Surf's Up (album)
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 number 29 on the US record charts, becoming their highest-charting LP of new music in the US since 1967. In the UK, Surf's Up peaked at number 15, continuing a string of top 40 records that had not abated since 1965.
|Studio album by|
|Released||August 30, 1971|
|Recorded||November 1966 – July 1971|
|Studio||Sunset Sound Recorders, United Western Studios, CBS Columbia Square, and Beach Boys Studio, Los Angeles|
EMI Stateside (UK)
|Producer||The Beach Boys|
|The Beach Boys chronology|
|Singles from Surf's Up|
Both the album's title and cover artwork are an ironic, self-aware nod to the band's early surfing image. It was named after 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 number 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. It was voted number 230 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums in 2000.
In 1969, 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, weeks after the underwhelming sales response to their latest album Sunflower, 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." Most of the album was recorded between January 1970 and July 1971.
"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 embracing the group's new socially conscious 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."[page needed] Dennis was also interested in recording a solo album, of which "Lady" and "Sound of Free" were released as a single in the UK. His other songs from this era include "San Miguel", "4th of July", "(Wouldn't It Be Nice to) Live Again".
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|||
|Pitchfork (Sunflower/Surf's Up reissue)||8.9/10|
|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 boundaries 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
Additional musicians and production staff
|UK Top 40 Album Chart||15|
|US Billboard 200 Albums Chart||29|
"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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