The Friends That Stay A Long Time

The hippie dream may seem long dead in the divided 2018 world, but it started unraveling in the chaos of 1968. And so 50 years ago today, the Beach Boys sent Friends out into a rock universe that was heading into harder, edgier territory. Seemingly at odds with Revolution, Street Fighting Man and Sympathy With The Devil and ignored chartwise, at least in the States, this album can almost be seen as the first “new age” album and has now become something of a minor cult classic.

However, if one moves away from the historical context of this album, one can also see it as an album celebrating what the Beach Boys do best- beautiful songs, beautiful harmonies. Another noteworthy feature is the emergence of Dennis Wilson as a songwriter- Be Still and Little Bird are his first serious songwriting contributions and neither disgrace this album. Brian Wilson is still very involved, at least co-credited on the remaining ten tracks and apparently uncredited as a part-writer on Little Bird. The Wilson brothers provide a thematic unity throughout the album of peaceful music, celebrating the simple joys of life, although this is shattered somewhat by Transcendental Meditation, the album closer and weak spot of the album. The remaining eleven tracks – while not absolute classics in themselves -work well together to ensure a quality album.

Friends remains an impressive achievement, and a definite refutation of any theory that great Beach Boys music ended with the 1967 demise of SMiLE. Sometimes simpler is better.

One Response to “The Friends That Stay A Long Time”

  1. Steve Lockwood says:

    One wonders where the Boys would have headed if Smile had been released. But on the other hand Smiley Smile was pretty good, Wild Honey, Friends, and 20/20 kept that streak going. Then they were the hippie Beach Boys live and had some good stuff with Ricky & Blondie, very underrated.

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