Vocal Surf Rock
People wanted to be Californians once they heard Jan Berry and Dean Torrence sing this classic song about heading to the beach — and girls. “Surf City” went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #3 on the R&B chart in 1963. The song was written by Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys and Jan Berry. (The line in the lyric “Two girls for every boy” is typical of Wilson’s work at the time — as are the chords and harmonies.) Evidently, the story goes, Murray Wilson, Brian’s father and group manager for The Beach Boys, was angry that the song went to Jan and Dean. At the time, The Beach Boys had not yet had a #1 hit in the U.S. (Surfin’ Safari had been #1 in Sweden but rose to #14 in America.) Brian continued to work with the duo anyway. He sang on their first album; Dean sang lead vocals along with Brian on The Beach Boys’s cover of “Barbara Ann.” Murray had nothing to worry about, as The Beach Boys, of course, went on to a sparkling career of many mega hits.
“Surf City” is one of the Jan and Dean songs that used the group of studio musicians known as The Wrecking Crew. On the track are Hal Blaine, Earl Palmer, Bill Pitman, Ray Pohlman, and Billy Strange. There have been numerous covers of the song, including versions by The Delltones, The Rip Chords, The Meteors, Ramones, and The Go-Go’s, to name a few.