A John Lennon reference in “Surf’s Up”?

13 02 2009

Until 1966, the Beatles and the Beach Boys were the two biggest bands in the United States and perhaps the world.  Although there was little in common between the two groups on the surface, there was a lot of overlap between them.  That is a topic for another time.

Whether or not they had anything in common, it is widely known that the Beatles and the Beach Boys were major influences on one another in the mid-60s.  Brian Wilson is said to have been amazed by the American version of Rubber Soul, which inspired him to create Pet Sounds.  That album, in turn, was a big influence on both John Lennon and Paul McCartney, though the influence on McCartney is more often stated.  Before beginning work on what was to become Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Paul wrote “Penny Lane” and crafted it with what he called a “clean sound,” or “Beach Boys-y” kind of stuff.

If nothing else, they paid attention to each other, even tried to one up the other.  Arguably this “rivalry” was more important to the two bands than the supposed “rivalry” with the Rolling Stones.

Fast forward to late 1966.  In America, the Beatles released Yesterday and Today.  By November of that year, Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks completed one of the best Beach Boys songs ever, “Surf’s Up.”

Having established that, I would wildly speculate that “Surf’s Up” pays homage to the Beatles, particularly John Lennon.  One line says:

Canvass the town and brush the backdrop
Are you sleeping, Brother John?

Just months before it was completed, Yesterday and Today was released with John’s song “I’m Only Sleeping (on Revolver in the UK.)  That album, as all the Beatles’ albums at the time, was released by Capitol Records in America, also the Beach Boys’ record company.

I think “Brother John” is John Lennon.  He was, indeed, “sleeping” because he had told us that in song.

I know, I know. That bit is from the nursery song “Freres Jacques.”  Interestingly, though, the Beatles had just borrowed from that same song.  In “Paperback Writer,” George and John sing “Frere Jacques” in the background behind the verses.

It all fits, doesnt it?

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2 responses

25 02 2009
jjackso15

I love your thinking behind all of that but of course you know, it’s that kind of thinking that gave us “Paul is dead”

25 02 2009
ourboy

jjackso, I would never suggest that this isn’t most likely the work of an overactive imagination on my part. But it was fun speculation, nonetheless. 🙂

Thanks for the comment.

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