Ten Underappreciated Beach Boys LPs: All Summer Long
Published on October 25th, 2011 | Jonny Abrams
With the long-awaited (to put it mildly) release of The SMiLE Sessions just under a week away, Rocksucker cranks up the excitement levels with part two of our look back over ten Beach Boys albums that merit, at least in our opinion, greater appreciation from the world at large.
Following on from our look at 1963’s Surfer Girl, we now delve with wick dipped into 1964’s All Summer Long and find it to be positively crammed with ‘lost classics’, reticent as we are to deploy that well-worn term…
2. All Summer Long (1964)
Their sixth studio album and the second of three in 1964 alone, All Summer Long sees The Beach Boys beginning to fulfil their rich potential across the length of a whole LP, albeit one that clocks in at a mere twenty-five minutes.
Opener “I Get Around” is also the best-known song on the album, near-ubiquitous as it has been on television and film soundtracks right up to and including the present day.
Their most deceptively sophisticated single to date, the effortless weaving in and out of hitherto rarely juxtaposed keys – which, to Rocksucker’s ears, truly became a trademark of Brian Wilson’s songwriting on this album – sets the stage for a melody so exhilaratingly sunny and mischievous that the contemporaneous dismissal as their manager of Murry Wilson (authoritarian father of Brian, Carl and Dennis) feels intrinsic to the song’s air of gleeful and uninhibited rebelliousness.
Lyrics such as “I’m a real cool head/I’m makin’ real good bread” and “My buddies and me are getting real well-known/Yeah, the bad guys know us and they leave us alone” suggest a self-confidence that may have owed itself at least in part to this removal of professional oppression, but then the second verse’s cocksure assertion of “We’ve never missed yet with the girls we meet/None of the guys go steady cause it wouldn’t be right/To leave their best girl home now on Saturday night” indicates that the female attention concomitant with newfound fame might have had a little more to do with it.
Occam’s razor, and all that.
For as much or as little as it’s about, “I Get Around” makes for a tremendously energising opener and segues so heart-warmingly into the album’s title track that it can soundtrack your summers even during deepest, darkest winter – summers past, by dint of the sunset nostalgia embedded in its words and melodies, and summers yet to come through the sheer sense of yearning it may encumber you with.
Y’dig?”All Summer Long” represents perhaps The Beach Boys’ most successful infusion of introspection into an ostensibly up-tempo song pre-Pet Sounds. This emotional duality is evidence of Brian’s progression from prodigious young talent to unrivalled master of the game, with his distinctive falsetto completing those ever-present harmonies with almost supernatural ingenuity.
Even the song’s lyrics are contrary, with “Won’t be long ’til summertime is through” swiftly followed by an adorably yelped “Not for us now” that feels somehow weighted down by delusion when placed amidst a musical progression so oddly melancholic, given its lack of minor chords.
A neat trick, and not for the last time.
Given the daunting task of following these monumental opening two tracks, “Hushabye” – the album’s only cover version – does not fare too badly.
A choral swirl wrapped around a smooth, ascending “ooh ooh ooh” falsetto makes it feel like something of a prototype for “Our Prayer”, albeit with none of the sombre, monastic quality and with extra added instrumentation and lyrical content.
When it eventually gets going, it takes the form of a gentle lullabye set to a rhythm that alternates between a steady Merseybeat and “Be My Baby”-esque drum fills.
It doesn’t hit the heights of its immediate predecessors but it’s a very nice thing to have around nonetheless.
The album then takes a turn back into rocky terrain with “Little Honda”, the first of a number of songs on All Summer Long to adhere to traditional progressions in its verse before messing it all up (in a good way) with offbeat, faintly psychedelic choruses.
This particular alliance is completed by “Drive In” and closing track “Don’t Back Down”, both of which feature almost sinister-sounding curveballs that elevate them from the realms of competent surf-pop to somewhere compellingly subversive.
These are three belting songs whose effectiveness becomes apparent when listening to the utterly flat “Do You Remember?” which, despite endearing with its lyrical name-checking of musicians that inspired them, has no other interesting features whatsoever.
Elsewhere, “We’ll Run Away” and “Girls on the Beach”, the latter a harmonised duet between Brian and Dennis, are two stately ballads that break up the smattering of oddball rockers something beautiful.
“We’ll Run Away” is such a languid, pretty little thing that it’s easy to overlook but repeated listens reveal it to be the kind of innocently romantic pop marvel that so frequently punctuated The Beach Boys’ early output.
“Girls on the Beach”, however, is an instant classic, similarly “When You Wish Upon a Star”-aping to Surfer Girl standouts “The Surfer Moon” and “In My Room”, if not quite as magnificent.
It comes damn close though and that makes it a hugely satisfying number in its own right.
“Wendy” is a fiendishly catchy yet emotionally delicate breakup song that sits alongside “We’ll Run Away” as a song that gradually marks its territory on your consciousness, while “Carl’s Big Chance” is a diverting if run-of-the-mill instrumental boogie.
Penultimate track “Our Favourite Recording Sessions” is essentially a bloopers reel that, while charming, disrupts the flow of the album a little too much with its two-minute running time.
Minor blips aside, All Summer Long represented another giant leap towards canonical immortality for The Beach Boys and is for the most part a diverse set of magical pop nuggets the likes of which you don’t have to have been around at the time in order to say “they just don’t make ’em like they used to”.
And, of course, there was even better to come.