Surfin' Safari

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Surfin' Safari
Studio album by
ReleasedOctober 1, 1962
RecordedOctober 3, 1961; April 19, August 8, September 5–6, 1962
StudioCapitol Studios and Hite Morgan Studios, California
GenreGarage surf[1]
ProducerNick Venet
The Beach Boys chronology
Surfin' Safari
Surfin' U.S.A.
The Beach Boys UK chronology
Surfin' Safari
Shut Down Volume 2
Singles from Surfin' Safari
  1. "Surfin'"
    Released: November 1961
  2. "Surfin' Safari" / "409"
    Released: June 4, 1962
  3. "Ten Little Indians" / "County Fair"
    Released: November 26, 1962

Surfin' Safari is the debut album by American rock band the Beach Boys, released on October 1, 1962 on Capitol Records. The official production credit went to Nick Venet, though it was Brian Wilson with his father Murry who contributed substantially to the album's production; Brian also wrote or co-wrote nine of its 12 tracks.[2] The album peaked at No. 32 in its 37-week run on the US charts.

The album was preceded by two singles: "Surfin'" and "Surfin' Safari", which charted at Nos. 75 and 14, respectively. The success of "Surfin' Safari" helped secure a full album for the group while an additional single, "Ten Little Indians", was issued, charting at No. 49.


The group is mainly comprised of people from Hawthorne, California, named Wilson … there’s Brian, Dennis, Carl, and their Dad, Murry Wilson, a long-time songwriter who acts as manager for the outfit. Then there's the boys' talented cousin, Mike Love … who sings both the lead tenor and deep bass parts in their unusual vocal arrangements. … [and] young David Marks, a neighbor of the Wilsons who plays a driving rhythm guitar. Brian, the oldest of the Wilson boys, is the group's leader and vocal arranger. Carl is the very accomplished lead guitarist, while brother Dennis sings and plays the drums. None of them, incidentally, had any formal training except for Carl on guitar who took lessons from John Maus alongside David Marks. They all grew up in an atmosphere where music was a regular part of their lives.

— excerpt taken from the album's original liner notes[2]

In the autumn of 1961, cousins Brian Wilson and Mike Love composed a song on surfing, titled "Surfin'" at the behest of Brian's younger sibling, Dennis Wilson. They quickly formed a band, bringing in the youngest Wilson brother Carl on lead guitar and Brian's high school friend Al Jardine on rhythm guitar. Brian took up bass, Dennis the drums and Mike would be the frontman, while they all would harmonize vocals arranged by Brian. Released that December, produced by Hite Morgan, and backed by "Luau", "Surfin'" made No. 75 in the US Top 100 in early 1962.

Father Murry Wilson became the band's manager. He submitted a professionally recorded demo tape to Capitol Records that spring. The Beach Boys were signed and "Surfin' Safari" b/w "409" (from the April 1962 demo tape) was released as a single that June. Al Jardine left the band after the recording of the song "Surfin'" but before the demo session and album session, replaced by Wilson-family friend David Marks— Jardine would rejoin to form a six-member band in the fall of 1963, appearing on the third studio album. With both "Surfin' Safari" and "409" becoming hits (the former reaching US No. 14), Capitol Records approved a full album. Brian Wilson, who regularly collaborated with Mike Love and Gary Usher, contributed the songs that made up the bulk of the LP.

The second single, "Ten Little Indians", was less successful, reaching only No. 49, with Brian feeling that "Chug-A-Lug" would have made a better follow-up.[2] Though Mike and Brian are the most prominent singers, Dennis makes his first vocal appearance on "Little Girl (You're My Miss America)" (shown as "Little Miss America" on the album cover).

Recording and composition[edit]

The early demos were recorded in a session engineered by Chuck Britz, who recorded most of the Beach Boys records from 1963 to 1966.[2] Britz was credited with helping Brian Wilson develop as a musician, being called his "second ear".[2][3][4][5]

"County Fair" was inspired by Gary Usher and Brian Wilson visiting a county fair in San Bernardino, the song was written in about ten minutes. "Ten Little Indians" saw the group trying to emulate the style of the song Running Bear. According to Usher, Capitol chose the song as the second single due to thinking that surf music was a fad.[2] "409", a song credited with creating the hot rod music craze in the 1960s,[6] was written about Gary Usher's obsession over hot-rods.[7] The car sound effects were recorded by Usher driving his car past the home of the Wilsons, who had set a tape recorder up outside using a 100-foot extension cord.[2] "Little Miss America" features a doo-wop style, and is about "the ideal southern California dream girl.[8][2]

The first single, "Surfin'", was credited with creating the genre of California Sound, a music aesthetic primarily revolving around surfing, hot rod culture, and youthful innocence.[9][10] Brian Wilson stated that the song was created after Dennis Wilson told him "surfing’s getting really big. You guys ought to write a song about it."[2] "Heads You Win, Tails I Lose" was written because of Usher and Brian Wilson's frequent use of coin flipping to decide things. The group wanted to make contemporary expressions into songs. The song "Moon Dawg", originally performed by The Gamblers, was considered the first surf rock song.[2] The Beach Boys became the first group to cover the song, exposing it to a much wider audience.[11] "The Shift" was presented as a "fashion statement" from Brian Wilson and Mike Love.[2]

Cover artwork[edit]

The front cover of Surfin' Safari features a yellow pickup truck and surfboard[12], with bandmates David Marks (on hood), Dennis Wilson (driver), Mike Love (front roof), Brian Wilson (back roof) and Carl Wilson.[2] The photo was taken on the beach at Paradise Cove, north of Malibu. The picture was taken by in-house Capitol photographer Ken Veeder, in a photo shoot that would also produce the cover for the band's 1963 album Surfer Girl.[original research?][13]


The album was released through Capitol on October 1, 1962, and peaked at No. 32[2] in its 37-week run on the US charts. In the UK, the album was not released until April 1963, and failed to chart.[citation needed]

The album was later released as a compilation on CD in 1990 with the Beach Boys' second album Surfin' U.S.A., called Surfin' Safari / Surfin' USA.

Because the copyright has expired in Europe, the album is also readily available on various European-based oldies labels.


Professional ratings
Retrospective reviews
Review scores
AllMusic2/5 stars[14]
Blender3/5 stars[1]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide3/5 stars[15]

Retrospective reviews of Surfin’ Safari have been mostly negative. Richie Unterberger, in a retrospective review for AllMusic, feels that most of the songs are substandard, but that as the album was recorded by the Beach Boys themselves rather than session musicians, it does offer an opportunity to hear what the band sounded like in the studio.[14]

Live performances[edit]

4 of the 12 songs on the album have been performed live in concert by the Beach Boys. "Surfin' Safari" and "409" are regulars in set lists while "Surfin'" and "Summertime Blues" have been played with varying frequency.[16]

Track listing[edit]

All lead vocals are by Mike Love except where noted.

Side one
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
1."Surfin' Safari" 2:05
2."County Fair"
3."Ten Little Indians"
  • B. Wilson
  • Usher
  • B. Wilson
  • Usher
  • Love
5."Little Miss America"
D. Wilson2:04
  • B. Wilson
  • Usher
  • Love
Side two
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
  • B. Wilson
  • Love
2."Heads You Win–Tails I Lose"
  • B. Wilson
  • Usher
3."Summertime Blues"Marks and C. Wilson2:09
4."Cuckoo Clock"
  • B. Wilson
  • Usher
B. Wilson2:08
5."Moon Dawg"Derry Weaverinstrumental2:00
6."The Shift"
  • B. Wilson
  • Love

Some reissue pressings omit "Surfin'" and "Cuckoo Clock", and move "Chug-A-Lug" onto Side two after "Heads You Win".

2001 CD reissue bonus tracks
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead VocalsLength
13."Cindy, Oh Cindy"
  • B. Barons
  • B. Long
B. Wilson2:10
14."The Baker Man"B. Wilson 2:37
15."Land Ahoy"B. Wilson 1:38


The Beach Boys
Additional musicians and production staff


Year Chart Position
1963 US Billboard 200 Albums Chart 32[22]
Year Single Chart Position
1962 "Surfin' Safari" US Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart 14
1962 "409" US Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart 76
1962 "Surfin'" US Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart 75


  1. ^ a b Wolk, Douglas (October 2004). "The Beach Boys Surfin Safari/Surfin U.S.A.". Blender. Archived from the original on June 30, 2006. Retrieved June 2, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Leaf, David (1990). Surfin Safari / Surfin U.S.A. (CD Liner). The Beach Boys. Capitol Records.
  3. ^ Schinder, Scott; Andy Schwartz (2008). Icons of Rock: An Encyclopedia of the Legends Who Changed Music Forever, Volume 1. Greenwood Press. pp. 105–106. ISBN 978-0-313-33845-8.
  4. ^ Clark, William; Jim Cogan (2003). Temples of Sound: Inside the Great Recording Studios. Chronicle Books. p. 32. ISBN 0-8118-3394-1.
  5. ^ Badman, Keith; The Beach Boys (2004). The Beach Boys: The Definitive Diary of America's Greatest Band on Stage and in the Studio. Backbeat Books. p. 377. ISBN 0-87930-818-4.
  6. ^ Breitenstein, Jeff. Ultimate Hot Rod Dictionary: A-Bombs to Zoomies. MotorBooks International. p. 107. ISBN 978-1-61059-235-2.
  7. ^ "The Beach Boys: 409". allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 10 December 2012.
  8. ^ allmusic 2
  9. ^ Starr, Kevin (2009). Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance, 1950-1963. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-515377-4.
  10. ^ Howard, David N. (2004). Sonic Alchemy: Visionary Music Producers and Their Maverick Recordings. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 57. ISBN 978-0-634-05560-7.
  11. ^ Murphy, James B. (2015). Becoming The Beach Boys, 1961-1963. McFarland Publishing. p. 230.
  12. ^ "THE ORIGINAL BEACH BOYS SURFBOARD". Retrieved 2019-11-08.
  13. ^ "THE ORIGINAL BEACH BOYS SURFBOARD". Retrieved 2019-11-08.
  14. ^ a b Surfin' Safari at AllMusic Allmusic review
  15. ^ Brackett, Nathan; with Hoard, Christian, eds. (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). New York, NY: Fireside/Simon & Schuster. p. 46. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  16. ^ "The Beach Boys Tour Statistics". Retrieved 28 October 2013.
  17. ^ Stebbins 2007, p. 18. sfn error: no target: CITEREFStebbins2007 (help)
  18. ^,16962.msg449488.html#msg449488
  19. ^,16962.msg449302.html#msg449302
  20. ^,16962.msg449348.html#msg449348
  21. ^,17653.msg454079.html#msg454079
  22. ^ "Surfin' Safari - The Beach Boys: Awards". AllMusic.