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The All Purpose Beach Boys "Heroes and Villains" thread

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Tristero, Nov 2, 2019.

  1. Tristero

    Tristero Touching from a distance Thread Starter

    Perhaps more than any other Smile era track, "Heroes and Villains" captures the sprawling ambition and the unfulfilled potential of the whole project. Composed in the initial rush of inspiration with Van Dyke Parks, it was clearly meant to be one of the central tracks on the album, earmarked as the next likely single after the phenomenally successful "Good Vibrations". But unlike that masterpiece, after throwing everything but the kitchen sink into the sessions in early 1967, Brian was unable to boil it all down into a cohesive whole and that was the point where the whole project fell apart. It became Brian's Waterloo and he later observed that he went on "a three month bummer over that record". The single that emerged later in the year was certainly very good--it was my original introduction to whole Smile myth, compelling enough to get me intrigued--but somehow it falls short of capturing the full widescreen scope that he'd originally intended. Over the years, we've been fortunate to be treated to a dizzying array of different versions--the earlier "Cantina" take, rocking live versions, accumulated session outtakes, fan mixes, etc.--and while they're all enjoyable in their own ways, still it stubbornly eludes completion.

    I've included a poll here as a place to start the discussion. What are your favorites and why? Have you ever attempted to create your own fan mix and if so, how did you assemble it?
  2. My head spins when I think about all the versions there are of ' Heroes and Villians'. It just becomes a blur.
    Great song though.
    It got to # 12 on the Billboard chart which is actually suprising to me. You wouldn't think it would have much appeal for casual listeners.
  3. JayDeeEss

    JayDeeEss Forum Resident

    Chattanooga, TN
    The Smile project revolved around this song and the troubles with the Smile project derive from the song being not really that good -- especially compared to what Brian was doing before and after. Seemingly hundreds of hours of studio time were wasted trying to brute force commercial appeal onto a song that was too high-concept and overstuffed to have any.
    Aftermath, limoges, Lonesurf and 3 others like this.
  4. Ma Kelly

    Ma Kelly Forum Resident

    Kind of agree. It's a great song, but as a 3 minute single? It was never gonna work. Maybe the best versions I've heard are those sprawling fan-made edits that show it as a story-song rather than a pop song. That's where it really excels IMO.
    yesteryear and Buddybud like this.
  5. Zapruder

    Zapruder Just zis guy, you know?

    Des Moines, IA
    My favorite version isn't represented here (Pts. 1 & 2 on the 7" from the box set), so I went with the original Cantina edit.
  6. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus

    I chose the 2011 mix (stereo please) but I especially like longer kitchen sink type demos that include all of the chants and weird fragments, and even, sometimes Vegetables and so on. I would like to hear a version that incorporated "Do You Like Worms", Vegetables"and the whole americana section into it, historicity be damned.
    yesteryear likes this.
  7. yesteryear

    yesteryear Wild Honey Laureate

    Dallas, Texas
    I voted Alternate "Cantina" mix but:


  8. yesteryear

    yesteryear Wild Honey Laureate

    Dallas, Texas
    Honorable mention to Soniclovenoize's + his "Behind The Smile" essay I've been nerding out on quite a bit recently.
    willy and Lance LaSalle like this.
  9. Daniel Plainview

    Daniel Plainview God's Lonely Man

    Cantina version is my go-to.

    Since we're on the subject, I've been hunting for a bit of trivia. I was curious about the artist who drew the 45's picture sleeve. Its signed "Green". Anybody know who that is? Any internal Capitol memos floating about? It's a very effective piece of pop art.

    willy likes this.
  10. Mechanical Man

    Mechanical Man Cease to Exist

    Oakland, CA, USA
    Went with the 45/Smiley Smile version which is my go to. The live version on the Endless Harmony CD from '72 I believe is a close second.
  11. stijnv

    stijnv Well-Known Member

    Interesting subject. I've always been a Smile 'purist' in that sense that I believe the original sessions and intentions speak for themselves most of the time. For example: why tinker with Wind Chimes on the 2011 box set, when a simple and brilliant structure was established and finished in 1966? Why leave out half of the fade of Do You Like Worms? Editing decisions should be made in the spirit of the original recording sessions, that's the way the music will be at its best, in my opinion.

    For me Heroes and Villains is one of the very few exceptions to this rule. I first heard the track on Purple Chick's Smile and it grabbed my attention and love immediately. As 'authentic' and finished the Cantina mix may be, I've always felt it didn't capture the full potential of the track. I just love the HAV Chorus and find it quite essential to the track. But the 45 mix has got it's own ups and downs too (organ heavy arrangement for example).

    Later on, in 2011 with the release of the box set, a quote by Brian in the book really strengthened my position in this case:

    'Yeah, I finished a version of Heroes And Villains, but it sure wasn't what Van Dyke and I originally had in mind.'

    The BWPS/2011 Heroes And Villains sounds like the complete story it was supposed to be, and what I think Brian and Van Dyke did have in mind. So in this case: re-editing and re-finishing Heroes and Villains can be explained as presenting the track in an authentic way that suits the music and lyrics best.

    The only thing that's bothering me a little is the ending of the 2011 version, the trombone after the Prelude to Fade. The name says it all right..where's the fade? There's virtually no Brian song from that era that doesn't end on a fade. But simply sticking the Barnshine Fade onto it doesn't really work, even if you replace the trombone line with the Whistling Bridge (essentially the same melody!) and than throw in the fade (as he did in the Cantina mix).

    Still under construction.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2021 at 6:25 AM
  12. Emil Zatopek

    Emil Zatopek Forum Resident

    Almost there

    The best version ever was live 1972.
    Lonesurf likes this.
  13. Lonesurf

    Lonesurf Forum Resident

    Philadelphia, Pa

    I agree that this song always seemed to work best in a live performance.

    Brian & his band did a great job on the 2004 Smile Tour.
    oldsurferdude and limoges like this.
  14. dvakman

    dvakman stalking the dread moray eel

    New Orleans
    I have to pick the Cantina version because, despite the lower sound quality of what we have, the lead vocal is so much better. It really sells the song. The single lead was too laid back, IMHO.

    I love the structure of the 2011 assembly that was based on the BWPS version, though. That's why I generally listen to my own edit, which is simply the Cantina version until after the tape explosion, then the 2011 assembly starting from the slow "I've been in this town so long, so long..." until the end.
    yesteryear and Lance LaSalle like this.
  15. idleracer

    idleracer Forum Resident

    :kilroy: This month's edition of the "Sail On" podcast deals with this very subject matter.

    Click HERE
  16. stijnv

    stijnv Well-Known Member

    Loved it, listened the episode straight from start to finish. Interesting to hear that you guys (are you one of the podcast producers?) in discussing Heroes in such detail ended up at kind of the same conclusion that I'm now sticking to (BWPS might just be the version that does most justice to the song).

    Once again, great work. Gonna check out a lot more episodes.
  17. idleracer

    idleracer Forum Resident

    :kilroy: No, I'm not one of the people who create that podcast. Only one of the regular listeners. I highly recommend it to any Beach Boys fan:

    (click HERE).
  18. stijnv

    stijnv Well-Known Member

    I'll be doing the same from now on!
  19. Tristero

    Tristero Touching from a distance Thread Starter

    Thanks for sharing this. I'm going to have to go back and check out all of the Smile discussions here.
  20. Tristero

    Tristero Touching from a distance Thread Starter

    I enjoy the Cantina version, which obviously included a crucial missing link that was excised from the single version, but it feels kind of incomplete to me, like it's only telling half of the story. Of course, there's been some speculation that maybe they were planning a two part version and this was reconstructed for the 2011 release, but it didn't really get a proper ending until they completed the single version.

    I really like that early version on disc four of the Smile Sessions box. It barrels along at a nice clip, capturing that raw dynamism that wasn't quite as apparent on the single version, and I enjoy hearing Brian and Mike trading off on the vocals more. I'm also quite partial to that later rehearsal take which appeared on the Sunshine Tomorrow set, which has a nice understated vibe that fits better with the stripped down Smiley aesthetic.
    Mr. D and Lance LaSalle like this.
  21. wiseblood

    wiseblood Forum Resident

    Boston, MA, USA
    Man, my knee-jerk reaction here is to get huffy and defensive, but I'm speaking as someone that has heard all these listed versions and have grown to like whatever is in there in the weeds...which leads me to my point...

    I remember hearing this for the first time as a kid, maybe 7 or 8, and not being impressed on any level. All I wanted was the earlier version of the band again. I even had Pet Sounds and loved "God Only Knows" and "Wouldn't It Be Nice" (the rest went over my head a bit at that age and didn't compute as it does now as an adult). But "Heroes & Villians"...I knew the version on the American Band VHS from 1971, hated that they were all "adults", hairy with beards, and Carl was getting fat (fatter). It wasn't for me.

    And that goes to your point...

    The commercial appeal of this song was minimal at best and it often seemed to go into square peg/round hole lanes as I discovered what was up with the song through all the different versions. Did something that was believed to be fantastic really need to go through all those rewrites, production changes, arrangement changes, or any of what we got over the years? It DOES make your head spin, but Brian was out of his mind (in good/creative ways and not so good).

    SMiLE was NEVER going to work in 1967. There's no way. I don't care how it has been spun in the last 50+ years. It wasn't accessible to young people and doesn't really reflect all this joy Brian wants to tell us is in the music. I actually find SMiLE to be rather dark, moody, and a bit creepy. I'm not sure if that's because we now know all of what into making it and the drugs involved, but it's not this overtly happy or thrilling experience. Brian's version in 2004 has its moments that are remarkably special, but that's a refashioning of the original idea. The original idea was, as I said, quite dark and probably why in the end it didn't see the light of day.

    And I remember how people talked about it over the years:

    "...the greatest pop music to ever be recorded..."

    "...so genius..."

    "...you'll never believe what you're hearing..."

    We've heard so much. I'm not convinced it puts a spring in my step the same way that A Hard Day's Night does. Certainly different music eras when in the 60's every year seemed to pack 5 years of progress for so many bands into one 12-month stretch.

    Long story long, I'm with you in the end. This is not now or ever was a go-to track for me. It's SO dark. SO underdeveloped AND overdeveloped AND overproduced at the same time. Brian had a ridiculously successful and strong sweet spot between 1962 and 1966 and then his brain broke. Some of that his own fault, some of that not. It's a rabbit hole I enjoy exploring but REALLY need to be in the mood. Having said that, I should spin the 2011 box today just for the hell of it.
  22. dumangl

    dumangl Senior Member

    My favorite is the cornucopia version, whichever one that is.
  23. Love that story about when they finished the single version and brought it to one of the big radio stations for an exclusive airing and the DJ wouldn't play it because it wasn't on the station's playlist.
    Someone phoned the station manager who told the DJ he was an idiot and to put it on the air immediately.
    oldsurferdude and Tristero like this.
  24. Dr. Robert

    Dr. Robert Forum Resident

    Curitiba, Brazil
    My own edit, which consists of the Smile Sessions mix with both Bycicle Rider sections removed, and the order shuffled slightly :D
    Lance LaSalle likes this.
  25. Dandelion1967

    Dandelion1967 My Favourite Parks Are Car Parks

    In Britain reached number 8 on the UK Singles Chart. Bruce Johnston, who was visiting Britain at the time, witnessed the record's debut at The Speakeasy Club in London, recalled, "Everyone really got up to dance. But when the tempo changed, I knew we'd blown it with that record.

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