Beach Boys – Surfin’ U.S.A.

This is one of the first Beach Boy songs I heard and could connect to them. This is a song that the Beach Boys did in tribute to Chuck Berry except they forgot one small thing…they didn’t tell Chuck. He was in jail at the time of this song. When Berry threatened to sue, The Beach Boys agreed to give him a huge sum of the royalties and list him as the song’s composer along with Brian Wilson. Mike Love has claimed he wrote some of it also but never got credited.

The song also helped build Berry’s legend while he served his time. Surfin’ USA was based on Sweet Little Sixteen. Carl Wilson came up with the guitar intro, which is reminiscent of Duane Eddy’s “Moving and Grooving.”

One of the many Beach Boy songs about surfing. The only member of the band who actually surfed was drummer Dennis Wilson. The surfing culture gave them an opportunity to write songs about adventure and fun while exploring vocal harmonies and new production techniques. And while the majority of Americans didn’t surf, the songs represented California at the time.

This was the follow-up to their first hit “Surfin’ Safari.” Brian Wilson was gaining confidence as a producer, and this song marks the emergence of what would become the Beach Boys’ signature sound over the next few years.

The song peaked at #14 on the Billboard 100 in 1962. The B-side 409 peaked at #76 the same year.

Carl Wilson: “On ‘Surfin’ U.S.A.,’ Brian wanted an opening lick and I just did this Duane Eddy riff. I was worried that it had been on another record, but what the hell. That was the first time we were aware we could make a really powerful record. For the first time, we thought the group sounded good enough to be played with anything on the radio.”

Guitarist David Marks played guitar on the Beach Boys first five albums: “The energy on the Surfin’ USA session was very upbeat and happy. That’s where that chemistry thing kicks in again… there was a certain energy on that track that was a one-of-a-kind happening. It wasn’t perfect in a technical sense, but the vibe was something special that had a lasting effect.”

Surin’ USA

If everybody had an ocean
Across the U.S.A.
Then everybody’d be surfin’
Like California
You’d seem ’em wearing their baggies
Huarachi sandals too
A bushy bushy blond hairdo
Surfin’ U.S.A.

You’d catch ’em surfin’ at Del Mar
Ventura County line
Santa Cruz and Trestle
Australia’s Narabine
All over Manhattan
And down Doheny Way

Everybody’s gone surfin’
Surfin’ U.S.A.

We’ll all be planning that route
We’re gonna take real soon
We’re waxing down our surfboards
We can’t wait for June
We’ll all be gone for the summer
We’re on surfari to stay
Tell the teacher we’re surfin’
Surfin’ U.S.A.

Haggerties and Swamies
Pacific Palisades
San Anofree and Sunset
Redondo Beach L.A.
All over La Jolla
At Waimia Bay

Everybody’s gone surfin’
Surfin’ U.S.A.

Everybody’s gone surfin’
Surfin’ U.S.A.

Everybody’s gone surfin’
Surfin’ U.S.A.

Everybody’s gone surfin’
Surfin’ U.S.A.

Everybody’s gone surfin’
Surfin’ U.S.A.

Everybody’s gone surfin’
Surfin’ U.S.A.

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

49 thoughts on “Beach Boys – Surfin’ U.S.A.”

  1. One of the top 3 beloved “B” groups (Beatles, Beach Boys, BeeGees)! Husband reel-to-reel-taped a number of BB albums when young and we later played them exclusively at our wedding reception — perfect! Surfing songs rock! 😊

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I went through a phase in Hight School in 1985 when I was a senior…. Jan and Dean and Beach Boys played non-stop. Even wore Coconut Oil to school. So yea I love surf music.

      Liked by 5 people

  2. nowonder you didn’t see fat youths back then…they’d all gone surfin’! Then in the 70s,everybody was Kung Fu Fighting!
    I never knew this one ripped off Chuck Barry. Not the biggest fan of their early surf-y songs, but it sure made its mark and also sure made it clear how far they advanced by ’66 and ‘God Only Knows’, ‘Good Vibrations’ and all

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The song that made the surfing movement gain ground. I had been surfing for a year when this song came out, but it made me want to surf more, buy a woody, wear a Pendleton wool shirt and comb my hair down on my forehead. There are only so many licks in the music world, Berry stole his from someone, so he didn’t deserve a dime or a mention. Brian should have held his fort.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Phil…when I was writing it…I did think about what you said….he got the famous riff to Johnny B Goode from his piano player Johnnie Johnson and many more riffs from him. Johnson was never credited.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Me and a buddy saw him at the Bronco Bowl in the late 60s. We were both rock guitar players and were convinced that the guitar player to Berry’s right and slightly behind him, was playing the lead licks. Berry’s guitar was so out of tune their was no way he was playing lead licks. He put on a good show, doing his duck walk and such, but he never bothered to tune his nice Gibson 335. I didn’t know that bit of history on his piano player. I had read that he stole the lick from someone but it didn’t identify him. He should also thank Micheal J. Fox for that lick.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. LOL on Michael J Fox… Keith Richards also mentioned that about Chuck lifting the riffs from Johnson…and Johnson ended up driving a bus for a living with no credit.
        I’ve heard that a lot that he didn’t tune his guitar. Picking up any backing band from town to town…is not a good idea for sound.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. The thing that gets me is that , like ’em or not, this iconic track, the foundation to the Beach Boys basically, didn’t crack the Top 10. In restrospect you would have thought it was a number one for months.
    On the Chuck ripping off others? Probably so, but if he did so, man he ripped off the very best for a lot of years, so at he had a great ear at what to play and improve. It’s like those songs that become a HUGE hit for someone and the original version has all the notes and words but it needs a producer to make the base ingredients something real tasty. Like say, Johnny Bristol’s version of ‘Some Day We’ll Be Together’ compared to ‘And now, Berry Gordy Presents-The Divine Miiiiiis Dianna Ross!’ (and the supremes.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea I was telling Phil in the comments…he did rip off his great piano player Johnnie Johnson….but yea he did improve everything. You know Obbverse…thinking about it. Its not his guitar playing that attacts me to his music…it’s his play on words and how he summed up his times…I don’t know…rock poetry?
      If you do borrow from other people…do it better…and when Chuck borrowed…he did.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Ahhh…Duane Eddy. Part of my early introduction to rock n roll was my brother’s album “especially for you….Duane Eddy his ‘twangy’ guitar and the Rebels” (1959).

    While attributed to many, one version attributed to Igor Stravinsky is: “A good composer does not imitate; he steals.”

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Yea there was a lot of lifting that went on…Led Zeppelin is an example. My thought is…just give the person you got it from credit.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. It really doesn’t accentuate their great harmony like other tracks do especially Brian Wilson’s remarkable voice. It’s more of a pop-go-go girl dancer song, but you can’t blame them for releasing it. It’s catchy!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I kept playing the video, over and over. I love it. I can’t believe you have never posted this.

    Your foray into beach music in 1985 was a tad late. LOL! You’ve heard me babble on about my very first album I bought with my own money…Surf & Drag 1978. I was eleven years old. I’d cut my teeth on all of my dad’s Beach Boy albums…that I am digging thru, now.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m back from Germany where I spent a nice time. Over the next few days, I’m planning to catch up on posts that I missed. While like some of the other classic early Beach Boys surf tunes “Surfin’ USA” clearly borrowed from Chuck Berry, I still dig it. There’s also a good chance this was the first Beach Boys tune I heard many moons ago in Germany – likely on the Sunday night oldies radio show I dug. Musically, the early Beach Boys tunes weren’t exactly novel, but what I always thought their harmony singing was outstanding.

    Liked by 1 person

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