Surf City

Album: Surf City (1963)
Charted: 26 1
  • songfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys wrote this song in collaboration with Jan Berry from Jan & Dean. It's very similar to many of the Beach Boys recordings, starting with the vocal hook "Two girls for every boy" and moving into the harmonies and chord progressions that were typical of Wilson's work.
  • Wilson was working with a few different artists at the time, including the girl group The Honeys. He was extremely productive during this period, emulating Phil Spector as he focused on production and songwriting. "Surf City" was his first #1 hit, coming a year before The Beach Boys would top the charts with "I Get Around."
  • The Beach Boys met Jan & Dean in the summer of 1962 when both groups played at a teen hop. That fall, The Beach Boys served as Jan & Dean's backing group on a few live dates for the duo. As detailed in the DVD Brian Wilson Songwriter 1962 - 1969, in 1963 Jan & Dean would record in a nearby studio, and Jan Berry struck up a friendship with Wilson. When this song went to Jan & Dean, Murry Wilson, who was Brian's father and the group's manager, was furious, as he thought it should be a Beach Boys song. Undeterred, the groups continued working together, with Wilson singing on Jan & Dean's first album, and Dean Torrence doing lead vocals on The Beach Boys' "Barbara Ann."
  • Jan & Dean were ambassadors of the California culture in the mid-60s, scoring 11 Top-40 hits from 1963-1965, mostly dealing with surfing, girls and cars. Young people who weren't from California certainly wanted to be there after hearing this song about heading to the beach, and many of them did. Dean Torrence said in Let It Rock, 1973: "We came to look at it like we were piloting a boat. We'd pull all these manoeuvers and then slow down and wait for our following to come around. It was strange to think, that at one time, you could go out to Mallibu and there'd be nobody out there. Then, one day — whoosh! so crowded you couldn't even get in the water. And in some way we all were the cause of that whole situation."
  • Brian Wilson's first draft of the song had a working title of "Goody Connie Won't You Come Back Home."
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Comments: 5

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn June 28th 1965, Jan and Dean performed "Surf City" on the Dick Clark's ABC-TV weekday afternoon program 'Where The Action Is', and this was the show's debut episode*...
    Exactly two years earlier on June 28th, 1963 "Surf City" was at #10 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; sixteen days later on July 14th it would peak at #1 for two weeks {See next post}...
    * 'Where The Action Is' would be on the air for just under two years; it had a grand total of 403 episodes, with the last one airing on March 31st, 1967.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn June 9th 1963, "Surf City" by Jan and Dean entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #68; five weeks later on July 14th, 1963 it would peaked at #1 {for 2 weeks} and it stayed on the chart for 13 weeks...
    Between 1959 and 1966 the duo had twenty-four songs make Top 100 chart; five made the Top 10 with one reaching #1, after "Surf City" their next biggest hit was "The Little Old Lady From Pasadena", it reached #3 in 1964...
    They just missed having a sixth Top 10 record when "Honolulu Lulu" peaked at #11 in 1963 {and two just made the Top 10 when both "Baby Talk" and "Drag City" peaked right at #10}...
    Sadly; Jan Berry passed away on March 26th, 2004 at the age of 62...
    May he R.I.P.
  • Rocky from Fort Smith, ArBack in 1963 my younger brother was a Jan & Dean fan & bought this single. That's basically how I got to like the song, but I'd heard it over the radio for weeks beforehand. Surf music just wasn't my bag back then, until later. I remember that my girlfriend at the time, "Cow Patty," had a crush on Jan Barry & it irked me to no end. This was also a song written by Brian Wilson & I admired him for his work in music production. On the West Coast, Brian & Phil Spector were just about the two major record producers who were enormously successful.
  • Elmer H from Westville, OkDidn't this song help to give the surfing craze some momentum in the early Sixties? And then along came some other group's ridiculously insane song, "Surfing Bird" and nearly ruined everything! Anyway, many friends in my high school were fans of surfing music, hot rods, the Beach Boys, and Jan & Dean during those years. I was a big Jan & Dean fan back then. I must mention that I recall the production quality of Jan & Dean recordings was outstanding. Was this from the influences of Brian Wilson? Or possibly Phil Spector? It was quite evident on "Dead Man''s Curve."
  • Willie from Scottsdale, AzThe Jesus and Mary Chain did a parody of this song called "Kill Surf City" with a vaguely similar riff, but quite different lyrics.
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