50 Years Ago: The Beach Boys’ ‘Surfer Girl’ Hits The Charts
The single is significant in that it was the first Beach Boys release to be produced by Brian Wilson. The band’s first few singles, and first two albums were produced by Capitol staff producer, Nick Venet (along with input from Murry Wilson, the Wilson brothers’ notorious father).
Released on Monday, July 22, 1963, ‘Surfer Girl’ was an experiment of sorts for the powers-that-be at Capitol, testing the waters of letting Brian produce on his own. According to the book, ‘The Beach Boys: The Definitive Diary,’ author Keith Badman notes that the recorded exceeded the label’s expectations. In turn, they gave Brian the green light to act as sole producer.
The song actually dates back to the band’s earliest days, when they were still called the Pendletones,and was first recorded by producer Hite Morgan on Feb. 8, 1962. These were the same sessions that would yield their first single, ‘Surfin,’ which was released on the small Candix label. That early version of ‘Surfer Girl’ remained unreleased until the 1990s, when it appeared on the ‘Lost And Found’ compilation.
The hit version was cut at Western Studios, on June 12, 1963. The single’s flip side, ‘Little Deuce Coupe,’ was also done at the same sessions. Unlike the approach Wilson would soon employ of using studio musicians (largely comprised of ‘The Wrecking Crew’), the players on this session were simply, the Beach Boys: Brian Wilson on lead vocal and bass guitar, Dennis Wilson on drums, David Marks and Carl Wilson on guitar, with all members, including Mike Love, on vocals.
‘Surfer Girl’ was the first step on a long and illustrious history as a visionary producer. Though he took many cues from his mentor, Phil Spector, Brian Wilson would soon expand on those ideas and take them into new and increasingly adventurous territory.