Listen back to The Beach Boys’ sombre first recording of ‘Surfer Girl’ from 1961
We’re taking a look back to the very beginning of The Beach Boys’ career with this first take of the band’s 1963 hit ‘Surfer Girl’. It’s a brief window into the dawn of Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Mike Love and Al Jardine as The Beach Boys and shows that despite their image, they weren’t all sweetness and light.
The take comes from the 2016 release from Omnivore Records who shared some of the band’s very first recordings under their original name as The Pendletones as a bumper release, Becoming the Beach Boys: The Complete Hite & Dorinda Morgan Sessions.
The sessions in question took place between September 1961 and March 1962 and see the collation of the band’s early demos of their now-iconic songs. As well as ‘Surfer Girl’ the set sees the compiled first recordings of ‘Surfin’ Safari’, ‘Barbie’, ‘Beach Boy Stomp’ and nearly 60 more.
The recording below sees their seminal 1963 release of ‘Surfer Girl’ sound very different indeed, as it takes on a far more sombre approach to the song’s eventual peppy tone. It’s far more down-beat and a different key from the final ’63 cut, with the intro removed and the backbeat almost non-existent. It turns Brian Wilson’s number into a brand new beast.
The song was actually the first track that Brian Wilson ever wrote. “Back in 1961, I’d never written a song in my life,” remembers Wilson of the song’s conception. “I was nineteen years old. And I put myself to the test in my car one day. I was actually driving to a hot dog stand, and I actually created a melody in my head without being able to hear it on a piano.”
But even with the extra privacy, Wilson had not yet gathered the confidence and composure of his future esteem. “I sang it to myself; I didn’t even sing it out loud in the car. When I got home that day, I finished the song, wrote the bridge, put the harmonies together and called it ‘Surfer Girl’.”
It’s an insight into the band’s musical beginnings as they try to find their own unique sound. It’s also a key insight into the band as people as the cuts shared through Omnivore come complete with studio conversations, including the abrupt ending to this cut of ‘Surfer Girl’ with “Stop the whole thing.”
It’s a beautiful cut of the band’s earliest beginnings and a view on the talent they would soon share with the world. Listen below to the earliest recording of The Beach Boys’ ‘Surfer Girl’ from 1961.