‘Long Promised Road’: Beach Boy Carl Wilson’s Inner Quest On ‘Surf’s Up’

The Carl Wilson/Jack Rieley composition came from the album that returned the group to critical acclaim.

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Beach Boys ‘Long Promised Road’ artwork - Courtesy: UMG
Beach Boys ‘Long Promised Road’ artwork - Courtesy: UMG

The chart date of October 30, 1971 marked the appearance of a single from the album that became a new landmark in the already fabled career of the Beach BoysThe group’s 17th studio LP Surf’s Up had been released at the end of August to some of the best reviews they had had in years. Rolling Stone talked about their “remarkable comeback,” while Melody Maker observed how they were “back in fashionable favor.”

The entire line-up had composer credits on Surf’s Up, and one of the highlights was “Long Promised Road,” written by new manager Jack Rieley and Carl Wilson, with Carl taking the lead vocal. The album is rightly lauded for the majesty of Brian Wilson’s title track collaboration with Van Dyke Parks and for Brian’s magnificent “‘Til I Die.” But with Rieley on board, the Beach Boys now showed their hand as an outfit with multiple songwriting talents.

Long Promised Road (Remastered 2009)

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In the aforementioned review of Surf’s Up in Melody Maker, writer Richard Williams had particular praise for “Long Promised Road” and Carl Wilson and Jack Rieley’s other collaboration “Feel Flows.” Williams wrote that they were “quite simply the best ‘inner quest’ songs I’ve ever heard, and they lack nothing in terms of jewelled arrangements.”

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“Long Promised Road” was first released as a single in May 1971, ahead of the album, but failed to make the US chart, and missed the UK listing when issued almost simultaneously. Second time around, in the slipstream of the positive reaction to Surf’s Up, it entered the Hot 100 at No.93 in the week that the LP achieved its No.29 peak in America. “Long Promised Road” only reached No.89. But even then, it was the group’s first single to make the US chart for 19 months, and the Beach Boys were critical favorites once again.

Buy or stream “Long Promised Road” on Surf’s Up.



  1. Mick DeLeon

    November 7, 2016 at 8:59 pm

    Having written/said this many times over the years, it still bears repeating. Surf’s Up was an excellent album, yet the song “Student Demonstration Time” is out of place and out of vibe with the rest of the LP. It would have made a strong stand-alone single, and should’ve been bumped off the LP in favour of one or two other strong tracks recorded during the same time period.

  2. Steve (but not Naive)

    October 31, 2019 at 12:47 am

    How did Mike Love ever graduate to lead vocal in the great Beach Boys when the wonderful Carl Wilson was relegated to the occasional lead and mostly background singing?

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