Surfer Girl (song)

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"Surfer Girl"
Surfer Girl cover.jpg
Single by The Beach Boys
from the album Surfer Girl
B-side"Little Deuce Coupe"
ReleasedJuly 22, 1963[1]
Format7" vinyl
RecordedJune 12, 1963
United Western Recorders, Hollywood
Songwriter(s)Brian Wilson
Producer(s)Brian Wilson
The Beach Boys singles chronology
"Surfin' U.S.A"
"Surfer Girl"
"Be True to Your School"
Endless Summer track listing
Audio sample
"Surfer Girl"

"Surfer Girl" is a song written, produced and sung by Brian Wilson for American rock band the Beach Boys. It was released as a single and it then appeared on the 1963 album of the same name, Surfer Girl. The B-side of the single was "Little Deuce Coupe". The single was the first Beach Boys record to have Wilson officially credited as the producer.


Written solely by Brian Wilson, the song is his very first composition. The lyrics were inspired by Judy Bowles, Wilson's first serious girlfriend, whom he had dated for three and a half years.[2] He explained the genesis of the song: "Back in 1961, I'd never written a song in my life. I was nineteen years old. And I put myself to the test in my car one day. I was actually driving to a hot dog stand, and I actually created a melody in my head without being able to hear it on a piano. I sang it to myself; I didn't even sing it out loud in the car. When I got home that day, I finished the song, wrote the bridge, put the harmonies together and called it 'Surfer Girl'."[citation needed]

The song was based on a Dion and the Belmonts version[citation needed] of "When You Wish upon a Star",[2] which has the same AABA form.[3][4] As a solo artist, Wilson later covered it for the tribute album In the Key of Disney (2011).[5]


The band first recorded the song at World Pacific Studios on February 8, 1962 which was one of the band's first ever recording sessions. However, the recordings from that session, engineered by Hite Morgan, would ultimately remain unreleased until later archival releases. "Surfer Girl" is played in 12/8 time.[citation needed]

The instrumental track as well as the vocals for the officially released version were recorded on June 12, 1963 at Western Recorders, located at 6000 Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.[6] The session was produced by Brian; the first song, along with "Little Deuce Coupe", to be credited as a Brian production. The musicians on the track are David Marks and Carl Wilson on guitar; Brian Wilson on bass guitar and Dennis Wilson on drums. The finished instrumental track can be heard on the 1968 release Stack-O-Tracks. The song is sung by the group - Mike Love, Carl, Marks and Dennis Wilson - with lead vocal by Brian. Also recorded during that session was "Little Deuce Coupe"

Single release[edit]

The "Surfer Girl" single backed with "Little Deuce Coupe" was released under Capitol Records in the United States on July 22, 1963. The single entered the Billboard chart on August 3 and it would then hit the Top 40 on August 17 at the number 28 position. After the single had been on the charts for six weeks it peaked at number 7 on September 14, 1963. It placed at number 5, for three weeks, in Cash Box and number 3 in the UPI weekly survey used by newspapers. Its regional performances belie even these higher national peaks, having risen to #1 in playlists in Los Angeles (four weeks), San Francisco (six weeks), Philadelphia, Boston and Dallas—all major markets where it was among the very biggest hits that year; and runner-up or top three in Washington DC, Toronto, Montreal, Sacramento, Minneapolis, Columbus, Pittsburgh. The single also peaked in the U.S. Billboard R & B chart at number 18 in September 1963. Internationally, it was number 1 on New Zealand's Teen Scene chart and number 8 in Australia (2UE).

In 1969 the World Pacific Studios sessions recording of the song was issued on Era Records as a single with another artist on the B-side, thus seeing the first official release of the early Surfer Girl recording. The single however failed to make any impact on the charts. Years later, in May 2003, the song was released on an EP under Capitol Records along with "Surfin' U.S.A.", "Don't Worry Baby" and "The Beach Boys Medley". However the record failed to chart.

In Australia the single peaked at number 8 on the charts in October 1963 and thus became the band's second top 10 hit in Australia.

Album and alternate releases[edit]

The song was first released on an album in 1963 on the band's Surfer Girl album.

The early World Pacific Studios recordings of the song were eventually released on CD in 1991 on the archival release Lost & Found (1961-62) as well as subsequent re-issues of that album which featured alternate album titles. A binaural mix of the song was released on the 1998 compilation Endless Harmony Soundtrack. This mix featured the instrumental recording on one channel and the vocal recording on the other channel.

Live versions[edit]

The first live version of the song to be released was on the band's 1973 live album The Beach Boys in Concert which featured Alan Jardine on lead vocal and Billy Hinsche on the falsetto vocal. 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. Another live recording of the song from a concert in 1989 was released on the 2006 album Songs from Here & Back. There is also a live rehearsal of the song on the box set Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of The Beach Boys.

The band performed a live version of the song at the NBC Television Studios in Burbank, California which was filmed on March 14, 1964. Footage of the concert was later released on the DVD The Lost Concert. The band also performed the song on The T.A.M.I. Show which was filmed at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on October 28 and 29, 1964 and featured other top artists of the day such as Chuck Berry, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, James Brown & The Famous Flames and The Rolling Stones. The concert was released as a film in 1964 featuring the Beach Boys performance. However, after the initial showing of the film Brian insisted that the band's performance be cut from the film. Because of a rights dispute the footage of the Beach Boys' performance does not appear in most versions of The T.A.M.I. Show. The footage was eventually released on the DVD Sights of Summer included with the special 2004 edition of Sounds of Summer: The Very Best of The Beach Boys.

Brian Wilson released a live version of the song on his 2000 live album Live at the Roxy Theatre. Al Jardine also released a live version of the song on his Live In Las Vegas solo album.


Cover versions[edit]

Paul Simon sang a cover version of the song at An All-Star Tribute to Brian Wilson in 2001, which was later released on DVD.

OC Times caused consternation at the 2007 International convention of the Barbershop Harmony Society by singing a barbershop arrangement of this song.

In popular culture[edit]


Chart (1963) Peak
New Zealand (Lever Hit Parade)[7] 5
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 7
U.S. Billboard R&B Best Sellers 18


  1. ^ Badman, Keith. The Beach Boys. The Definitive Diary of America's Greatest Band: On Stage and in the Studio Backbeat Books, San Francisco, California, 2004. p. 39
  2. ^ a b Murphy 2015, pp. 135–136. sfn error: no target: CITEREFMurphy2015 (help)
  3. ^ Philip Lambert, Inside the Music of Brian Wilson: The Songs, Sounds, and Influences of the Beach Boys' Founding Genius (Continuum, 2007):28.
  4. ^ Covach, John (2005), "Form in Rock Music: A Primer", in Stein, Deborah, Engaging Music: Essays in Music Analysis, New York: Oxford University Press, p.70, ISBN 0-19-517010-5 .
  5. ^ Brian Wilson, in @BrianWilsonLive, February 16, 2011: "We're doin' "When You Wish Upon A Star" for the new album. It kinda inspired "Surfer Girl." - Brian".
  6. ^ Hartman, Kent (2012). The Wrecking Crew. St. Martin’s Griffin. pp. 261–263. ISBN 978-1-250-03046-7.
  7. ^ Flavour of New Zealand, 17 October 1963

External links[edit]