SURFIN’ SAFARI was the first studio album by The Beach Boys. It was released on October 1, 1962 on Capitol Records. The front cover was shot on the beach at Paradise Cove, north of Malibu. At the time, the group consisted of the three Wilson brothers (Brian, Dennis, and Carl), cousin Mike Love, and neighbour David Marks. The album peaked at #32 on the U.S. Billboard 200 Albums Chart and stayed on the U.S. charts for 37 weeks. The duo of Brian Wilson and Gary Usher wrote four of the album’s twelve songs. In 1990 Brian reflected: “I was very young (20) and I was feelin’ my oats. The theme song of the album SURFIN’ SAFARI, gave me a jolt. I went into the songwriting aspect of it with gusto. I worked off youthful energy and my head was full of needs to get a bad childhood off my chest. I proceeded to do this by sittin’ at my piano and poundin’ out chords and rhythms. I was getting the knack of writing melodies”.
The title track, ‘Surfin’ Safari’ starts things off. It is one of two Brian Wilson/Mike Love co-writes, and one of eight songs where solely Mike sings lead. It was a #14 hit for the group before the album came out. It’s an innocent surf rock ‘n’ roll song: “Let’s go surfin’ now/Everybody’s learning how/Come on and safari with me.../Early in the morning we’ll be startin’ out/Some honeys will be coming along/We’re loading up our woody with our boards inside/And headin’ out singing our song”. ‘County Fair’ is a humorous story song about a guy who is unable to win his gal a prize at a fair. Another guy comes along and wins her a prize, thus stealing her heart away.
‘Ten Little Indians’ isn’t exactly politically correct and only runs a minute and a half. Here is one of the verses: “The 7th little Indian took her over to his tipi/Little Indian boy/The 8th little Indian tried to give her a love poem/Fighting over a squaw/The 9th little Indian said ‘You’re my Kemosabe’/Little Indian boy/The squaw didn’t like ‘em at all”. ‘Chug-A-Lug’ is one of two songs penned by the trio of Brian, Mike, and Gary Usher. It’s a fun, upbeat rock ‘n’ roll track with an electric guitar solo: “Carl says hurry up and order it quick/Dave gets out to chase that chick/Dennis wonders what’s under the hood/A big chrome tach and it sounds real good/I go down to the root beer stand and drink up all that I can/Give me some root beer/Chug-a-lug (3X).../Brian’s still glued to the radio”.
‘Little Miss America’ was written by Herb Alpert and Vincent Catalano and was first recorded by Dante & His Friends. Dennis Wilson sings lead here on this pleasant pop song of infatuation: “Blue eyes, blonde hair, lips like a movie star/Little girl with heart of gold/You’re my Miss America/Little girl with lips untold/You’re my Miss America/You’re so sweet, you’re so fine/Hey, won’t you be mine?/Everybody knows it”. ‘409’ is a peppy rock ‘n’ roll song that is all about a guy’s dream car, and includes car sound effects: “She’s real fine, my 409 (2X)/My 409/Well, I saved my pennies and I saved my dimes/Giddyup, giddyup, 409/For I knew there would be a time/Giddyup, giddyup 409/When I would buy a brand new 409, 409, 409.../Nothing can catch her, nothing can touch my 409, 409”.
‘Surfin’’ is a happy rock ‘n’ roll ditty that Dennis encouraged to be written because surfing was becoming quite popular. Some of the words are: “Surfin’ is the only life, the only way for me/Now surf, surf with me.../I got up this mornin’, turned on my radio/I was checkin’ out the surfin’ scene/To see if I would go/And when the DJ tells me that the surfin’ is fine/That’s when I know my baby and I will have a good time”. The song was a #2 hit in L.A. ‘Heads You Win-Tails I Lose’ is on the cheesy side of things: “Every time we have a fight/We flip a coin to see who’s right.../Heads you win/Tails, I lose/Heads you win, tails I lose/Bad news”.
Eddie Cochran and Jerry Capehart wrote ‘Summertime Blues’. Cochran took it to #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and later on Alan Jackson had a #1 hit with it. The Beach Boys’ version is a real foot shuffler and includes this scenario: “Well, my mom and pop told me/’Son, you gotta make some money if you want to use the car to go ridin’ next Sunday’/Well, I didn’t go to work, told the boss I was sick/’Well, you can’t use the car ‘cause you didn’t work a lick’/Sometimes I wonder what I’m a gonna do/But there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues”. Mike and Brian share the lead. The next cut, ‘Cuckoo Clock’, finds Brian singing lead and is definitely a novelty song: “Cuckoo/Cuckoo, go away silly bird.../I took that clock apart, tick tock, tick tock/I broke the cuckoo’s heart.../He’ll never bother us again”.
‘Moon Dawg’ was originally recorded by the Gamblers in 1959. It’s a surf rock instrumental on which Carl Wilson shows off his guitar skills. The song includes dog barking/howling sounds. Last up is ‘The Shift’, which includes these sexy lyrics: “You may think a dress can’t do very much/Wearin’ a shift really turns me on/With the slit up the side, you can’t resist that touch/Wearin’ a shift really turns me on/It’s tighter than a moo-moo and it’s just too much/Wearin’ a shift (2X)”.
SURFIN’ SAFARI is a fun, carefree, energetic debut rock ‘n’ roll album from what would become one of America’s favourite groups of all time. The topics and emotions on this record are what one would expect from five young guys from early 1960’s California. Mike Love is a great lead vocalist. The sky was truly the limit for The Beach Boys after this album came out in 1962! I’m rating SURFIN’ SAFARI 95%. For more info visit: www.thebeachboys.com.
SURFIN’ U.S.A. was The Beach Boys second studio album. It was released by Capitol Records on March 25, 1963. It hit #2 on the U.S. Billboard 200 Albums Chart and stayed on the chart for 78 weeks! On the album, The Beach Boys once again are: Brian Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Carl Wilson, Mike Love, and David Marks. The front cover photo was taken by John Severson in January of 1960. It shows Leslie Williams surfing at Sunset Beach (Oahu) in Hawaii. In 1990 Brian Wilson had the following to say: “This album showcased our voices. We were just kids, but we were serious about our craft. The point being that when you are given the chance, you do your best. It’s another way of sayin’ ‘Thanks’ to the fans who buy records”.
The title track, ‘Surfin’ U.S.A.’ features Brian Wilson’s lyrics set to the music of Chuck Berry’s ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’. It was released as a single March 4, 1963 and peaked at #3 on the ‘Billboard’ and ‘Cash Box’ charts. Mike Love sings lead on this contagious rock ‘n’ roll song that includes the use of an organ and an electric guitar solo. The song begins with these now familiar lyrics: “If everybody had an ocean/Across the U.S.A./Then everybody’d be surfin’ like California/You’d see ‘em wearing their baggies/Huarachi sandals too/A bushy bushy blonde hairdo/Surfin’ U.S.A.” Next up is ‘Farmer’s Daughter’ on which Brian sings lead in his falsetto. It’s a light pop love song: “I could come from miles away/Ain’t got no place to stay/Glad to help you plow your fields/Farmer’s daughter/Might be just a couple of days/Clean up, rest and on my way/Thank you and I’m much obliged/Farmer’s daughter”.
‘Misirlou’ is originally from the Eastern Mediterranean region. Both Jan August and Dick Dale had hits with it. I can picture someone belly dancing or charming a snake to this instrumental piece here! ‘Stoked’ is a decent Brian Wilson surf rock instrumental.
‘Lonely Sea’ is a sad but lovely ballad penned by Gary Usher and Brian Wilson: “The lonely sea (2X)/It never stops for you or me/It moves along/From day to day/That’s why my love (2X)/You’ll never stay (2X)/This pain in my heart/These tears in my eyes/Please tell the truth/You’re like the lonely sea”. Brian and Roger Christian wrote ‘Shut Down’. It hit #23 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Chart. Jan and Dean recorded it in 1982. Mike Love sings lead and contributes a sax solo to this fun Beach Boys version. It’s about racing cars: “Pedal’s to the floor/Hear his dual quads drink/And now the four-thirteen’s lead is startin’ to shrink/He’s hot with ram induction, but it’s understood/I got a fuel injected engine sittin’ under my hood/Shut it off, shut it off/Buddy, now I shut you down”.
‘Noble Surfer’ is a Wilson/Love story song: “A surfin’ Casanova with his customized board/A Woody and h is dirty white jeans/He takes his choice of honeys up and down the coast/The finest surfer yet to make the scene/Noble, ain’t joshin’/Surfer, ain’t joshin’/He’s the number one man/He’s movin’”. Bill Doggett had a #2 hit with ‘Honky Tonk’ back in 1956. This Beach Boys cover of it here, is pleasant. It’s an instrumental.’
‘Lana’ is a bouncy adult pop song where a guy tries to woo a gal: “Lana, Lana, oh Lana dear/Please come along with me/We’ll go, we’ll go/So far away/So happy we will be/I’ll show, I’ll show you another world/Alone with silver and gold”. Carl Wilson wrote the happy instrumental ‘Surf Jam’.
‘Let’s Go Trippin’ is often cited as the first surf rock instrumental. It appeared first on Dick Dale & His Del-Tones 1962 album SURFER’S CHOICE. The Beach Boys’ version has a sunny and tropical vibe to it. On ‘Finders Keepers’, Mike Love delves into bass vocal territory. The lyrics are playful: “I kicked out of the surf and stuck my board in the sand/And then up in my Woody to a hamburger stand/And when I got back my nine five board was gone/She said, yeah she said/’Finders keepers (2X)/Losers weepers (2X)’”.
SURFIN’ U.S.A. is a more diverse album than the group’s debut record, in that five of the twelve tracks are surf instrumentals. One could argue that that is too great a percentage, but other fans of the genre won’t mind at all. As for the other songs, there are three about surfing, three about girls, and there’s one about cars. Mike sings lead on four songs and Brian on three. Overall, this is a cheerful rock ‘n’ roll record, even though it doesn’t include many of the group’s greatest hits to come. The harmonies are to be commended here. I’m rating SURFIN’ U.S.A. 88%. For more info visit: www.thebeachboys.com.
Three bonus tracks are included on the 2001 CD re-issue of the first two Beach Boys albums. ‘Cindy, Oh Cindy’ was written by Robert Barron and Burt Long. It’s also been recorded by Vince Martin & The Terriers, Eddie Fisher, Perry Como, and The Highwaymen. It finds a guy pining for his gal: “I joined the Navy to see the world/But nowhere could I find a girl as sweet as Cindy/The girl I left behind/I’ve searched the wide world over/Can’t get her out of my mind/Cindy, oh Cindy/Cindy, don’t let me down/Write me a letter dear and I’ll be homeward bound”. ‘The Baker Man’ is all about a new dance craze, and has a party type feel to it. ‘Land Ahoy’ is a rock ‘n’ roll outtake from SURFIN’ SAFARI. It has a nautical flare to it: “Listen here matey/In an hour or so/We’ll be sitting on the land that we know/We’ll leave this ship and run to outstretched arms/And soon we’ll be living with our lover’s charms”.