Surf’s Up

Surf’s Up

The Beach Boys

Lyricist Van Dyke Parks was sort of the Cam'ron of the Laurel Canyon psychedelia scene, treading a fine line between playful brilliance and cloying nonsense. In case you still needed convincing VDP is a genius, how ‘bout that Wikipedia entry! “Phil Spector meant nothing to me”? SO HARD.

Speaking on them in 1995, “I knew they didn’t surf.…I felt some resentment about [them], and I had been a fan of Four Freshmen and 5 Trombones.…Instinctively, I was not a Beach Boy fan. ‘Something really dumb about it.’” He added that, “I loved Pet Sounds, you see. I came back to love them, and thought they had done a great job. It seemed to me that they would be fine in fighting spirit to take on this challenge of wresting that trophy out of the hands of those interlopers.” Parks has gone on to call Wilson “the biggest event of that era,” and adds, “He was the force. Real convincing. He made music that could be enjoyed beyond its time. Phil Spector meant nothing to me—I thought his sound was just smoke and mirrors. People who said Pet Sounds was bastardizing classical music led very sheltered childhoods. That’s a bunch of bullshit. Brian Wilson was not imitative, he was inventive; for people who don’t write songs, it’s hard to understand how inventive he really was.”

Parks first became acquainted with Brian Wilson sometime in mid-1965, when David Crosby invited Parks to Wilson’s home to hear a four-track dub of the Beach Boys' forthcoming “Sloop John B” single. In February 1966, both Parks and Wilson reconnected at a lawn party thrown by Terry Melcher. In Wilson’s mostly ghostwritten 1993 autobiography, it was said that he gave his first impressions of Parks as being “a skinny kid with a unique perspective”, and that he “had a fondness for amphetamines” at the time. Parks hesitantly confirmed this, but added “Those were his amphetamines. They were in his medicine cabinet. I’d never had amphetamines. I was working for Brian Wilson at 3:30 AM when he wanted to have his amphetamines.”

Composer Brian Wilson wrote the gorgeous score behind it, which is probably the closest America will ever get to its own Wagnerian epic.