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667123 Posts in 26783 Topics by 3878 Members - Latest Member: beatlesyoshi March 07, 2021, 12:42:53 PM
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Author Topic: First sign of genius: Surfer Girl (1963)  (Read 559 times)
GoogaMooga
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« on: February 07, 2021, 11:07:59 AM »

"Surfer Girl" has two distinctions, no, three.

It was the first song Brian ever wrote, at the age of 19. He was driving his car, and composed it in his head. Dedicated to his then girlfriend, Judy Bowles. And inspired by the Disney song, "When You Wish Upon a Star", as covered by Dion & the Belmonts.

It was also the first song Brian Wilson took credit for having produced. The single was released on July 22, 1963 (a month before I was born), and peaked at #7 on Billboard. The single and the album were a quantum leap for Brian, who took over production reins from Nick Venet, the producer on the first two albums in 1962. 1963 was an important year for Brian, who became infatuated with Phil Spector's Wall of Sound. He attended some of the Gold Star sessions, and was knocked over when he heard "Be My Baby" on the car radio. "Be My Baby" was released in August, by which time Brian and the Beach Boys had already recorded and released the "Surfer Girl" single. To me, "Surfer Girl" is the first sign of genius. Brian had already used double-tracking on the vocals for the single "Surfin' USA", but now he also hired the Wrecking Crew to play the instruments. The result was a fuller sound, which compares favorably to Phil Spector's studio productions. Brian became a big name, superstar producer, who also did work for other artists like Honeys and Glen Campbell.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2021, 11:23:49 AM by GoogaMooga » Logged
sloopjohnb72
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« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2021, 03:17:36 PM »

If you're talking about the song Surfer Girl, the beach boys themselves are still playing all the instruments.
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Shane
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« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2021, 05:17:44 PM »

As a fan I'm really fascinated by everything that happened in 1963.  The Surfer Girl album showed the group at the height of their youthful exuberance and innocence.  This was before all the drugs and problems.  Brian took a lot of time off the road to make music, and when you add up all the music on the BB albums from that year, all the outside production work, and all the demos that were cut, the sheer amount of material is impressive to say the least.  He was living on his own by this point, no doubt enjoying time away from his dysfunctional parents.  Part of me thinks it was one of the happier years in Brian's life.   
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GoogaMooga
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« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2021, 06:47:00 PM »

If you're talking about the song Surfer Girl, the beach boys themselves are still playing all the instruments.

I see the way I wrote it that I did mean the song, but you are right. It's just the Beach Boys on the single.
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phirnis
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« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2021, 10:26:30 PM »

Surfer Girl is in an incredible song and the whole album is one of my favorite BB LPs. It came out at a time when albums still had some filler but what other record from that time has so many classic songs on it (title track, Catch a Wave, Deuce Coupe, In My Room)? Some of the lesser-known stuff is absolutely brilliant too (Hawaii, Your Summer Dream, Surfer Moon) and that makes it a classic for me despite tracks like Woodie Boogie (pleasant but kind of forgettable). Iconic cover art too, besides Pet Sounds there's probably no other picture that defines the classic Beach Boys as much as this one.
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All Summer Long
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« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2021, 10:54:20 PM »

"Surfer Girl" has two distinctions, no, three.

....but now he also hired the Wrecking Crew to play the instruments. The result was a fuller sound, which compares favorably to Phil Spector's studio productions.

As far as I know, which isn't much  LOL, there is very little of the Wrecking Crew on this album: Steve Douglas in place of Mike on saxophone (not a shocker,  Grin) and Hal Blaine on a little bit, and maybe Ray Pohlman (and I think Jan Berry) on one song.  I'd love for c-man, JH, or SaltyMarshmallow to correct me if I'm wrong, though.
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GoogaMooga
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« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2021, 11:27:49 PM »

"Surfer Girl" has two distinctions, no, three.

....but now he also hired the Wrecking Crew to play the instruments. The result was a fuller sound, which compares favorably to Phil Spector's studio productions.

As far as I know, which isn't much  LOL, there is very little of the Wrecking Crew on this album: Steve Douglas in place of Mike on saxophone (not a shocker,  Grin) and Hal Blaine on a little bit, and maybe Ray Pohlman (and I think Jan Berry) on one song.  I'd love for c-man, JH, or SaltyMarshmallow to correct me if I'm wrong, though.

I haven't got encyclopledic knowledge of all the recording sessions, but of course I could have elaborated and said the wrecking crew musicians were added gradually, the more orchestration the more musicians. Surfer Girl was the first Beach Boys album to use the Wrecking Crew, if only in part. Anyway, the point of my original post was just to celebrate the song and the album as a sign of the genius of Brian and the Beach Boys.
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GoogaMooga
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« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2021, 11:34:13 PM »

Surfer Girl is in an incredible song and the whole album is one of my favorite BB LPs. It came out at a time when albums still had some filler but what other record from that time has so many classic songs on it (title track, Catch a Wave, Deuce Coupe, In My Room)? Some of the lesser-known stuff is absolutely brilliant too (Hawaii, Your Summer Dream, Surfer Moon) and that makes it a classic for me despite tracks like Woodie Boogie (pleasant but kind of forgettable). Iconic cover art too, besides Pet Sounds there's probably no other picture that defines the classic Beach Boys as much as this one.

I agree entirely, and would add that the Surfer Girl cover is the single most iconic Beach Boys image ever. It is the most recognizable and formed the basis for the Hawthorne Beach Boys monument. Not even the Pet Sounds cover is as familiar, nor does it encapsulate what the band is about as well as Surfer Girl does.
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c-man
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« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2021, 05:20:13 AM »

"Surfer Girl" has two distinctions, no, three.

....but now he also hired the Wrecking Crew to play the instruments. The result was a fuller sound, which compares favorably to Phil Spector's studio productions.

As far as I know, which isn't much  LOL, there is very little of the Wrecking Crew on this album: Steve Douglas in place of Mike on saxophone (not a shocker,  Grin) and Hal Blaine on a little bit, and maybe Ray Pohlman (and I think Jan Berry) on one song.  I'd love for c-man, JH, or SaltyMarshmallow to correct me if I'm wrong, though.

It's Mike playing saxophone on "The Rocking Surfer". IIRC, it's blaring away in the background, but only present via room mics. That would be because the original drum track, with Dennis playing, was replaced by a different drum performance, and the sax was also on that original drum track. Not sure who the replacement drummer is, but it sounds too "garage-y" to be a pro like Hal...and I'm thinking it might actually be Carl!

But yes, the saxophones on "Our Carl Club" are played by studio pros (likely Steve and Jay), and the drumming there is Hal. Mike's sister Maureen plays harp on "Catch A Wave" and "Hawaii", Hal plays timbales on "Hawaii", and the track for "Surfer Moon" is Brian, Bob Norberg, Ray Pohlman, Hal, and a string arrangement that is reportedly Bob Norberg's, but transcribed by Jan Berry. Pretty sure everything else on the album is the Boys' playing.
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SaltyMarshmallow
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« Reply #9 on: February 08, 2021, 06:22:29 AM »

Glen Campbell may be playing the fuzzy lead guitar on Our Car Club, going on an old comment Mark L made about him being on First Rock & Roll Dance from the same session. Haven't heard the full thing myself, but from the slates you can tell Brian's producing from the booth on Car Club and playing piano on R&R Dance, so if Carl's on bass and Dave's on rhythm, that leaves the lead unaccounted for. It does sound like Glen's style.

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That would be because the original drum track, with Dennis playing, was replaced by a different drum performance, and the sax was also on that original drum track.

To get all needlessly pedantic... the sax was on the track with Brian's organ rather than the drums, which was also wiped and re-recorded simultaneously with the new drum performance! I think it could still be Dennis playing on drums 2.0.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2021, 07:09:01 AM by SaltyMarshmallow » Logged
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