‘All That Road Going’: Brian Wilson, Van Dyke Parks and The Beach Boys' Smile

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The closing lines of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (1957), which provide this chapter’s title, express faith in movement while lamenting where it has led. The same might be said of The Beach Boys Smile, composed by Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks during 1966 and 1967 yet only completed and released as Brian Wilson Presents Smile in 2004.

Travel on Smile is not by automobile, however, but by ship and railroad, bicycle and surfboard: non-mainstream vehicles well-suited to follow its alternative path across the American experience. A long-lost forgotten road album, Smile articulates the nation’s trajectory as star-spangled conquest and voyage of spiritual discovery or recovery: at once wilderness errand, rite de passage, land raid, trade mission and religious pilgrimage. It also suggests that any quest for national salvation will only move into higher gear when ‘all that road going’ has been conceived in new – and very old – ways.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMusic and the Road : Essays on the Interplay of Music and the Popular Culture of the American Road
EditorsGordon E. Slethaug
Number of pages21
Place of publicationNew York and London
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
Publication dateOct 2017
ISBN (Print)9781501335266
ISBN (Electronic)9781501335273
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


  • Popular Music, Brian Wilson, Van Dyke Parks, Smile, Beach Boys


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