I - II - III - IV

NOTE: This is a page I've wanted to do for a long time.  After discovering the Beach Boys, I've sought out similar artists, who both preceded and followed the sound templet that Brian Wilson & Co. charted in the 1960s.  While not all of the artists here are directly related to the Beach Boys, their sound closely adhears to the feel-good/melancholy mixture that Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys so successfully mined.  Due to space constraints, I'll try to list samplers or greatest hits collections of artists where possible, rather than complete discographies, sort of a jumping board for those who want to plunge into deeper waters.  Enjoy!

The Roots Of The Beach Boys: 27 Tracks Which Influenced and Inspired the Work of Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys
Snapper UK SBLUECD 090 [CD];
Released May 8, 2012

1. Sweet Little Sixteen    (Berry)    3:00
2. Louie Louie    (Berry)    2:09
3. Do You Wanna Dance    (Freeman)    2:32
4. Moon Dawg!    (Gamblers)    2:13
5. Hully Gully    (Hollywood Argyles)    2:16
6. Riot In Cell Block Number 9    (Robins)    2:59
7. To Know Him is To Love Him    (Teddy Bears)    2:21
8. Graduation Day    (Four Freshmen)    3:01
9. I Don't Want To Cry Anymore    (Hi-Lo's)    2:40
10. Hearts of Stone    (Williams)    2:34
11. Summertime Blues    (Cochran)    1:55
12. Devoted To You    (Everly Brothers)    2:22
13. Bluebirds Over the Mountain    (Valens)    1:44
14. Hushabye    (Mystics)    2:29
15. I'm So Young    (Students)    2:28
16. Deep Purple    (Ward)    2:13
17. Mountain of Love    (Dorman)    2:20
18. Cindy Oh Cindy    (Fisher)    2:58
19. Summertime    (Gershwin)    2:25
20. Put Your Head On My Shoulder    (Anka)    2:37
21. The Things We Did Last Summer    (Stafford)    3:01
22. In the Still of the Night    (Five Satins)    2:58
23. Ruby Baby    (Drifters)    2:21
24. A Casual Look    (Six Teens)    2:17
25. Blueberry Hill    (Domino)    2:20
26. Cotton Fields    (Leadbelly)    2:05
27. The Wreck of the John B    (Kingston Trio)    3:29

REVIEW:  A CD hailing from the UK which does a good, if not comprehensive job of chronicling the songs and artists which helped to influence Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys in developing their signature California sound.  The Beach Boys didn't grow up in a musical vacuum, and throughout their career they have paid homage to their influences, sometimes simply stealing a musical idea ("Surfin' USA" takes it's cue from Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen") or performing the ultimate flattery by simply covering a favorite on one of their albums.  What's here is a a musical history of America's Band: Brian's infatuation with The Four Freshman's sound can be heard in the original version of "Graduation Day", while he also loved the simple schmaltz of Jo Stafford's "The Things We Did Last Summer".  The Everly Brothers were a huge early influence of Mike & Brian's, as can be heard on the Party! album's "Devoted To You," while other covers the Beach Boys tackled include: "Louie Louie," "Moon Dawg," "Hushabye," "Do You Wanna Dance?" and "Cindy Oh Cindy".  Some of these choices were simple expediency, with The Beach Boys pumping out three or four albums a year, it was necessary to line the track listings with popular songs by other artists; or, as in the case of  1976's 15 Big Ones, songs that a then-drug-fried Brian Wilson could latch onto were chosen, thus the inclusion of "Riot In Cell Block Number 9," "In The Still Of The Night," 'Ruby Baby" A Casual Look" and "Blueberry Hill" which all hail from that era.  Conspicuous in their absence are several songs who's rights couldn't be obtained, but which would easily fit: Disney's "When You Wish Upon A Star," Dion & The Belmont's "The Wanderer" or The Beatles "Tell My Why" all might have been a better inclusion than The  Hi-Lo's "I Don't Want To Cry Anymore" or The Charms' "Hearts Of Stone".  Still, this is an informative release, and interesting listening for those who are curious about the musical gene-pool from which The Beach Boys sprung.

The Four Freshman: Capitol Collector's Series Capitol 93197 [CD]; Released January 21, 1999

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1. It's a Blue World [Forrest, Wright] 2:56
2. The Day Isn't Long Enough [Carey, Howard] 2:55
3. Poinciana [Bernier, Simon] 3:11
4. It Happened Once Before [Troup] 2:30
5. Please Remember [Gross, Troup] 2:51
6. We'll Be Together Again [Fischer, Laine] 3:09
7. Mood Indigo [Bigard, Ellington, Mills] 2:43
8. It Never Occurred to Me [Coleman, Oken, Persons] 3:06
9. Day by Day [Cahn, Stordahl, Weston] 1:58
10. How Can I Tell Her [Evans, Livingston] 2:38
11. Charmaine [Pollack, Rapee] 2:18
12. In This Whole Wide World [Cascales, Roland] 2:46
13. Angel Eyes [Brent, Dennis] 3:33
14. Love Is Just Around the Corner [Gensler, Robin] 2:02
15. Graduation Day [Sherman, Sherman] 3:06
16. Whistle Me Some Blues [Denison, Holiday] 2:35
17. It Could Happen to You [Burke, VanHeusen] 3:26
18. Candy [David, Kramer, Whitney] 2:16
19. Route 66 [Troup] 2:47
20. Their Hearts Were Full of Spring [Troup] 3:14
21. And So It's Over [#] [Barbour] 2:53

It's hard to believe now, but this ultra-square (or ultra-cool, depending on how you look at it) group is the inspriational spark that defined the sound of the Beach Boys - namely, their thick, dynamic harmonies that no other group could match then or now.  According to Brian Wilson, one day he heard one of his father's Four Freshman records and immediately was able to fathom the group's complex four-part harmonies and duplicate them by enlisting his family and a school chum.  And it's here, on this concise collection of their signature songs, that you hear just how reverently Brian borrowed from the Freshman, whether it was the thick harmonic dynamics on "Keep An Eye On Summer" or the note-for-note recreation of "Graduation Day" and "Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring" (both of which can be found here in their original incarnations), you'll have no problem identifying the well-spring of inspiration that jump-started the Beach Boys 'sound.'  But where the hottest the Freshman ever got was the occasional swing or bossa-nova rhythm, Brian Wilson fused the Freshman's harmonies with Chuck Berry's R&B and the hot drive of Dick Dale's jittery guitar licks into a wholly unique, American sound.  You can hear the Beach Boys' forebearers on this CD, but it's only a part of what became the whole.  An interesting listen for those who love the Beach Boys' harmonies, and if you like this album, you ought to check out the Freshman's swinging Four Freshmen and 5 Trombones/Four Trumpets two-fer; it's a good time.

Phil Spector: Back To Mono (1958-1969) [Box Set] 
Abkco 7118 [CD]; Released November 12, 1991
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Or purchase from Back To Mono (1958-1969)
  • Four-CD Box set containing all of Phil Spector's hit single productions from 1958-1969.
  • 100-page booklet with song-by-song/artist-by-artist notes, and additional comments by Tom Wolfe.
  • Bonus CD of entire classic Christmas LP A Christmas Gift For You
  • "Back to Mono" collectable pin.
  • For complete track listing, click here.

REVIEW:  Brian Wilson worshipped at the feet of Phil Spector. Doting on such singles as The Ronettes' "Be My Baby" (still his all-time favorite song) Brian never felt like he left the shadow the the enigmatic producer whose output and stylistic "Wall Of Sound" were expressly responsible for the Beach Boys incredible backing tracks. Not only did Brian imitate Spector's production methods, he borrowed Phil's session players, the 'Wrecking Crew' in order to duplicate the dense sound that Spector produced in the studio. Phil Spector is the closest thing to Brian Wilson there is: a talented writer and producer whose uncanny knack for writing hit singles landed him at the top of the charts again and again and in the process created some of the most enduring singles in the history of Rock 'n' Roll: "To Know Him Is To Love Him," "I Love How You Love Me," "There's No Other Like My Baby," "He's A Rebel," "He's Sure The Boy I Love, "Da Doo Ron Ron," "Chapel Of Love" and "River Deep, Mountain High." When it came to choosing and producing three-minute singles, Spector was king. And the talent he worked with is the envy of producers everywhere: Ronnie Spector, The Righteous Brothers, Tina Turner, and Darlene Love, just to name a few.  Where Brian eventually surpassed Spector (and where Spector failed to go) is in the development of the album as an art form. The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and countless other artists took advantage of the greater fidelity and playing time of the LP and began to construct suites of music that strung together stylistically.  And Brian's production was cleaner and brighter than Spector's - Spector's singles could sound like a clap of thunder coming out of the car speakers, but Brian's productions sparkled with clarity, he separated and highlighted each instrument, while Spector buried his in ever heavier layers.  Make no mistake, this stuff packs a tremendous punch, both sonically and musically; it's absolutely essential pop history as vital and alive now as it ever was.  It's easy to see why Brian emulated this excruciating pop craftsman in his own recordings.

Rock Instrumental Classics: Vol. 5: Surf
Rhino/WEA 71605 [CD];  Released March 22, 1994


Or Purchase from Rock Instrumental Classics: Surf
1. Pipeline - The Chantays
2. Mr. Moto - The Belairs
3. Wipe Out - The Surfaris
4. Underwater - The Frogmen
5. Misirlou - Dick Dale And The Del-Tones
6. Diamond Head - The Ventures
7. Baja - The Astronauts
8. Surfer's Stomp - The Mar-Kets
9. Bustin' Surfboards - The Tornadoes
10. Penetration - The Pyramids
11. Mr. Rebel - Eddie and The Showmen
12. Fiberglass Jungle - The Crossfires
13. K-39 - The Challengers
14. Point Panic - The Surfaris
15. Let's Go Trippin' - Dick Dale And The Del-Tones
16. Surf Rider - The Lively Ones
17. Soul Surfer - Johnny Fortune
18. The Lonely Surfer - Jack Nitzsche

REVIEW:  It's difficult to understand why Brian would want to try and break into the surf-music genre in the beginning of the band's career; Brian wasn't a surfer, and "surf music" at that time was dominated by instrumental music, and a handful of R&B artists; there's never really been an adequate explanation of his and Mike's decision to accept Dennis's enthusiastic suggestion to write about surfing unless you accept the concept that the band was trying to come up with a hook that would resonate with teenagers.  And then it's easier to see how The Beach Boys' entry into this narrow genre would change not only its sound, but American music.  This single CD is the ideal starting place to peek into Surf Music at its most successful. The formula for it was simple: jittery guitars set at maximum reverb, barely-restrained drumming, an amphetamene-laced progress which was set to simulate the surfing experience, and the occasional insane laugh inserted to demonstrate a disregard for life and limb.  This was highly sexual music - muscular, taut, and meant to be viewed as dangerous - the entire rock ethos in a two-minute long ride.  There's the creepy wail of "Wipe Out" by the Surfaris, the moody, dangerous progressions in The Pyramids' "Penetration", two cuts by the "King" of surf music, Dick Dale and The Del-Tones, which made the whole genre viable; and then there's the panoramic soul of the surfer laid bare in Jack Nitzsche's "The Lonely Surfer".  Other gems include the echo-drenched "Fiberglass Jungle" by The Crossfires, the surprisingly sophisticated stylings of "Baja" by the Astronauts, the grinding "Underwater" by the Frogmen, and the haunting, unforgettable "Pipeline" by The Chantays.  It's clear by listening to this that The Beach Boys were never really "surf music" artists - they took what they heard, and changed it into something new.  And if you want more, here's a deeper look into Surf music

Jan & Dean: All The Hits - From Surf City To Drag City  EMI Records 8 53730 2 [CD];  Released November 12, 1996

In the beginning, the Beach Boys were lumped together with Jan & Dean as a sort of "surf and drag" genre.  And for the most part, that was true;  The Beach Boys and Jan & Dean ran in the same circles for several years, singing and performing each other's songs, and hanging out together.  It's no secret that J&D's biggest hit, "Surf City" was given to them by Brian Wilson, and Dean was an uncredited singer on one of the Beach Boys biggest hits, "Barbara Ann."  But for all that, Jan Berry and Dean Torrence were really no match for the Beach Boys, as this comprehensive compilation proves.  Whereas Brian Wilson felt constricted by the Car and Surf labels put on him, Jan & Dean revelled in it.  They started out as sort've cut-rate Everly Brothers, doing two-part teeny-bopper love songs like "Jenny Lee" and "Baby Talk" that had heavier doo-wop rhythms than other aritsts, but eventually hooked into the surfing scene and had tremendous success with the aforementioned "Surf City," "She's My Summer Girl" and "Ride The Wild Surf."  They also heavily mined the Car and Drag circuit with "Drag City," "Three Window Coupe" and the prophetic "Dead Man's Curve" (the very curve where Jan Berry nearly lost his life.)  They also had no compuction against recording novelty numbers like "Sidewalk Surfin'," "The Little Old Lady From Pasedena" and "The Anaheim, Azusa & Cucamonga Sewing Circle, Book Review And Timing Association" which knocks them down a couple of notches in most respectable rock 'n' roll circles.  What may surprise those who haven't investigated Jan & Dean are how they evolved much like the Beach Boys in the sound, especially during 1965-'66 when Jan Berry began to write and produce songs that were richer and meatier in their subject matter, like the excellent "You Really Know How To Hurt A Guy," It's A Shame To Say Goodbye" and the "Dead Man's Curve" retread: "A Beginning From An End."  Jan and Dean were also able to utilize Phil Spector's backing musicians, dubbed "The Wrecking Crew" for most of their recordings, which makes them sound much better and polished than the typical surf-rock music that was being released.  But for all their success, Jan & Dean never really outgrew their light surf-rock stylings, and it's here, on this double-CD compilation, that their best-known and best loved hits can be found.  Jan & Dean have a simple sound, two-part harmony with songs that lean heavily on surf guitar and revving car engines, and they still have the power to hearken back to a simpler time that evokes good vibrations for many fans.  For a more complete look at their discography check out my related artist page on Jan & Dean.

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The Four Seasons: The Very Best of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons  Rhino Records 74494 [CD]; Released January 14, 2003

For a little while, Brian Wilson considered not the Beatles, but the Four Seasons as the Beach Boys' main artistic rivals.  At first glance, this makes sense; both groups were formed around the sound of a high falsetto lead voice, with rich backing vocals covering a rock 'n' roll beat.  But that's where the similarities end.  Where the Beach Boys were carving out a distinctive West Coast sound to go with their reshaping of the California image, Frankie Valli and the Seasons were pure East Coast, and their songs had a hard-edged swagger to them that Brian Wilson never had.  And despite their similar harmonic structures, Valli's falsetto was far more poweful and punchy than Brian's, where brian was a flute, Frankie was a soprano sax: he growled more in his phrasing, and vocally seemed to carry a large chip on his shoulder.  The songs that they sung, mostly written and produced by studio wizard Bob Gaudio, were street vingnettes of the city - and had their roots in New York Doo-Wop tradition that emphasized rhythm and masculinity over the prettier ballads of the crooners.  These songs are still great, from the declaratory "Walk Like A Man" to the tear-your-heart-out cry of "Sherry" and the street smart attitude of "Big Girls Don't Cry" the Season pioneered a sound like no one else.  But whereas the Beach Boys music grew richer and more relevant in the mid-to-late Sixties, the Seasons music grew more and more irrelevant as the decade progressed, being too locked into the late-50's doo-wop style that they never really abandoned.  But still, the Seasons' best is very good indeed, and it's all here from their first big hit to their surprising 70's combacks "Who Loves You" and "Oh, What A Night."  Great singing and great songs.

Or purchase from The Definitive Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons

The Honeys: The Honeys Collection  Collector's Choice Music CCM163-2 [CD]; Released June 21, 2001 

A page on artists related to the Beach Boys simply couldn't be complete without at least one CD of The Honeys - I mean one of the members was married to Brian Wilson and is the mother of Carnie and Wendy Wilson - it just doesn't get more familial than that!  The Honeys were formed by two Rovell sisters, Marilyn (nee Wilson) and Diane, as well as Ginger Blake.  Their early material was written and produced by Brian Wilson, Gary Usher, and Diane himself, as well as many others, and their early sound was consciously styled to be a compliment to the Beach Boys, with the songs glamorizing the California "two girls for every guy" surfer ideal.  Therefore you have songs like "Shoot The Curl," "Surfin' Down The Swanee River," "Pray For Surf," and "Three Surfer Boys" dominating the first third of the disc, and while they all bear the inimitable stamp of Brian Wilson's production flair, none of the songs are really top-notch, and a few are pretty dumb "(Oly Oxen Free Free Free) Hide Go Seek") - but all of them have that early-sixties charm that you can find in practically any Gidget movie; a throwback to a more innocent time.  But there are a couple of knockouts here that rank with any of the best Girl Group songs out there: "The One You Can't Have" and "He's A Doll" are sparkling gems that deserved greater chart play than they received, with Brian's deft production touches pushing the fine songcraft over the top.  Other tunes also come off very well, with a wall-of-soundish "In The Still Of The Night" benefiting from a thick three-part harmony arrangement and dense backing track, and for collectors, the inclusion of the rare Glen Campbell song "Guess I'm Dumb" (which the Honeys provided backing vocals for) is a real treat.  This collection leans most heavily on tracks from the mid-sixties, with just a couple of extremely rare cuts culled from The Honeys 1983 album Ecstasy.  Unfortunately, the producers have missed some fine cuts from the 1972 album Spring, when the Honeys were calling themselves American Spring, which prevents this album from being a truly comprehensive overview of this often overlooked Girl Group.

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Ronny And The Daytonas: G.T.O. - Best Of The Mala Recordings  Mala 4001 [LP] Sundazed Music 11406 [CD]; Released February 13, 1997

Ronny and the Daytonas were another "manufactured" group that hung onto the coat-tales of the Beach Boys, but this time hailed from Nashville, Tennesee!  Comprised mostly of John "Bucky" Wilkin and producer Bergen White, who although he hated rock 'n' roll music, agreed to produce Wilkin's single "Little G.T.O." which became a huge hit, and an album was quickly recorded to capitalize on its success.  Although the songs are mostly second-rate Beach Boys wannabes, there are a few real gems, from the corny "Tiger-a-go-go" to the too-obvious homage "Beach Boy" to the dreamy and wonderful ballad "Sandy" (which was recorded on their ballad-heavy second album).  In fact the second half of this album is far more enjoyable than the first - sort of like the Daytonas version of The Beach Boys' "Today!" album, which had a rocking first half and the second half veered off into more introspective ballads.  Although John Wilkin's sentiments never dug as deeply as Brian Wilson's (whose did?) it's still expertly produced, beautifully composed ballads that push this compilation above the average hot-rod/surf bands that were springing up in the early-Sixties.  In the informative liner notes John Wilkin admits to trying to copy the Beach Boys' sound, and to some degree (and in a way he probably didn't realize) he succeeded.  A real find, and worth checking out for the startling contrast of styles in evidence.

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The Rip Chords:  Hey Little Cobra And Other Hot Rod Hits 
Sundazed Music 6098 [CD]; 
Released August 20, 1996

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1. Hey Little Cobra
2. Here I Stand
3. Queen
4. 409
5. Trophy Machine
6. Gone
7. Little Deuce Coupe
8. '40 Ford Time
9. She Thinks I Still Care
10. Shut Down
11. Drag City
12. Ding Dong
13. Karen -
(bonus track)
14. Bunny Hill -
(bonus track)
15. Don't Be Scared -
(bonus track)

REVIEW: The Rip Chords may have started out as a two-man band, but eventually were nothing but another front for talented producers/songwriters/singers Bruce Johnston and Terry Melcher.  True contemporaries of The Beach Boys (with one a future member), Bruce and Terry had a distinctive sound which, although they tried to match the vocal prowess of The Beach Boys, sounds far more compressed and robotic than the Beach Boys ever did, since the songwriters multi-tracked their own voices and then compressed everything on a primitive recorder.  So although the Rip Chords' sound has never been my favorite, there is undeniable fun and energy here as they focus their songs on cars and racing.  "Hey Little Cobra" was a solid hit, and fans of the Beach Boys will find that song as well as a few covers of Brian Wilson songs, in the form of "409," "Little Deuce Coupe" and "Shut Down" included.  None of these covers come close to matching the charm and sound that the Beach Boys could produce, but is interesting for comparison, and other songs here, from "Here I Stand" to "Ding Dong" (a personal favorite, more in the style of 50's rock 'n' roll than most) and the Everly Brothers tear-'em-up clone "Karen" are enough to keep most listeners happy.  Sundazed, which put out their second album Three Window Coupe (reviewed below) as well as a "greatest hits" package, does the Rip Chords legacy proud.

The Rip Chords:  Three Window Coupe
Sundazed Music 6099 [CD];
Released August 20, 1996

                                                          window coupe
1.Three Window Coupe
2.Bonneville Bonnie
3.Gas Money
4.This Little Woodie
5.Hot Rod U.S.A.
6.Old Car Made in '52
7.Surfin' Craze
8.Beach Girl
9.My Big Gun Board
10.Surf City
11.Summer U.S.A.
12.Big Wednesday
13.One Piece Topless Bathing Suit - (bonus track)
14.Wah-Wahini - (bonus track)
15.Red Hot Roadster - (bonus track)

REVIEW:  The Rip Chords Three Window Coupe LP was cut in a series of singles after the success of Hey Little Cobra.   But with "Three Window Coupe" b/w "Hot Rod USA" chosen as the next single due to the professional writing punch of Roger Christian/Jan Berry, the producing team of Terry Melcher and Bruce Johnston decided to take over the vocal duties completely from Ernie Bringas and Phil Stewart, causing some small stir among Columbia Records top brass, but eventually the project was green-lighted, with the former Rip Chords relegated to in-studio appearances, but no actual lead or backing vocals.  As the lead-off single stalled at #29, the follow-up single, "One Piece Topless Bathing Suit" (which was originally written for Jan & Dean) b/w "Wah-Wahini" tanked in the charts, while the album, which was cobbled together from material from Melcher & Johnston ("Big Wednesday," "Old Car Made in '52," and "Summer USA") three songs from Fantastic Baggys Phil Sloan and Steve Barri ("This Little Woodie," "Surfin' Craze" and "Big Gun Board"), and a few select chose covers ("Surf City," "Gas Money") tanked, not even cracking Billboard's Top 200 albums, effectively ending The Rip Chords brief career.  Listening now to Sundazed's excellent transfer, it's hard to understand why the album didn't sell better, the songs are well produced, well sung, and if "One Piece Topless Bathing Suit" was probably a mistake as a single (I personally would've chosen "This Little Woodie" b/w "Beach Girl"), there's still plenty that should've enticed 1964 audiences.  The Rip Chords' sound retains that shimmery etherealness present on Hey Little Cobra and a minimum of clunkers (OK, there's one big one - "Old Car Made in '52" which sounds like it belongs on some old twangy country record), it's still an cohiesive, listenable album.  According to the liner notes, even after Columbia didn't renew the Rip Chords contract, Terry & Bruce did one more Rip Chords session, recording, among other things, The Beach Boys' "Help Me, Rhonda" which they planned to release as a single.  According to Terry Melcher, Brian Wilson visited the studio and, hearing that they were planning on releasing "Rhonda" told Terry that The Beach Boys had their own plans on releasing it as their next single, and Terry offered to quash The Rip Chords version.  (Bruce & Terry's version can be found on The Best Of Bruce And Terry, also from Sundazed).  Surf & Drag music fans however should find this CD just as satisfying as The Rip Chords other albums.

The Rip Chords:  Summer U.S.A.!  The Best Of The Rip Chords
Sundazed Music 11168 [CD];
Released August 20, 1996
                                                          window coupe
1. Hey Little Cobra
2. The Queen
3. Trophy Machine
4. Here I Stand
5. Karen
6. Gone
7. Three Window Coupe
8. This Little Woodie
9. Hot Rod U.S.A.
10. Surfin' Craze
11. Beach Girl
12. My Big Gun Board
13. Summer U.S.A.
14. One Piece Topless Bathing Suit
15. Wah-Wahini
16. Don't Be Scared
17. Red Hot Roadster
18. Wiameah Baby (previously unreleased)
19. Sting Ray
(previously unreleased)
20. X.K.E. (previously unreleased)

REVIEW:  You gotta admire the hubris of Sundazed Records with regards to their promotional blurbs for this album: on the back cover of this release, the writer unabashedly proclaims that "No group epitomized the sun-soaked California sound better than the fabulous Rip Chords." Oh, really?  Ever heard of another little group called... The Beach Boys?  Well, setting that aside, there's also the matter that for a group that only ever had five charting singles, Summer U.S.A.: The Best of The Rip Chords boasts a saber-rattling twenty tracks, from the falsetto shrieking of "The Queen" to the singles "Hey Little Cobra" and "Hot Rod U.S.A." the Rip Chords had a distinctive sound, as supplied by Terry Melcher and Bruce Johnston, as well as vocalists Ernie Bringas and Phil Stewart.  The sound was produced by compressing everything on their primitive (even for the time) recording equipment.  But despite their lack of consistent chart success, this album is probably the best way to hear the very real appeal of The Rip Chords, which was always filled with a fun and professionalism that other groups lacked.  And where groups like Jan & Dean and The Fantastic Baggys seemed to be feeding off the Beach Boys sound, The Rip Chords, although mining the same subject matter, doesn't often sound like anyone else; there's a cold, silvery element to their sound that transforms a normal drag song like "Three Window Coupe" into something that demands to be listened to.  The harmonies are unearthly in their precision and grace that lends the song a classy undertow unmatched by any other group.  Part of it is the shimmering quality the voices achieve by being layered atop one another, much the same way that Brian Wilson would double-track lead and backing vocals in order to make them "rub against" each other in sometimes abrasive ways; here, that same technique, combined with the compressing and echo added by Terry Melcher and Bruce Johnston give everything a punchier sound.  If you're looking for the best sampler of The Rip Chords, this is it.

The Tokens: Wheels and More Hot Rod Rarities
RCA Victor LPM2886 (Mono) LSP2886 (Stereo) [LP]; Teen Sound 64635 [CD];
Original LP release: 1964; CD released March 29, 2005
                                                      Tokens - Wheels
1 Let's Go to the Drag Strip
2 Little Deuce Coupe
3 Two Cars
4 Little Hot Rod Suzie
5 Shut Down
6 My First Set of Wheels
7 Dirt Track Twister
8 My Friend's Car
9 My Candy Apple Vette
10 409
11 Little Snow White Coupe
12 Drag City
bonus tracks:
13 The Wreck of the John B
14 Michael
15 Shenandoah
16 Big Boat
17 Jamaica Farewell
18 The Riddle
19 Lonesome Traveller
20 Saloogy
21 Sunset See My Sadness
22 Grey City Day
23 For All That I Am
24 If I Were A Carpenter
25 Beautiful People
26 Green Tambourine
27 Wake Up Little Suzy
28 Picture In My Wallet
29 Don't Worry Baby
30 Barbara Ann
31 Tribute to the Beach Boys
32 The Lion Sleeps Tonight
33 Wimoweh

REVIEW:  For years, I never paid much attention to The Tokens; they were the iconic one-hit-wonders, riding a tidal-wave of success from "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and seemingly unable, like countless other acts, to find a sizable follow-up.  In fact, I wasn't aware that The Tokens had ever broken out of their doo-wop roots until I stumbled across this rare CD.  Wheels and More Hot Rod Rarities is a compilation recording gathering The Tokens 1964 RCA album Wheels, and fills out the original 12-tracks with an additional 21 cuts, mostly unrelated to the car/drag theme, but nice to have anyway.  Even though The Tokens never had a hit as momentous as their break-out single, Wheels proves that The Tokens were deserving of much more success than they were accorded by the public.  As a vocal group, they were easily as versatile as The Beach Boys, but on this, their most Beach Boys-like album, it's clear that the band is still trying to find a formula away from the doo-wop roots from which they had sprung.  compared to the Beach Boys, the Tokens' harmonies are heavier, and more muscular than The Beach Boys lighter, clearer, and brighter sound - comparing "Little Deuce Coupe" with the original, The Tokens simply don't have the shimmer that Brian's arrangements brought to The Beach Boys' vocals.  The difference becomes especially jarring on the dreary "Two Cars" which sounds like an thick country dirge.  "Little Hot Rod Suzie" carries all the weight of their doo-wop roots with it, while "Shut Down" lumbers along with the deeper, rootsier harmonies.  The Tokens odd sense of humor rears it's misshapen head on "My First Set Of Wheels," a spoken-word track easily as bizarre as some of the Beach Boys weirder album cuts.  Better is "Dirt Track Twister" with it's hot organ and jumping doo-wop backing vocals propelling the song ahead.  "My Friend's Car" is similarly excellent, showcasing The Tokens lead singer's falsetto.  "My Candy Apple Vette" is a slushy ballad, and sounds like something Fabian might tackle on a down day.  The Tokens take on "409" is quick and powerful, but a little painful on the not-quite-there harmonies.  "Little Snow White Coupe" is another turgid ballad, while "Drag City" is the most successful track at aping Jan & Dean's signature sound.  Among the bonus tracks, "The Wreck of the John B" is a more traditional take on the folk song, "Green Tambourine" is a competent cover of the Lemon Pipers hit single, "Don't Worry Baby" is a close copy of The Beach Boys original, "Barbara Ann" is similarly patterned closely after The Beach Boys hit version, and the "Tribute To The Beach Boys" track is a harmony laden original song, with a jittery melody line that jumps all over the place.  The Teen Sound CD sounds like it's been mastered from vinyl sources, but still may be of interest to genre fans.

The Astronauts: Competition Coupe/Astronauts Orbit Campus
Collectables 2708 [CD];
Released October 21, 1997

  1. Little Ford Ragtop
  2. Competiton Coupe
  3. Hearse, The
  4. '55 Bird
  5. Devil Drivers Theme
  6. Happy Ho-Daddy
  7. Our Car Club
  8. Devil Driver
  9. Chevy Scarfer
  10. 4:56 Stingray
  11. El Aguila (The Eagle)
  12. 650 Scrambler
  13. Johnny B. Goode
  14. Be-Bop-A-Lu-La
  15. Good Golly Miss Molly
  16. Let The Good Times Roll
  17. Linda Lou
  18. Bony Moronie
  19. Diddy Wah Diddy
  20. Roll Over Beethoven
  21. Shop Around
  22. Greenback Dollar
  23. Summertime
  24. Sticks And Stones

REVIEW:  The Astronauts, a surf band who were contemporaries of the Beach Boys, were typical of the plethora of instrumental bands who dipped their toes into vocal tracks after the Beach Boys began to hit it big.  In fact, in many ways these five guys from Boulder, Colorado were best known for their one big hit, the instrumental "Baja."  In fact, this group can almost be considered the flip side of the Beach Boys; whereas the Beach Boys were primarily a vocal band who occasionally recorded instrumentals, The Astronauts were instrumentalists who occasionally tried out vocals, and it's on this representative two-LPs on one CD album that you can hear The Astronauts give their most comprehensive vocal workout ever.  Competition Coupe is by far their most vocal album ever, and with its drag racing theme closely echoing the Beach Boys' own "409" vibe, Beach Boys fans might just want to check it out.  From the R&B of "Little Ford Ragtop" and "Competition Coupe" to the jumping "Our Car Club" (not the Beach Boys version), it's apparent that The Astronauts hewed much closer to the true spirit of surf and drag music than The Beach Boys ever did.  The Astronauts had a far greater affinity for R&B than Brian Wilson, and when they sing, the harmony vocals are mixed much more into the background, allowing the lead singer to belt out hot covers of hits by Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Gene Vincent.  You'll hear this especially on the "live" album which comprises the second half of this CD, with the Astronauts breaking loose in full-out white-soul ecstacy in front of a appreciative crowd.  Strangely, the Astronauts sound far rougher and spend far less time churning out instrumentals in their live set, concentrating almost exclusively on vocal covers of R&B classics.  Still, this is a great party CD, and a look at why several surf/rock bands simply weren't in the same league as the adventureous, far more complex Beach Boys.  If you like what you hear on this CD, check out their comprehensive box set: The Legendary Group at Their Best on the Collectables label.

Various Artists: Surf Bunnies & Hot Rod Honeys
Phantom Sound & Vision SB200 [CD];
Released November 21, 1996
                                                          Bunnies &
                                                          Hot Rod
1. He's My Surfin' Guy - - Beach Girls
2. Surf Bunnie Beach - Surf Bunnies
3. Our Surfer Boys - Surf Bunnies
4. You Can't Take My Boyfriends Woodie - Power Puffs
5. White Lewis - Majorettes
6. Love Those Beach Boys - Sea Shells
7. Sammy The Sidewalk Surfer - Surfettes
8. Skiing In The Snow - Beach Girls
9. Hot Rod High - Surf Bunnies
10. Dance To The Surfing Band - Hal Blaine
11. I Miss My Surfer Boy Too - Westwoods
12. Califorina Surfer - D.D. Hope
13. Surfer's Memories - Fashions
14. What Does A Lifeguard Do In The Fall ? - June August
15. Chu Sen Ling - Bermudas
16. Surfin' Sally - Petticotes
17. Go Go G.T.O. - Carol & Cheryl
18. Black And White Thunderbird - Delicates
19. Don't Drag No More - Susan Lynn
20. Yum Tum Yamaha - Carol Connors
21. Draggin' Wagon - Surfer Girls
22. Daddy, You Just Gotta Let Him In - Satisfactions
23. A Swingin' Summer - Carol Connors
24. Go Back Go Back To Your Pontiac - Darby Sisters
25. Hot Rod City - Marie & The Papaya Girls
26. Sport Car Sally - Bernadette Castro
27. Baby Blue Mustang - Petites
28. The Cycle Set - Donna Loren
29. Bad Motorcycle - Storey Sisters
30. Get Your Daddy's Car Tonight - Petites
31. Motocycle Michael - JoAnn Campbell
32. In His Car - Robin Ward

REVIEW:  This is one of those rare compilations that slipped past me 12 years ago - I'd never even heard of it until I was surfing the internet and stumbled upon it.  Long out of print, and possibly a bootleg, Surf Bunnies & Hot Rod Honeys is a fantastic, unusual snapshot of a very narrow band of female artists that sprung up after the popular success of the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean.  I've collected Girl Group recordings for nearly as long as I've been after The Beach Boys, and I'd never heard of some of these records or artists, and despite starting off with the dreary "He's My Surfin' Guy" by the Beach Girls, the album pops with the subsequent tracks, with everything from the lush "I Miss My Surfer Boy Too" to the barely legal "You Can't Take My Boyfriend's Woodie" which proclaims "it don't look like much, but when he pumps that clutch, he makes you think you're in reverse."  ...Somehow I don't think they're talking about cars.  The disc is nicely divided into two halves, with the first tackling surf numbers, and the second focusing on cars and racing, and the songs range all over the map, with R&B ("Surfer's Memories") rubbing shoulders with the 12-bar blues of "What Does A Lifeguard Do In The Fall?" - while tribute songs like "Our Surfer Boys" name-drops Brian Wilson, The Beach Boys, and Jan & Dean all within the space of the obvious chorus.  There's also the odd inclusion, like the Japanese-flavored "Chu Sin Ling" by the Bermudas, with its odd, angular harmonies spicing up the playlist.  But my favorite track has to be the "Don't Back Down" -inspired "Don't Drag No More," which could be considered the feminine flip-side to The Beach Boys track.  Perhaps most surprising about this compilation is who's NOT here, with The Honeys making a staggering no-show amid the massively-stacked 32 tracks.  Overall, the quality of the songs and artists is very high, with tongue-in-cheek fun to be found on almost every track, and the sound for these rare tracks is phenomenal.  A terrific and rare compilation that you should immediately snag if you spot it.

Glen Campbell: The Capitol Years 65/77
EMI International 821834 [CD];
Released December 14, 1999

  • 46 tracks from Campbell's twelve years at Capitol Records
  • Hits include: "Gentle On My Mind", By The Time I Get To Phoenix", "Rhinestone Cowboy", "Witchita Lineman,"  "Southern Nights" and many more.
  • Rare b-sides and singles, including the Brian Wilson-penned "Guess I'm Dumb".
  • To see complete track listing, click here.

REVIEW:  I haven't had anyone, in all the years I've run the site, really ask about Glen Campbell, who played on several of the Beach Boys studio session in the early-to-mid sixties, and who filled in for Brian on tour before embarking on a solo career.  To be honest, I've never paid him much attention either, always lumping him in with other early country-crossover artists and MOR singers from the 1970s.  But this double-disc import CD has changed my mind about  Campbell, and about his talent.  I was surprised to hear strong likenesses to the early folk-pop of John Denver, as well as the Country-Rock music co-pioneered by former Monkee Michael Nesmith.  Along with these likenesses, there are also powerful art-pop influences in these story-songs, with lots of Cambell's powerful, supple singing and sensitive guitar work that made him so invaluable as a session player for the Beach Boys, and on stage.  Of key interest to Beach Boys fans will be the song that Brian Wilson penned as a "thank-you" to Campbell for his help with touring - the art-rock song "Guess I'm Dumb" which prefigures some of the extraordinary work that Brian would bring to Pet Sounds and Smile.  And while there have been numerous other compilations which try to touch all the bases in Campbell's incredibly strong catalog, it's this double disc import that remains strong from beginning to end, with nary a weak track in the bunch.  If you're a big fan of The Beach Boys music from Today through Pet Sounds, I'd recommend you give these tracks a listen - it's powerful music that's worth hearing.  I'm seriously considering checking out more music from his catalog as well.

The Fantastic Baggys: Anywhere The Girls Are!  Sundazed Music 11084 [CD]; Released December 19, 2000

The Fantastic Baggys (named after the popular shorts that surfers wore) were, like The Rip Chords and Ronny and the Daytonas, a completely manufactured group (and remember, this was years before the Monkees!) which consisted of songwriters Phil "P.F" Sloan and Steve Barri who had notable success recording as a fictional band styled after The Beach Boys.  The songwriters weren't shy about blatantly ripping off other songs, as you can hear on the lead-off track "Surfin' Craze," which is so similar to "Surfin' USA" in sound and performance it could almost be an alternate take from the Beach Boys' vaults!  And since the Baggys were a one-album phenomenon, there is no artistic growth to be found, but there is lots and lots of Surf/Sun/Girls/Cars to be found in this generous 28-track compilation.  It doesn't hurt that the lead singer is a vocal ringer for Mike Love, right down to the too-nasal delivery, or that the Baggys have a disturbingly high ratio of phallic-themed songs: "This Little Woody," "Wax Up Your Board," "A Surfer Boy's Dream Come True" and "Big Gun Board" all tout the <cough!> attributes of these one-track-minded surfers.  Putting all that aside however, the Fantastic Baggys have an impressive sound, nearly matching in tone and style The Beach Boys themselves - and if the songs are stuck in surf/car mode throughout, well, you can blame it on Summer.

Or purchase from The Fantastic Baggys

The Many Moods of Murry Wilson
Capitol ST-2819 [LP], Released 1967; Toshiba EMI (Japan) 66037 [CD], Released 2002

1. Love Won't Wait (Murry Wilson) 3:14
2. The Happy Song (Eck Kynor) 2:06
3. The Warmth Of The Sun (Brian Wilson) 2:46
4. Broken Heart (George Kizanis) 2:11
5. Leaves (Murry Wilson) 2:41
6. The Plumbers Tune (Eck Kynor) 2:23
7. Painting With Teardrops (Murry Wilson) 2:35
8. Island In The Sky (Rick Henn) 2:54
9. Just 'Round The River Bend (Don Falke/Deeda Patrick) 2:12
10. Italia (Alan Jardine) 2:31
11. Heartbreak Lane (Murry Wilson) 2:41
12. Betty's Waltz (Murry Wilson/Audree Wilson) 1:49

Arranged and conducted by Don Ralke Conceived and Produced by Murry Wilson

REVIEW: Sometimes, you just have to wonder what genetic pool Brian Wilson's talent springs from.  Much like Mozart, Brian's paternal heritage seems to be the only logical source, and, much like Amadeus, Brian's talent far eclipsed his father's, which seemed an unending source of gall to Murry Wilson.  Biographers contantly point to his one published song: "Two-Step Side Step," which was recorded by none other than Lawrence Welk, as Murry's single claim to fame.  Murry used that single song to claim dominance over his son in the studio, in songwriting ability, and in lording over Brian at every chance he got.  But it's in this 1967 LP that regular folks really got a chance to see the senior Wilson could do.  To be honest, The Many Moods of Murry Wilson isn't a terrible album, it's simply unmemorable, old-fashioned, and for the times it was released in, hopelessly square.  None of the songs here really make an impression, unless it's the familiar melody of Brian's "The Warmth Of The Sun," or the cool spy jazz intro to "The Plumbers Tune" which then devolves into horrible, tweaky organ solo with seasick strings gulping behind it.  If this album had been released in, say, 1959 - it would have fit right into the generic lounge slush which was being produced en masse at the time, but in 1967, not only was this album hopelessly anachronistic, it was doomed by the association to the then-sinking Beach Boys, who were in full flame-out mode with Smiley Smile.  And how does Al Jardine's "Italia" fare?  Well, to be honest, it fits in perfectly, which is pretty damning - it's a cutsy, cloying, bouncy piece of nostalgia which sounds like nothing else he's ever written.  My favorite track on the album is the comparitively moody and subtle "Islands In The Sky" by Sunrays member Rick Henn, which sounds slyly cool and subdued.  But the bulk of the album is swirling strings, fluttering organ, and pedestrian melodies.  For completists only.

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