Surfing in Five-Part Harmony

The Beach Boys
Jan and Dean, 1965
Jan and Dean, 1963
The Beach Boys

Surf music in the 1960s came in two forms. Dick Dale and his turbocharged guitar personified the instrumental style. The genre’s second, more popular, and arguably less pure form was vocal surf music. It was launched in 1961 with a prosy little tune by the Beach Boys called “Surfin’.” The melody hobbled along, the chorus did nothing except repeat the song title over and over, and the lyric flubbed its surfing references (“Yeah my surfer knots are rising and my board is losing wax”). But "Surf...

The Beach Boys never cut it at Malibu. But by the end of the 1960s, it was obvious that, of all the surf boom cultural artifacts, it was the Beach Boys—not Gidget, or Frankie and Annette, or Dick Dale, or even Malibu itself—who had made the strongest bid for immortality.