As far as unexpected cover versions go; a fuzzed out post-punk rendition of The Beach Boys classic ‘Surfin’ USA’ performed by The Jesus & Mary Chain is right up there.
The 1980s Scottish rock band, who rose to fame following the release of debut album Psychocandy, The Mary Chain had earned a somewhat infamous live reputation with furious performances often combining copious amounts of alcohol, drugs and violence at early small gigs.
The release of their debut record, however, was the opportunity for the band to finally exhibit the superior songwriting partnership of brothers Jim and William Reid which went on to send shockwaves through the alternative rock industry. With the negative headlines in the back of their minds, The Mary Chain were now being compared to the likes of The Velvet Underground, The Stooges and, surprisingly, The Beach Boys.
John Squire, guitarist of The Stone Roses, once said: “They were a big influence, they really opened my eyes,” when speaking about the Mary Chain in Simon Spence’s book The Stone Roses: War and Peace. “They were like a reconnection with the music I’d initially got into. I could hear The Beach Boys in those chord changes and melodies. I could hear The Shangri-Las and The Ronettes and it made melodies – pop melodies – relevant again.
“After listening to The Mary Chain I found I could start to write proper songs. We have no pop sensibility in our music until I heard the Mary Chain; they showed me there was a way of combining what I loved about punk rock and what I loved about The Beach Boys.”
The influences The Beach Boys had on The Mary Chain are undeniable and, in a direct nod of the head to the band, they released the B-side Kill ‘Surf City’ which was a reworking of Brian Wilson’s ‘Surf City’. While other tracks like ‘Never Understand’ displayed the Beach Boys melodies, it wasn’t until 1988 when the Scottish group decided to address the comparisons with a cover version of ‘Surfin’ USA’.
The recording, which was included in their compilation album Barbed Wire Kisses (B-Sides and More), is a noisy, guitar-heavy take on the original with plenty of reverb… as you’d expect from The Jesus & Mary Chain.
Enjoy it, below.