Minion of Satan
Location: Minneapolis, MN
A highlight of the SMiLE tapes, "Vege-Tables" is the complete opposite of "Surf's Up", in that it is completely unpretentious, a pop song about eating vegetables! Brian meant every word of it, even later opening a health foods store Radiant Radish in 1969. Appropriately, this was one of the few SMiLE songs which survived it's rebirth onto Smiley Smile mostly unscathed, as it was rerecorded in an only slightly stripped own matter, pretty much staying as the song was allegedly initially envisioned. Regardless, the song has a long recording history for such a simple song...
While studio documentation doesn't verify it, an early version of "Vege-Tables" was cut possibly on October 17th, 1966. This early version only featured the verse and bridge, played on a piano with very tight "yummy" backing vocals by The Beach Boys. It also featured an early lyric "Tripped on a cornucopia", which led to this recording being dubbed the 'Cornucopia Version'. It also lacked "Vege-Tables" notable "Sleep A Lot" chorus, someting that wouldn't appear until January 3rd, appearing as it's own segment of "Heroes and Villains". While many SMiLE aficionados claimed this was a finished track (with some claiming this was the Earth section of "The Elements"; more on that later), it sounds more like a demo to these ears, lacking any sort of technicolor instrumentation and modular recording approach, as the rest of SMiLE featured. Regardless, Brian left this recording and moved on to the rest of SMiLE over the next two and a half months, without a master number even being assigned to this version of "Vege-Tables".
April Single Version
After refocusing his energies for three months to producing one single release to spur on the SMiLE project, Brian had accepted "Heroes and Villains" was not going to be that single. By April 1967, Brian decided that "Vege-Tabels was a better candidate for SMiLE's savior, and begun a much more focused work on tracking it properly, as compared to both the scatter-brained "Hereos and Villains" and the simple 'Cornucopia Version' of "Vege-Tables.
Once again recorded in sections over a week's time, the core of the 'Verse' piano track and a lead vocal for the first verse lyric was tracked on April 4th, 1967. It is of note that the verse ended in an aborted attempt at the chorus that devolves into laughter and a breakdown (which was simply left in several mixes of the song!); Brian obviously meant to edit in a separate chorus, as he recorded three different versions later that week. The next day on the 5th, the Verse received it's set of idiosyncratic overdubs, including bass and a rather slapstick percussion track. Interestingly, it also received a vocal overdub of the lyrics of the second ("I'm gonna keep well, my vegetables") and third ("I know you'll feel better") verses playing simultaneously on different tracks, suggesting that the same master recording would, in the end, have been mixed down twice, for verses 1 & 2 and again for the 3rd, to make separate sections. But most noteworthy of all, was a percussion track that consisted of vegetables being munched and chewed, performed by none other than an uncredited Paul McCartney! The following day, The Beach Boys multi-part harmonies were added to the Verse.
On April 7th, recording continued with attempts for the chorus, featuring the group singing to a grand piano. This recording seemed a bit unfocused and scatterbrained, so Brian rerecorded the chorus on the 10th, featuring a piano, bass, glockenspiel and Dennis on a simple, reverbed pounding snare, with the group adding vocals. The group also tracked a short piano/vocal "Bop bop do do doo" 'Vocal Insert' meant to connect two sections. As aforementioned, the third versions of "Wonderful" and "Child is Father of The Man" were also attempted at this session, for unknown reasons.
One of the most brilliant moments of SMiLE was recorded at the following session, on April 12th: the Fade to "Vege-Tables". This dreamy sequence featuring ukulele, castanets, dual upright and electric bass, vibraphone and a string trio. Following, the Beach boys worked their magic and recorded a complex yet wordless multi-part vocal for the Fade, creating a stunning coda to a song about vegetables.
Not satisfied with the several sections cut so far, Brian led the group to record another chorus arrangement on April 14th, this time slower and a capella, featuring a whistled countermelody and a bizarre "row row row" underscore. Also recorded was yet another section, once again a slower, a capella arrangement of the third verse ("I know you'll feel better"), this section called the 'Ballad Insert'. These slower, a capella recordings created a great contrast to the slap-happy band recordings from earlier in the week. At the conclusion of the session, Brian compiled a (very rough) test edit of several of the "Vege-Tables" sections, what is commonly known as The April Assembly. The structure was as follows:
Verse 1 / Verse 2 & 3 (playing simultaneously) / breakdown Chorus (natural ending from Verse) / wordless Verse / Chorus from the 7th / Chorus from the 14th
While the edits between sections were rough and featured abrupt, long gaps, this seemed to be Brian's idea for the structure of the song. Unfortunately, it was never never to be compiled...
Smiley Smile Version
After SMiLE's demise, Brian rescued "Vege-Tables" from the ashes and (mostly) retracked it from scratch in June 1967 at his home. Featuring a minimal thumping bass as the backbone with the reemergence of the vegetable-chomping percussion, the "Do A Lot' chorus was curiously absent (later reborn as "Mama Says" from Wild Honey, recorded later that Fall). It is notable that Brian actually used the "Ballad Insert' from the 14th and Verse' (with Brian playing an organ live while mixing to mono), making this one of the few Smiley Smile tracks to actually feature recordings from SMiLE. The structure went:
Verse 1 / Verse 2 / wordless verse / Vocal Insert / Ballad Insert / Verse 3
For 20 years, that version of "Vege-Tables" is all anyone heard. It wasn't until 1988 when Mark Linett plowed through the Beach Boys vaults, tasked to assemble a SMiLE album. Linette assembled a rough cut of "Vege-Tables" obviously based around Brian's April 1967 Assembly, but with the edits refined to sound more natural. Five years later, Linett presented a better mix for the Good Vibrations box set that featured more unused sections, with a structure seemingly of his own design (as Brian would never have used a crossfade between the Chorus and Fade):
Verse 1 / Verse 2 / Chorus from the 7th / wordless verse / Vocal Insert / Verse 3 / Chorus from the 14th / Fade
With Linett's above mix being the definitive SMiLE version of "Vege-Tables", it was revised yet again ten years later by Brian and Darian for their SMiLE Tour. This rather concise version featured a structure similar to Linett's 1993 construction, but lacked the Fade-- probably because it was too difficult to perform:
Verse 1 / Verse 2 / Chorus from the 14th / wordless verse with Vocal insert overlayed on the final lines / Ballad Insert
A final revision was made--by Brian's request--to "Vege-Tables" for it's SMiLE Sessions construction in 2011:
Verse 1 / Verse 2 / Chorus from the 10th / wordless verse / Chorus from the 14th / Ballad Insert / Verse 3 / Vocal Insert / Fade
Last edited by soniclovenoize : 07-28-2017 at 10:42 AM.