Essential Listening: Beach Boys still bring summer hype


Cover art via Capitol Records

Surfin’ Safari is the debut album by the Beach Boys.

Evelyn Esek, Multimedia Editor

Tired of your Spotify playlists? The Purbalite is here to help with our Essential Listening series.

Girls, cars, and the beach are popular topics to write songs about. But sometimes these songs are perfect for a beach day.

With summer coming, Surfin’ Safari, the 1962 debut album by the Beach Boys, is a great carefree listen for a younger audience. 

The band’s lineup for this album consisted of brothers Brian, Carl, and Dennis Wilson, their cousin Mike Love, and their neighbor David Marks. None of the Beach Boys had any formal musical training, but the band’s manager, the brothers’ father Murray Wilson, was a long-time songwriter. 

The cover art has become iconic and synonymous with both the Beach Boys and summer: all five band members in matching outfits on an old yellow truck with red wheels, holding a surfboard and looking toward the ocean. 

The back of the record includes a satirical description of surfing, as it was a fairly new craze at the time. The record claims surfing is “especially recommended for teen-agers and all others without the slightest regard for either life or limb.”

The title song, “Surfin’ Safari,” is a great summer listen for any age group to groove to. I remember dancing in my living room to this song when I was little, singing the lyrics “let’s go surfin’ now / everybody’s learnin’ how / come on and safari with me.” 

The other song about the Pacific water sport is simply called “Surfin’.” The layered vocals range from Mike Love’s deep bass to Brian Wilson’s soprano and are distinctive to the Beach Boys. This song also has the repeated unique background vocal line “bom bom dit di dit di dip.”

409” is one of the best car songs of the era. It is also often credited with starting the hot rod music craze in the ’60s. With lyrics like “nothing can catch her / nothing can touch my 409,” this song reminds people of walking around a classic car cruise.

Each of the Beach Boys were teenagers or young adults at the time Surfin’ Safari was released, and some of the songs written or chosen for the album reflect this.

County Fair” depicts a generic teenage experience at a fair, talking about trying to win a stuffed animal for a girl. Another song that showcases the boys’ vocals and their youth is a cover of Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues.” It has a fun rhythm guitar part and lyrics showcasing the teenage struggles of balancing a summer job with having fun. 

While the guitar and the drums can be simple, the era-defining sounds of this Pacific band are still a great listen, especially in the summertime.