Mr. Happy

Brian Wilson gets his SMiLE on

On the eve of his album's release -- 10 hours, 45 minutes and counting until the unveiling of SMiLE, the fabled lost Beach Boys album a worldwide cult of fans has been waiting some 37 years to hear completed -- Brian Wilson is on the phone, calling up journalists to plug the thing, and sounding less like a 62-year-old American pop music icon than some eager-to-please new kid on the block.

"I've been nervous as all heck for the last four or five days now," Wilson says in his characteristically boyish bellow, brimming with infectious enthusiasm. "I've been real nervous. My SMiLE album's coming out tomorrow!"

Not that he really needs to announce it to anyone who even remotely knows his name. Fans of the legendary mad genius, who for decades have obsessed over the fragments of the unreleased SMiLE dribbled out on disjointed Beach Boys albums in the early '70s and on bootlegged session tapes and exhaustive boxed sets, have been literally counting down the hours until Wilson's official completed masterwork hits the stores.

Most of the SMiLE faithful can't believe their hero's unfinished masterpiece has finally been finished -- and by Wilson himself. "We didn't want anybody to know what we were doing, so we didn't tell anybody," he says. "We kept it a secret."

Key to SMiLE's resurrection was the support from his crack touring band, anchored by members of the Wondermints, which, along with the High Llamas ("I think they're fantastic!"), Belle & Sebastian and scores of indie twee-pop bands, have built their own discographies around the delicate melodies, whimsical orchestrations and whacked-out sonic experiments Wilson pioneered on Pet Sounds and took to the max on SMiLE.

"Oh, yeah, they're the best," Wilson says of his band, whose young members' faithful reconstruction of the music that inspired them lends new mind-blowing poignancy to the album's William Wordsworth reference, "Child is father to the man."

"They're the greatest musicians I ever worked with. And they sing better and more on-pitch than the Beach Boys did. I'm a lucky guy to have landed a band like that, aren't I? Heh-ha-ha-ha!"

Clearly, Wilson is jazzed by having a band of hip players who finally "get" him, and his creative streak seems to have resumed like the past 37 years never happened.

"I get up every morning at 6 o'clock, and I go to eat breakfast at a deli with my friends, who are my collaborators. Then I come back to my house and I work from 7 'til 9, trying to create melodies."

Already, Wilson has plans to record two albums of entirely new material by February. "First we're gonna do a rock 'n' roll album, then we're gonna do a children's album," he says. Fans who've adored the amazingly unaffected childlike quality of Wilson's greatest songs are particularly excited about the latter, of which he promises, "It'll be very, very happy. And very jovial."

To be sure, Wilson these days is plugged into some serious happiness mojo himself. He credits the music he listens to for part of the buzz. "I try to stay happy through music the best I can. On the radio, I play all Spanish and Mexican music. It's just very happy music, you know? It makes me happy!"

Wilson hopes his completed SMiLE will be magical Mexican radio for the world. "I think it's gonna turn on the music business to make better music," he predicts. "And happier songs."

 
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