Frank Holmes explains “Cabin Essence” Part I: All aboard …

“Lost and found, you still remain there”

This is Part I of a three-part series focusing on the song “Cabin Essence” from The Beach Boys SMiLE album. Illustrator Frank Holmes was a friend of Van Dyke Parks. Van Dyke provided Frank with lyrics to a multitude of songs that Parks had written with Brian Wilson for the SMiLE album. The following excerpt was written by Frank and appeared in Issue #94 of Endless Summer Quarterly magazine.

When Brian and Van Dyke tackled “Cabin Essence” they were like the sign that read “Men at Work.” It is astounding that they were prepared to handle a job that called for such mental dexterity. They had the inspiration, and a vigorous use of imagination to put this together. I merely reflected the narrative graphically knowing it would fall into place with the sound. … This led to symbols, double entendres, word and visual puns, malapropism, pictographs, and objects with ambiguous meaning. The following is the first in the three that I created for “Cabin Essence.”

It is a black and white drawing in a cartoon style. This is a composite of overlapping thematic ideas. The row of dominoes at the top is from “Surf’s Up,” “Columnated ruins domino …” one gets the idea of toppling columns and is thought of as the end of a civilization in ruin. “… the vast past” I used the image of dominoes to call on the domino effect.

Below the dominos is a cut-out shape of a heart of stone with Cupid’s arrow ineffectively bouncing off of it. This is lost love or love gone cold. “I don’t believe I’ve gotta’ grieve, In and out of luck.” and, “… Nestle in a kiss, … for your embracing,” these are the amorous impressions that show affection. Behind the heart of stone is a telephone cable.

 The following lyrics were not used (in the recording): “different colored chords to your extension, don’t forget to mention this is a recording … ” Behind the cable is a stone image of an IBM card with punch-out holes. Stepping back through the heart-shaped opening in the dominoes is a cloud generating electricity for the cable. Moving on back, you see a landscape with hills, trees, and the moon shining in the daylight. On the right is an oil lamp … “light the camp … ” In the foreground, you have a barrier fence to limit and control the claimed territory. On the fence is a sign that says “Lost and Found Dept.” above the arrow pointing the way. “Lost and found you still remain there … ” There is a log cabin with a lamp burning in the window, and a voice bubble from someone inside that says “Hello Hello,” “Cabin Essence, a timely hello” coming from the cabin are some telephone lines. These were telephone and telegraph lines that usually followed the railroad tracks signaling the westward expansion, and the lost territory of the American Indians.



Remember to order the 25th Anniversary reissue of the Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks Orange Crate Art album HERE

For the complete unabridged breakdown of this illustration, order Issue #94 of Endless Summer Quarterly magazine.


©2011, 2020 Frank Holmes/Endless Summer Quarterly/All Rights Reserved


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