The forever frown

More than 30 years later, Smile remains the subject of so much mystery

"Starting next year, we will release all of the albums in their original form," Atkinson insists. "There will also be a number of other releases I can't talk about."

When asked whether Smile is among those other releases, Atkinson chuckles and says only this: "Obviously, Smile is a famous album, and it's true to say we would love to release it. But it's up to Brian Wilson. Let me correct that. It's up to Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys."

If that is the case, then the future is not so promising. In 1995, Brian told Mojo magazine he wants nothing more to do with the aborted project; he considers the music too "passé," better left to the past. In 1988, it was reported in the Los Angeles Herald Examiner and USA Today that Brian had booked time at Capitol Records to finish the disc for a summer 1988 release. Nothing, of course, came of it.

Brian Wilson now...
Brian Wilson now...
...and as he appeared during happier times with the Beach Boys, who would ultimately betray their leader's legacy
...and as he appeared during happier times with the Beach Boys, who would ultimately betray their leader's legacy

Details

December 14, 1999

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Scene, heard:
Dallas Observer Radio

Brian's publicist, Jean Sievers, says he does not even want to talk about Smile -- not now, at least.

"He doesn't get why people want anything to do with Smile," she says. "I'm not going to say someday he won't do anything with it, but he doesn't want anything to do with it right now."

So, for a little while longer, the record will remain unfinished and unreleased -- and in the hands of only the fetishists who are willing to pay nearly $100 for the pleasure of discovering the unheard music.

"Smile is like the girl who got away," says one friend of Brian's. "He had already made the best pop album with Pet Sounds and made the best pop single with 'Good Vibrations.' He was growing exponentially, and Smile was going to be the next step in his evolution. But it was the last time he was Brian Wilson; it was the last time he was in control of his art. There are a million reasons to long for Smile, not the least of which is because it's brilliant."

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