Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Beach Boys "Friends"

I've come to the conclusion by relistening to The Beach Boys that "Friends" is their best album. That's not to say that other people necessarily agree with my assessment. Most people feel that "Pet Sounds" or the aborted "Smile" was The Beach Boys greatest achievement, but they're not really listening.

"Friends" came out in July 1968, and reached a disastrous #126 on the charts, after the chart-failing "Smiley Smile" and "Wild Honey", that seemed like mega-hits chart-wise in comparison.

After the ambitious "Smile" became the embarrassing and almost unlistenable "Smiley Smile", virtually nothing The Beach Boys ever did was as popular as what came before (unless you count "Kokomo" or something).

I'd have to say the period of 1967-1973 was their most creative period because the entire group, not just Brian really excelled and improved. Strangely, England noticed this and their releases from this period still reflected high chart positions, where as here, The Beach Boys were now considered insignificant.

Occasionally, they'd have a hit like "Do it Again" or "Darlin'", but on "Friends", the supposed to be big hit single was "Friends" and it didn't even make the Top 40, despite being one of their best tunes, ever. (I think "Good Vibrations" is their best tune, by the way.)

I, myself, dismissed the post-"Smile" period, thinking that they could not have produced anything of merit, but I find myself listening to "Wild Honey", "Friends", "20/20", "Sunflower", "Surf's Up", "Carl and the Passions" and "Holland" again and again, even more so than the hit-making Beach Boys of 1962-1966.

They took a break from 1974-1976, and virtually everything that came out later was stillborn to downright embarrassing, but oh well. For prime Beach Boys give me 1962-1973 anyday, and I will always put "Friends" at the top of the list, as it is the most cohesive, harmonic and pleasant albums they ever made. Take a listen.


Anonymous said...


Lee Hester said...


Jim Doyle said...

At last - someone else who has discovered what a gem of an album FRIENDS was. You are also right that over here in the UK we loved the Beach Boys during what was a supposedly fallow period. I bought the FRIENDS single and I loved the album cover, but it runs only 24 minutes or so, so I passed on it at the time, then caught up with it a few years later, and how pleased I was to find it didn't have a bad track - and technically, it is their best production. I still play 'Anna Lee The Healer' once a week!