By far the most popular group that will be mentioned this week, yet not a commonly known album of this iconic American band. At the time of it’s release in 1971, “Surf’s Up” represented something of a rebirth into pop culture and ultimately their premiere into counter culture. Prior to this, they hadn’t had a top 40 album since their 1967 LP, “Wild Honey” and in the interest of bringing something fresh to the group they hired Jack Rieley as their new manager the year before. Rieley pushed them to take a new direction which included letting more of the individual members push forward their own musical ideas.
In my opinion, this was Carl Wilson’s time to shine as he was the principal writer and performer for two of my favorites on the album, “Long Promised Road” and “Feel Flows.” For years, Brian Wilson was the Beach Boy’s indispensable composer, though by the time “Surf’s Up” was released he had been pulling farther and farther away from this central position. His tracks on this album voice some more perplexing feelings and ideas than what you may be accustomed to, though they still articulate Brian’s lucid relationship with music and harmony. All in all, this album will probably not be a walk down the soothing memories of sunset filled beaches to the unfamiliar. It contains reflection, somberness, and a calling back to simpler times for the once light hearted boys of the beach.
Yet, the thing about this album that causes it to be so deeply impressed into my memory was my introduction to it. It was almost Halloween of 2002 and I had recently started living with one of my record store co-workers and friend who also shared an endless joy and interest for music. On this day, we took a bike ride over to Amoeba Records at the bottom of Haight Street and spent a couple of hours perusing and determining our audial acquisitions. Honestly, the only album I recall being purchased that day was this one and he bought it*. Later on after getting back to the apartment, he invited me to join him in listening to this record. We laid down on the floor and listened to it from start to finish. It was simply amazing because I had no idea the Beach Boys ever produced such an album. That remains one of my all time favorite album listenings and I still recall that fortuitous day as the sun was indeed setting to the atypical crooning of Brian, Carl, Mike, Al and Bruce. I can only imagine it will connect with each of you differently, as this is always the case. However it does find you, take it gently, they were simply imparting their wisdom in the best way they knew how to.
*After nearly 6 months of searching, I purchased my vinyl copy in New Orleans while on a cross country trip when moving from San Francisco to Brooklyn.
More info about the album:
“Surf’s Up” by The Beach Boys