Classic Rock Wiki

"Surfin' Safari" is a song by American rock band The Beach Boys,[1] written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love. Released as a single with "409" in June 1962, it peaked at number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100.[2] The song also appeared on the 1962 album of the same name.



  • 1 Recording
  • 2 Release and reception
  • 3 Album and alternate releases
  • 4 Cover versions
  • 5 In popular culture
  • 6 References


The Beach Boys first recorded the song at World Pacific Studios on February 8, 1962 in what was the band's second ever recording session. However, the recordings from that session, engineered by Hite Morgan, would ultimately remain unreleased until the late sixties. The only difference instrumentally on this early version as opposed to the officially released version was the presence of Al Jardine on guitar instead of David Marks.

The instrumental track as well as the vocals for the officially released version were recorded at Western Recorders on April 19, 1962. The session, produced by Brian, featured David Marks and Carl Wilson on guitar; Brian Wilson on bass guitar and Dennis Wilson on drums. The song features Mike Love on lead vocals with backing vocals by Brian, Carl & Dennis Wilson and Mike Love. Also recorded during that session were "409", "Lonely Sea" and "Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring". This session was recorded and given to Capitol Records as a demo tape. The label was impressed and immediately signed the band to their first major label. "Surfin' Safari" and "409" would be the band's first single to be issued under Capitol Records.

Release and reception[edit][]

"The beach scene gets a rolling, rocking treatment on this side by the boys. Tune swings along neatly on lead singer's talent and support of the rest of the group. " ★★★★ (strong sales potential)

—Review of "Surfin' Safari" for Billboard, June 9, 1962.[3]

The "Surfin' Safari" single backed with "409" was the band's second single and the first single to be released on the band's new label Capitol Records[1] in the United States in June 1962. Originally Capitol Records felt "409" should be the 'A' Side, and first promoted the car song (according to Beach Boys biographers Badman, Gaines and Carlin) instead of "Surfin' Safari". However, as noted in the booklet to the 1993 CD box set Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of the Beach Boys, radio station airplay in Phoenix, Arizona jump-started the B-side into a major nationwide hit (to date no copy of the first Capitol single with "409" as the A side has been discovered). The Billboard issue of July 14, 1962 cited Detroit as the major market of its national "break out".

The single peaked at the number 14 position on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, with "409" also charting at number 76, making it the band's first double-sided hit single. It placed at number 10 on the Cash Box sales chart, and number 5 on UPI's national weekly survey used by newspapers. According to English pop music statistician Joseph Murrells in The Book of Golden Discs, 1978 edition, it placed number 3 on one of the four major national charts then recognised, probably Variety. Certainly its regional sales backed up these higher placings (than Billboard). As well as its Capitol-record sales in New York, it was No. 1 in Los Angeles, San Diego, Dallas, Minneapolis, Buffalo and Hartford; and top five in Chicago, San Francisco, Phoenix, Tucson, Nashville, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Springfield MASS.

Capitol A&R executive Nick (Nik) Venet, who signed the group and is listed as producer on their first two albums, is quoted in the Steven Gaines book as saying regarding the release that "The biggest order Capitol had from a single market all year [1962] was from New York City - where there was no surfing. It sold approximately nine hundred thousand records, but not enough for a gold."

In October 1962, the "Surfin' Safari" single was the first to be released by the band in the United Kingdom. However, given mediocre reviews at best, the single failed to make any impact on the charts. It did qualify as the Beach Boys' first international chart-topper, however. By the end of September it had peaked at number seven in Australia's Music Maker chart — only reaching the Billboard top 20 the following week — then in November spent three weeks at number one in Sweden (both charts cited by contemporary issues of Billboard). In Germany, the World Pacific Studios recording of the song was used as the single release instead of the more well-known version. The single failed to chart.

In January 1970, the World Pacific Studios sessions recording of the song was issued on Trip Records as the B-side of a "Surfin'" single re-issue. This was the first official release of the early "Surfer Girl" recording. The single however failed to make any impact on the charts.

Album and alternate releases[edit][]

The song was first released on a single 45 RPM record and then later, it was released on the band's debut Surfin' Safari album, and on a number of later 'greatest hits' compilations. The song's appearance on the 1993 Good Vibrations box set is sourced from the original demo tape master, lacking the fade-out added before its release as a single.

Three takes of the early World Pacific Studios recordings of the song were eventually released on CD in 1991 on the archival release Lost & Found (1961-62) as well as subsequent re-issues of that album which featured alternate album titles. A live concert performance of the tune "Surfin' Safari" is featured in the short documentary "One Man's Challenge", written and directed by Dale Smallin. Filmed July 28, 1962 (with the same lineup as the official Capitol single) at the Azuza Teen Club, this particular visual version of the song is, according to author Jon Stebbins in 'The Lost Beach Boy', "The only known performance footage of the Pendleton-shirt era Beach Boys."

Cover versions[edit][]

Jan & Dean, with instrumental and vocal support from the Beach Boys, covered the song for their 1963 album Jan and Dean Take Linda Surfin'. Additional covers were recorded by the Hot Doggers (a studio-only group headed by future Beach Boy Bruce Johnston along with Terry Melcher) on their 1963 album Surfin' U.S.A., by The Challengers on their 1963 album Surfbeat, by The Lively Ones on their 1963 album The Great Surf Hits!, and by the Rincon Surfside Band on their 1965 album The Surfing Song Book. Alvin and the Chipmunks recorded a cover for their 1990 TV special Rockin' Through the Decades and its soundtrack. More recent covers have been recorded by The Ramones on their 1993 album Acid Eaters and by Rockapella on their 2002 album Smilin'.

In popular culture[edit][]

  • 'Surfin' Safari" was included in the 1973 soundtrack of American Graffiti.