The Beach Boys’ ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ is one of their best-loved numbers, and a highlight of their live shows for the past 50 years. Released 1964, it entered the Billboard Hot 100 on 15 February at No.69 and on the week of 21 March it climbed to No.5 on the charts. It was kept from climbing any higher by three Beatles singles, ‘She Loves You’, ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ and ‘Please Please Me’, with the Four Seasons, ‘Dawn (Go Away)’ holding down the fourth spot. Perhaps most surprising of all, given its popularity, is that ‘Fun Fun Fun’ never made the UK chart.
It’s a great example of the way things were done back in the Sixties, as ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ had only been recorded six week earlier on New Year’s Day 1964. Beginning at shortly after mid day at Western Recorders in Hollywood, the Beach Boys were all there, along with drummer Hal Blaine, saxophonists, Steve Douglas, Ed Migliori and bass player Ray Pohlman. As Brian Wilson would later tell Newsweek magazine, “I could go into the studio and cut a record in three hours. I’d say, ‘Hey we’ll make the best record ever tonight’. I had that kind of spirit – and goddamn if it didn’t work!”
This was the start of the band recording their new album, Shut Down Vol.2 and ‘Fun Fun Fun’ was first attempted by the group working on a slower version of the song. Mike Love’s lead vocals were added to the backing track, followed by percussion and guitar parts inserted. There then followed 19 takes of recording the backing vocals that completed work on what is for many a masterpiece of the California sound.
What is it that makes the song work so well? Well there’s the driving beat and the underpinning of everything by the fabulous bass line and the honking saxes of Douglas and Migliori giving it a fuller sound than many other records at the time – just check out the backing track version from Hawthorne CA on our Spotify playlist. The song is written by Mike Love and Brian Wilson, Love the lyricist, Wilson the music. It is Mike’s brilliant evocation of what people around the world imagined to be the American dream– or the California dream of living in the Sunshine State. To round it all off there’s the great harmony vocals.
Both the stereo and mono versions were done at the New Year’s Day session; the difference between the two is that the stereo mix fades out early, with the instruments fading away before the vocals. The mono mix, on the single release as well as mono copies of Shut Down Vol. 2 features an extended outro.