Lo And Behold!
Out-Of-Sight! SMiLE Site
Sighting and citing the words of Brian Wilson to come up with
the most Out-Of-Sight explanation of SMiLE ever!

Where It's At

Brian Wilson explains what's behind his musical new direction to journalist Tom Nolan sometime around November, 1966.

"About a year ago I had what I consider to be a very religious experience. I took LSD, a full dose of LSD, and later, another time, I took a smaller dose. And I learned a lot of things, like patience, understanding. I can't teach you, or tell you what I learned from taking it. But I consider it a very religious experience."

If one tries to locate the two LSD trips that Brian refers to in the above quote, using his biography as a guide (as it is the sole source available for this type of thing), one finds that Brian's first LSD trip had to take place prior to April 6, 1965 (the first recording date for "California Girls"). This locates Brian's first LSD trip well over a year and a half prior to Brian's quote to Nolan and therefore not likely one of the LSD trips that influenced Brian's spiritual musical direction (note that David Leaf's SMiLE DVD Beautiful Dreamer inaccurately only references this LSD trip).

Brian's biography places his second LSD trip as having taken place months prior to the end of the year. This would likely place the second trip somewhere around October, 1965, about a year prior to Nolan's interview with Wilson. The biography notes that the acid for this trip was "Strong stuff. Something like twenty-five micrograms, which I understood to be an extremely potent dose." This description jibes with the "full dose of LSD" Wilson described for Tom Nolan making Brian's second LSD trip an important SMiLE related event.

The biography describes Brian's third, and final, LSD trip as "four hours of enlightenment and spirituality" which would indeed indicate that a "smaller dose" of acid was ingested this time around. Wilson's third LSD trip, then, is another important SMiLE related event; most likely the event from which Brian Wilson "learned a lot of things, like patience, understanding."

Keeping the above in mind here's a time line of SMiLE that explains things logically. This time line shows SMiLE to be a totally consistent and focused piece of art. There are no contradictions! We start with Brian's second LSD trip.

The Out-Of-Sight!
SMiLE Time Line
Brand new Out-Of-Sight vision to help you see just Where It's At!
(Keith Badman's book THE BEACH BOYS is a gas, and helped make this thing easy.)

Months before late December 1965
Brian Wilson takes acid for the second time, an "extremely potent dose."
This LSD trip serves up a "horror movie" that begins with the sound of sirens from nearby fire trucks. Brian imagines being consumed by flames and dying. "...I was bathed in flames, dying, dying, and then the screen inside my brain went blank. I visualized myself drifting back in time. Getting smaller and younger." Brian relives arguments he'd had with his father. He continues to drift back in time. "I continued getting smaller. I was a baby. An infant. Then I was inside the womb. An egg. And then, finally, I was gone. I didn't exist."

Did Brian Wilson lose his ego during this experience? Was this ego-death? Only Brian knows for sure. But in any case it seems likely that such questions must have entered Brian's mind at this point.

When asked about the Pet Sounds song "Hang On To Your Ego" and "ego" Brian responded, "Yeah. I had taken a few drugs, and I had gotten into that kind of thing. I guess it just came up naturally."

Brian may have "gotten into that kind of thing" by reading books. Brian appears to have been interested in subjects like psychology, philosophy, religion, and the psychedelic experience. Books on Eastern philosophy and the psychedelic experience, in particular, often point to the loss of ego, or ego-death, as the key to a better way of living.

November 1, 1965
Recording "Trombone Dixie." At this session Brian also records "In My Childhood," which will eventually be re-titled "You Still Believe In Me." The title "In My Childhood" may be related to Brian "drifting back in time" to his childhood during his second LSD trip.

December 20, 1965
"Barbara Ann" single is released.

Several days before Christmas 1965
Brian suffers an acid flashback in the Pickwick Bookstore. It is a totally unexpected experience.

"I couldn't even remember why I'd gone to the store. It was spooky. I walked into the store anyway. The clerk, who knew me, said hello and mentioned that he was crazy about "Barbara Ann," which was all over the radio."
[Similarly, Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE begins with "Gee," another doo wop classic, coming over the radio.]
"Moving slowly into the aisles, I concentrated on reading the book titles and their authors....I paged through books..."
[Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE offers up the musical equivalent of this by presenting snippets of various songs by various composers.]
"I stared at the pages, tried to read, but the letters all vibrated on the pages and I couldn't make sense of anything."
[The sound effects that precede "I Wanna Be Around" on Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE may be a musical depiction of this sort of thing.]
"Then I saw the books melting down the shelves, dripping like wax down the side of a candle."
[The ending of "You Are My Sunshine" may be a musical depiction of this visual.]
"The room began to spin. I was in the center of a giant spinning top. Turning, turning, turning. The moment was completely surreal."
[The opening section from "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" seems like a musical representation of this.]

"As the buzz subsided into a manageable burned-out sensation, I remembered Loren once explaining that hallucinations were comparable to Zen riddles, mysteries full of meaning. What had mine meant? I had driven to the bookstore, looking for what? Inspiration? Instead, I'd seen books melting, unable to grasp the knowledge contained in them.
If that was a riddle, I wanted to know the solution."

January 1966
Brian seeks guidance from an astrologer named Genevelyn. Brian tells her "about the hallucination I'd had in the bookstore last December, presenting it as a riddle." The astrologer gives advice that resonates well with Wilson. "If I wasn't able to find inspiration for songs outside myself, as in books, then I had to look someplace else. I had to look inward. I had to write about the spirituality I felt in my heart."

"In My Childhood" effectively becomes "You Still Believe In Me" at this point as Brian now knows the musical direction he'll take for his next LP, Pet Sounds.

January 7, 1966
The Beach Boys begin a tour that takes them to Japan and will end in Hawaii on January 29th.

January 10, 1966
The photos of the Beach Boys in Samurai outfits are taken at Samurai Studios in Kyoto, Japan. Some of these pictures will eventually adorn the back cover of Pet Sounds.

February 1966
Sometime during this month, Brian meets Van Dyke Parks at a party held at Terry Melcher's house.
Brian notes in his biography that Parks "...spoke in funny, poetic, often beguiling torrents." And one wonders if Wilson, already thinking in terms of albums and riddles (see January 1966), had Parks pegged as a potential lyricist for this sort of thing right from the start.

February 7, 1966
Recording sessions are held for "Let Go Of Your Ego" AKA "Hang On To Your Ego." The ego-loss idea is related to LSD but it is also a major component of Eastern philosophies. During the recording session for "Ego" Brian mentions the comedy album How To Speak Hip. The album includes the following:

'"Like in Zen...the Zen Buddhists have these koans, you know, they're riddles that you meditate on. And the whole purpose of the riddles is to hang you up, like, "We know the sound of two hands but what is the sound of one hand?" Now that's had Buddhist monks hung up for years."'

This passage would have registered with Brian given his bookstore flashback riddle experience in late December.

The title and lyrics of "Hang On To Your Ego" were eventually changed. The resulting song, "I Know There's An Answer," contains the line, "I know there's an answer. I know now, but I have to find it by myself."

Wilson will indeed find the answer to his flashback riddle in late April.

February 17, 1966
The first sessions for "Good Vibrations" are held.

April 9, 1966
Brian records "Good Vibrations" (session 5) in the same fashion as he has recorded the songs for Pet Sounds. The track is given a master number (#55949) indicating that it is a recording potentially worthy of release.

April 25, 1966
Pet Sounds promo film shot in the mountainous areas above Lake Arrowhead, California.

The Arrowhead is located above the warm mineral springs.
This is the Great Spirit's sign that there is to be peaceful location for all,
and that the valley below was given to them.

April 26 or 27, 1966
Brian Wilson drops acid for the third time on the beach located in Lake Arrowhead, California and finally finds the answer to the riddle he was presented with in December. It is the "ultimate religious experience" from which a new "reborn" Brian Wilson emerges. This trip provides Brian with his new spiritual musical direction, a vision for "Good Vibrations" along with inspiration and direction for SMiLE.

This statue points to the sacred hot springs. When Indians fought,
both sides would take their wounded to the healing mineral springs,
which was considered neutral ground. There was peace in the valley.

Brian's biography describes Brian dropping Al Jardine off at the William Morris Agency (the group's booking agency) the day after Brian's third LSD trip. Wilson is telling Jardine about the great trip he'd just had the previous day--trying to convince Jardine to drop acid. Since the Beach Boys started another tour on April 28th it is likely that Brian dropped Al off on either the 27th or 28th.
The biography also makes mention that it is during Brian's third LSD trip that Wilson envisions the "grand Spectorlike production" that was to eventually become "Good Vibrations." And it should be noted that weeks after this acid trip Brian returned to the studio to work on "Good Vibrations" and began to record the song using new methods and techniques. Brian would use these same techniques (recording in sections, using various studios, recording the same section of music in different ways, seeking perfection) for SMiLE.

Some SMiLE books point to Big Sur as the likely location for much of SMiLE's inspiration. This is based upon a quote from David Anderle. It is important to note that the Lake Arrowhead region features many of the same features that Anderle attributed to Big Sur while discussing "The Elements" with CRAWDADDY! editor Paul Williams. The Lake Arrowhead region has mountains, snow, beach, pools, and water fountains. When Anderle said that Brian "ran up to Big Sur for a week" he may have, for whatever reason, gotten the location and duration of Brian's adventure wrong (many years ago a noted Brian Wilson authority told me that the Pet Sounds promo film locale was "Big Sur." In other words, when David Anderle noted Brian's trip to Big Sur, he was actually noting Brian's trip to the mountains above Lake Arrowhead).

There is a good chance that rain may have fallen at some point during this LSD trip as there are repeated references to rain in mountainous Brian Wilson songs ("Sweet Mountain,""Diamond Head") as well as visual references in Frank Holmes' SMiLE drawings. The Wordsworth poem containing the "The Child is father of the Man" line is based upon the sight of a rainbow; which also implies rain. The idea of rain, snow, the lake, pool, water fountains, and as David Anderle put it "a lot of water" implies that Brian's third LSD trip was water to his second trips' fire.
Anderle observed that "the whole thing was this fantastic amount of awareness of his surroundings" and much of SMiLE supports this statement. SMiLE honors the site of Brian Wilson's ultimate religious experience, presenting it as a riddle.

The distinctive dance pavilion.

The Lake Arrowhead region was inhabited by the Native American Indians prior to the Europeans using the area for logging. In the 1800s Chinese workers were used to blast tunnels through the San Bernardino mountains bringing the railroad to Lake Arrowhead. The Arrowhead Reservoir Company began dam construction in 1901 but work was eventually halted when a group of united landowners won a court case against the company. Today, there are still some old cabins in the Lake Arrowhead area that date back to the 1900s.

Dam project undertaken by the Arrowhead Reservoir and Power Company.

The Lake Arrowhead influence upon SMiLE can be seen primarily in the project's earliest compositions, the sandbox songs; "Heroes And Villains," "Surf's Up," and "Cabin Essence." After Brian and Van Dyke had "canvas(ed) the town" they decided to "brush the backdrop" stretching things from Plymouth Rock to Hawaii (Hawaii being the spiritual journey's final destination). Their purpose remained the same; to document and share the religious experience.

The clock tower in the village.

The Surfing Saints article from the same issue of CHEETAH that ran Jules Siegel's famous SMiLE piece Goodbye Surfing, Hello God, offers a glimpse into Brian's "Ultimate Religious Experience." Brian explains;

"The thing you really look for is the moment of clear light. It's only happened to me once--early in the morning alone on the beach with the sun coming up very red. A moment of clear light."

And in Siegel's article Brian appears to link the beach experience to a spiritual "death and rebirth" when he speaks about the movie Seconds. Brian explains that, "the whole thing was there. I mean my whole life. Birth and death and rebirth. The whole thing. Even the beach was in it, a whole thing about the beach."

This places Brian's religious experience "on the beach" and the Out-Of-Sight! SMiLE Site places the beach at Lake Arrowhead. Ego loss, or ego-death, is very likely part of this beach experience and we can see how this fits with the "clear light" idea.

"That which is called ego-death is coming to you.
This is now the hour of death and rebirth;
Take advantage of this temporary death to obtain the perfect state-
Concentrate on the unity of all living beings.
Hold onto the Clear Light.
Use it to attain understanding and love."

Leary, Metzner, and Alpert, The Psychedelic Experience

This experience was described in Brian's bio as "four hours of enlightenment and spirituality" and it led to Brian's learning "a lot of things, like patience, understanding" as he explained to Tom Nolan. All of these little clues (the clear light, ego-death, rebirth, enlightenment, understanding) fit together to form the classic religious psychedelic experience. As is often the case with such experiences there concurrently emerges a strong desire to help others achieve a similar level of spiritual success. This is what SMiLE documents.

In late December, 1965 after his acid flashback in Pickwick Books Brian remembered "Loren once explaining that hallucinations were comparable to Zen riddles, mysteries full of meaning." And, true to form, SMiLE songs actually are "mysteries full of meaning," so much so that when anyone attempts to explain them they are automatically at fault for not addressing the multiple meanings that each track appears to have.

Take the "Fire" music for instance. The fire is likely related to the fire engines from Brian's second LSD trip, the fire may serve as a metaphor for Brian's troubled childhood, the track may have been inspired by "the sun coming up very red" during Brian's ultimate religious experience, Indian legend has Lake Arrowhead's arrowhead being caused by the Good Spirit sending an arrow of fire across the heavens, the song's title has a place (Chicago) in American history, the track has to do with the element itself, and the song was meant to scare listeners (transmitting Brian's personal experience to the general public). Keep in mind, the track just described is an INSTRUMENTAL! We're aren't even tackling any of Van Dyke Park's whimsical pun filled lyrics. Park's bookstore based wordplay inspired Frank Holmes' SMiLE illustrations which are also multilayered with thought/pictures placed above, below, inside and outside other thought/pictures. All of this adds up to make SMiLE a formidable riddle.

The unique lamp design of the Old Lake Arrowhead Village.

Early May 1966
David Anderle enters the picture. Brian immediately begins working in his new spiritual direction with Van Dyke Parks. Wilson asks Parks to write lyrics for "Good Vibrations." Parks declines but begins working with Wilson on "Heroes And Villains" and SMiLE.

May 4, 1966
Brian re-records the opening section of "Good Vibrations." He is apparently dissatisfied and decides to rethink things. He doesn't revisit "Good Vibrations" for three weeks and when he finally does, he begins recording the track in sections.

May 11, 1966
Excited by his new direction and his work with Van Dyke Parks Brian holds a recording session for "Heroes And Villains."

May 16, 1966
Pet Sounds is released.

May 24, 1966
Brian returns to "Good Vibrations" and begins employing his new recording methods. Producing an acceptable version of "Good Vibrations" will be a difficult task as Brian is attempting to realize the perfection of his vision for "Good Vibrations," a vision which originated during Wilson's ultimate religious experience.

August 3, 1966
The SMiLE sessions commence with the instrumental tracking for "Wind Chimes." The SMiLE sessions will be recorded using the same techniques as "Good Vibrations" and Brian will have the same problems with the SMiLE sessions that he has with "Good Vibrations." As with "Good Vibrations," Wilson will seek perfection for his spiritually inspired music, his teenage symphony to God.

September 21, 1966
Brian holds the final session for "Good Vibrations."

October 10, 1966
The "Good Vibrations" single is released.

November 28, 1966
Session for "The Elements (Fire)." This scary track, at least partly based upon Brian Wilson's bad second LSD trip, marks the beginning of the downfall of SMiLE, and it is this observer's opinion that Brian's reaction to the track marked the beginning of his questioning the appropriateness of SMiLE and the idea of mystically bringing (via the riddle) the spiritual LSD experience to the general public. The negativity that begins at this point eventually will lead Wilson (a decade after SMiLE's demise) to claim "It was destroying me! I was being destroyed thinking about it!" and "We were doing witchcraft, trying to make witchcraft music." Wilson would continue to claim that the music is "inappropriate" into the next century.

This is where the Out-Of-Site! SMiLE Site ends its time line. SMiLE was meant to do good things and bring health and happiness to people and in that positive spirit we'd like to stay. The story of SMiLE's undoing can be found elsewhere (unfortunately without the Out-Of-Sight! website's Where It's At insight into why Brian shelved SMiLE).

Thank you Brian Wilson!

SMiLE is Where It's At and it's Out-Of-Sight!

July 31, 1967
The "Heroes And Villains" single is released. It's Brian Wilson's "new spiritual music."
The picture sleeve is inspired by Lake Arrowhead, California (sawmills, Indians).
The timing of the release was based upon advice from Brian's astrologer, Genevelyn.
The single's flip side, "You're Welcome," may well have been inspired by Wilson's pro LSD
sales pitch to Al Jardine the day following Brian's ultimate religious experience. Brian's
car repeatedly circled the block, up to twenty-five times, before dropping Jardine off
at the William Morris Agency in Beverly Hills.

"I produced two little films for the BBC's Top Of The Pops, scripting and directing them myself...
The second had them in horror masks up in the mountains above Lake Arrowhead (in Hollywood)."
-Derek Taylor

If anybody finds any factual errors or faulty reasoning on this page please let me know. Thanks. Bill Tobelman 2009

The lovely Lake Arrowhead photos on this page can all be found in this book;

Here are some of the websites I used for information:





Curtis Springer, the radio evangelist who initially inspired Brian Wilson's vegetable obsession, founded the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Heath Spa resort.
Perhaps Brian picked up on the similarities between Lake Arrowhead, with its therapeutic mineral springs, and Springer's Zzyzx center.

The following stuff is pretty heady and I'm afraid that I don't explain things very well.
Hopefully those who are interested in this sort of stuff will like what follows.

The Ever Changing Past

There are only a few quotes that seem to point of the type of thing Brian Wilson may have learned during his "ultimate religious experience."

In the following quote from the Surfing Saints article Brian appears to be talking about surfing, but the larger context of this quote makes it clear that he is actually speaking about the "ultimate religious experience."

"No two waves are alike. That's what you really learn from surfing, that everything is always changing and time never repeats itself."

Writer Jules Siegel documented Brian making a somewhat similar remark when commenting on the "Surf's Up" lyric "columnated ruins domino."

"Empires, ideas, lives, institutions--everything has to fall, tumbling like dominoes."

What is worth pointing out is that this awareness of the past appears to be part of Brian's religious experience. Wilson's religious Lake Arrowhead experience is played out in SMiLE and this awareness of the past can be found in SMiLE's Lake Arrowhead inspired music.

The Elements

Brian and Van Dyke expanded upon the Lake Arrowhead "sandbox" songs theme and enlarged their canvas to stretch from Plymouth Rock to Hawaii. The same sort of thing appears to have also happened with "The Elements."

"Fire" and "Water" are the elements that most likely inspired SMiLE (based upon Brian's own quote at the beginning of this webpage, accounts in his bio, and probable scenarios). Those two elements likely represent Brian actually conceiving SMiLE during his third LSD trip as they appear at the proper moment in SMiLE, after the ego-death/rebirth event, and they themselves are a portrayal of that SAME death/rebirth event (and if one wants to go all the way--it makes logical sense to assume that within this original conception of SMiLE one would find, near the end of those two elements, yet another "portrayal of that SAME death/rebirth event" which is Brian originally conceiving SMiLE. Think of a framed painting of itself with the image inside an image inside an image, or a mirror image of a mirror, or video feedback. The BWPS lyric "lay before me wholly Holy Cow" is "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" being envisioned during "In Blue Hawaii." It is essentially SMiLE being envisioned within "The Elements" which is SMiLE being envisioned within SMiLE. SMiLE is the presentation of a trip within which the presentation of the trip was envisioned. On BWPS the two main "elements" sit alongside the single, "Good Vibrations," which was also conceived (as reported in Brian's bio) during his 3rd trip.

So, if one were to boil SMiLE down to its most formative parts you'd have the "sandbox songs" along with "Fire" and "Water." SMiLE would consist of "Heroes And Villains" and "Cabin Essence," the bookends from the first movement of BWPS. Then would come "Wonderful" and "Surf's Up" which open and close the second movement of BWPS. The third, and final, musical pair would be "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" and "In Blue Hawaii" from the third movement of BWPS.

To create an album's worth of material Brian and Van Dyke "brushed the backdrop" framing the whole Lake Arrowhead experience with America (which is right in line with the Beach Boys' popular image), filling in the bookends that are "Heroes And Villains"/ "Cabin Essence" and "Wonderful"/"Surf's Up," and filling out "The Elements" by adding "Earth" and "Air" into the mix.

Be sure to check out our other SMiLE page;

Scenic Scenario

You are on the beach, tripping. You contemplate the past. You revisit your LSD flashback riddle/mystery searching for the answer. You revisit your last LSD trip to recreate the ego death experience. You go back in time. The sun is rising. It's a very red sun. You've taken your shoes off and you feel the sand on your feet. You see the trees, the mountains, the lake. All of this is going on at once.

There's "Barabra Ann" from the bookstore riddle. There's the past fight you had with your dad and bandmates and there's the old village where dudes fought after a hard day working the sawmills. Over the far away hills is the sun. The red sun reminds you of the fire and death that played out during your past trip. There's the dam built with concete driven across the ribbon-like roads and the train used for its construction. You see books melting. You see the cabins, you revist your past, you see the sun.

There is a moment of clear light, of clarity. It's the ultimate religious experience. The past fades away, the problems of the past fade away, the fire gets put out, the old you dies. You stand, still alive, reborn.
A child.

You have awakened. It's a new you. You've put yourself back together. You laugh. You're in great shape. You're healed.

Your next album could help other people heal. The album could musically recreate the same event for others.

There's the trip to the beach, you achieve the right frame of mind, you are presented with the surprise riddle, there's the firery ego death, the mystery, and the happy H2O outcome. You wrap the ultimate religious experience up with prayer. It's the ultimate album.

But first you need a 45. You envision a grand Spector-like production for "Good Vibrations."

You get together with Van Dyke Parks and ask him to do lyrics for "Good Vibrations." He's not too thrilled about the idea so you start working on "Heroes And Villains" which recreates the riddle/mystery of your scenic scenario.