Surfin'SafariCover#9 – The Beach Boys – “409” – (1962)

Surf rock strikes yet again. This time it’s The Beach Boys with a song about cars. Okay, so I guess this is more Hot Rod Rock than Surf Rock. It’s about Chevy’s 409 engine, famously used in the early Impala SS cars.

220px-Surfin'USACover#9 – The Beach Boys – “Surfin’ U.S.A.” – (1963)

“If everybody had an ocean… across the USA” – the opening lyrics to this song are so iconic that this song has become synonymous with the Beach Boys. And I love the Beach Boys… but this song is slightly problematic. It reached #3 in 1963 (and #36 in 1974, strangely) – but it’s just lyrics. The music is “Sweet Little Sixteen” by Chuck Berry. Like, they didn’t sample it, they just used it an Weird Al’d their own lyrics in there. The result is great, as is Berry’s original, but Chuck deserves some credit here.

summerdaysandsummernights-album-cover#3 – The Beach Boys – “California Girls” – (1965)

Who said drugs are bad? Brian Wilson came up with this song while tripping on acid – and it’s one of the best songs they ever recorded. Peaking at #3 on the Hot 100, “California Girls” is one of their best-known songs and it really holds up. Listen to those backing vocals – they’re like an instrument unto themselves. Every time I really listen to a Beach Boys song, I appreciate Brian Wilson just a little more…

petsoundscover#2 – The Beach Boys – “God Only Knows” – (1966)

There’s only one reason this wasn’t our #1 song of 1966 and that is the fact that our #1 pick sort of defines the entire decade. This beautiful song was co-written by Brian Wilson and included on Pet Sounds, largely regarded as one of the best albums ever released. The lead vocals were actually done by Carl Wilson and it features a bunch of weird instruments including sleigh bells and the French horn. But all comes together absolutely perfectly.

smileysmilecover#1 – The Beach Boys – “Good Vibrations” – (1967)

“Good Vibrations” was released as a stand alone single in October 1966. It appeared on Smiley Smile the following year but this masterpiece first came alive in the recording studio during the Boys’ recording of Pet Sounds – one of the greatest albums of all time. The full genius of Brian Wilson is on display in the mixing and recording of this track – at the time it was the most expensive song ever recorded (it would’ve cost over $500,000 in today’s dollars). Listen to the layers – there’s so much going on and it almost defines the era from which it sprang. Like it or not, what was accomplished with this lone track is pretty much responsible for about everything we’ve heard on the radio in the past few decades. 

BBXmasCoverThe Beach Boys – “Frosty the Snowman” – (1964)

Gotta love the Beach Boys. They were able to define summer and winter. There are many version of this song, but this is among the best. Why? Because of those vocals! Plus, Christmas music from the 1950s and 1960s is just better. There’s no denying that. And like every Beach Boys song, this song is short – coming in under two minutes.

The Beach Boys – “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” – (1964)

If you love vocal harmonies, then you better love the Beach Boys. This album is soooo good, this song being among the best on it. It has classic Beach Boys harmony but it also has a very 1960s Las Vegas feel to it with light backing brass for most of the song, punctuated by big brass hits here and there. It you want a nostalgic take on an already classic Christmas tune, then this is your song.

The Beach Boys – “Our Prayer” – (1969)

This a cappella tune was written by the Beach Boys – okay, so there is a piano or something in the background being struck, so it isn’t strictly a cappella. It’s a weird a cappella song though, because it has very few lyrics. Most of the song consists of The Boys humming or making sounds but not actually saying something. Then, for like a brief 20 second spell – they sing something and then it’s over. As weird as it sounds, it’s actually very mellow and quite good. Something different and light for the day after Christmas.

The Beach Boys – “The Man with All the Toys” – (1964)

Gotta love the harmonies here. “He’s the man – bop – with all – bop – the toys – bop.” Or at least I think they’re saying “bop,” I don’t really know. Since its St. Nick’s Day I thought I’d go with “Little Saint Nick” from the same Beach Boys Christmas Album but that song was already posted in our Christmas countdown. This is a nice little, original, song from the Beach Boys and one people seem to like.

#10 – The Beach Boys – “Kokomo” – (1988)

“Kokomo” is interesting. By the late 80s, The Beach Boys were mostly a group for nostalgia freaks. Then 4 musical giants got together and wrote this song: John Phillips (from the Mamas & the Papas), Scott McKenzie (who had a huge single on his own), Mike Love (founding member of the Beach Boys), and Terry Melcher (who produced albums for The Byrds, and Paul Revere & the Raiders). After they wrote the song, it was used in the Tom Cruise movie Cocktail – to huge success – propelling the song to #1 – the first for the Beach Boys since 1966. It put the band back in the spotlight and introduced their music to a whole new generation. The song was included on the Boys’ 1989 album Still Cruisin’ as well as the Cocktail soundtrack.

The song famously lists a bunch of tropical places and one fictional place (or a real one: Kokomo, Indiana – hardly tropical). Aruba, Jamaica, Bermuda, Bahama(s), Key Largo, Montego, Martinique, Montserrat, and Port-au-Prince. Naturally, VH1 and those “people” at Blender loathed this song and mocked it whenever they could. Guilty pleasure, maybe? Could be, but I’ve loved it since I first heard it – it’s catchy as hell. Also, this song was featured on Full House when Uncle Jesse joined the Beach Boys as their drummer. Yes, John Stamos was technically in The Beach Boys – which is one of my favorite bits of trivia ever.

#20 – The Beach Boys – “Little Saint Nick” – (1963 – rest of album in ’64)

The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album is one of the better all-Christmas albums ever released by a pop band. That may seem over-qualified, but it’s true – especially if you consider that two of the bigger hits are originals. The other was “The Man With All The Toys.” Their version of “Frosty The Snowman” is quite excellent as is their circus-like version of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.” Note: the videos linked to are all new and very few views, which makes me believe that whoever controls the Beach Boys catalogue is very stringent on the use of their songs – so if you want to hear them, you’d better be quick – they won’t be there for long (if they even still are).