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Music Review: The Beach Boys – Surfer Girl

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The third Beach Boys album, Surfer Girl, continued the advancement of Brian Wilson’s studio technique and musical vision for the group. There is little doubt that Brian is finally in charge of the Beach Boys as he is officially listed as the producer for the first time.

The title track and hit single, “Surfer Girl,” was the first and one of the best of the Brian Wilson’s penned emotional ballads. He has stated over the years that there was no one girl in mind when he wrote the lyrics to this wistful, gentle song of longing. Since the release of “Surfer Girl,” millions of listeners have taken their personal surfer girls and placed them within the context of the song. Brian Wilson’s clear high voice brings his lyrical pictures to life and creates an eternal image frozen in time.

Brian Wilson’s other ballad is a personal one. “In My Room’ is an innocent picture of a safe place for Brian Wilson. Given Brian’s Wilson’s personal problems that would hound him most of his adult life, “In My Room” would become a poignant look at the past and prove that there are places outside of that room where it is not safe.

The second song on the album was the under-rated “Catch A Wave.” Even today there is a very modern feel to this song. “Catch A Wave” shows Brian Wilson’s progress in the technique of overdubbing as he would continue to combine the individual voices of the group into a virtual choir on tape.

“The Rocking Surfer” continued the trend of Beach Boys instrumentals. There is a rare use of an organ for the melody plus excellent solo guitar work by the continually improving Carl Wilson.

“Little Deuce Coupe” and “Our Car Club” would take the love of cars and add it to the love of girls and surfing and create the trinity of Beach Boys music throughout much of their early career. Brian Wilson would tinker with “Little Deuce Coupe” for a period of time until it emerged as a signature Beach Boy classic. The cold full harmony beginning which then settles into the melody continues to be brilliant decades later. “Our Car Club” is now buried in the Beach Boys catalogue but here Brian Wilson begins to experiment with changing rhythms within the structure of a classic Beach Boys song.

“Your Summer Dream” would continue the subtle musical experimentation. Brian Wilson would double track his vocals and change chords as the song progressed.

“The Surfer Moon” is today a historical oddity. It was one of the first songs that Brian Wilson ever wrote and was released as a single by Bob & Sheri. Bob was a friend of Brian’s. Here the song is recycled as a somewhat forgettable Beach Boys song. 

Surfer Girl remains an excellent effort by the Beach Boys. Brian Wilson seems focused and energized. His problems that would emerge later are not yet apparent. Surfer Girl is still worth seeking out and giving a listen even 45 years later.

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About David Bowling

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/gordon_hauptfleisch Gordon Hauptfleisch

    Nice review, and great series (are you going through most or all of the BB albums?). I’m a major Beach Boys fan, so I’ll be following along. Looking forward to the next installments.