The Beach Boys’ Sixth Studio Album: All Summer Long

Sax von Stroheim writes:

AllSummerLongCover

From journalists to mythologizers to metaphysicians. Not their first great album, but the first album that could arguably be considered their greatest.

In the title song, memories turn to nostalgia right before our eyes:  “Every now and then we hear our song”, but the very fact that it’s “our song” means that all it can do is remind us of what’s already past.  “Won’t be long til summer time is through,” Mike Love sings. Who knows what comes next?

The album features their first #1 hit: “I Get Around”. In some ways, this is the song they had been working towards since their earliest work: recasting teenage life as a heroic epic, a band of brothers throwing themselves against the boredom and opportunity of Southern California: “I’m getting bugged driving up and dow the same old strip/I gotta find a new place where the kids are hip.”

The flip side of the cool customer in “I Get Around”, who doesn’t go steady out of consideration for his best girl’s feelings, is the sad sack in “Wendy”, the nice guy who finished last and doesn’t get what happened. Beta heartbreak.

If songs like “Ole Betsy” and “Little Deuce Coupe” showed us boys more in love with their cars than their girls, “Little Honda” might be seen as a step towards adulthood, in that what’s important to the singer about the motorbike isn’t that it’s super fast, but that he can take his girlfriend anywhere she wants to go on it (which means she has to “hang on tight”).

We get another premonition of a Pet Sounds with “We’ll Run Away”, a more straightforward, less duplicitous version of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”:

In the face of the British Invasion, they reaffirm rock and roll’s roots in the U.S.A.:

And in the middle of this album sits their greatest song. “The girls on the beach/Are all within reach,” Brian sings, but what the song is really talking about is the utopian dream that is forever just out of reach, even in Southern California.

Winding it all up, a call to arms, a Pindarian ode to the courage of the surfers, an ideal for all of us to live up to:

When a twenty-footer sneaks up like a ton of lead

And the crest comes along and slaps ‘em upside the head

They’re not afraid, not my boys

They grit their teeth, they don’t back down

Related:

  • My other posts on the Beach Boys can all be found, here.
  • Fenster shared a great track from some Beach Boys fans, here.
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3 Responses to The Beach Boys’ Sixth Studio Album: All Summer Long

  1. fenster says:

    Thanks for continuing this. I paid attention to them before this one, but it was the first that reached out and grabbed.

    All Summer Long played over the closing credits of American Graffiti, and I remember getting hit with that heavy nostalgia that is, as you say, central to the whole gestalt. Odd that that was in 1973, a mere 8 years after the recording came out.

    Like

  2. Faze says:

    It is difficult to describe how these songs knocked us out when they were first released. The first time I heard “I Get Around” and “Don’t Worry Baby” on the radio, I knew even then I would remember the moment forever. (Believe it or not, those were two sides of one single 45.) I took “Wendy” for granted up until about 10 years ago, when I was forcibly struck by its classic simplicity, epitomized in that meek but profound little organ break. “Beta heartbreak” indeed.

    Like

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