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'Surf's Up'
The Beach Boys
Although it first saw the light of day on the 1971 album of the same name, “Surf’s Up” has a long and convoluted history – rather like the band behind it. By 1966, Brian Wilson, The Beach Boys’ de facto leader and creative genius, had started work on the follow-up
The Beach Boys
Song facts
Composer Van Dyke Parks/Brian Wilson
Genre Pop
Album Surfs Up
Year of release 1971 
to the acclaimed Pet Sounds album. Alas, a combination of his increasingly eccentric behaviour and criticism from the rest of the band led him to shelve the Smile sessions, as they are known.
“Surf’s Up” was one of several tracks to be rescued from the ruins of the lost album. With a complex, classically-influenced melody, regular tempo shifts and intricate, alliterative lyrics by Wilson’s young protégé Van Dyke Parks, the song is a world away from the simple pop of The Beach Boys’ early surf-rock singles.
Wilson and Parks wrote it in an about an hour – while sitting at a piano in a sandpit in Wilson’s dining room – and when it finally surfaced it served only to leave fans thinking about what might have been had Smile survived intact.

Manager Jack Riley on recording Surf's Up
Sold On Song
Beach Boys manager Jack Riley talks about how Surf's Up came to be recorded - "Carl suddenly hit that high note...he really did it well. He read that lyric beautifully".


Other versions
Brian Wilson tribute album
 Clark Burroughs provided a unique version of one of Brian Wilson's greatest moments for the album Wouldn't It Be Nice (A Jazz Tribute To Brian Wilson)

a huge sonic painting with some of the most vivid lyrics and haunting musical arrangements.


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Songwriting tips

Success won't happen overnight. Learn to keep your confidence and to take setbacks on the chin.
More in Staying On Track

Surf's Up has some wonderful lyrics. Learn more about
 words in Writing Lyrics
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So you think you know your Beach Boys? Try our Surf's Up quiz.


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