On Wendy And The Endless Summer Of 1974
April 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the recording of The Beach Boys’ Wendy. I was introduced to it 40 years ago this spring by a school friend named Wendy, who was the older sister of a school mate of mine, Rick Burdett. I was invited over one June afternoon after school by Rick to play ball outside. Or was it frisbee? Whatever. It was outdoor street games. Joining us was Rick’s neighbour Esron, whom I would see at church every Sunday with his lovely mother, enduring my questionably proficient organ playing of those hymns that seemed to go on forever, at least as my memory serves.
That sunny June afternoon, however, I instead found myself not outside trying to catch a ball with my scrawny, uncoordinated bear paws, but in the Burdett family den all afternoon, with Rick’s sister Wendy, listening to Wendy’s new copy of the recently released Endless Summer Beach Boys compilation. On vinyl.
The double album—with an amazing gatefold illustration a kid could look at for hours, of a bunch of bearded California hipsters hiding behind a patch of Henri Rousseau-like foliage—comprised of astonishingly solid hit song after hit song, which were all by then a decade old, yet didn’t seem old, captured my imagination in a way that the classical music my piano teacher was trying to inspire me to play, did not. It captured the zeitgeist of a new generation as well, and went to number #1 on the Billboard charts that summer. It also pushed into the background the Beach Boys’ superior work from 1966-1973, but that only gave musicians like me fodder for discovery later on, in the late 1980s. But that’s another story.
It was on that sunny afternoon in 1974 when I discovered the compositional, harmonic and production genius of Brian Wilson: The Warmth Of The Sun, I Get Around, Let Him Run Wild, Don’t Worry Baby, and Wendy. I will always attribute the Wendy I knew with exposing me to the music that I would study for years to come.
By the time I rejoined the guys out on the street, they were ready to watch TV, and the afternoon was over. My head was awash in a harmonic blend that seemed to match what seemed like a sun-flare sunset behind me, following me down Alexandra Street as I biked home. Sun-flare sunsets existed before J. J. Abrams “invented” them, you know.
(FYI, in the remaster, they got rid of Dennis Wilson’s accidental cough, which was originally heard during the instrumental.)