Surf's Up (album)
|Studio album by|
|Released||August 30, 1971|
|Studio||Sunset Sound Recorders, United Western Studios, CBS Columbia Square, and Brian Wilson's home studio, Los Angeles|
EMI Stateside (UK)
|Producer||The Beach Boys|
|The Beach Boys chronology|
|Singles from Surf's Up|
Surf's Up is the 17th studio album by American rock band the Beach Boys, released in 1971. It was met with a warm critical reception and reached No. 29 on the US record charts, becoming their best-performing album in their home country since 1967. In the UK, the album peaked at No. 15, continuing a string of chart successes that had not abated since 1965.
Both the album's title and cover artwork are an ironic, self-aware nod to the band's original surf music style. It was named for the closing track "Surf's Up", a song which had been written and partially recorded in 1966 for the group's unfinished album Smile. Surf's Up's creative direction was largely influenced by newly employed band manager Jack Rieley, who strove to reinvent the group's image and reintroduce them to the era's counterculture. Two singles were issued in the US: "Long Promised Road" and "Surf's Up". Only the former charted, peaking at No. 89.
In 2004, the album was voted 154 in a German edition of Rolling Stone's "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time" and ranked 61 on Pitchfork Media's "The Top 100 Albums Of The 1970s". It is listed in the musical reference book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
Sometime in 1969, former bandleader Brian Wilson opened a short-lived health food store called the Radiant Radish. While working there, he met journalist and radio presenter Jack Rieley. Rieley spoke with Brian for a radio interview, with the subject eventually turning to the unreleased song "Surf's Up", a track which had taken on almost mythical proportions in the underground press since the demise of the Smile album three years earlier. Brian hesitated on its release: "It's just that it's too long. Instead of putting it on a record, I would rather just leave it as a song. It rambles. It's too long to make it for me as a record, unless it were an album cut, which I guess it would have to be anyway. It's so far from a singles sound. It could never be a single."
On August 8, 1970, Rieley offered a six-page memo ruminating on how to stimulate "increased record sales and popularity for The Beach Boys." In the fall of 1970, after the relative commercial failure of the Sunflower album, the Beach Boys hired Rieley as their manager. One of his initiatives was to encourage the band to record songs featuring more socially conscious lyrics. He also requested the completion of "Surf's Up" and arranged a guest appearance at a Grateful Dead concert at Bill Graham's Fillmore East in April 1971 to foreground the Beach Boys' transition into the counterculture.
The project was provisionally entitled Landlocked. While on a drive to meet Warner Bros. Records executive Mo Ostin, Brian suddenly said to Rieley: "Well, OK, if you're going to force me, I'll ... put 'Surf's Up' on the album." Rieley asked, "Are you really going to do it?" to which Brian repeated, "Well, if you're going to force me."
Music and lyrics
"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" (a topical reworking of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller's R&B classic "Riot in Cell Block Number 9") and the environmental anthem "Don't Go Near the Water" found Mike Love and Al Jardine eagerly embracing the group's new direction. Bruce Johnston's "Disney Girls (1957)" was praised by Brian for its harmonies and chords.
"A Day in the Life of a Tree" was Brian's sole new contribution written for Surf's Up. The song was experimented upon for days with a harmonium, an antique pump organ, and a smaller pipe organ. Van Dyke Parks and Jardine join Rieley to sing the song's coda. According to Jardine, Rieley sang the song when "no one [else] would sing it because it was too depressing."
"Til I Die" was a song Brian had been working on since mid-1970 but initially rejected by group members. He spent weeks arranging the song, using an electronic drum machine and crafting a harmony-driven, vibraphone and organ-laden background.
Brian initially refused to work on "Surf's Up", now the eponymous track of the band's new album. In light of this, Carl 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, augmented with vocal and Moog synthesizer overdubs. To the surprise and glee of his associates, Brian emerged near the end of the sessions to aid his brother and engineer Stephen Desper in the completion of the coda, and contributing the song's missing, final lyric.
Dennis Wilson has no compositions on the album, according to their manager Jack Rieley in part to "prevent the disc from becoming an almost completely Wilson-brothers album." Dennis was also seriously interested in recording a solo album, of which "Lady" and "Sound Of Free" were released as a single in the U.K. Dennis' other songs from this era include "San Miguel," "4th of July," "Wouldn't It Be Nice (To Live Again)."
This LP was mixed for Quadraphonic reproduction (also compatible with stereo).[page needed] It was to be played back using the now long-extinct Dynaco or EV Stereo-4 decoders,[page needed] or later, using the "360Surround" matrix decoder built by Stephen Desper and previously included with purchases of his limited-edition book Recording the Beach Boys.
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 charts, becoming their best selling album in years. It was their first Top 40 album since Wild Honey, and in the UK it peaked at 15. Like Sunflower, Surf's Up was released on EMI's Stateside label internationally.
The album was met with a warm critical reception compounded by some FM radio exposure. Rolling Stone's reviewer wrote: "the Beach Boys stage a remarkable comeback ... an LP that weds their choral harmonies to progressive pop and which shows youngest Wilson brother Carl stepping into the fore of the venerable outfit." Richard Williams of Melody Maker said: "Suddenly the Beach Boys are back in fashionable favour, and they've produced an album which fully backs up all that's recently been written and said about them." Time magazine described Surf's Up as "one of the most imaginatively produced LPs since last fall's All Things Must Pass by George Harrison and Phil Spector". Robert Christgau was less impressed in The Village Voice. While highlighting "Take a Load Off Your Feet" and "Disney Girls (1957)", he found most of the other songs forgettable and the album the group's worst since 1968's Friends, before going on to write, "Van Dyke Parks's wacked-out lyricist meandering is matched by the sophomoric spiritual quest of Jack Rieley, and the music drags hither and yon."
|Christgau's Record Guide||B–|
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
Music critic John Bush wrote "[Most of the] songs are enjoyable enough, but the last three tracks are what make Surf's Up such a masterpiece. The first, 'A Day in the Life of a Tree', is simultaneously one of Brian's most deeply touching and bizarre compositions ... The second, ' 'Til I Die,' isn't the love song the title suggests; it's a haunting, fatalistic piece of pop surrealism that appeared to signal Brian's retirement from active life. The album closer, 'Surf's Up' is a masterpiece of baroque psychedelia, probably the most compelling track from the Smile period." Mojo critic Ross Bennett regarded Surf's Up as "the definitive version" of the Smile recordings, "with those crystalline vocals imbuing Parks' cryptic verses with a grace and simplicity missing from the 2004 reboot". Keith Phipps from The A.V. Club called it "the darkest album of the group's career, a record that also spotlighted a growing social conscience".
In 2014, John Wetton named Surf's Up his favorite prog album of all-time, elaborating: "The summer of '71 had so many musical milestones ... but Surf's Up was a revelation. I was in Family, a major player in the first wave of British progressive bands, but this collection from the iconic California surf-pop band shifted my parameters, blurring all the bounderies of my musical vocabulary. I marvelled at Van Dyke Parks mind-expanding poetry of the title track, wallowing in the glorious harmonies. Both composition and production absolutely floored me. The whole experience was my nirvana. And the cover? Mega prog!"
In a 2016 poll, Mojo magazine deemed the title track the Beach Boys' greatest ever song, writing: "Not so much timeless but a song out of time, Surf's Up is an elegy the richness and mystery of which only deepens with age."
|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||B. Wilson, Jardine||2:29|
|4.||"Disney Girls (1957)"||Bruce Johnston||Bruce Johnston||4:07|
|5.||"Student Demonstration Time"||Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, Love||Love||3:58|
|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||2:31|
|5.||"Surf's Up"||B. Wilson, Van Dyke Parks||C. Wilson, B. Wilson, Jardine||4:12|
- The Beach Boys
- Al Jardine – vocals, guitars on "Don't Go Near the Water" and "Lookin' at Tomorrow", banjo on "Lookin' at Tomorrow"
- Bruce Johnston – vocals
- Mike Love – vocals, tambourine on "Student Demonstration Time"
- Brian Wilson – vocals, tambourine and percussion on "Take a Load Off Your Feet", Baldwin organ and piano on "Feel Flows", harmonium on "A Day in the Life of a Tree", Hammond organ on "'Til I Die"
- Carl Wilson – vocals, guitars on "Long Promised Road," "Student Demonstration Time," and "'Til I Die"; tambourine and bass on "Don't Go Near the Water", keyboards and drums on "Long Promised Road", fuzz guitar on "Feel Flows"
- Dennis Wilson – vocals, drums on "Student Demonstration Time", snare drum on "Don't Go Near the Water" and "Long Promised Road"
- Additional musicians and production staff
- The Beach Boys – producer
- Stephen Desper – chief engineer and mixer, Moog synthesizer on "Feel Flows" and "'Til I Die"
- Daryl Dragon – guitar and Moog synthesizer on "Don't Go Near the Water", bass on "Student Demonstration Time", pipe organ on "A Day in the Life of a Tree", vibraphone on "'Til I Die"
- Van Dyke Parks – vocals on "A Day in the Life of a Tree"
- Jack Rieley – lead vocals on "A Day in the Life of a Tree" and backing vocals in "Surf's Up" tag
- Charles Lloyd – flute and saxophone on "Feel Flows"
- Mike Kowalski – drums on "Don't Go Near the Water"
- Frank Capp — drums on "Surf's Up"
- Dennis Dragon – drums on "Disney Girls"
- Woody Thews – percussion on "Feel Flows"
- Ed Carter – guitars on "Disney Girls"
- Marilyn Wilson-Rutherford, Diane Rovell – backing vocals on "Long Promised Road" and "Feel Flows"
- Ed Thrasher – original art direction
|1971||UK Top 40 Album Chart||15|
|1971||US Billboard 200 Albums Chart||29|
- US Singles
|1971||"Long Promised Road"||US Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart||89|
|NME||United Kingdom||New Musical Express Writers Top 100 Albums||1993|
|Pitchfork||United States||Top 100 Albums of the 1970s||2004|
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