The 50th anniversary of the Beach Boys’ Shut Down Volume 2 album is more than a glimpse into one 12-song collection; it’s a reflection on a transitional period in music that spanned two years (June 1962 to May of 1964) and remains with us to this day.
Initially, the Beach Boys early songs were about surfing. “Surfin’” only addressed life on the beach, but “Surfin’ Safari” was about loading up the woodie and heading toward the beach. It was the B-side, “409,” however, that spoke universally to car crazed teenagers everywhere. A pattern was formed with the Beach Boys singles; A-Side (surf song) / B-Side (car song).
The first nationwide hit for the group was “Surfin’ USA.” The B-side? “Shut Down.” The next Beach Boys’ single, “Surfer Girl” / “Little Deuce Coupe” (July 1963), continued the trend.
With the release of three surf-themed albums (Surfin’ Safari, Surfin’ USA and Surfer Girl) the group had stockpiled a handful of car songs, but before they could release their own car-themed album Capitol Records released the Shut Down compilation in June of 1963. The album included two Beach Boys songs, “Shut Down” and “409.” The release was essentially a Roger Christian / Gary Usher song sampler (with a few other tracks that spoke to the car vernacular). Surfing songs were still popular, but Brian and cousin Mike Love recognized that a car-themed album was the next order of business. Little Deuce Coupe was released in October of 1963 and included the three previously released B-sides, “Our Car Club” (from the Surfer Girl album) and eight new songs.
Car songs were more than a fad, they were a way of life. As you would expect, Brian Wilson was behind the majority of songs that charted, and it wasn’t because of his familiarity with cars. Brian’s most knowledgeable hot rod resource became KFWB DJ Roger Christian. Roger, according to Mike Love in this issue’s interview, was a true “gear head.” The growth between Little Deuce Coupe and Shut Down Volume 2 is one of musical distinction, and also includes the very first Dennis Wilson credited track; “Denny’s Drums.”
There’s some big stuff on Shut Down Volume 2. The Beatles had just come ashore when we were in Australia in 1964 performing ‘Fun, Fun, Fun.’ Brian and I were not happy with the results, but we couldn’t do anything about it because we were on tour. We were still learning and formulating. When I came back into the band we had a serious vocal group…a powerful sound.” — Al Jardine
It’s hard for me to pick a favorite song out of this selection of awesome songs, but I’d have to say that ‘Don’t Worry Baby’ is definitely at the top of the list. It is a perfect song with beautiful harmonies lyrics and a great track. I never get sick of listening to it and I always play it on my record player or belt it out in my car.”
— Ambha Love (daughter of Mike Love)
‘Pom, Pom Play Girl,’ which many do not realize, is Carl’s first recorded lead vocal with the Beach Boys, is a nice mix of unexpected modulations, harmonic turns and gag items like the reverbed tom-tom drum hit every time the word ‘play’ is uttered (to me this is an inside joke to musicians, as ‘pom pom’ are the words immediately preceding a tom tom being hit) and the vocal sound effects at the tag end, which, to this listener, end on a possible swear word just as the song is fading away after ‘wow.’ The first chord of the verse is deceiving, an A-flat 9th that sounds jazzier than it is, almost Four Freshman-like. In fact, it is a garden variety 3-5-7-9 voicing, but the guys sing it so solidly and in such a good blend that you just about forget that a chord like that is out of character — an odd, almost intellectual thing to hear in a song about a ditzy cheerleader who ‘doesn’t really know why she’s waving her hands.’ To accentuate the sports-centric nature of the lyric, during the guitar solo, one side of the stereo is almost inundated with loud reverb-drenched hand claps, such as you would hear at any football game. I have always considered this to be the follow-up to ‘Be True to Your School,’ as it was the next school-themed song to be put out by the Beach Boys after that hit.” — Probyn Gregory (Brian Wilson band)
Definitely a hard choice for me; but ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ always will hold a special place in my heart. I recall the many times I would get up on stage with my Dad and excitedly hand him his microphone stand so that he could use the base as a steering wheel while he made driving gestures to the audience. Everything about the song is indeed ‘fun’ and I certainly will always remember all the great times that song has brought me.”
— Brian Love (son of Mike Love)
The Beach Boys pay tribute to two influences on ‘Why Do Fools Fall In Love.’ Doo Wop was, of course, one of the main ingredients to the Beach Boys soup (with equal parts Chuck Berry, Four Freshmen and others), as was the production style of Phil Spector. Here, Brian does a Spectorish take on Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. The 5-part a cappella breakdown after the solo section is breathtaking!
This has long been one of Mike’s favorite songs to do live. In fact, I think we’ve done it nearly every show in the 13 years I’ve been in the band. In 2012, as we first started rehearsing for the 50th anniversary tour, I had the privilege of reminding Brian and Al their parts in the a cappella section. I will never forget how, after going around the room teaching each band member his part, we all attempted it for the first time on the microphone. It literally gave me goosebumps! On that tour, Jeff Foskett and I doubled the lead together, and the audience response always amazed me. The impact and the drama in that arrangement are timeless.”
— Scott Totten (The Beach Boys band music director)
I have always loved listening to ‘Denny’s Drums.’ Especially thinking about how young Dad was. It always makes me smile. Brings me back to when I was first starting to play the drums. What a special time that must’ve been for him. I can’t wait until my kids are old enough to understand what this is.”
— Carl B. Wilson (son of Dennis Wilson)
One of the songs off of Shut Down Volume 2, ‘This Car of Mine,’ features Dennis on lead vocal extolling the virtue of how cool it really is to be in love with one’s car. He recognizes the value of his chosen car beyond mere surface imperfections like rust. He also says he’s going to ‘fix her up as new as she could be’ and wouldn’t part with ’her’ for any amount of gold in a gold mine! So, it seems it wasn’t always about surfin’ or girls in those halcyon days of early Beach Boys lyrics. Sometimes the central theme of a song was simply the expression of the love affair young people have with their machines – their hot rods as symbols of freedom and pride – sung as lovingly as one would about a cherished person (girlfriend).” — Nick Walusko (Brian Wilson band, Wondermints)
‘Keep an Eye on Summer’ really stood out to me as a song that really solidified Brian’s distinctive, trademark sense of melody. It’s as catchy as it is heartbreaking. All of my favorite Beach Boys songs have this quality. My earliest memory of Brian came from the first Imagination session I was on. We worked on ‘Lay Down Burden’ and (Brian’s re-recording of) ‘Keep an Eye on Summer,’ and Brian was a bit distant until I dialed in a Leslie rotary speaker effect on my guitar and he sat bolt upright in his chair and yelled, ‘I like THAT!’ From that moment on it’s been a goal to grab Brian’s ear like that.” — Scott Bennett (Brian Wilson band)
The Kingsmen (out of Seattle) made that a really big record, but before that there was a rhythm & blues version by Richard Berry (and the Pharaohs) in 1957. That version had the [sings] ‘Duh, duh, duh…duh, duh.” It was almost like a doo-wop calypso recording. It’s basically a song about a sailor out to sea who is missing his girl. I still like that song. I haven’t done it in four decades. I would do it in a heartbeat if I really thought people would enjoy it. We do performing arts centers, state fairs and private gigs, but if we ever do a no holds barred fraternity party mode that’s when you break out a ‘Louie, Louie’ or ‘Johnny B. Goode’.” — Mike Love
The album cover (taken in the Capitol Records parking lot) may not be an artistic statement, but it does hold a personal connection with the group. The cars that the group are posing around – the white 1964 Ford Thunderbird, the midnight blue 1963 Chevrolet Corvette (OHD 706 license plate) and the metallic turquoise 1964 Pontiac Grand Prix – belonged to Al, Dennis and Carl (respectively). While there was only one legit surfer in the band (Dennis), they all had cars. Let’s face it, you couldn’t take a surfboard to the drive-in to make out with your girl. Not even Dennis did that.
To pick up your copy of this one-of-a-kind limited edition collectible, be sure to order the Spring 2104 issue of Endless Summer Quarterly today.
©2014 David Beard / All rights reserved
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