Surf City – Jan & Dean | Top 40 Chart Performance, Story and Song Meaning

Chart Performance: Pop (#1 for 2 weeks) and R&B (#3); 1963

Story Behind The Song By Ed Osborne

It’s July, 1963 and Brian Wilson has the #1 record in America, yet, Brian’s Dad, Murry, and the execs at Capitol Records are unhappy. In fact, they’re furious. For the record in question is Surf City on Liberty, and the performing artists are Jan & Dean, not Capitol’s Beach Boys.

Not only is Brian listed as co-writer with Jan, his distinct falsetto can be clearly heard throughout Surf City. How did this happen!? Jan Berry, Dean Torrence, and Brian Wilson first met at a high school record hop, where the Beach Boys opened for Jan & Dean.

Not long after, Brian joined J&D at a session for their upcoming album, and played Surfin’ U.S.A. for them. Wilson resisted the duo’s pleas to let them record Surfin’ first.

Instead, he gave them a half-finished song called Surf City that Jan finished up. Murry later called Jan a “pirate” for “stealing” Brian’s song, so Jan showed up at a Beach Boys session in full Long John Silver regalia.

This content and all Song Meaning articles were created and written by Top 40 Contributing Editor Ed Osborne. © 2024 Ed Osborne. All Rights Reserved. In addition to these song meaning articles, Ed has written our “Year in Music 1960s-1990s” articles.

Produced by:

  • Jan Berry

Lyrics Written by:

  • Brian Wilson
  • Jan Berry