Surfin' U.S.A.

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For the song of the same title, see Surfin' U.S.A. (song).
Surfin' U.S.A.
Studio album by The Beach Boys
Released March 25, 1963
Recorded June 13, 1962; January 5 – February 12 1963,
Capitol and Western Studios, California
Genre Surf rock,[1] rock and roll[2]
Length 24:15
Label Capitol
Producer Nick Venet
The Beach Boys chronology
Surfin' Safari
(1962)
Surfin' U.S.A.
(1963)
Surfer Girl
(1963)
The Beach Boys UK chronology
All Summer Long
(1965)
Surfin' U.S.A.
(1965)
Little Deuce Coupe
(1965)
Singles from Surfin' U.S.A.
  1. "Surfin' U.S.A."
    Released: March 4, 1963
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[1]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[3]

Surfin' U.S.A. is the second album released by American rock band the Beach Boys. The majority of the album's recording commenced in the first week of 1963, three months after the release of Surfin' Safari. Like the group's debut album, production was credited to Capitol's representative for Artists and Repertoire, Nick Venet.

Surfin' U.S.A. reached number two in the US, lasting 78 weeks on the albums chart. It reached number 17 in the UK in late 1965.

Impact, details and featured instrumentals[edit]

Surfin' U.S.A. is notable for giving The Beach Boys their first widespread success with its title track, and for Brian Wilson's increasing prowess in songwriting, as well as vocal arrangement. The fuller-sounding vocals were achieved using double tracking, creating The Beach Boys' own unique sound. As with Surfin' Safari, some have speculated that Surfin' U.S.A. was not produced by Nick Venet, the officially-listed producer, but by Brian Wilson. The title track, "Surfin' U.S.A.", was speculated to be plagiarized from Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen" though both chords and melodies did differ between the two songs. A lawsuit years later officially granted Berry writing credit and royalties from the record.[4] Additionally, the lyrics seem inspired by the Bobby Rydell 1959 hit "Kissin' Time" (mentions various cities across the USA), which melodically also borrows liberally from Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen."[5]

What is also interesting about this particular album is that five of its twelve tracks are surf instrumentals, "Stoked" being Brian Wilson's first of many instrumental songs he composed over the years for The Beach Boys. In addition, "Surf Jam" marks the first time Carl Wilson, aged 16 at the time, received a songwriting credit.

Notable vocal tracks[edit]

While the title track of the album was the center of attention (with its B-side "Shut Down" receiving some notice in the process), there were other highlights to be found. "Farmer's Daughter", the first of many Brian Wilson falsetto lead vocals, was affecting enough that Fleetwood Mac covered it live in 1980. "Lonely Sea" is a melancholic ballad Wilson wrote with Gary Usher. It was first recorded on the 19th of April 1962 at Western Studios and was included on the demo track that resulted in the band getting signed to Capitol Records. That recorded performance appears on Surfin' U.S.A. accompanied with overdubbed harmonies added during the recording of the rest of Surfin' U.S.A. "Lana" and "Finders Keepers" (with its Four Seasons-esque hook) are also acclaimed tracks from Surfin' U.S.A.

The title track became the Beach Boys' first big hit in the US and took its parent album into gold record status and the Top 10, peaking at number 2. In 1965, upon re-release in the UK, Surfin' U.S.A. would reach number 17.

The song "Surfin' U.S.A." is part of the The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list.[6]

Live Performances[edit]

Half the album has been performed live by the Band. However only Surfin' U.S.A. and Shut Down have become concert regulars. Surfin' U.S.A. has often been played during the encore of Beach Boys shows, while Shut Down has become a regular in the "Car Medley"[7]

The other 4 songs played (Farmer's Daughter, Honky Tonk, Lana and Let's Go Trippin') were only played once or twice following the release of the album however not since. Stoked has been played by original guitarist David Marks on several tours.

The band recorded live versions of "Surfin' U.S.A." on several Beach Boys albums. It was first released on The Beach Boys in Concert album. A concert from Anaheim Stadium on July 3, 1976 which featured the song was filmed and produced by Lorne Michaels for a Beach Boys television special which first aired in the United States in August, 1976. The TV special was later released on video and DVD as Good Vibrations Tour. In 1980, a live rendition was recorded, though not released until 2002 on the Good Timin': Live at Knebworth England 1980 live album. Footage from the concert was also released on video and DVD format. A live version was also released on the band's 1993 box set Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of The Beach Boys and well as on Live – The 50th Anniversary Tour, on which both Shut Down and Surfin' U.S.A appear.

Front cover artwork[edit]

The photograph that adorns the front sleeve was taken by artist/photographer/surfer John Severson during January 1960, showing California-based waverider Leslie Williams riding the winter swell at Sunset Beach (Oahu) in Hawaii. Intended for the front cover of Severson's Surfer magazine, the original negative was damaged during the color separation process and couldn't appear in print. When Capitol Records requested a suitable photograph for the new Beach Boys album Severson fixed the damaged image and sold it to them.

Track listing[edit]

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Lead Vocals Length
1. "Surfin' U.S.A."   Brian Wilson/Chuck Berry Mike Love 2:27
2. "Farmer's Daughter"   B. Wilson/Love B. Wilson 1:49
3. "Misirlou"   Nick Roubanis/Fred Wise/Milton Leeds/Bob Russell Instrumental 2:03
4. "Stoked"   B. Wilson Instrumental 1:59
5. "Lonely Sea"   B. Wilson/Gary Usher B. Wilson 2:21
6. "Shut Down"   B. Wilson/Roger Christian Love 1:49
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Lead Vocals Length
1. "Noble Surfer"   B. Wilson/Love Love 1:51
2. "Honky Tonk"   Bill Doggett/Clifford Scott/Billy Butler/Shep Sheperd/Henry Glover Instrumental 2:01
3. "Lana"   B. Wilson B. Wilson 1:39
4. "Surf Jam"   Carl Wilson Instrumental 2:10
5. "Let's Go Trippin'"   Dick Dale Instrumental 1:57
6. "Finders Keepers"   B. Wilson/Love Love 1:38

Sales chart positions[edit]

Albums
Year Chart Position
1963 US Billboard 200 Albums Chart 2[8]
1965 UK Top 40 Album Chart 17[9]
Singles
Year Single Chart Position
1963 "Surfin' U.S.A." US Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart 3
1963 "Shut Down" US Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart 23

Personnel[edit]

The Beach Boys

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Allmusic review
  2. ^ "Surfin' U.S.A. album review". the Beach Boys.com. Retrieved 2013-06-23. 
  3. ^ Rolling Stone Album Guide, 1992
  4. ^ "SURFIN USA". BMI Repertoire. Broadcast Music Incorporated. Retrieved 16 November 2008. 
  5. ^ "Sweet Little Sixteen by Chuck Berry Songfacts". Songfacts.com. Retrieved 2012-01-12. 
  6. ^ Rock and Roll Hall of Fame "500 songs that shaped rock and roll" [1]
  7. ^ "The Beach Boys Tour Statistics". setlist.fm. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  8. ^ "Surfin' U.S.A. - The Beach Boys: Awards". AllMusic. 
  9. ^ "UK Top 40 Hit Database". EveryHit. 

Sources[edit]

  • Surfin' Safari / Surfin' U.S.A. CD booklet notes, David Leaf, c.1990.
  • The Nearest Faraway Place: Brian Wilson, The Beach Boys and the Southern California Experience, Timothy White, c. 1994.
  • The Lost Beach Boy, Jon Stebbins and David Marks, 2008