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This weekend I’ll mostly be listening to… The Beach Boys, Surf’s Up July 3, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to..., Uncategorized.

You know, the thought has struck me that sometimes these Weekend posts are a little off the the beaten track. Indeed looking back I’m entertained at the ones which get comments (Shriekback… Shriekback? Huh?). And the ones which don’t… i.e. the vast majority. C’mon, no takers with Biosphere? 😉 So as a chage I’d thought – entirely seriously – about putting up stuff from Madonna’s Ray of Light album. William Orbit co-wrote most of the tracks and for contemporary (well, late 1990s pop) you cannot find a finer example.That’s if you can find it on YouTube at all. And trust me, you can’t. If you want an example of corporate power check out how Warner’s have pulled ‘Ray of Light’ in this ‘territory’. Which is hilarious given that if I want to listen to it I can get out the CD, but I can’t watch the feckin’ video. And what does this prove? Perhaps that they’re desperate to flog videos to every last so and so who might buy it.

So instead let’s take a look at the Beach Boys, and their ‘Surf’s Up’ from the very early 1970s.

What really to say about this? Forget their image – at least the latter day one – and listen to the music. And forget Pet Sounds, yep, fine, but this is the one which for me sums up their overall madness and genius. The album starts with Don’t Go Near the Water, a Beach Boys album saying ‘don’t go near the water’? A song filled with ecological concerns and clumsy lyrics.

And then you get a song about… er… feet –  Take A Load off your Feet – a bizarre excursion wrapped in a gorgeous melody and arrangement. Hmmm. And a song sung from the point of view of a tree and… well, it’s another oddity.

Surf’s Up is just about perfect not least the point where about 2.40 the line ‘Surf’s up…’ comes in (although apparently it dates from 1966). And after that the echoes of other Beach Boys songs, and perhaps a nod to Hey Jude, roll in, and all in just over four minutes.

Then there’s their perhaps unwise excursion into political pop (and echo of Revolution by the Beatles) on Student Demonstration Time, a dubious rewrite of Leiber and Stoller’s Riot in Cell Block Number 9, itself no doubt a rewrite of something else. It’s kind of clunky, Robert Christgau suggested it was sophomoric, well, yes – loudspeaker vocal and all – and kind of good at the same time [Christgau didn’t like the album at all… an unaccountable lapse in his usual good taste 😉 ]. But check out the referencing of Kent State… Kudos. Although I don’t know about the underlying message which might be interpreted as inciting… passivity.

Kudos too to Brian Wilson for the superb ‘Til I Die, a meditation on life and launchpad for a score of High Llama’s songs.

Disney Girls (1957) does more or less what it says on the tin, melodic pop which is also oddly moving. Al Jardine’s Lookin’ At Tomorrow (A Welfare Song) is another interesting one.

Feel Flows likewise has a deceptively jaunty and simple melody with a guitar solo that comes in about 1.40 and rips into the song… and demonstrates the malleability of the rock/pop form that so much individuality of sound and voice can be found in what is, after all, a relatively constrained structure. But that is what the album is all about.

There’s more… there really is.


Surf’s Up

‘Til I Die

Disney Girls (1957)

Lookin’ At Tomorrow (A Welfare Song)

Student Demonstration Time

Feel Flows


1. sonofstan - July 3, 2010

You’re too kind about Student Demonstration Time – it’s irredeemable. Worst song ever from a band capable of astounding lapses in taste – although the occasional collapse into toe-curling kitsch is the shadow of their utter greatness. I think the run from Pet Sounds to Holland is my favourite, ahem, canon of pop music: maybe only the Kinks from Face to Face -> Arthur is close.

That said, although, ‘objectively’ Surf’s Up might be the pinnacle of that run, it’s not my favourite – I find Holland, Sunflower and even Carl and the Passions more interesting: and nothing on it matches the sheer joy of Carl’s vocal on I can Hear Music from the otherwise uneven 20/ 20


Hugh Green - July 7, 2010

Meant to say, Student Demonstration Time is a total stinker in terms of a foray into politics. But they redeemed themselves a bit with Trader off Holland. A bit.


sonofstan - July 7, 2010

I love Trader – but then, I love all of Holland, even the embarrassing bits of California Saga – “the she-eagle was old……’ – the moment when it goes into the last bit redeems all of it.


2. WorldbyStorm - July 3, 2010

I’m a sucker for ‘reinterpretations’ of rock and roll standards… Astounding lapses of taste is a brilliant way of putting it. I kind of think of them as the ultimate unwilling collective. A whole heap of talented and not so talented people brought together to do stuff that some could do brilliantly and others… not so well!

Love Sunflower as well. Even, or perhaps especially, Add some music to your day!

Good advice.


3. splinteredsunrise - July 3, 2010

You can’t go far wrong with Surf’s Up. One of these days I expect to see you do the Turtles…


WorldbyStorm - July 3, 2010

Maybe not the Turtles, although definitely a line of further research for me, but perhaps Jan and Dean!


4. EamonnCork - July 4, 2010

Ah WBS, don’t stray from the path of indie obscurity. I fully intended to post a lengthy tribute to the magic of Modern Eon but I’ve been face down in the World Cup and dragged outside at every opportunity into the good weather by the kids so I’ve been neglecting my CLR duties. Wild Honey and Smiley Smile would be my own Beach Boys picks apart from the obvious Pet Sounds that is. Hopefully next week you’ll be back to The Wild Swans, the Freshies and such like. Ray of Light is terrific, back when William Orbit was Billy Orbit he made a very good album Set The Controls for the Heart of the Bass under the name of Bassomatic. There was, as they say, always a dance element to his music.


WorldbyStorm - July 4, 2010

Man, I’d been wondering if anyone had even heard of Modern Eon. So anything is welcome! 🙂

Love Bassomatic. Top stuff, and with the added extra bonus of my liking it when it was released due to the assistance of a friend way back when!


5. Hugh Green - July 4, 2010

Post-Pet Sounds, Wild Honey and Sunflower both do it for me. Surf’s Up is a mixed bag. I like the two Carl Wilson compositions and Til I Die, but the rest is a bit gloopy.

The Beach Boys Love You is the band’s last great album, albeit with occasional lapses into unbearable goofiness. I also have a soft spot for 15 Big Ones, especially the cover of For Once in My Life. There’s a band called the Explorer’s Club which is basically a Beach Boys tribute band only with original songs, but well worth checking out: their achievement is to take the best elements of 15 Big Ones and sew that back into the fabric of the better ’70s records (Sunflower, Holland, So Tough). Well worth checking out.


sonofstan - July 4, 2010

The Beach Boys Love You is the band’s last great album


The late LX Chilton used to do a great version of Honkin’ Down the Highway. Himself and BBs were mates from way back when the Box Tops toured with them.


Hugh Green - July 5, 2010

He also had a great version of I Want To Pick You Up..on the Caroline Now compilation about a decade back.


6. sonofstan - July 4, 2010

the magic of Modern Eon

There’s a ME record I see about all the time – are they actually any cop or are you using them as placeholder for indie ordinaire in general?

Wild Honey is great, but the copy I have is the botched stereo mix – need to find the mono, or even buy the CD.

This weekend -or what’s left of it – will feature me twisting my aging limbs on the parquet in a talcum powder mist, as I familiarise myself with the haul of Kent/ Ace/ Horace’s Northern Soul comps I picked up a carboot sale today. KTF!


WorldbyStorm - July 4, 2010

“This weekend -or what’s left of it – will feature me twisting my aging limbs on the parquet in a talcum powder mist, as I familiarise myself with the haul of Kent/ Ace/ Horace’s Northern Soul comps I picked up a carboot sale today. KTF!”

Perhaps the greatest sentence I’ve read on this site ever.

PS ME are bloody great.


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