Tag Archives: Beach Boys

REWIND: The Quintessential Summer Song Turns 50

The true Boys of Summer.

The true Boys of Summer.

When you think summer, especially the music of the summer, you might think of a reggae act, like Bob Marley. He transcends the generations with his classic songs like “Get Up, Stand Up” and “Three Little Birds”, which fill the senses with summer even in the coldest months. You may also think of a country act, like Jimmy Buffett. His catalogue of fun novelties like “Cheeseburger In Paradise” and “Margaritaville” could make anyone want to join the nation of Parrotheads in their eternal poolside party. However, at least for me, the act most synonymous with the summertime is The Beach Boys, those five guys from Hawthorne, California who crowded the radio and the beaches with their hot mix of surf pop and psychedelic sounds beginning in the 1960’s. Today, we reach a milestone for one of their first big hits, a rocking and rolling boogie on a boogie board down the coast of the Golden State.

On this date back in 1963, “Surfin’ U.S.A.” reached its highest peak on the Hot 100, climbing a notch to #3, ultimately blocked out by Little Peggy March‘s “I Will Follow Him” (#2) and “If You Wanna Be Happy” by Jimmy Soul (#1). At the time, it was the group’s biggest single to date, having just hit the top 40 the previous year for the first time with “Surfin’ Safari” (#14). “Surfin’ U.S.A.” was the only song from the parent album of the same name to hit the Billboard charts, while the album itself did one spot better with a #2 peak on the Billboard 200.

If you’re a fan of music from the 50’s, you know that this classic is based around the melody of the Chuck Berry hit titled “Sweet Little Sixteen”. It went to #2 in 1958. The song was published under the same company that Berry used, Arc Music, except the only songwriter listed was member Brian Wilson. Wilson states, “I started humming the melody to ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’ and I got fascinated with the fact of doing it, and I thought to myself, ‘God! What about trying to put surf lyrics to ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’s melody? The concept was about, ‘They are doing this in this city, and they’re doing that in that city.'” Several years later, the song’s writing credits were updated to include Berry. Arc still holds the copyright to the song. (Berry also says that he likes it.)

So, why is it the quintessential summer song? Look at any list of the definitive songs of the season and you’ll find this tune on it. It’s the energetic guitar line. It’s Mike Love’s vocal. It’s the “inside, outside, U.S.A.” chants by the other members on background. It’s all those hip hangouts they namecheck. It’s the high harmonies at the end of the chorus. It’s Carl Wilson’s guitar solo. It’s the kind of song that will leave you “pickin’ out a route” to feel the warmth of the sun and all of summer’s positivity. Even if you didn’t grow up in California or didn’t know how to surf, the song made you want to. If you were a young boy back in those days, you know you wanted to impress the girl you had a crush on by hanging on the most waves. Admit it. Yes, there were other popular songs about surfing: “Surf City” by Jan & Dean (co-written by Brian Wilson), “Surfin’ Bird” by The Trashmen, etc., but “Surfin’ U.S.A.” was the one that popularized the genre and led to all the other hit songs ranking highly on the charts during that year. In fact, in 1963 alone, ten titles to the Hot 100 contained the word “surf” or a variant, up from three the year before. It was a phenomenon and a youth anthem all in one.

Even though it achieved its greatest fame in 1963, “Surfin’ U.S.A.” charted several other times, including cover versions. The song was re-released in the summer of 1974 to promote the compilation Endless Summer, a twenty-song effort of the group’s biggest hits and then some. It included a new b-side. The album was #1 for a week on the album chart while the single itself managed a #36 peak in its second go-around. A cover by then-teen singer Leif Garrett became his first top 40 hit in 1977, rising as high as #20. It’s been covered a number of times since then and on most of The Beach Boys tours ever since the song came out. I mean, it’s hard to overlook a song that started a top ten streak for them and remains popular fifty years after the song peaked out.

It may have missed the #1 spot by a few positions, but you know you wanna wax down your board and run to the crystal blue water when you hear it. Happy 50th anniversary, “Surfin’ U.S.A.”, and keep serving up those tasty waves on the airwaves.

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TURN IT UP TUESDAY: What’s New In Stores This Week (May 21)

Play that Punky music.

Play that Punky music.

You ready to get lucky with some cool albums this week? Here’s what’s going down in Record Town for the week of May 21:

  • Huge release this week for the electronic duo Daft Punk as their first album since 2005, entitled Random Access Memories, hits stores today. First single “Get Lucky” with Pharrell Williams is an international smash and is by far their biggest hit yet in the United States. It will certainly translate into their highest debut sales week, but just how high will it go? We’ll just have to wait and see. (iTunes)
  • Rockers Thirty Seconds To Mars take flight with their fourth studio effort, Love Lust Faith + Dreams. Lead single “Up In The Air” is sitting comfortably in the top 5 on Alternative radio. (iTunes)
  • Originally due last year, the debut album by rapper French Montana is out this week, titled Excuse My French. New single “Freaks”, featuring Nicki Minaj, is currently at Urban radio and doing decently so far. (iTunes)
  • Indie rockers The National are out with their first album in three years, Trouble Will Find Me. Their last album debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200. (iTunes)
  • Riding high on their Alternative hit called “Harlem”, Denmark-based trio New Politics are in stores this week with their second album, A Bad Girl In Harlem. (iTunes)
  • Hootie’s gone Country again. The third album from Darius Rucker, True Believers, is out this week, featuring the #1 Country song “Wagon Wheel”. (iTunes)
  • Singer-songwriter Beth Hart, best known for her 1999 single “L.A. Song”, and guitarist and singer Joe Bonamassa put out their second record together, SeeSaw. (iTunes)
  • From “Surfin’ U.S.A.” to surfing the web for their latest album, The Beach Boys are out with a 40+ song compilation from their recent concerts, Live – The 50th Anniversary Tour . (iTunes)
  • The jazzy and snazzy Jamie Cullum is back with his new album, Momentum. (iTunes)
  • Lastly, the soundtrack to the motion picture Fast And The Furious 6 is out this week, featuring 2 Chainz, T.I., and more. (iTunes)

New digital-only singles that you can buy this week include:

  • “Aw Naw”, a new single from Country singer Chris Young. (iTunes)
  • “Diaper Money”, a comical concoction from The Lonely Island. (iTunes)
  • “Somebody Else”, new from R&B singer Mario and rapper Nicki Minaj. It samples “Remember The Rain” by 21st Century, which hit #100 on the Hot 100 in 1975. (iTunes)

Next week will likely see a holdover at #1, but count on new releases from Alice Chains, John Fogerty and Little Mix to shake things up. A preview is coming in seven!

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Still Cruisin’ After All These Years: Flooring It To The Forty

Another sawng to add to the list.

Another sawng to add to the list.

They might not be The Everly Brothers or The Bellamy Brothers; in fact, they’re not brothers at all. However, Florida Georgia Line are the latest male duo to take on the Country survey as well as the Hot 100. In fact, both of those previous twosomes managed to land a #1 single on the Hot 100 while accumulating many more on the Country chart. The duo of Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard do have to catch up in that regard; their debut single, “Cruise”, is a former #1 Country single that recently cruised on into a new peak of #8 on the Hot 100 after a remix with Nelly has been picking up airplay at mainstream radio. Speaking of cruising, I say we put our pedal to the metal and race down that road to pop perfection to see what other hits have entered the Hot 100 with similar words in their titles. Fasten your seat belts, this may just be a bumpy Billboard ride.

“Sea Cruise”, Frankie Ford (#14, 1959) / “Sea Cruise”Johnny Rivers (#84, 1971)
From Louisiana, this Southern boy rocked the seas with his top 40 trip, which also cracked the top 20 back in 1959 and was certified Gold. It was Ford’s biggest single to make the Hot 100, but he had a handful of other charting songs which attained minor peaks through the 1960’s. Over a decade later, Rivers took his version onto the national survey, but it didn’t do particularly and is largely forgotten today amongst his bigger singles like “Memphis” (#2, 1964) and “Poor Side Of Town” (#1, 1966). Both male soloists are inducted in the Louisiana Hall Of Fame.

“Shakedown Cruise”, Jay Ferguson (#31, 1979)
After ranking several singles in the 60’s with Spirit and one in 1973 with Jo Jo Gunne, Ferguson decided that third time was the charm and embarked on his own solo career. You may remember his top ten hit from 1978 entitled “Thunder Island”. This was his only other charting song, which got lost in the heat of the disco era. He last released a full-length album in 1982, but he continues to produce and score, best known today for composing the opening theme to The Office.

“Cruisin'”, Smokey Robinson (#4, 1980) / “Cruisin'”D’Angelo (#53, 1995)
After parting with The Miracles, Robinson began a solo career and scored a number of R&B hits, only two of them became minor top 40 singles on the Hot 100. It was this song that brought him to a #4 peak on both the pop and R&B surveys with a lengthy chart run. It remains his second biggest hit as solo artist behind “Being With You”, which went to #2 in 1981. D’Angelo‘s cover, from his album Brown Sugar, also went to #10 on the R&B chart. A remake by Gwenyth Paltrow and Huey Lewis, from the movie Duets, was a #1 Adult Contempoary hit that just missed the big chart at the end of 2000.

“Still Cruisin’ (After All These Years)”, The Beach Boys (#93, 1989)
Before we surfed the web, we were surfing the waves thanks to these boys from California. After twenty-one top 40 singles between 1962 and 1969, their success abruptly cut off, leading to only six of their singles going top 40 between 1976 and 1985. After a grand resurgence in 1988 with the #1 single “Kokomo”, from the movie Cocktail, they released this. “Still” would be the last song from the Boys to hit the Hot 100, even if it barely made it on. They’ve had four other singles enter the Adult Contemporary chart since then: three in the 90’s and one last year, the #30 “That’s Why God Made The Radio”.

“Cruising For Bruising”, Basia (#29, 1990)
This Polish singer blended pop and jazz and charted with several singles that did even better on the Adult Contemporary chart. Her first two albums both went to #1 on the Jazz chart and also made the top 40 on the Billboard 200. Following a #26 peak for “Time And Tide” in 1988, this could only muster a #29 peak two years later, and she was gone from the charts several months later. Despite a #1 Dance hit in 1994 and a minor Jazz hit a few years ago, she still remains relatively quiet when it comes to recording music and touring.

Of course, if you’re a fan of artists with Cruise in their name, there aren’t many of those. The most successful of them was the quartet Pablo Cruise, who had two #6 singles:  “Whatcha Gonna Do?” from 1977 and “Love Will Find A Way” a year later. A total of five of their songs made the top 40 until 1981.

What’s your favorite song to cruise to? Let me know! Comment below or find me on Twitter: @AdamFSoybel.

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Growing Pains: The Hits That Hike To New Heights

Grow a pair!

Grow a pair! (Of singles, that is.)

One of the most popular posts in the past week and a half has belonged to Canadian singer Avril Lavigne‘s newest single, “Here’s To Never Growing Up”. The pop ditty is already building feverishly at radio and recently debuted at #52 on the Billboard Hot 100. She may not want to grow up, but other song titles take the affirmative side on the matter. At this point, fourteen songs with the word “grow” (or a variation like “grown”, “grows” or “growing”) have made the top 40 since the Hot 100 began in 1958, meaning Lavigne could potentially have the fifteenth such title to do so. Have these songs aged well or should we leave them in the past? You be the judge.

The first of our big “grow” singles on the list comes from a performer who was successful as an actor before he became a singer, first starring on The Mickey Mouse Club in 1955. By 1962, a then sixteen-year-old Johnny Crawford had charted with a pair of hits before his third, “Your Nose Is Gonna Grow”, went to #14. He last entered the Hot 100 in 1964, then went back into acting and later on joined the Army. He now leads a dance orchestra in California.

Here’s the first of three years where two songs managed to rank in the top 40. After launching hits like “Fun, Fun, Fun” and “Surfin’ U.S.A” into the top ten, the Beach Boys climbed back there in the fall of 1964 with “When I Grow Up (To Be A Man)”. It peaked at #9 on the Hot 100. They consistently hit that region for another two years before things fell apart. They reunited last year for an album and tour before three of its members left the group again.

The second of the two came from New York girl group The Cookies, who were then a trio. Their last of three top 40 hits, “Girls Grow Up Faster Than Boys”, rose as high as #33. They’re still together today with a different lineup.

After reaching the top spot with “My Girl” earlier that year, the followup single to it by The Temptations, “It’s Growing”, only went to #18 on the charts. The group would go onto score fifteen top ten hits after that single, mostly from 1966-1973. A remake by singer-songwriter James Taylor from his Covers album reached a peak of #11 on the Adult Contemporary chart in 2009, his biggest at the format in over a decade, but failed to make the Hot 100.

The duo of Chip Taylor and Al Gorgoni got together in 1966 under the name Just Us. Their only top 40 single, “I Can’t Grow Peaches On A Cherry Tree”, was also the name of their sole album. The song hit #34 on the Hot 100. Taylor wrote for a number of Country artists afterwards and had one minor top 40 hit on the Country survey in 1975, while Gorgoni played on #1 Hot 100 hits for Melanie, The Archies and The Monkees.

Singer Bobby Vee became a teen idol in early 60’s with big singles like the #1 “Take Good Care Of My Baby” from 1961. His singles faltered as the British Invasion came around, but he had one last hurrah with “Come Back When You Grow Up”, reaching #3 on the Hot 100. It is, thus far, the highest peaking of all the “grow” titles on this list. It was also Vee’s first single credited to Bobby Vee & The Strangers. They last hit in 1970.

Also during the year, pop group The Four Seasons went to #30 with one of their lesser singles, “Watch The Flowers Grow”. It wasn’t until 1975 that the group would reappear in the top ten with the #3 “Who Loves You”.

The first and only “grow” top ten hit during the decade came in the spring, when “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” climbed to a peak of #5 for Edison Lighthouse. It was the group’s only top-40 hit, but lead singer Tony Burrows would also appear on hits by three other bands within that year: “Gimme Dat Ding” by The Pipkins (#9), “My Baby Loves Lovin'” by White Plains (#13) and “United We Stand” by The Brotherhood of Man (#13).

A second more minor song, “Do You See My Love (For You Growing)”, charted for R&B group Jr. Walker & The All-Stars. It rose to #32 and was their last of a dozen top-40 hits. They would continue to make the Hot 100 until 1972.

If you were alive in the 60’s, you probably remember the #1 hit “Honey” from 1968, but for all the wrong reasons. It’s often credited as one of the worst songs of all-time. (I’m not a fan either.) Well, three years after that musical mess, Bobby Goldsboro struck again with a not-so-horrible song, “Watching Scotty Grow”. It went to #11. Goldsboro last hit the top 40 in 1973, but continued to make the Country survey until 1982.

Soul group The 5th Dimension made a name for themselves starting the mid-60’s with a handful of big singles and even more moderate charters. By the mid-70’s, their mainstream success quickly dried up, beginning with this last top-40 single. “Living Together, Growing Together”, the title track from one of their last studio albums, only mustered up to #32. The band still tours today with one founding member, Florence LaRue.

After eight top 5 singles in a row, the streak had to end for the legendary Elton John in 1976 with a double a-sided single that only charted in North America. One of the two songs featured on it was “Grow Some Funk Of Your Own”, which fits our look back, which was backed with “I Feel Like A Bullet (In The Gun Of Robert Ford)”. It peaked at #14 in the United States. He would rebound quite quickly and have many more top ten singles.

The last of the 70’s growers was by Kenny Nolan, who took his second and final top 40 hit to #20, a song called “Love’s Grown Deep”. Nolan had a total of four songs make the Hot 100 through 1980, the biggest of them being the #3 “I Like Dreamin'”. This would be the last top 40 single overall to contain the word “grow” or a variation of it for nearly three decades! Why such a long time? I don’t know, but it kept on growing for over thirty years.

After a dry spell of 31 years, “When I Grow Up” by the Pussycat Dolls hit the national charts, becoming their last top ten single to date with a #9 charting. It led off their sophomore album, Doll Domination. It didn’t dominate, however, and was the beginning of the end for the Dolls as lead singer Nicole Scherzinger began to be credited as a featured artist on their final two Stateside singles. Scherzinger eventually went solo to mixed success.

Check back soon to see how Lavigne’s song ends up doing on the national charts and don’t forget to follow the blog below and find me on Twitter at @AdamFSoybel.

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Filed under Charts/Trade Papers, Music News, Retro