the music and cultural scene of the times to contextualize the making of SMiLE. And it IS a fascinating story, well-told. It's too bad that Mike Love, Al Jardine and Bruce Johnston have chosen not to be interviewed about the project. That said, Priore has talked to lots of people involved in the original, as well as the principals, Brian and Van Dyke, and I HIGHLY recommend this book to any fan of Brian, the Beach Boys, and particularly SMiLE.
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