How the Beach Boys became associated with Hot Rods

“I’m not braggin babe so don’t put me down, but I’ve got the fastest set of wheels in town.” With that sentence, Brian Wilson and Roger Christian kicked off one of the most popular car songs of all time.

Along with the album of the same name, Little Deuce Coupe cemented the Beach Boys’ reputation as THE hot rod band of the 60s. But none of this would have happened if Capitol Records had not tweaked Brian Wilson’s ire.

What’s often forgotten is that Little Deuce Coupe was actually a B-Side, a throw-away released on the flip of Surfer Girl in July of 1963.

That same summer, the Beach Boys’ label released a car compilation entitled “Shut Down” that featured the Boys’ single of the same name along with 409 and a host of other non-Beach Boy material.

It happened without Brian’s involvement or approval and he immediately decided that the band should fire back with a hot rod album of their own. Brian, along with DJ Christian, polished the lyrics of a half dozen new car songs and the band rushed into the studio in September, recording 8 automotive tinged tracks, tacking on the previously released Deuce Coupe, Our Car Club and Shut Down and topping off the production with Be True To Your School.

The album was released in October, only 12 weeks after the Surfer Girl collection (with Little Deuce Coupe on board) hit the record stores. The single peaked nationally at number 4. Little Deuce Coupe, the LP, eventually went platinum and is still available today coupled with All Summer Long.

The album is also notable as the last time we hear David Marks’ rhythm guitar. Al Jardine had returned during the Deuce Coupe sessions becoming Marks’ permanent replacement. It took over five decades before the band would again embrace the former teenager who was an original contributor to their legacy.

If you’re looking for Beach Boy stuff online, your due diligence should include seeking out the stereo remixes. Over the years, Capitol, with Brian Wilson’s assistance and blessing, has been updating the Beach Boy cannon. Back in the day, stereo was something called “Duo-Phonic”, with the vocals in your left ear and the instrumental tracks in your right. That’s the first way I heard “Don’t Worry Baby” in “stereo” and it was a huge disappointment. The remixes give you a sense for the incredible harmonies the Beach Boys were able to create, channeling the Four Freshmen’s style and taking it to a whole new level.

The car-tunes craze encompassed a number of acts. Ronnie and the Daytonas had a one hit wonder with “Little GTO”. And a pre-Beach Boy, Bruce Johnston teamed up with Doris Day’s son Terry Melcher under the name, “The Rip Chords”, to record “Hey Little Cobra”.

From Wikipedia: A Deuce Coupe is a 1932 Ford Coupe (deuce being for the year). This was considered by many to be the definitive “hot rod”. The Model B had four cylinders and the Model 18 featured the Ford flathead V8 engine when the car was introduced. A pink slip (mentioned in the lyrics) was the title to the car, named for the color of the paper then used in California 

The picture featured on the front cover of the album was supplied by Hot Rod magazine, and features the body (with his head cropped in the photo) of hod-rod owner Clarence ‘Chili’ Catallo and his own customized three-window 1932 Ford Coupe

Hollywood, never one to miss out on a pop-culture juggernaut, spent big bucks to create one of the last Cinerama films, “Grand Prix”, starring James Garner, Yves Montand and Eva Marie Saint. Steve McQueen was less successful with “Le Mans”. Att the tail end of the car tune era, Ron Howard made the transition from actor to director, helming the B-Movie classic, “Eat My Dust”. And of course, classic cars are the co-stars of George Lucas’ breakout love note to 1962, “American Graffiti”. Paul LeMat drives a 32 Deuce Coupe in the film, beating out Harrison Ford’s “Bob Falfa” in the climactic drag race scene. LeMat’s “John Milner” dismisses the Beach Boys, telling Mackenzie Phillips that, “Music has never been the same since Buddy Holly died.”

Perhaps, Brian’s “I Get Around” was a sign. The lyrics include the reference, “We always take my car, cause it’s never been beat.” But there’s an undercurrent of dissatisfaction between the lines, echoed in the opening verse, “I’m getting bugged driving up and down the same old strip..” After the “All Summer Long” LP, the Beach Boys would record another vehicular hit, although they continue to include just about every car-tune in their concert set lists to this day.