LITTLE DEUCE COUPE was the third album released by the Beach Boys in 1963! It came out on October 7th on Capitol Records, just a month after SURFER GIRL. Four of the twelve songs appeared on previous albums by the band. This album gets its name from the 1932 Ford Coupe. It was the last Beach Boys album to officially include rhythm guitarist David Marks until 2012’s THAT’S WHY GOD MADE THE RADIO, according to Wikipedia.org. In 1990 David Leaf wrote: “To those American kids for whom surfing was an impossible dream, the universal appeal of the car songs proved irresistible. This album was a huge smash, spending eight weeks in the top ten. After all, everybody in 1963 America knew somebody with a hot car”.
The title track ‘Little Deuce Coupe’ is first up. It’s one of seven songs here co-written by Brian Wilson and L.A. disc jockey Roger Christian. Hal Blaine plays drums and Mike Love sings lead on this #15 hit. This upbeat rock ‘n’ roll song finds a guy boasting about his car: “Well, I’m not braggin’ babe so don’t put me down/But I’ve got the fastest set of wheels in town/When something comes up to me, he don’t even try/Cause if I had a set of wings, man I know she could fly/She’s my little deuce coupe/You don’t know what I got”. ‘Ballad of Ole’ Betsy’ finds Brian singing lead. This easy listening song is about an aging car: “She had a classic beauty that everyone could see/I was the last to meet her, but she gave her life to me/She may be rusted iron, but to me she’s solid gold/And I just can’t hold the tears back/Cause Betsy’s growing old”.
Brian and Mike wrote ‘Be True to Your School’. Drums and sax are featured on this danceable rock ‘n’ roll ditty about loyalty: “I got a letterman’s sweater with a letter in front/I got for football and track/I’m proud to wear it now when I cruise around the other parts of the town/I got a decal in back/So be true to your school/Just like you would to your girl or guy/Be true to your school now/Let your colors fly”. Next up is the doo-wop song ‘Car Crazy Cutie’. It sings the praises of girls and of cars: “Well my steady little doll is a real live beauty/And everybody knows she’s a car crazy cutie/She’s hip to everything man from customs to rails/And axel grease imbedded ‘neath her fingernails.../I take her to the drags, man, and everyone flips/For her big blue eyes and her candy apple lips”.
‘Cherry, Cherry Coupe’ was originally 1962’s ‘Land Ahoy’. Here, it’s an ode to a car: “My coupe’s tuck and roll underneath the hood/And the rugs, seats, and panels now are looking good/When I go looking for something to do/She’s got enough room now to barely seat two/Go cherry, cherry coupe now (3X)/My cherry coupe beats ‘em up coming off of the line/Go cherry, cherry coupe now/And she really gets sparks when she starts to wine”. ‘409’ is an all around happy rock ‘n’ roll song: “When I take her to the track/She really shines/She always turns in the fastest times/My four speed dual quad posi-traction 409/Giddy up (3X)/409.../Nothing can catch her/Nothing can touch my 409”.
‘Shut Down’ was a #23 hit for the band. It tells a competitive story: “Superstock Dart is windin’ out in low/But my fuel injected Stingray’s really startin’ to go/To get the traction I’m ridin’ the clutch/My pressure plate’s burnin’ that machine’s too much/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”. Of the next song, ‘Spirit of America’, David Leaf writes: “In the early ‘60s, Craig Breedlove set the land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. His car was named ‘Spirit of America’, and this beautiful ballad is a tribute to the man and his car”.
‘Our Car Club’ is a harmless story song: “I’ve been cruisin’ round the town now with the guys for quite a while/We been thinkin’ ‘bout starting up a club that shows some class and style/And we’ll get the finest cars/We got a Deuce Coupe, a Stingray, a rail job, and an XKE/We’ll start a car club/We’ll be the fastest at the drags, man, we’ll really cut some low ET’s/We’ll start a car club/And wipe out the other clubs”. Brian and Mike sing lead on ‘No-Go Showboat’ a light rock ‘n’ roll song that laments one’s dud of a car: “Well, the engine compartment’s filled with all chrome goodies/In my no-go showboat/Yeah, but everybody takes me, even old Ford woodies/In my no-go showboat/When it comes to speed, man, I’m outta luck/I’m even shut down by the ice cream truck/’Cause it’s a no-go showboat”.
Bobby Troup wrote the tune to ‘A Young Man is Gone’. It was originally known as ‘Their Hearts Were Full of Spring’, but here, the Boys change the lyrics into a tribute to the late actor James Dean, who died in a 1955 car crash: “Screaming tire, flashing fire/And gone was this young star/Oh, how could they let him die?/Still a man is gone/Yet his legend lingers on/For he died without a cause/And they say that he’ll/Be known forevermore as the rebel without a cause”. Last up is ‘Custom Machine’ which testifies to the greatness of one’s car: “Well, she’s metal flake blue with a Corvette grill/Check my custom machine/And they say it looks better when she’s standin’ still/Check my custom machine/When I step on the gas she goes wa aa aa/I’ll let you look but don’t touch my custom machine.../A stereophonic speaker set with vibrasonic sound/Magnesium spokes, it stands an inch off the ground”. The song includes a boogie woogie piano break. It should be noted that a Single Version of ‘Be True to Your School’, which is nifty, appears on the CD re-issue LITTLE DEUCE COUPE/ALL SUMMER LONG, with the Honeys providing cheerleading sounds. This version cracked the Top 10.
Guys are often accused of having one track minds. On this 1963 album though, the Beach Boys are clearly intoxicated with a love for all things car related! There are nine faster paced rock ‘n’ roll songs and three ballads. There are eight happy songs about cars, three sad songs about cars, and there is one song about school pride. Songs about surfing are absent on this record. Even though I am not particularly fascinated with cars and am not familiar with much of the terminology used, this is a fun album to listen to. I’m rating LITTLE DEUCE COUPE 91%. For more info visit: www.thebeachboys.com.