The Paul McCartney Project

Vega-Tables

Written by Brian WilsonVan Dyke ParksUnreleased song

Other songs by Brian Wilson


God Only Knows

Unreleased song



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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

Vegetables” (originally conceived as “Vega-Tables”) is a song written by Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks for the American rock band the Beach Boys. It was released on their 1967 album Smiley Smile with Al Jardine and Brian Wilson on lead vocals. A discarded bridge section from “Vega-Tables” was later recycled as the a cappella “Mama Says” on their 1967 album Wild Honey, featuring heavily syncopated vocals by the Beach Boys.

Composition

The song was composed in 1966 and first attempted during the aborted Smile sessions. Jules Siegel has said that while using marijuana with Wilson and the “Beach Boys marijuana-consumption squad” Michael Vosse mused at how violence in their “vegetative” state could not be achieved, provoking laughter and further discussion of being a vegetable. Siegel said that this encounter was what inspired Wilson to write the song. David Leaf has said the song was based on Wilson’s reported health obsession at the time. Wilson later said, “I want to turn people on to vegetables, good natural food, organic food. Health is an important element in spiritual enlightenment. But I do not want to be pompous about it, so we will engage in a satirical approach“. “Vega-Tables” was envisioned to fulfill the Earth part of “The Elements” suite devised for Smile.

Its lyrics are replete with wordplay. One example appearing in demo versions of the song is the lyric “cornucopious” which can be heard as “corn-a-copious“. Original versions of “Vega-Tables” notably feature an interpolated section after the verses involving Barbershop-style vocal harmonies sung by the Beach Boys as they recited the two couplets opened by the jazz scat lyric “mama says“:

Eat a lot, sleep a lot
Brush ’em like crazy

Run a lot, do a lot
Never be lazy

After the shelving of that project, it was re-arranged for its eventual release on Smiley Smile, as were the songs “Heroes and Villains“, “Wind Chimes” and “Wonderful“.

Recording

Recording for “Vega-Tables“/”Vegetables” spanned from October 17, 1966 (1966-10-17) through June 15, 1967 (1967-06-15). All versions of the song except for “Mama Says” feature the novel use of raw vegetable chewing as percussion. During an April session for “Vegetables“, the version found on The Smile Sessions, Paul McCartney joined the Beach Boys in the studio. Al Jardine remembers that:

“The night before a big tour, I was out in the studio recording the vocal [for “Vegetables”] when, to my surprise, Paul McCartney walked in and joined Brian at the console. And, briefly, the two most influential musical Geminis in the world had a chance to work together. I remember waiting for long periods of time between takes to get to the next section or verse. Brian [seemed to have] lost track of the session. Paul would come on the talkback and say something like ‘Good take, Al.'”

During November 1967, the long-running sessions for “Vega-Tables” were revisited for the last time as the closing track “Mama Says” on Wild Honey (1967). This version was an extended re-recording of the unused “Vega-Tables” interpolation mentioned above.

Variations

In 1993, the initial version recorded as “Vega-Tables” for the Smile sessions was finally given an official release, along with a slew of other Smile material, on the Good Vibrations boxset. In 2011, many composite versions were made available on The Smile Sessions. A 1993 live performance of the song was released in 2013 for the compilation Made in California with Carl Wilson and Al Jardine on lead vocals.

From meatfreemondays.com:

PaulMcCartney.com: “Hi Paul, we’ve heard a story about you appearing on a Beach Boys song ‘playing’ a stick of celery. Is that true?”

Paul: “Yeah, that is true, yeah! I mean it was wild and wacky days, you know, and I just went round to the studio because they invited me. I just thought it would be fun to sit there and watch them record, ’cause I’m a big fan. And so I was there, and then it was, I think, Brian who came over and said, ‘Oh Paul, got a favour to ask: would you mind recording something?’ I thought, ‘Oh, no! But great, I could do that’. Oh God, I’m gonna be singing on a Beach Boys record or something, you know! I got a bit kind of intimidated and thought, ‘Okay, here goes nothing’. And they said, ‘Well, what we want you to do is go in there and just munch!’ …Well, I can do that! So, if you hear somebody munching celery, that’s me!”

Last updated on February 4, 2017

Bootlegs


Vega-Tables

Unofficial album • Released in 2009

1:32 • Alternate take • Part 1 - Piano Track


Vega-Tables

Unofficial album • Released in 2009

1:33 • Alternate take • Part 1 - Vocal Overdub


Vega-Tables

Unofficial album • Released in 2009

1:30 • Alternate take • Part 1 - Vocal Overdub Attempt


Vega-Tables

Unofficial album • Released in 2009

1:19 • Alternate take • Stereo - Part 1 - Instrumental & Vocal Overdub Attempts


Vega-Tables

Unofficial album • Released in 2009

1:33 • Alternate take • Stereo - Part 1 - Instrumental & Vocal Overdub Attempts


Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.


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