I have been playing the original arrangement of this song since 1996. The Beach Boys officially released this SMiLE-era sessions gem in 1993, over two decades after it was originally recorded. Until that point, the only officially released version was a quieter rendition found on the 1967 release, Smiley Smile, an album which—in the shadow of the SMiLE sessions—Carl Wilson contextualized as a "bunt instead of a grand slam." Both versions have their merits, and are beautiful in their own unique way. I think I read before that The Band's Robbie Robertson and The Who's Pete Townshend both loved Smiley Smile. There was something about the SMiLE version though that resonated with me.
It wasn't until 2004 when Brian Wilson music appreciators and music students learned that this ornate, Bach-like song transitions into Song For Children, another brilliant piece of the SMiLE puzzle. I have never learned how to play Song For Children, so my interpretation of Wonderful now sounds almost incomplete. Maybe someday I'll learn how to play the rest of it. They work very well together, in that one-of-a-kind harmonic and progressive way Brian Wilson seems to intuitively compose. What a gift he has.
I thank Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks for writing such a beautiful song. The chord progression is wondrous, the bass line counterpoint is filled with child-like wonder, and the melody is simply won-won-wonderful.
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