Surfin' USA is the second album released by the American rock band The Beach Boys. The majority of the album's recording commenced in the first week of 1963, three months after the release of Surfin' Safari. Like the group's debut album, production was credited to Capitol's representative for Artists and Repertoire, Nick Venet.
Surfin' USA reached number 2 in the US, lasting 78 weeks on the albums chart. It reached number 17 in the UK in late 1965.
Surfin' USA is notable for giving The Beach Boys their first widespread success with its title track, and for Brian Wilson's increasing prowess in songwriting, as well as vocal arrangement. The fuller-sounding vocals were achieved using double tracking, creating The Beach Boys' own unique sound. As with Surfin' Safari, some have speculated that it was not Nick Venet, the officially-listed producer, but rather Brian, who produced Surfin' USA. The title track, "Surfin' USA", credited as composed by Brian Wilson, was an almost note-for-note cover of Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen". A lawsuit officially granted Berry writing credit and royalties from the record. Additionally, the lyrics seem inspired by the Bobby Rydell 1959 hit "Kissin' Time" (mentions various cities across the USA), which melodically also borrows liberally from Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen."
What is also interesting about this particular album is that five of its twelve tracks are surf instrumentals, "Stoked" being Brian Wilson's first of many instrumental songs he composed over the years for The Beach Boys. In addition, "Surf Jam" marks the first time Carl Wilson, aged 16 at the time, received a songwriting credit.
While the title track of the album was the center of attention (with its B-side "Shut Down" receiving some notice in the process), there were other highlights to be found. "Farmer's Daughter", the first of many Brian Wilson falsetto lead vocals, was affecting enough that Fleetwood Mac covered it live in 1980. "Lonely Sea" is a melancholic ballad Wilson wrote with Gary Usher. It was first recorded on the 19th of April 1962 at Western Studios and was included on the demo track that resulted in the band getting signed to Capitol Records. That recorded performance appears on Surfin' USA accompanied with overdubbed harmonies added during the recording of the rest of Surfin' USA. "Lana" and "Finders Keepers" (with its Four Seasons-esque hook) are also acclaimed tracks from Surfin' USA.
The title track, "Surfin' USA", became The Beach Boys' first big hit in the US and took its parent album into gold record status and the Top 10, peaking at number 2. In 1965, upon re-release in the UK, Surfin' USA would reach number 17.
The song "Surfin' USA" is part of the The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list.
The photograph that adorns the front sleeve was taken by artist/photographer/surfer John Severson during January 1960, showing California-based waverider Leslie Williams riding the winter swell at Sunset Beach (Oahu) in Hawaii. Intended for the front cover of Severson's legendary Surfer magazine, the original negative was damaged during the color separation process and couldn't appear in print. When Capitol Records requested a suitable photograph for the new Beach Boys album Severson fixed the damaged image and sold it to them.
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