Michael Anton’s fine essay on the Beach Boys, California culture, and the SMiLE Sessions album is now available on the Claremont Review of Books website. On the merits of SMiLE, compare and contrast his take with my Songbook essay, The SMiLE that Wasn’t.
He doesn’t quite admit that it would have been a failure as pop music even had it been released, although he reminds us that its “Heroes and Villains,” which was released, failed as single. And Anton does not hear what I think I do, that SMiLE did not really achieve what classical composition fairly regularly does. Of course, he has the witness of Wilson himself, Paul McCartney, and even Leonard Bernstein on his side, but I’m stickin’ to my guns.