Surf's Up (album)

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Surf's Up
Studio album by The Beach Boys
Released August 30, 1971
Recorded November–December 1966; January 1970; March–July 1971,
Sunset Sound, Western, Columbia &
Brian Wilson's home studio, California
Genre Rock, baroque pop, psychedelic rock
Length 33:56
Label Brother/Reprise
Producer The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys chronology
Surf's Up
Carl and the Passions – "So Tough"
Singles from Surf's Up
  1. "Long Promised Road"
    Released: May 24, 1971
  2. "Surf's Up"
    Released: November 29, 1971

Surf's Up is the seventeenth studio album by American rock band the Beach Boys, released on August 30, 1971 on Brother Records and Reprise. The album was released to more public anticipation than the Beach Boys had previously had for several years. The album's title is taken from the song of the same title written by Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks for the abandoned studio album, Smile.


In the fall of 1970, after the relative commercial failure of the Sunflower album, the Beach Boys hired Jack Rieley as their manager. Rieley, a DJ, had impressed the band with his credentials (a supposed Peabody Award-winning stint as NBC bureau chief in Puerto Rico-later discovered to be false) and fresh ideas on how to regain respect from American music fans and critics.[citation needed] One of his initiatives was to encourage the band to record songs featuring more socially conscious lyrics.[citation needed] Rieley also insisted that the band officially appoint Carl Wilson "musical director" in recognition of the integral role he had played keeping the group together since 1967.[citation needed] He also requested the completion of "Surf's Up" for release by composer and erstwhile bandleader Brian Wilson, a song that had taken on almost mythical proportions in the underground press since the demise of Smile three years earlier. He also arranged a guest appearance at a Grateful Dead concert in April 1971 to push the Beach Boys' transition into the counter-culture.[citation needed]


Brian Wilson initially refused to work on "Surf's Up", now the eponymous track of the band's new album. In light of this, Carl Wilson overdubbed a new vocal in the song's first part, the original backing track dating from November 1966. The second movement was composed of a December 1966 solo piano demo recorded by Brian Wilson, augmented with vocal and moog bass overdubs. To the surprise and glee of his associates, Brian Wilson emerged near the end of the sessions to aid his brother and engineer Stephen Desper in the completion of the third movement,[citation needed] which combined the end of the 1966 demo with "Child Is Father of the Man" (another Smile outtake) for the coda. The newly recorded lead vocals - sung by Al Jardine over a choral backdrop featuring all the Beach Boys - were sped up by Desper for continuity purposes in an attempt to make them sound more like they did in 1966.[citation needed]

The album also included "Til I Die" a song Brian had been working on since mid-1970. Though Mike Love was reported at the time to dislike it,[citation needed] he has praised and performed the song in recent years.[citation needed] Brian Wilson spent weeks arranging the song, crafting a harmony-driven, vibraphone and organ-laden background that closely resembled the halcyon-era sonic tapestries of Pet Sounds.[according to whom?]}

The artwork of Surf's Up is based on the sculpture "End of the Trail" by James Earle Fraser. Teamed with the title, the art is a self-aware nod to the removedness from the band's surf rock roots.[1]

"Long Promised Road" and "Feel Flows" were Carl Wilson's first significant solo compositions; both songs were almost entirely recorded by him. "Student Demonstration Time" (essentially the R&B classic "Riot In Cell Block #9") and "Don't Go Near the Water" found Love and Jardine eagerly embracing the group's new topical-oriented direction. "A Day in the Life of a Tree" was Brian Wilson's sole new contribution. Several attempts at recording the song were made before the pump organ-led arrangement was settled upon. The slightly faltering lead vocal from Rieley has been praised by reviews as fitting for what a dying tree would sound like personified.[citation needed] Van Dyke Parks and Al Jardine join Rieley to sing the song's coda. According to Al Jardine, Rieley sang the song because "no one [else] would sing it because it was too depressing."[2] Bruce Johnston's "Disney Girls (1957)" was hailed as a masterpiece by Brian Wilson[citation needed] and has been covered by Art Garfunkel and Cass Elliot.

The Dennis Wilson songs "4th of July" and "Wouldn't It Be Nice To Live Again" were excised from the final running order shortly before release. Although "4th of July"'s elagaic tone and lyrical relevance[according to whom?] made it a logical thematic choice, Rieley has claimed that it was met with a reception of "glaring envy" by Wilson's bandmates.[citation needed] The song was duly replaced with an Al Jardine and Brian Wilson composition "Take a Load Off Your Feet", a song worked on in late 1969 during the Add Some Music sessions, but augmented to fit the atmosphere of the rest of the record.[citation needed] In the case of "Wouldn't it Be Nice to Live Again", a disagreement between the middle and younger Wilson brothers resulted in the song being left off the album.[citation needed] Dennis wanted the song to be the final track on the album, segueing out of "'Til I Die", while Carl felt "Surf's Up" should have that place.[citation needed] As a consequence, Dennis took the song out of the album's final running order.[citation needed]

This LP was mixed for Quadraphonic reproduction (also compatible for Stereo). It was to be played back by using the long extinct Dynaco or EV Stereo-4 decoders. However, this recording (LP or CD) can be played back in Quad by most of today's audio-video receivers. The surround sound information can be extracted using the Dolby Pro Logic setting. The Carl and the Passions LP and some of the songs on the Sunflower LP were also mixed with this process.

Live Performances[edit]

9 of the 10 songs on the album have been played live by either The Beach Boys or Brian Wilson.

Long Promised Road was played many times following the albums release but stopped being a setlist regular after the bands 1974 tour since then it has been played in 1983 and 1993. Take a Load Off Your Feet was played several times throughout the 70's and also on the Beach Boys 1993 box set tour. Student Demonstration Time was also played several times following the albums release on both the 1971 and 1972 tours.[3]

Feel Flows was performed many times throughout the 70's however it was not played again until 2007 when the Mike Love led Beach Boys performed the song at several shows with Mike's son Christian on lead vocals. Lookin' at Tomorrow (A Welfare Song) was played following the albums release as well as at several shows on the bands 1983 tour. Al Jardine has also performed the song at several of his live shows.[4] A Day in the Life of a Tree was performed only once in 1971 and featured a surprise guest appearance by Brian Wilson (who was not touring with the band at the time) on organ and Beach Boys manager Jack Rieley on lead vocals.

Til I Die and Surf's Up have been semi regulars in Brian Wilson's sets throughout the years. Surf's Up was also performed by The Beach Boys several times during the 70's, however Till I Die was never performed by the band until 2004 when the Mike Love led Beach Boys performed it with Chris Farmer on lead vocals. [5]

Disney Girls (1957) has become Bruce Johnston's signature song at Beach Boys shows throughout the years and has been performed many times including on the bands 50th Anniversary tour one of his two lead vocals on the tour and his only consistent lead.[6]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[7]
The A.V. Club positive[8]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 5/5 stars [9]
Pitchfork Media 8.9/10[10]
Mojo positive[11]
Robert Christgau B–[12]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[13]

Surf's Up was released that August to more public anticipation than the Beach Boys had had for several years. It outperformed Sunflower commercially, reaching #29 in the US (their first Top 40 album since Wild Honey) and #15 in the UK. Like Sunflower, Surf's Up was released on EMI's Stateside label internationally.

The album was ranked #61 on Pitchfork Media's The Top 100 Albums Of The 1970s list. It is also listed in the musical reference book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.


Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
NME United Kingdom New Musical Express Writers Top 100 Albums[14] 1993 46
Pitchfork United States Top 100 Albums of the 1970s[15] 2004 61
Rolling Stone Germany 500 Greatest Albums of All Time 2004 154
Sunday Herald United Kingdom The 103 Best Albums Ever, Honest 2001 *

Track listing[edit]

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Vocals Length
1. "Don't Go Near the Water"   Mike Love/Al Jardine Mike Love/Al Jardine/Brian Wilson 2:39
2. "Long Promised Road"   Carl Wilson/Jack Rieley Carl Wilson 3:30
3. "Take a Load Off Your Feet"   Jardine/Brian Wilson/Gary Winfrey Brian Wilson/Jardine 2:29
4. "Disney Girls (1957)"   Bruce Johnston Bruce Johnston 4:07
5. "Student Demonstration Time"   Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller/Mike Love Love 3:58
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Vocals Length
1. "Feel Flows"   C. Wilson/Rieley C. Wilson 4:44
2. "Lookin' at Tomorrow (A Welfare Song)"   Jardine/Winfrey Jardine 1:55
3. "A Day in the Life of a Tree"   B. Wilson/Rieley Jack Rieley/Van Dyke Parks/Jardine 3:07
4. "'Til I Die"   B. Wilson C. Wilson/B. Wilson/Love 2:41
5. "Surf's Up"   B. Wilson/Van Dyke Parks C. Wilson/B. Wilson/Jardine 4:12


The Beach Boys
Additional musicians and production staff
  • Steve Desper – sound engineer; moog, moog bass
  • Daryl Dragon – rhythm guitar, bass, tack piano
  • Mike Kowalski – drums
  • Charles Lloyd – saxophone, flute
  • Van Dyke Parks – lead, harmony and backing vocals
  • Jack Rieley – lead, harmony and backing vocals
  • Woody Thews – percussion
  • Gary Winfrey – harmony and backing vocals

Sales chart positions[edit]

Year Chart Position
1971 UK Top 40 Album Chart 15
1971 US Billboard 200 Albums Chart 29
US Singles
Year Single Chart Position
1971 "Long Promised Road" US Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart 89

Chart information courtesy of Allmusic and other music databases.[16]


  1. ^ "The Beach Boys: Sunflower/Surf's Up | Album Reviews". Pitchfork. 2000-07-18. Retrieved 2013-02-19. 
  2. ^ The Playlist Special, Rolling Stone
  3. ^ "The Beach Boys Tour Statistics". Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  4. ^ "The Beach Boys Tour Statistics". Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  5. ^ "The Beach Boys Tour Statistics". Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  6. ^ "The Beach Boys Tour Statistics". Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Phipps Keith (April 17, 2002). "The Beach Boys: Sunflower/Surf's Up : Music". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 29 October 2012. 
  9. ^ The Virgin Encyclopedia Of Popular Music, Concise (4th Edition), Virgin Books (UK), 2002, ed. Larkin, Colin.
  10. ^ "The Beach Boys: Sunflower/Surf's Up | Album Reviews". Pitchfork. 2000-07-18. Retrieved 12 August 2012. 
  11. ^ Ross Bennett. "The Beach Boys - Disc of the day - Mojo". Retrieved 12 August 2012. 
  12. ^ Christgau, Robert (October 14, 1971). "Consumer Guide (19)". The Village Voice (New York). Retrieved April 14, 2013. 
  13. ^ "Internet Archive Wayback Machine". 2007-10-15. Archived from the original on 2007-10-15. Retrieved 12 August 2012. 
  14. ^ "New Musical Express Writers Top 100 Albums, October 2, 1993". NME. 
  15. ^ "Staff Lists: top 100 albums of the 1970s". Pitchfork Media Inc. Retrieved 13 March 2012. 
  16. ^ "UK Top 40 Hit Database". EveryHit. 
  • Sunflower/Surf's Up CD booklet notes, Timothy White, c.2000.
  • "The Nearest Faraway Place: Brian Wilson, The Beach Boys and the Southern California Experience", Timothy White, c. 1994.