Here is the second half of Jeff Rosenberg's extensive conversation with the pop-music Zelig who goes by the name of Van Dyke Parks, in which they discuss his lyrical style and subject matter, musical tastes, political opinions, and (yes) a little bit about Smile.
WW: In your newest work, do you still write lyrics with the same sort of verbal density and dexterity that you have in the past?
Song Cycle
Well, that's really exciting to hear, because, as you said, the focus of your work has been on "how we got here." I don't want to use the word "nostalgia" in a perjorative sense, but certainly Jump!, Tokyo Rose, and Orange Crate Art have been largely backward-looking, with the exception of Tokyo Rose's song "Trade War," which sort of brushes up against the present.
Yeah, and you still can't rent Song of the South on video, for that matter.
Song of the South
Well, that [1984] was the height of the "political corectness" era. Did you face any explicit criticism for drawing from that source?
St. Petersburg Times
Orange Crate Art
That's what the Jim Kweskin Jug Band did, for that matter.
Yes, well, certainly, your stuff is not didactic by any means.
Yeah, it's thrilling, really.
Yes, well, your old pal Brian Wilson only beat you to touring for the first time by ten years or so.
Well, let me close by asking --
But you talk about how music's retreated from that social obligation, you've talked about what we carry forward into the next era, so let me ask you about "Surf's Up", which is maybe one of the compositions you're best known for, that lyric. And it is such a lyric of epochal change, but in a really oblique way -- it's certainly not Jefferson Airplane saying, "Up against the wall, motherfuckers!", but the message resonates the same, with that whole generational mandate. And I wonder if -- has there been a retreat from that, or do you feel that we're still on the verge of that transformation? Is the surf still up?
Right. And EuroDisney'd.
Greatest Hits
eminence gris
Nice homespun name there, eh? [Parks was born in Mississippi.]
Well, congratulations on your continued success...
Well, we're really looking forward to it. I introduced my girlfriend to the world of Smile and Brian a few years back, and the convert has since far surpassed the teacher in terms of fandom there.
Yes, it's really beautiful to see, on that Smile documentary [Beautiful Dreamer; Brian Wilson and the Story of Smile] to see the circle be closed, and your reaction's very moving.
Well, in terms of that hip cachet, there's one band up here named Heroes and Villains, and another called Cabinessence, so your reputation precedes you, sir.
Van Dyke Parks plays tonight at Mississippi Studios with Clare and the Reasons and Josh Mease. 9 pm. $22. 21+.