The story I heard about Pacific Vibrations goes something like this. John Severson wanted to make one last magnum opus surf movie, then tap out. Sell SURFER, train his replacement, pack his boards and family, and move to Maui. That’s exactly how it happened. Incredible career, as profitable as it was creative, not overly long, capped off by flawless exit.
Except for Pacific Vibrations. Now, I love the movie, always have, grim and heavy-handed as it may be. But John evidently was crushed by it. From conception all the way through final edit, Severson had it fixed in his head that Beatles music would feature on the soundtrack. There may have even been some early communication with Apple Records (the Beatles’ company), and the auguries were all good.
The final cut was done. John was exhausted but ecstatic. The Beatles songs were laid into the mix all snug and tight, harmonizing perfectly with Severson’s sublime camerawork and editing.
Then word came down from the Beatles camp. No go. The music was all snatched off the table. Either that, or the price was so high that it didn’t matter. John scrambled, and the soundtrack ended up pretty righteous. CSNY, Steve Miller, Ry Cooder, Leo Kottke, even Cream. But no Beatles.
John was devastated. I believe that he kind of lost interest in the whole project. Moved to Hawaii a year or so later and smoothly, artistically got on with his life. But my sense is that Pacific Vibrations is the one that got away.
And thus . . . my humble but fully-Beatled-out tribute to our Sun King.