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Beach Boys Ride Hot 100 With ‘Surfer Girl’

The group followed ‘Surfin’ Safari’ with the first song Brian Wilson ever wrote.

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Beach Boys Surfer Girl ad

The Beach Boys caught a wave and rode it into the US top ten for the first time in May 1963, when ‘Surfin’ U.S.A.’ reached No. 3. After an earlier top 20 single with ‘Surfin’ Safari,’ Brian Wilson’s adaptation of Chuck Berry’s melody really established the group as nationwide names. But the choice of follow-up single was going to be crucial.

By August, following some singles co-written with Mike Love, it was time for Brian to get his initial credit as a solo writer, and for the first time the producer, on a Beach Boys hit. It happened with the first song he’d ever come up with. Written in 1961, when Wilson was just 19, it displayed the tender side of this remarkable young man, now 21, and the whole group’s mastery of sophisticated harmonies. It was the romantic ‘Surfer Girl,’ and it made its American chart debut on 3 August 1963.

The song had been recorded by Brian and engineer Chuck Britz at Western Recorders Studio in June, some 16 months after the Beach Boys’ first studio effort at it. ‘Surfer Girl’ was inspired by the melodically similar ‘When You Wish Upon A Star,’ from the 1940 Walt Disney classic Pinocchio.

Beach Boys Surfer Girl Australian sleeve

The Australian sleeve of the Beach Boys’ ‘Surfer Girl’ single

Any fears about Wilson’s formative writing skills were soon laid to rest. Backed by another great early Beach Boys number, ‘Little Deuce Coupe’ (penned by Brian with Roger Christian), ‘Surfer Girl’ made a swift ascent of the Hot 100. It entered at No. 85, in the week that Jan & Dean fell from the No. 1 position with another quintessential Californian anthem, ‘Surf City.’ That was co-written by Brian with the duo’s Jan Berry.

‘Surfer Girl’ then took just two weeks to make the top 40, rising to No. 49 and No. 28. This anthem to summer love reached its zenith just as school was back in, spending two weeks at No. 7 in September. As with many of the group’s 1960s singles, the B-side was a hit in its own right, ‘Little Deuce Coupe’ listed separately on the Hot 100 from two weeks after the debut of ‘Surfer Girl,’ and rising to No. 15.

‘Surfer Girl’ is on the Beach Boys’ album of the same name, which can be bought here.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Wayne

    August 3, 2015 at 9:15 pm

    Was Al with the group from the start? Why did David Marks leave the band?

    • Mick DeLeon

      August 3, 2015 at 9:30 pm

      Al was on the first single, and the Candix sessions (The “Lost & Found” album), then went off to college. Dave Marks took his place (and was in the band when they signed with Capitol), but then Al would join the band when he came back to California on holiday. Dave quit after getting one too many verbal abuses by Murry, so when Al came back the next time he stayed for good.

      There are a few rare photos in ’63 with six Beach Boys on tour.

      Bruce would join the band around mid-’65. Dave would re-join the band in ’97.

  2. Lena Grose

    August 14, 2015 at 2:59 am

    my husband is a big fan. I took him to your last concert last year at freedom hill in michigan. I was so happy to see him smile all night. He is very ill and is in a nursing home at this time. I was hoping to bring to your concert this August but he is
    unable to travel I wanted to do this because his birthday is August 31. My husband will be 68 years old.

  3. Handyortung

    August 31, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    The Beach Boys followed Surfin Safari with the first song Brian Wilson ever wrote. Fun, Fun, Fun.

  4. Joseph Harnett

    August 4, 2018 at 5:17 am

    Surfer Girl my all time Beach Boy song forever Surfer Girl beautiful 🙂

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