‘Surfin’ Safari’: The Beach Boys Catch The Late Tide In The UK

Curiously, the gap between the group’s UK single and album chart debuts was over 24 months.

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Beach Boys 'Surfin' USA' artwork - Courtesy: UMG
Beach Boys 'Surfin' USA' artwork - Courtesy: UMG

It’s a historical oddity that the gap between the first appearance by the Beach Boys on the UK singles chart, and their first chart album there, was more than two years.

On September 25, 1965, as they made a surprisingly modest impression on the British singles Top 30 with the faultless “California Girls,” fans there finally gave them their album chart debut. They did so by going back some eight releases to their 1963 set Surfin’ USA. The reason was simple: Capitol had only just released this early piece of Beach Boys history in the UK for the first time.

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The extremely belated transatlantic appearance of Surfin’ USA was an odd throwback to their formative years of singing about surfing, cars and girls, at a time when Brian Wilson’s songwriting was becoming ever more sophisticated. Indeed, he had already given up touring to stay home and write songs. Meanwhile, the rest of the group continued their relentless schedule of road work, interspersed with studio sessions with Brian.

Album sessions and extensive touring

As Keith Badman’s The Beach Boys book chronicles, four days during September 1965 had them booked into Western Recorders in Hollywood for work on their Beach Boys Party! album. In between, they played a three-week North American tour that, on the September 25 UK chart date, saw them playing at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Oregon.

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The Surfin’ USA album entered the British countdown at No.17, disappeared for a week and then spent six more weeks on the list in October and November — five of them, bizarrely, at No.20. Soon, Capitol was continuing its catch-up schedule by releasing another of the group’s 1963 albums, Little Deuce Coupe, in the UK, once again two years late. That missed out on chart honors, but early in 1966, that Beach Boys Party! release was giving the group their first UK Top 10 album.

Buy or stream Surfin’ USA.

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