The Beach Boys “Surfin’ Safari” (1962)

     Another big step forward into the 1960s today with the debut album of the Beach Boys, another lifelong favorite of mine.  Truly a family affair, the Beach Boys featured brothers Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson, along with cousin Mike Love and friends Al Jardine and David Marks.  The band was even managed by Murray Wilson, the temperamental and explosive father of the Wilsons.  Even from the beginning, Brian Wilson was the creative genius behind the Beach Boys.  However, on this album, vocally Mike Love takes the lead on almost all of the songs, and their famous harmonies and Brian’s remarkable falsetto doesn’t emerge as much as on future releases.

     Although this album’s most recognizable hit is the title track “Surfin’ Safari”, followed by “409”, most of the album sounds very basic and simple in structure.  A mix of early raw surf-rock sound and rockabilly carryover from the 1950s, covers of “Summertime Blues” and “Moon Dawg”, an early instrumental surf track which sounds a lot like a predecessor for “Wipe Out”, help fill the mix of songs written by Brian Wilson.  The first single was “Surfin”, written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love based on a suggestion from Dennis Wilson that they should try writing a song about the emerging craze of surfing in southern California.  The song structure is incredibly simple by comparison and has roots in 50s doo-wop mixed in with a touch of sea and sand.  Oddly enough, Dennis Wilson was the only Beach Boy with even a passing interest in actually hitting the surf.  Surprisingly, even Dennis, who usually was on drums and the least featured brother of the three, takes the lead vocals on the song “Little Girl”, a cover of a Herp Alpert song.

     There is enough here to certainly catch your ear, but in general, it also shows how much room the Beach Boys had to build on and improve in their performance and musicality.   As one who made several trips to southern California in the early 1970s, I fully subscribed to the American dream of sunny beaches and palm trees in the surf, and this music, especially subsequent releases, still fills a big place in my summer playlist when its warm, and my winter playlist when I wish it was…

Published by tacopepper

A music fan...

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