Surfin’ U.S.A – The Beach Boys

THIS DAY IN MUSIC…………………………………………….on April 13th of 1963 “Surfin’ USA” by the Beach Boys was released in the US, where it will become the group’s second Billboard chart-maker, reaching #3. The lyrics are basically a guide to good surf locations, but the “Surfin’ U.S.A.” music was based on Chuck Berry’s 1958 hit “Sweet Little Sixteen.” The Beach Boys did it as a tribute to Berry, but didn’t get his permission first – maybe because Berry was in jail for transporting a minor across state lines. When Berry threatened to sue, The Beach Boys agreed to give him most of the royalties and list him as the song’s composer. The song also helped build Berry’s legend while he served his time. Many of the early Beach Boys’ songs were about surfing. Dennis Wilson was the only Beach Boy who actually surfed, but surfing was a very popular at the time, especially with teenagers who bought records. For The Beach Boys, the surfing subculture gave them an opportunity to write songs about adventure and fun while exploring vocal harmonies and new production techniques. And while the majority of Americans didn’t surf, the songs represented California, which was considered new and modern and a great place to be. Surfing, and California by extension, became more about a state of mind. This is a very early Beach Boys song, following up their first hit “Surfin’ Safari.” Brian Wilson was gaining confidence as a producer, and this song marks the emergence of what would become the Beach Boys signature sound over the next few years. Wilson got the most of 1963 studio technology, and managed to create a sound with bright guitars and sophisticated background vocals – something he accomplished with double-tracking. Brian also used his falsetto vocals in the chorus to offset Mike Love’s lead. The Beach Boys hadn’t quite caught on yet in the UK but eventually would. This song peaked at #34.