The Beach Boys – Surf’s Up


Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

The purpose of this little series isn’t to delve deep into the back story of an album, yet the track featured tonight has its genesis in the fabled Smile sessions that The Beach Boys were working on in ’66-’67 as a follow-up to Pet SoundsSome of these songs were eventually officially released on other albums in inferior versions. Surf’s Up is probably the only song (for me) that causes a debate over the Smile version versus the officially released version (on 1971’s Surf’s Up album). The 1966 version features Brian Wilson on piano, emotion pouring out of his voice as he recites the words of Van Dyke Parks. Topics of life and death come to the fore with a resolution of hope in tandem with new beginnings. Deep stuff, to be sure. 1971 found the song revisited with Carl Wilson on lead vocals and an unused snippet from the Smile sessions called Child is Father of the Man tacked on as a highly effective coda. Personally, I love the Brian Wilson vocals from ’66 with the coda from ’71. As a compromise you can find THAT sequence (sort of) on the 2004 release Brian Wilson Presents Smile. You can also pick up the Smile Sessions box-set that was released in 2011. Confusing? Just soak up these words:

A choke of grief heart hardened I
Beyond belief a broken man too tough to cry

Surf’s Up
Aboard a tidal wave
Come about hard and join
The young and often spring you gave
I heard the word
Wonderful thing
A children’s song

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