Surf’s Up ( Brian Wilson Van Dyke Parks Beach Boys Cover ) 02.06.11
I wasn’t planning to do another Beach Boys cover so quickly after interpreting the Dennis Wilson/Gregg Jacobson chestnut, Forever, but I got into a wonderful online chat with another uber-fan about the music of Brian Wilson recently, specifically Wilson’s work with Van Dyke Parks, and I decided to give this one a go. It’s not like I haven’t been playing it for myself at home for approaching two decades.
Another impetus to capture a live take of this great song was that my friend and musical collaborator, violinist Alex Cheung was over on a Saturday night, and was willing to help take me through recording it with more than just a cheap mono camera, which I’ve been using for the past two years. This song deserves better treatment than that. (Well, all the songs I cover do, but…)
Much has been written about the Beach Boys SMiLE period—Alex is in the background in this clip, reading the first edition of Dominic Priore‘s LOOK! LISTEN! VIBRATE! SMILE!—and I can safely say I’ve read most books, magazine articles, and critical analysis on the subject, the period, the music, and Brian’s subsequent triumphant completion of the project in 2004, 37 years after the music was first conceptualized.
I don’t have much to add to what has been written, other than to say that the song Surf’s Up is Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks’ masterpiece. The chord progressions, the ornate words, the baroque atmosphere the combination creates, and the resonant mood the piece generates is a wondrous gift to music lovers. The song will be around forever. It’s as good as anything Bach composed. Seriously. I hope I do it some justice as a fan.
I was lucky enough to see Brian Wilson play live nine times (once with him reunited with the Beach Boys in 2012.) I also saw the Carl Wilson-led Beach Boys band in 1986 and 1993 (their box set tour was incredible.) I even got my Pet Sounds box set book signed by Brian, the year he toured with Paul Simon, and won a signed Imagination book in 1998 through the Entertainment Tonight website. I was fortunate enough to also meet Van Dyke Parks in 2010, when he toured through Toronto with Clare and the Reasons. I was so intimidated by him I probably sounded like a fool. We talked about how great Harry Nilsson was.
Rest assured, the music of Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks changed my life for the better.