This Date in Music History: May 2

The Beach Boys give up on 'Smile' and Link Ray rumbles into the world

click to enlarge The Beach Boys circa 'Smile'
The Beach Boys circa 'Smile'

On this date in 1967, Capitol Records officially announced that The Beach Boys' album Smile would not be released. The recording sessions for the album were tense due to Brian Wilson's depression, drug use, paranoia and the pressure he felt, plus the inner turmoil within the group. Wilson was also reportedly creatively stymied after being blown away by the freshly released Beatles single, "Strawberry Fields Forever." He felt the Fab Four had beaten him to the grand-trippy-and-orchestral-Pop-music-statement punch. Less than a month after Smile was shelved, The Beatles released the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album.

The band released Smiley Smile later that year instead. The record included re-recordings of some of the Smile material, a hint at the apparent genius behind the Smile album, which helped its legend grow. But Smiley didn't sell well and critics mostly gave it "thumbs down." The original Smile became the most famous "lost album" in Pop music history … until last year, when The Smile Sessions — featuring the full album and several bonus tracks and outtakes — finally became commercially available (after decades of bootlegs).

Wilson recently kicked off his first tour with "The Beach Boys" (Carl and Dennis Wilson are dead, so it's still not really "The Beach Boys") in over 20 years, timed to the group's 50th anniversary. Wilson joins lifelong bandmates Al Jardine and Mike Love on the jaunt; longtime auxiliary Boys David Marks and Bruce Johnston are also a part of the reunion, as are several other hired hands, including strangely consistent Beach Boy (during the non-Brian years) John Stamos. The tour comes to Riverbend this summer. Those attending will get their money's worth — the shows so far have featured over 40 songs per set.

Here's some more background on the Smile sessions.

Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 2 birthday include schmaltzy British Pop star Engelbert Humperdinck (1936); the first white dude to have a Reggae hit in Jamaica, British Reggae/Ska musician Judge Dread (1945); American Pop singer ("It's My Party," "You Don't Own Me") Lesley Gore (1946); Country music singer/songwriter Larry Gatlin (1948); sidelined lead singer for ’70s rockers Foreigner, Lou Gramm (1950); singer for Indie rockers Hot Hot Heat, Steven Bays (1978); contemporary British Pop star Lily Allen (1985); and legendary guitarist Link Ray (1929).

Ray — who passed away in 2005 — was a crucial Rock & Roll guitar pioneer. His 1958 instrumental smash "Rumble" was the first time many heard distortion and feedback and he's credited with inventing the "power chord" (ask anyone who says they can play "just a little" guitar to play "Smoke on the Water" or "Louie, Louie" — those are power chords).

You know you're doing something right sonically when your hit song gets banned — and it doesn't even have any words! "Rumble" was not allowed on the air by some radio programmers because because they feared the title (back then it was slang for "street fighting") would harm society.

Listen at your own risk (and check out Ray talking about the tune after):