Beach Boys, The – Surfin' USA
Label: Capitol Records – SM-1890
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album, Reissue
Country: US Released: 1970
Surfin' U.S.A. is the second studio album released by American rock band the Beach Boys. It reached number two in the US, lasting 78 weeks on the albums chart, eventually being certified gold by the RIAA, and brought the group newfound national success. It was led by one single, its title track with the B-side "Shut Down".
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 ostensibly to Capitol's representative for Artists and Repertoire, Nick Venet, although bandleader Brian Wilson was heavily involved in the album's composition. The album marks the beginning of his practice to doubletrack vocals, resulting in a fuller sound.
In the United Kingdom, the album was belatedly released in late 1965, reaching number 17.
Although thought of as a surf group, the sound of the Beach Boys was far different from surf rock performers like Dick Dale. In fact, their sound drew as much from '50s-style rock & roll as it did surf rock and utilized complex vocal harmonies previously unheard of in this pop genre. Case in point: "Surfin' U.S.A.," which combines Four Freshman-styled harmonies with a melody lifted from a Chuck Berry classic. The lyrics of "Surfin' U.S.A." are a pure teen fantasy: "We'll all be gone for the summer/We're on safari to stay/Tell the teacher we're surfing/Surfin' U.S.A." It also catalogs an itinerary of great surfing spots in a manner inspired by the Chubby Checker hit "Twisting U.S.A." As for the melody, it was lifted directly from Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen" (early pressings neglected to mention this, creating a legal dispute that ended with the song being credited solely to Berry for many years). However, Brian Wilson's arrangement takes it in a new and interesting direction by fortifying the main melody with soaring backup vocal lines and adding a nifty "Inside, Outside, U.S.A." counter melody to lend extra ear candy to the travelogue-style verses. The Beach Boys' recording adds more energy to the song with a rumbling bass line and some pulse-pounding drum work. Their recording of "Surfin' U.S.A." is also notable because it was the first time the group double-tracked their harmonies, thus inventing the rich vocal sound that became their trademark. It became the Beach Boys' first Top Five hit and has since become a pop/rock standard covered by everyone from Leif Garrett to the Jesus & Mary Chain. However, the Beach Boys' version remains the favored recording because its cleanly harmonized Americana is too energetic and inspired to ever lose its freshness. (amg)
A1 Surfin' USA
A2 Farmer's Daughter
A5 Lonely Sea
A6 Shut Down
B1 Noble Surfer
B2 Honky Tonk
B4 Surf Jam
B5 Let's Go Trippin'
B6 Finders Keepers
Notes: 70s reissue of Capitol Records release ST 1890.
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