The title of “A Million Smiles Away”, a song from Strawberry Alarm Clock‘s 1968 LP The World In A Sea Shell, would seem to suggest that it’s a particularly soft performance on an album known for its gentle string arrangements and sleepy, baroque pop. But, as one must constantly realize when dealing with SAC, things are not as they may seem: “A Million Smiles Away” is a pretty fast and bare-bones song, especially as compared with the rest of the album.
One for the band
The key reason for this is that “A Million Smiles Away” was not written by outsiders, but by long-time Clock members Ed King and Lee Freeman. For this reason, the band attacks the song with obvious gusto that is clearly missing from the album’s songs that came from professional songwriters and that were foisted upon the band by its management. Free to do their own thing, Strawberry Alarm Clock enjoys itself on this song; it’s a highlight of the album.
The electric guitar slices through the speakers in King’s inimitable late-60s way, and the haunting melody and chord structure(s) of the track recall spy-movie music, as the Clock had done previously on songs like “Lose To Live” from 1967’s Incense And Peppermints. Elsewhere, “A Million Smiles Away” features all the things that make the band still popular with music fans today: an expressive melody for the main vocal line which is backed by a peppy chorus; burbling xylophone lending an air of playfulness; different but related musical segments squashed together into a short mini-suite; and a great, chirping organ to go with the twisted web of drumming.
“A Million Smiles Away” would not have been out of place on either of the band’s first two albums… if you’re into that sort of thing. And if you weren’t, you probably wouldn’t be on this site. The track is recommended.
LP: The World In A Sea Shell (1969)