Deep Cuts From 1971: “Surf’s Up”- The Beach Boys. In the late 60’s to early 70’s The Beach Boys had an image problem. Their last Top 10 hit was “Good Vibrations”- their masterpiece which went to #1 in 1966. As the late 60’s settled in The Beach Boys suffered from the mental collapse of their leader Brian Wilson and they all the sudden seemed pretty square. In the early 1970’s they couldn’t catch a cold. This is not to say they didn’t put out quality work they did but no one was interested. It wouldn’t be until the mid 70’s with the release of the double compilation greatest hits package Endless Summer-that they became a nostalgia act and had their first Top 40 hit of the 1970’s- in 1975 with their cover of Chuck Berry’s “Rock And Roll Music” #5. Of the singles they released which went nowhere in the first part of the 1970’s two stand out “Sail On, Sailor” in 1974 and this one “Surf’s Up” in 1971- “Surf’s Up” didn’t even crack the Hot 100.
“Surf’s Up” was a Brian Wilson song from the mid 60’s- it was originally intended for the Smile project which was scrapped in 1967. Van Dyke Parks wrote the lyrics. While the song does mention surf- it has nothing at all to do with surfing. The Beach Boys really had little to do with surfing- I believe Dennis was the only one in the group who was a surfer. Brian would bring the song back in 2004 when he did a solo version of Smile. WHat is the song actually about? The great songwriter Jimmy Webb interpreted the song as “a premonition of what was going to happen to our generation and … to our music—that some great tragedy that we could absolutely not imagine was about to befall our world.”