Frank Holmes explains “Cabin Essence” Part II: A home on the range …

Go west!

This is Part II of a three-part series focusing on the song “Cabin Essence” from The Beach Boys SMiLE album sessions. In this second installment excerpt, illustrator Frank Holmes explains the imagery to the second piece from the SMiLE project, intended for the song “Cabin Essence.” The following excerpt was written by Frank and appeared in Issue #94 of Endless Summer Quarterly magazine.

In the upper left of this panel is a circle with two cabins with smoke coming out of the chimneys. “I’ll give you a home on the range.” The earth, an important feature, is colored yellow. These cabins represent the white settlers staking claim to the land previously occupied by the Plains Indians. The land was acquired as homestead through treaties, or just taken by the settlers as their own. Opposite this circle is another circle with three teepees symbolizing a situation of limited land rights and territories? Ownership of land was foreign to the indigenous people. How can anyone own the God-given land? The blue sky above is a reminder of the Father. These people faced massive changes in their way of life as the westward expansion altered their future forever. “In the land, in the dust, trust that you must catch as catch can.”

There is a diagonal opening that descends down the middle of the panel, and separated the two opposing worlds. Over this diagonal shaft is an incomplete railroad track in top view, that is yet to connect these two worlds. Overlapping the tracks are images of three Coolies who worked to complete the Trans-Continental Railroad. “Who ran the Iron Horse?”

“Have you seen the gran Coolie” … This is a play on words. In my opinion, this comes from the Woody Guthrie folk era. He wrote a song about the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River, in the state of Washington, (“Roll on Columbia”). Behind the Coolies and the tracks, there is an excavated cornfield minus a crow. “Over and over the crow cries, uncover the cornfield.”

The Grand Coulee Dam’ alluded to the Chinese laborers who built these railroads. They brought the railroads together with a golden spike. I keep that picture – of the golden spike – to this day on my wall.”  — Van Dyke Parks



Remember to order the 25th Anniversary reissue of Orange Crate Art 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


Leave a comment

McCartney Sharpe

4 years ago

Over the past few months I have fallen back in love with The Beach Boys music. I have recently discovered your excellent content with in this website, the Good Vibrations podcasts and radio appearances. This series on Cabin Essence is fascinating. Not long ago I finally fulfilled a long time goal of nearly a decade ago in creating my own mix and track order for Smile. I feel the prospect had to sit in the back of my mind all of this time before I could ultimately arrange it. I eagerly await part III of this series and all future content.

Visit our store to purchase any of our available back issues.