Album: Surfin' Safari (1962)
Charted: 76
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  • This song describes the Chevrolet 409, named because of its huge 409 cubic-inch engine. Dubbed "Turbo-Fire," production began in January 1961. The engine had a single Carter four-barrel carburetor that supplied enough fuel-air mixture to generate up to 360 horsepower. With a bit of hot-rodding, more than 400 horsepower was easily available, making the car a big hit among street racers. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Mike - Mountlake Terrace, WA
  • This full-size family car 409 did the quarter mile in 13.58 seconds at 105.88 miles per hour. It could go from zero to 60 mph in under six seconds. This song describes the Bel-Air sport coupe version of the car equipped with the "4-speed, dual-quad, Positraction" equipment. It could do a 12.22-second quarter mile at 115 miles per hour. Zero to 60 miles per hour in four seconds flat.
  • An early Beach Boys song, Brian Wilson wrote this with his early collaborator Gary Usher. Wilson knew very little about things like surfing or cars, but Usher did, and he was able to help Wilson tap into the California culture. In 1971, Usher told Gene Sculatti: "Dennis Wilson was the first Beach Boy to pick up on surfing. He was aware of Dick Dale, the Pendleton jackets and that whole shot. It just rubbed off. I never surfed. I was a hot rod freak. I had a 409. One day we were driving up to Los Angeles looking for a part for my car, and I said 'Let's write a song called '409'. We'll do a thing 'giddy up, giddy up,' meaning horses for horsepower,' just kidding around. We came back and put it to three simple chords in five minutes, and it developed into a million-dollar car craze."
  • In their early years, The Beach Boys wrote a lot of songs about girls, cars and surfing. Others they wrote about cars were "Little Deuce Coupe" and "Fun, Fun, Fun," which discussed a T-Bird.
  • This was released as the B-side of "Surfin' Safari." The group didn't have a record deal at the time (their first label, Candix, folded), so the group's manager, Murry Wilson made a deal with Capitol Records, selling them both sides of the single, and anther song, "Lonely Sea," for a total of $300, with the band getting a small royalty of 2.5% of the sales. After the single was released, Capitol signed the Beach Boys to a deal.

Comments: 13

  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaJoe, I have read the same story about the recording of the engine on the song. Huum I like cars (old ones) but think I would not like to be woken up that way.
  • Courtney from Los Angeles, CaThere are some true facts listed and some false ones. The car used in this song was my father's car. They recorded it in Hawthorne, CA. My father, Gary Westbrook was good friends with them all, but best friends with the original drummer before he died tragically falling off a boat while drunk.
    Just wanted to share this small fact with you all.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyIn the early sixties Gary Usher and the Knights released a record titled "Hod Rod High", it was only a regional hit and never the national charts!!!
  • Joe from Santa Maria, Ca The engine heard was a 348. The car was a 1958 Chevy owned by Gary Usher (it had 3 twos, 348's didn't have dual quads) and it was recorded out on the street in front of Brian's house. I head that his neighbors called the police, but I'm not sure of that. I saw them sing this at a car show when they were just starting out. It was free and they carried their own insturments in and set everything up themselves. I remember Mike Love's micraphone didn't work but they sounded great.
  • Brian from Bremerton, WaThe engine heard was a Chevy 348 that was owned by Gary Usher.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyIn 1961 a kid, Tommy, in our neighborhood purchased a brand new 409. When he told us guys he paid $3,000 for it; we were stunned, to us that was almost a like a millions dollars. I remembered it had a 'four on the floor' and even though gas was cheap then, the guys were always chipping it for fuel so that we could going cruising up & down Genesee St. in Utica, NY
  • Drew from B'ham, AlAbout driving cars? There were others: "I Get Around" and "Shut Down". There may have been others besides those.
  • Leftykc from St Joseph, MoA friend of Brian had a souped up 409 so they stuck the mic under the car in brians driveway..
  • Mark from Byrdstown, TnBrian Wilson is a musical genius.The mess that goes around today calling themselves the Beach Boys should be jailed.
  • Meredith from Wauwatosa, WiI think this song was also used in the old Formula 409 ads. Interesting song, but I loves me some Beach Boys!!!!!!
  • Darrell from EugeneShawn in Rochester, Brian Wilson's tape recorder is called a "Wollensack". I have had a Wollensack reel-to-reel tape recorder since 1964, which was probably long before you were born. For those who don't know what reel-to-reel is, it is the same as a cassette tape, only much bigger, fully exposed and not in a case. As for you young ones who have never seen a cassette tape, a cassette is what you see in the colorful little rectangular plastic boxes along with the records, CDs, 8-tracks and, yes, reel-to-reel tapes at Goodwill or Salvation Army. In addition, cassettes go in the little door in the front of a stereo and they can be fast-forwarded, unlike a record. I do not have time or space for a treatise on 8-tracks and records.
  • Gary from Auckland, New ZealandWhen the masters to this and 'Surfin' Safari' were sold (for $100 each) to Capitol producer Nick Venet in May 1962 he had to twist the arm of the label execs to release them, and then first it was with '409' promoted as the A-side -- Who cared about surfin' -- right? Within a couple of weeks of release (4th June) 'Surfin' Safari' broke on its own, and the rest is history. But '409', according to top 40 station KLIF covering Dallas-Ft Worth, was the biggest hit that year -- locally.
  • Shawn from Rochester, NhThe sounds of the 409 were recorded on Brian Wilsons Wolinsack(not to sure on the spelling)tape recorder outside his home in Hawthorne, CA.
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