The 1970’s had almost reached the halfway point (1974) and the Beach Boys had released three excellent albums, Sunflower, Surf’s Up, and Holland plus one clunker, Carl & The Passions – So Tough. The problem facing the Beach Boys was that these excellent albums were not selling well and worse the Beach Boys were becoming irrelevant.
Enter Mike Love and the Beach Boys former label, Capitol. Many of the Beach Boys newer songs were not conducive to being performed live on stage. Mike Love did not play an instrument, so he was most comfortable on stage when he was singing, which he did on many of the groups pre Pet Sounds hits. Capitol Records was always looking to make a buck, and I’m O.K. with that. They retained the rights to the huge pre 1970 Beach Boys catalogue. Capitol Records and Mike Love put together a two record, twenty song compilation album and released it under the name Endless Summer.
Endless Summer was released in 1974 and promptly became the number one album in the country selling over three million copies. It remained on Billboard’s top album charts for over three years. Capitol was happy as it made buckets of money. Mike Love was happy as the early Beach Boys hits were back in the public eye.
Endless Summer introduced a second generation of music buyers to the Beach Boys. Their new material still did not sell much better but for the next twenty years The Beach Boys became one of the most popular concert attractions in the country. I saw the Beach Boys live several times during this period of time. It was always in arenas that held about 15,000 people and they were always sold out. The down side of all this was the Beach Boys became basically a nostalgia act playing their old surf and turf hits. They did, however, make buckets of money.
Endless Summer is really an extended greatest hits album. Many artists have used this concept but few have had the quality and quantity of songs to choose from as did the Beach Boys. Also these songs looked back to a simpler, sentimental time and set against the events of 1974 they were welcome.
Mike Love and Capitol, for the most part chose songs well. “Surfin’ USA,” “Be True To Your School,” “I Get Around,” “California Girls,” “Little Deuce Coupe,” “All Summer Long” and “Surfer Girl” all re-appeared in the public’s consciousness. Earlier ignored gems like “Wendy,” “Girls On The Beach” and “In My Room” were also included. The only complaint I have is that the studio versions of “Help Me Ronda” and “Fun Fun Fun” were used instead of the hit singles versions.
Of course if at first you succeed, try try again. So 1975 brought a second double album entitled Spirit Of America. This release reached number eight on the charts and sold over a million copies which again made everyone buckets of money.
Spirit Of America was not as strong as its predecessor as many of the groups best songs had already been used. Still “Dance Dance Dance,” “Little Girl I Once Knew,” “When I Grow Up (To Be A Man),” and “Do You Wanna Dance” formed a strong foundation for the album. However, by the time you get to “Tell Me Why” the quality is on the wane.
Endless Summer and to a lesser degree Spirit Of America served the purpose of re-invigorating the Beach Boys career and making everyone concerned money. Today both releases have been superseded by other greatest hits collections and box sets. However, if you are just looking for an introduction to the Beach Boys or some music for a cold winter’s night these two albums are still a good place to turn.