Surf's Up - the Beach Boys
I thought we've done the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson from all sides so let's play the track which to Beach Boys aficionados vies with "Don't Worry Baby" as their masterpiece.
I wanted the first version they put out in 1971 which was on the album "Surf's Up" with apparently Brian, brother Carl Wilson, and Al Jardine each doing a section of lead vocals and which I bought as soon as it came out. Many journalists have over the years made extravagant claims for this including the "best rock/pop song ever written". Not sure about that but it is pretty damn good. The trouble was, there is so much legend and mystery surrounding it that I'm pretty sure I can't find the original '71 version on youtube. I thought this was it, but I'm not sure now. It sounds very like it but someone has made a comment that it isn't. Still, it's still superb.
One of the main tracks from the legendary scrapped "Smile" album of 1966, then played once by Brian Wilson on US tv, then reappearing as the title track on the Beach Boys "Surf's Up album of 197, recordings of "Surf's Up" have since been surfacing regularly ever since with different Beach Boy singers, different arrangements, different words even.
And the original words by West Coast music guru Van Dyke Parks (he must have been on something) are well nigh incomprehensible too:
A diamond necklace played the pawn Hand in hand, some drummed along woah To a handsome mannered baton.
A blind class aristocracy Back through the opera glass you see The pit and the pendulum drawn.
Columnated ruins domino! Canvas the town and brush the back-drop Are you sleeping?
Hung velvet over taking me Dim chandelier awaken me To a song dissolved in the dawn.
The music hall, a costly bow, The must all is lost for now To a muted trumpeter swan.
Columnated ruins domino!
Canvas the town and brush the back-drop. Are you sleeping? Brother John?
Dove nested towers The hour was strike the street, quicksilver moon.
Carriage across the fog-two-step to Lamplight cellar tune.
The laughs come hard In Auld Lang Syne.
The glass was raised, the fired-roast, The fullness of the wine, A dim last toasting. While at Port, adieu or die.
A choke of grief, heart-hardened eye, Beyond belief, a broken man too tough to cry.
Surf's Up! mmmmm hmm hmmm, 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 A children's song, have you listened as they play? Their song is love and the children know the way.
It's not about surfing, more an artistic denial of their surfing past. For some reason it always makes me think of the fleeting last moments of the mystical aristocratic "lost domain" of Alain-Fournier's novel "Le Grand Meaulnes" or maybe the beautiful Jean-Gabriel Albicocco movie of it that came out (possibly significantly) in 1967 with its dreamlike kaleidoscopic section of white clad young people partying in their country chateau. But the extraordinary thing is, whichever version you listen to, by the end the combination of words and music is incredibly moving. When they get to "a children's song" all the tragedy of human existence seems for a moment to well up inside you, bringing together both the futility and the beauty of the world and our own solitary lives.
Okay, forget that, just put your feet up and enjoy it!