Surfin' Safari

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Surfin' Safari
Studio album by
ReleasedOctober 1, 1962
RecordedNovember 1961; April 19, August 8, September 5–6, 1962
  • Capitol (Hollywood)
  • Hite Morgan (Los Angeles)
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 the American rock band the Beach Boys, released 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 reached number 32 in the US during a chart stay of 37 weeks.

The album was preceded by two singles: "Surfin'" and "Surfin' Safari", which charted at numbers 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 number 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, but 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]


Recording sessions for Surfin' Safari took place in Capitol's basement studios in the famous tower building in August.[3] During the sessions, Brian Wilson fought for, and won, the right to helm the production – though this fact was not acknowledged with an album liner notes production credit.[3] David Marks remembered, "Brian did everything. Played, did the arrangements, screwed up the lead sheets himself. He didn't need any help to do that. You listen to those first albums and they sound campy and corny but Brian was dead serious."[4]


Side one[edit]

"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".[2] "Little Miss America" features a doo-wop style,[5] and according to biographer David Leaf, is about "the ideal southern California dream girl".[2]

In "Chug-a-Lug", written by Brian and Usher, the lyrics refer to Usher, Marks, Carl, and Dennis, as well as a Larry. The latter was possibly Larry Lennear, a saxophonist who played and recorded with Brian at the time.[6][7] "409" was written about Usher's obsession over hot-rods.[8] 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]

Side two[edit]

Brian stated that the song "Surfin'" was composed after Dennis 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.[2]

The instrumental "Moon Dawg", originally performed by the Gamblers, was considered the first surf record.[2] The Beach Boys became the first group to cover the song, exposing it to a much wider audience.[9] "The Shift" was presented as a "fashion statement" from Brian and Love.[2]

Release and reception[edit]

Retrospective professional ratings
Review scores
The Encyclopedia of Popular Music[11]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[12]

The album was released through Capitol on October 1, 1962, and peaked at No. 32.[2] Lead single, "Surfin'", was later credited with creating the genre of California Sound, a music aesthetic primarily revolving around surfing, hot rod culture, and youthful innocence.[13][14] "409" was similarly credited with starting the hot rod music craze of the 1960s,[15] According to Usher, Capitol chose "Ten Little Indians" as the second single due to thinking that surf music was a fad.[2]

Richie Unterberger, in a retrospective review for AllMusic, felt that most of the songs on Surfin' Safari are substandard, but that as the album was recorded by the Beach Boys themselves rather than session musicians, it offered an opportunity to hear what the band sounded like in the studio.[10]

Track listing[edit]

Side one
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocal(s)Length
1."Surfin' Safari"Mike Love2:05
2."County Fair"Love2:15
3."Ten Little Indians"
  • Wilson
  • Usher
  • Wilson
  • Usher
  • Love
5."Little Girl (You're My Miss America)"
Dennis Wilson2:04
  • Wilson
  • Usher
  • Love
Side two
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocal(s)Length
  • Wilson
  • Love
2."Heads You Win–Tails I Lose"
  • Wilson
  • Usher
3."Summertime Blues"2:09
4."Cuckoo Clock"
  • Wilson
  • Usher
Brian Wilson2:08
5."Moon Dawg"Derry Weaverinstrumental2:00
6."The Shift"
  • Wilson
  • Love
Total length:24:53
1990/2001 CD reissue bonus tracks
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocal(s)Length
13."Cindy, Oh Cindy"
B. Wilson2:10
14."The Baker Man"WilsonB. Wilson2:37
15."Land Ahoy"WilsonLove1:38
Total length:31:18


  • Mike Love was not originally credited for "Chug-A-Lug" and "409". His credits were awarded after a 1994 court case.[16]
  • Some reissue pressings omit "Surfin'" and "Cuckoo Clock", and move "Chug-A-Lug" to the beginning of side two.[16]


Year Chart Position
1963 US Billboard 200[17] 32


  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 Leaf, David (1990). Surfin Safari / Surfin U.S.A. (CD Liner). The Beach Boys. Capitol Records.
  3. ^ a b Badman 2004, p. 26.
  4. ^ Badman 2004, p. 25.
  5. ^ "Surfin' Safari/Surfin' U.S.A. - The Beach Boys | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic" – via
  6. ^ Murphy, James B. (June 8, 2015). Becoming the Beach Boys, 1961-1963. McFarland. ISBN 9780786473656 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ Badman, Keith (August 15, 2004). The Beach Boys: The Definitive Diary of America's Greatest Band, on Stage and in the Studio. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 9780879308186 – via Google Books.
  8. ^ "The Beach Boys: 409". allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved December 10, 2012.
  9. ^ Murphy, James B. (2015). Becoming The Beach Boys, 1961-1963. McFarland Publishing. p. 230. ISBN 9780786473656.
  10. ^ a b Surfin' Safari at AllMusic Allmusic review
  11. ^ Larkin, Colin (2007). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195313734.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Starr, Kevin (2009). Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance, 1950-1963. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-515377-4.
  14. ^ Howard, David N. (2004). Sonic Alchemy: Visionary Music Producers and Their Maverick Recordings. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 57. ISBN 978-0-634-05560-7.
  15. ^ Breitenstein, Jeff. Ultimate Hot Rod Dictionary: A-Bombs to Zoomies. MotorBooks International. p. 107. ISBN 978-1-61059-235-2.
  16. ^ a b Doe, Andrew G. "Album Archive". Bellagio 10452. Endless Summer Quarterly.
  17. ^ "Surfin' Safari - The Beach Boys: Awards". AllMusic.

External links[edit]