SMiLE: Heroes and Villains Mix

In 1966, hot off recording “Pet Sounds” and with The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in hot pursuit, Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys joined forces with Van Dyke Parks to begin constructing what would later be referred to by many as one of the most famous unfinished recordings in history. Originally envisioned as a loving homage to Americana, it featured chanting Native Americans, bar brawls, barbershop quartets, a coast-to-coast motorcycle trip, enlightenment, and some good, good vibrations resulting in what can only be referred to as a teenage symphony to God.

The musical fruits of that year of recording would never see true completion, however. Upon the rest of The Beach Boys returning from their tour the atmosphere cultivating the project turned sour. Specifically, one particular band member, Mike Love, incessantly harassed Parks and his contributions, allegedly driving Parks to quit the project altogether1. This, combined with Love’s further dismissive and harsh comments towards the new material, shattered Brian’s already fragile mental state. The project quickly fell apart afterwards.

It would take decades of struggling with increasing mental problems and drug abuse following those events for Brian, with the support of family and friends, to have the courage to pick up the pieces and finally release the symphony to the world (or at least an approximation of what it would have been like had he and Parks been allowed to complete it).

The closest we’ll ever get to an official compilation with the originally recorded material is 2011’s Smile Sessions. While this is a treat to hear and special in its own right, this is only one possible way to interpret and piece together the literal 75+ hours of unique audio recorded from that era, and I felt there was some alternative arrangements I could make to further enhance the experience.


Whenever possible, I ensured that my audio was sourced from legendary audio engineer soniclovenoize’s 2018 reconstruction. Soniclovenoize is renowned for his work on “Albums That Never Were”, where he crafted dozens of loving reconstructions of famously unreleased albums, including none other than The Beach Boys’ own SMiLE. While he made many tasteful arrangement changes from Smile Sessions on his own reconstruction of the Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE track order (which will be covered in detail below alongside my own changes), what’s arguably most notable about his reconstruction is his handmade, all-stereo remasters of the source material. They’re stunning, breathing new life into the otherwise flat, dull mastered tracks as presented on Smile Sessions. Soniclovenoize’s tremendous contributions both to this community and to this remix cannot be understated.


Upon setting out to make my own mix, I first had to establish what core principles I’d apply with this project, which are covered below.

1) Elevate “Heroes and Villains”

This was the primary reason I set out to do this project. To be blunt, every other arrangement of the track I’ve heard disappoints me, typically by failing to properly leverage the tremendous pool of varied and captivating material available from the original production. In this way, I see “Heroes and Villains” as a sister track to “Good Vibrations” at the tail of the record; they both resulted in a staggering amount of recorded material from their respective sessions, suggesting that “Heroes and Villains” was intended to be every bit as grand as “Good Vibrations”. Yet despite this, every arrangement of the track forces “Heroes and Villains” to an insultingly traditional song structure, leaving little wiggle room for the delightful deviations and texture changes we enjoy on “Good Vibrations”. With this mix, I set out to finally right this wrong and elevate “Heroes and Villains” as the rightful cornerstone of record’s first half and earning it the title of the mix.

2) Closely Emulate Smile Session’s Structure

I decided to closely emulate the Smile Sessions track order and general structure with no hesitation. While many members of the SMiLE fan community take issue with some of the foundational decisions made on the Smile Sessions arrangements, I personally find the theatrical pacing and dedication to leaving nothing on the proverbial cutting room floor endlessly charming. As a result, I not only chose Smile Sessions as my starting point, but also leaned as hard into the theatrical aspect as I possibly could by making most song transitions gapless.

3) Ignore Preserving Historical Accuracy

This is somewhat related to the second goal, as most agree if SMiLE did actually end up getting finished with a proper release during its original production it wouldn’t have been anything like the theatrical double-album that was Smile Sessions. From the start, historical accuracy was something I made it a point to ignore in this project. This is partially because—as mentioned before—I personally gravitate towards the overstuffed presentation found on Smile Sessions, but also because this has already been masterfully accomplished by soniclovenoize with his SMiLE (1967) Mix. If historical accuracy is of utmost importance to you in your SMiLE reconstructions, this mix is not for you, and look no further than SMiLE (1967).


What follows is an excruciating deep dive into the differences in SMiLE: Heroes and Villains Mix compared to SMiLE Sessions strictly with respect to segment ordering. There are in fact a staggering list of mastering differences attributed entirely to using soniclovenoize’s outstanding stereo remasters throughout the project, but since this mix was strictly focused on arrangement changes, they’re being omitted here for brevity. If you’re interested in also reading the mastering change log, see soniclovenoize’s extensively detailed blog posts at “Albums That Never Were”.

  1. “Our Prayer”: No change
  2. “Gee”: No change
  3. “Heroes and Villains”: Starts the same as in Smile Sessions, but permanently deviates after completion of the “Peace In the Valley” segment.
    • We first continue directly to the “Cantina” segment.
    • After completion of the “Cantina” segment, the alternative, up-tempo “Children Were Raised” segment is used instead of the gentler “Remake” cut used on Smile Sessions, allowing the energetic pace to comfortably continue.
    • The “At Three-Score and Five” pickup comes in next to bridge the end of the “Children Were Raised” segment to the next part.
    • From there, we move on to the a cappella verse from the boys, controversially applied in tandem with the instrumental accompaniment to help maintain the energy built up thus far, until finally the energy rests for a spell as the a cappella fades.
    • The song explodes back to life with the introduction of the energetic “Animals” segment.
    • The pace gently eases back down again with the “Bridge to Indians” vocal fade.
    • Finally, the long awaited “Sunny Down Snuff” segment appears.
    • For the last verse, I opted to fly in the last verse from Smiley Smile’s cut to help signal a change while still keeping the third verse fresh.
    • As the reverb from end of the last verse still sounds, the twee “Mission Pak” vocal flourish from the boys is used to welcome in the classic “Prelude to Fade” ending segment.
  4. “Do You Like Worms?”: Appears mostly as arranged by soniclovenoize, whose segment order deviates slightly from the version on Smile Sessions.
    • Following the first appearance of the “Bicycle Rider” interlude, we get the “Just See What You’ve Done” segment instead of the Indian chant herd on the original cut.
    • During the second appearance of the “Bicycle Rider” interlude, the Indian chant finally makes its appearance as simple accompaniment to the chorus.
    • When soniclovenoize’s arrangement ends, the “Bicycle Rider” motif continues in spirit with “Piano Theme” from the “Heroes and Villains” sessions in an effort to channel something akin to scene transition instrumentals one may hear in musicals while the crew turns over the stage for the next scene.
  5. “I’m In Great Shape”: Despite little surviving material to work with, this sees a number of substantial changes from the Smile Sessions arrangement.
    • The track eases gently in from the “Piano Theme” with the softer “I’m In Great Shape” instrumental cut from early on in the session.
    • This transitions seamlessly to the “I’m In Great Shape” cut as it’s arranged on Smile Sessions.
    • After the typical end of “I’m In Great Shape”, the a cappella vocal from “Part 4” of the “Heroes and Villains” sessions is used, again intending to invoke something of a “scene change” to the next track.
    • “Whistling Bridge”—again from the “Heroes And Villains” sessions—appears at the very end to seamlessly bring “Barnyard” in.
  6. “Barnyard”: No change
  7. “The Old Master Painter”: Soniclovenoize’s mix, which mostly appears as it does in Smile Sessions except for the ending fade which instead uses the “Fade” whistling bird segment from the “Heroes and Villains” sessions.
  8. “Cabin Essence”: No change
  9. “Wonderful”: No change
  10. “Look”: After the second verse, the outro’s prelude appears “early”, and the verse follows again for a brief five measures before a hard cut to the next track.
  11. “Child Is Father Of The Man”: Most changes are of soniclovenoize’s design, though I’ve made adjustments to the end.
    • After the intro as heard on Smile Sessions with the vocal overdubs accompanying the plucky piano riff, the verse as it appears towards the end of the “Version 2” with the guitar and horn fades in.
    • At what was otherwise the end of the track in Smile Sessions, the segment featuring the piano and bass finally appear.
    • Following a brief reprise of the chorus, a brilliant instrumental outro from the end of the “Version 1” segment fades in to lead us into “Surf’s Up”.
  12. “Surf’s Up”: No change
  13. “‘Wanna Be Around / Workshop”: While the track itself appears unchanged, it doesn’t immediately begin. Since this is the start of the “second side” of the record and we’re in mighty need of some comic relief to lighten the mood from the emotional exhaustion of “Surf’s Up”, the Wreaking Crew’s jamming caught on tape during the “‘Wanna Be Around / Workshop” session fades in, and it’s only after Brian’s interruption that the track properly starts. This also serves as a nod to one of the original ideas explored in SMiLE’s production where little “skits” or “goofs” would be scattered throughout the record.
  14. “Vege-Tables”: Some small but powerful arrangement differences entirely from soniclovenoize.
    • No instrumental lead-in like on Smile Sessions, we get right into the first verse.
    • After the “Tell us the name of your favorite vegetable” ballad insert, we close on the “Vega-Tables” fade instead of repeating the chorus again.
  15. “Holidays”: No change
  16. “Wind Chimes”: No change
  17. “Cool Cool Water / Love To Say Dada”:
    • We start with the “Cool Cool Water (Version 2)” segment for an extended intro
    • At the end of the track, we have a brief reprise of the “Our Prayer” vocals, but a much briefer reprise than it appears on Smile Sessions and tighter knit to the end of “Love To Say Dada”, making it feel much more cohesive.
  18. “Good Vibrations”: soniclovenoize’s mix appears in its entirety, which has a number of improvements over the cut on The SMiLE Sessions
    • All verses correctly use Brian’s demos performing Tony Asher’s original, superior lyrics.
    • The cello continues its triplets at the end of the track for an additional two measures before the rest of the Wrecking Crew join in for the final fade.

It wasn’t an accidental, “Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow” is not in this mix (sure to be a cardinal sin amongst die-hard fans). The track hindered the otherwise graceful transition to soothing, tropical sounds in the last third of the record no matter where I placed it, and for the goals of this project, hindering the pacing that severely meant it had to go. If you need the cow, listen to Smile Sessions.

  1. Famously, Al Jardine recalls Love calling Parks’ progressive lyrics “disgusting” in one of many reported confrontations, with Parks suggesting in retrospect these signs of aggression were likely because Love was “terribly jealous” of his role in the album. Whether that was coming from a place of jealousy or simply distain is anyone’s guess, but either way it’s certainly a bad look for Love.

    Even in recent interviews Love can’t help but continue belittling Park’s lyrics as “acid alliteration” and Parks & Brian’s musical experimentation like the animal sounds heard on “Barnyard” as “crazy stupid sounds”. ↩︎