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SMiLE vs Sgt Peppers....Who Do You Love?

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Showing 1-25 of 122 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 5, 2012 1:45:08 PM PST
EvenSteven says:
Both monumental lp's recorded in 67 & both ground breaking in their own way.....which do you feel is the better "concept" record?

For my money, I am "all in" on SMiLE by the Beach Boys (finally released 44 years after Pepper....thanks Capitol!).

The Beach Boys & Van Dyke Parks just "up'd the anti" on SMiLE in a number of different ways.
1st - overal concept is consistant throughout SMiLE (charting the musical course of americana & that's just on the surface)
2- The brilliant arrangement, composition & complete musical fireworks as provided by the "wrecking crew"
3- The most out of this world harmonies by the beach boys to date
4- The recording techniques being used by Brian Wilson were at the time & to this day are"ground breaking"

& this coming from someone who likes "Sgt Pepper"

Your thoughts?

Posted on Jan 5, 2012 9:13:47 PM PST
If this was a Pet Sounds vs. Sgt. Pepper I would have trouble coming to a conclusion but Smile never lived up to the hype(at least the versions I have heard). Good vibrations is one of the greatest songs ever written/recorded but then again so is A day in the life. I would say Sgt. Pepper wins hands down in terms of songs, recording, lyrics.

Posted on Jan 5, 2012 10:02:06 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 5, 2012 10:06:34 PM PST
I concur enthusiastically with EvenSteven's four numbered points. But it's difficult for me to pick a single winner---after all, Pet Sounds, Smile, and Sgt. Pepper are the first three through-composed albums ever written.

Smile's performances are probably the high point of the Beach Boys' achievement, but Smile remains, for me, somewhat less endearing and less overtly accessible than Pet Sounds. So, for the BB it's still Pet Sounds. But is that great album better than Sgt Pepper? I don't think so. As good, or very nearly as good? Yes, I'd say that.

Posted on Jan 6, 2012 12:12:38 AM PST
Bernard J. says:
Was 'Smile' a full on group effort, with the music as well as singing?
Or was it very much Wilson and session players, as 'Pet Sounds' was?

At least 'Pepper' was a full on group effort, even though some other players were present.

Posted on Jan 6, 2012 1:02:02 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 6, 2012 1:06:25 AM PST
This is all IMO, of course:

As albums, "Smile" and "Sgt.Pepper" are very, very close in quality. Songs, production, innovation etc.--I give them both a full, five-star "A" grade rating, and both are in my top 40 all-time greatest albums list ("Pepper" at #6, "Smile" at #34). Even though "Smile" was never fully completed, so it's not a fully equal comparison (the 2011 reconstruction is as close as it gets, but even then is still just 85-90% complete). From what we have, though, I'd give "Pepper" the nudge but only just.

As for which album works better as a "concept", per EvenSteven's original question, I'd give the nudge to "Smile". Its three distinct sections are very clearly delineated and each song contributes directly to the theme of the section it is in. Sgt.Pepper's songs are mostly disparate, but tied together by the concert conceit introduced in the first two songs and the title track reprise. The conceit works brilliantly, but the songs on "Smile" are a lot more integrated with each other. The Beach Boys weren't the first to create such a detailed concept work, though--The Mothers Of Invention's "Absolutely Free", recorded at the same time (and which actually saw release!), is divided into two very detailed conceptual suites on each side. And predating both, The Kinks' "Face To Face" is a pretty clear song cycle tracing the rise and fall of the UK upper classes. It wasn't called a "concept album" when it was released, but in retrospect it's pretty clear that's what it was. "Pet Sounds" is an early song-cycle type of effort but it's more just an album of interwoven themes like "Rubber Soul", its clear influence, than anything overt.

The first rock album to go beyond a concept and actually tell a narrative story, however, was Nirvana's "The Story Of Simon Simopath" in 1967, followed by side two of The Small Faces' "Ogden's Nut Gone Flake" in 1968 and finally the full-blown rock operas "SF Sorrow" and "Tommy" soon after those.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 6, 2012 3:58:59 AM PST
Ryan Rowland says:
"Group effort" doesn't matter in this situation, the quality of the music does. Just the same, the actual Beach Boys play a variety of instruments on several tracks on both Smile and Pet Sounds. Their live albums prove they were extremely competent musicians, it was just a matter of preference for Brian Wilson.

Smile wins hands down, imo.

Posted on Jan 6, 2012 5:36:16 AM PST
I like SMILE. But Sgt. Pepper is better.

Posted on Jan 6, 2012 7:08:53 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 6, 2012 7:11:27 AM PST
Eddie H. says:
This is tough BUT, but there is about 25 minutes on Smile from Wonderful to Surf's Up which I feel is completely mind blowing and Sgt Pepper doesn't have that....with that said Sgt Peppers is also a phenomenal album, but, to me that 25 minutes is one of the greatest pieces of music I have ever heard, period, let alone Good Vibration, Wind Chimes, Heroes and Villians,whew...If this album came out when it was supposed to we wouldn't be having this discussion!

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 6, 2012 7:58:56 AM PST
onsenkuma says:
In some ways it's tough to compare the two, because only those who heard bootlegs of 'Smile' have had much idea of the album's sound until this official release while (most) of the rest of the world has been inundated with Beatles music year in and year out for what feels like forever. It's hard to hear Sgt Pepper with the same sense of wonder it inspired back when.

I personally give Smile the edge simply because Brian Wilson was pretty daring in creating a work that owed so little to the conventional rock and pop sounds of the day. And, it hangs together better as a single piece of work - has more of what Zappa referred to as conceptual continuity - maybe because its 'theme' was better planned from the outset. Had Smile been released in '67 it would either have had a profound impact on music or else simply have left a lot of listeners scratching their heads. One way or the other though, just about everybody - especially musicians - would have sat up and taken notice. Brian Wilson managed to create two musical masterpieces in the space of as many years. It's too bad that his state of mind and other circumstances left Smile shelved for so many years.

Posted on Jan 6, 2012 10:04:45 AM PST
TC says:
Sgt. Pepper's wins in my opinion.

Posted on Jan 6, 2012 1:47:34 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 6, 2012 1:49:24 PM PST
@onsenkuma: you make a very good point re: "Smile" sounding relatively fresh due to much of its material not having been released for 45 years, vs. "Pepper" being overplayed ad nauseum over the decades. There's a reason people's jaws dropped when they first heard "Pepper" back in '67: it wasn't like anything anybody had ever heard, and it just synched so perfectly with the spirit of the age. I'm sure the same would have happened with "Smile", or at least some of its songs, had it been released on time.

Posted on Jan 6, 2012 10:33:36 PM PST
I don't know how you could compare them. Smile is a bunch of clips that never came to fruition, and Pepper was a fully realized album.

Posted on Jan 6, 2012 11:20:11 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 7, 2012 4:54:40 PM PST
Hinch says:
I like SGT PEPPER way more than SMILE by The Beach Boys. Actually, I was listening to Brian's version of SMILE tonight, for the first time in a while, and I like it much more than The BB's version. I don't know why. I plan to listen to the BB again and see if I change my mind.

Posted on Jan 6, 2012 11:21:37 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 7, 2012 4:54:01 PM PST
Hinch says:
I like SGT PEPPER way more than SMILE by The Beach Boys. Actually, I was listening to Brian's version of SMILE tonight, for the first time in a while, and I like it much more than The BB's version. I don't know why. I plan to listen to the BB again and see if I change my mind.

Posted on Jan 7, 2012 10:39:49 AM PST
Working Man says:
Sgt. Pepper.

Posted on Jan 8, 2012 4:41:20 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 8, 2012 4:54:21 PM PST
Shining Star says:
Smile - I wish Brian had finished it back in 1967, with or without The Beach Boys, as it would have been the perfect follow up to "Pet Sounds". I have read about the troubles Brian was encountering from family, friends, the other band members (Mike Love especially) as well as the record company during the recording sessions for "Smile". It seems that those around him truly didn't understand the genius they were dealing with and how truly game changing his vision was to be. He was about to take The Beach Boys, rock music and the record label to another level IMO and they just couldn't see it.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 8, 2012 6:13:26 PM PST
Awesome point. Many Progressive Rock fans own a copy of Pet Sounds as their only Beach Boys album. Pet Sounds and Frank Zappas debut were the greatest influences for Sgt. Peppers. Beatles Sgt. Peppers and Pink Floyds Piper took engineering and recording techniques to another level. I love all these albums and say thanks to all these artists for their contributions.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 8, 2012 6:38:43 PM PST
Shining Star says:
I agree, there are so many things that go into making a wonderful album and sometimes I think it's taken for granted that all you have to do is write a bunch of songs, go in a studio somewhere and just record them. The technical side of music is extremely important and recording techniques can truly make or break an album.

Posted on Jan 9, 2012 6:21:22 PM PST
Ryan Rowland says:
"Smile is a bunch of clips that never came to fruition"

Hate this misconception, honestly. The absolute biggest question marks in the Smile story are "The Elements" (which was truly never completed sans the "Fire" section) and "Heroes And Villains", given the wealth of sections written and recorded for it. Still, Brian DID complete an "I give up" single version of that's still pretty good.

Otherwise, not really. "Good Vibrations" was completed and issued, "Wonderful", "Wind Chimes", and "Our Prayer" were basically complete, "Surf's Up" was completely written but partially unrecorded, "Vega-Tables" was finished and structured but never got a proper edit, and "Do You Like Worms?", "Cabinessence", "Child Is Father Of The Man", were complete but just needed a lead vocal. The linking sections were mostly complete.

People speak like it was just Brian recording 15 second snippets with no intent or purpose, yet he was only working on a very specific 13 or 14 songs during the session, with about 99% of the sections were fleshed out and intended for a specific song, with most of them having proper designation in the song sequences before the project collapsed.

Even if had been "just fragments", the quality far surpasses Sgt.Peppers, to me, complete or not.

Posted on Jan 9, 2012 8:27:05 PM PST
Ryan, you basically spelled out in more detail than I could, exactly what I was saying. So 3 complete songs, and many incomplete ones. Never placed in any kind of order, never released.

Pepper was conceived, completed, sequenced, pressed and delivered. The vision of Smile can only be presumed.

Posted on Jan 9, 2012 10:57:47 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 9, 2012 10:59:37 PM PST
@Ryan Rowland: actually, "Cabinessence" had its vocal and was complete. The version on "20/20" was with a re-recorded '68 vocal, but the one on the 2011 "Smile" reconstruction was the original 1966 take. The compilers of "Smile" were proud to state that everything you hear on the 2011 version was taken exclusively from the original 66/67 sessions.

@Music Luver: um, no, incorrect. These songs were COMPLETE: "Our Prayer", "Barnyard", "The Old Master Painter/You Are My Sunshine", "Cabinessence", "Wonderful", "Vegetables", "Wind Chimes", "Mrs.O'Leary's Cow (Fire)", "Good Vibrations". That's *nine* songs. Of the rest, almost all were 90% done, they basically needed either some final editing (ie. "Heroes And Villains"--although as Ryan mentioned there *was* one completed single mix of the song done in Jan '67), or a final lead vocal ("Do You Like Worms?", "Holidays", etc). Then a running order had to be devised. And that's it.

I was actually somewhat surprised at just how close "Smile" actually was to completion when I heard the 2011 "Smile" reconstruction (you *do* know that the album was finally released last year, right?). Other than a few missing lead vocals on three or so of the tracks, the pieces were all there, just waiting to be compiled together. Now, it's true--"Pepper" actually *was* completed and released at the time. But "Smile" was very nearly done before it was abandoned, it wasn't just an unfinished jumble of jigsaw-puzzle pieces as many believed. Some of the pieces still needed to be fitted in place, but overall I found the 2011 release very satisfying, and only in a couple places did the work feel unfinished (ie. in the absence of lead vocals on a few tracks).

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 10, 2012 4:23:51 AM PST
Ryan Rowland says:
Mr.Luver - Fair 'nough. I still sez Smile is the more interesting/well-written work, but that's just me.

Mr.Topper - Carl's "Cabinessence" lead vocal in the verse is actually the 1968 take. No 66/67 vocal was known to exist for it, although it is the original melody/lyrics and Carl was intended to sing it. Several things you hear on the 2011 Smile sessions release post-date Smile's proper end. "Surf's Up", for instance, utilized parts of Carl's 1971 vocal arrangement and lead vocal, as well as the 1971 version ending.

Posted on Jan 10, 2012 2:58:20 PM PST
@Ryan Rowland: that's not what I heard. I have a friend who knows someone who was involved in the reconstruction and according to him, they found a '66 vocal for "Cabinessence" (I guess if you look hard enough...). For "Surf's Up", they used Brian's original demo vocal to overlay on the first few verses where Carl re-recorded the vocal in '71 (you can hear clear differences between the two versions). The ending of "Surf's Up" I'm not sure about--it certainly sounds identical to the '71 version, which was supposed to have been a new '71 vocal arrangement of their "Child Is Father Of The Man" theme. But the people who worked on the 2011 version were adamant and very proud of the fact that they were able to find everything they needed from the original sessions--perhaps they superimposed the vocal harmonies from the original '66 CIFOTM (which sound pretty similar) onto the end of the reconstructed "Surf's Up" to replicate the '71 version?

Posted on Jan 11, 2012 9:18:44 AM PST
Ryan Rowland says:
I don't recall any statements that everything was vintage 66/67. I know for a fact that "Surf's Up" utilized Carl's 71 vocal during the first "Canvass the town" section as stated by Mark Linett in a recent audio interview. Even if he hadn't, one need only listen to both versions. Just as well, numerous parts of the vocal arrangement and the entirety of the tag ending are also from 1971.

"Cabinessence" is the same - no verse vocal was thought to be done in '66 or '67, nor is Dennis' "Truck drivin' man" vocal on the original 66/67 tracks. The '68 vocal doesn't even exist anymore - they had to utilize a full mixdown for the verses of that one. The vocals for "Look" are taken from the 1971 "Surf's Up", "I Love To Say Da Da" utilizes pitch-shifted scatting from "Cool Cool Water" (only finished released in 1970), the tag of "Holidays" uses badly pitch-shifted vocals from the Smiley Smile version of "Wind Chimes", etc. etc. etc.

Maybe there was confusion on your friends part, hearing that all tracks were "vintage" meaning they were done by the Beach Boys back in the 60s and 70s and no recent overdubs were put down?

Posted on Jan 11, 2012 10:46:25 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 11, 2012 5:36:30 PM PST
@RyanRowland: I'm not sure about "Look", "Love To Say Da Da" and "Holidays", that certainly raises more questions. But I can clearly hear differences in the vocal between the '71 "Surf's Up" and the 2011 version, in the first few verses. My friend claimed it was taken from the original demo, the same one used for the middle portion. If you heard Linett say differently, my friend could be wrong, but he claimed to know someone involved on the project. Plus I definitely hear a difference, especially during the "columnated ruins domino" line. But my friend wasn't confused, he specified to me that they were using nothing but the original 66/67 sessions and specifically pointed out that "Surf's Up" was not the '71 vocal. But *he* may have got wrong what his friend told him...I got my info twice removed, so it may be the hoary 'ol ear-whisper game rearing its head.
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Initial post:  Jan 5, 2012
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