Little Deuce Coupe is The Beach Boys' fourth album, and third overall LP release in 1963. Almost unintentionally, the album was rush-recorded and compiled when leader Brian Wilson sought to protect his band from exploitation from Capitol Records.
Little Deuce Coupe reached No. 4 in the US during a 46-week chart stay and is certified 2x platinum by the RIAA.
In the summer of 1963, Capitol Records compiled a "hot rod" compilation album called Shut Down, including The Beach Boys' "Shut Down" itself and "409"—without their approval or involvement. Brian Wilson promptly readied several songs he had already been working on (mainly with radio DJ Roger Christian) and the band zipped through recording sessions to put Little Deuce Coupe on the record shop racks, remarkably, one month after Surfer Girl had come out. Eight of the tracks were new, while "Little Deuce Coupe", "Our Car Club", "Shut Down" and "409" had all come out on one of their previous three albums.
Although it was a gamble putting so much vinyl out at once, Little Deuce Coupe became a big hit, reaching number 4 in the US, and eventually going platinum. Because it mostly deals with cars as a subject matter (save "Be True to Your School", although even that has a mention of cruising), some observers have retroactively called Little Deuce Coupe an early rock example of what would become known as the concept album.
Although Nick Venet was listed as producer for and "Shut Down" and Murry Wilson for "409", the official producer's credit for the entire Little Deuce Coupe album cites only Brian Wilson. Despite the rushed nature of the album's sessions, Brian Wilson's songs were beginning to feature even more complicated arrangements, specifically songs like "No-Go Showboat" and "Custom Machine". After its recording, Brian Wilson re-recorded "Be True to Your School" for single release, resulting in another Top 10 hit. An original Christmas single, "Little Saint Nick" was also prepared.
This was the last Beach Boys album to include rhythm guitarist David Marks until 2012's That's Why God Made the Radio. Original member Al Jardine made his permanent return preceding this album's sessions, and Marks departed shortly thereafter.
As with the preceding Surfer Girl album, the date assigned for recording all eight of the new tracks (September 2, 1963) is highly doubtful. However, as no AFM contracts from these sessions are known to exist, the actual dates are currently unknown.
A 'Deuce Coupe' is a 1932 Ford Model B Coupe (deuce being for the year). This was considered by many to be the definitive "hot rod" and featured an optional Ford flathead V8 engine when the car was introduced. A pink slip (mentioned in the lyrics) was the title to the car, named for the color of the paper then used in California vehicle ownership certificates.
The picture featured on the front cover of the album was supplied by Hot Rod magazine, and features the body (with his head cropped in the photo) of hod-rod owner Clarence 'Chili' Catallo and his own customized three-window 1932 Ford Coupe - known forevermore amongst hot rod enthusiasts as "the lil' deuce coupe". A full shot of Catallo and his car from the same photo shoot appeared on the front cover of the July 1961 edition of Hot Rod magazine, and whilst Catallo himself died in 1998 the car still tours the showrooms and exhibitions to this day.
Catallo bought the vehicle in 1956 for $75 in Michigan when he was 15 years old. Catallo replaced the original stock Ford engine (unlike The Beach Boys song lyrics, which mention "a flathead mill") with a newer Oldsmobile V-8, and lowered the height of the coupe by six inches. Much of the original customizing work, including the stacked headlights, side trim, and front grille was done by an auto shop owned by Mike and Larry Alexander in the Detroit suburb of Southfield.
After Catallo moved to Southern California, additional work, including the 'chopping' or lowering of the roof, was done in 1960-61 at 'Kustom City', George Barris's noted North Hollywood auto customizing shop. This led to the magazine cover and two years later, the shot was featured as the cover for The Beach Boys' fourth album.
Catallo sold the coupe a few years later, but at the urging of his son Curt was able to buy it back in the late 90s for $40,000. The car had since been additionally modified but was restored by Catallo with many of the original parts the coupe had in the early 1960s, so that it now is again virtually identical to the famous photo. In 2000, the hot rod won the 'People's Choice' award at the Meadow Brook Concours d'Elegance.
For a link to a New York Times article with additional details, including a photo gallery, see the 'External Links' section.
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