Friday, December 10, 2010

JDIZZY's 365 # 211: Surf's Up

Surf's Up - The Beach Boys (1971)

How strange for us, that generation whose parents raised them on the music of the 1960's, when we discover Smile. Usually, after years and years of hearing Hawthorne, Ca's best singing their odes to cars, surfing, and the romanticism of teenagers, we are exposed to Pet Sounds. It tends to stop us in our tracks, realizing through the magnificent singles and album tracks that Brian Wilson was just as in touch with turning modern pop into "Classical" music as Lennon and McCartney were. Then, we begin to hear whispers of something more, something shrouded in mystery: A Lost Album, that eclipses everything being made in 1966, months before Sgt. Pepper changed the way we heard music.
Smile is as good as those forty years of myth-making imagined. When the finished version was released in 2004, it was praised, loved and cherished. The album that the evil Mike Love hated was a commercial and artistic smash. Yet, it wasn't a surprise. In the late sixties and early seventies, The Beach Boys released tracks from the session across a wide spattering of formats. With Brian becoming a mental and physical recluse, they were forced to go back to these tracks to get his compositions on their releases. They hit on the majestic "Surf's Up" in 1971. Using original backing tracks, enhanced by new vocals singing Van Dyke Parks' lyrics, they worked hard to complete this ode to the loss of the California Dream. But they couldn't finish it. Something long forgotten was missing in the ending coda.
Here is where the story takes on an air of myth, yet it reportedly truly happened. Brian Wilson, absent from the entire session because he didn't want to resurrect old ghosts, stormed into the studio, reciting the lyrics to "Child Is The Father To The Man", the missing lyrical finale to Smile's proposed centerpiece.
The fact that "Surf's Up" was released was a miracle. The fact that it is the best song The Beach Boys ever recorded cemented Smile's legend, which kept us waiting for the the day when Wilson's "Teenage Symphony To God" would take its place among the greatest music the western world has ever produced., Vince Gill is sick!

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