Top 10 beach songs and surf classics

Top songs for the beach

Beach songs provide the soundtrack to our summers, so here's a sun-kissed top 10 beach and surf classics which are great for conjuring up images of sand, sun and surf.

By Simon Doyle

Beach song 1: Surfin’ USA – The Beach Boys

You could take your pick from The Beach Boys’ vast catalog of surf-related tracks, but this is perhaps the most well known. You’ll recognize it instantly from its opening lines: ‘If everybody had an ocean, Across the USA, Then everybody’d be surfin’, Like Californ-I-A.’ It goes on to mention famous local surf spots such as Santa Cruz as well as Australia’s Narrabeen. ‘Everybody’s gone surfin’, Surfin’ USA’ is the claim from California’s famous sons – and it may even inspire you to go surfing! 

Beach song 2: Surf City – Jan & Dean

Jan and Dean scored one of their biggest hits with this 1963 song, which was handed to them by The Beach Boys’ band leader Brian Wilson. At a recording session, Wilson sang the opening line of a new song, which he offered to the pair – who then added further lyrics. ‘Surf City’ is considered to be Huntington Beach in California, where – according to the song – there’s ‘two girls for every boy’ and the surfers are ‘either out surfin’ or they got a party growin’’. 

Beach song 3: Theme from Endless Summer – The Sandals

The Sandals provided the soundtrack to the seminal surf movie Endless Summer – a movie which no self-respecting surfer should go without seeing. Bruce Brown’s movie is known by surfers of all ages all over the world, and the music may be just as recognizable. The theme features pretty laid back guitar instrumental stuff which is reminiscent of the type of music produced by The Shadows. 

Beach song 4: Hawaii Five-O – The Ventures

Even if you’re not familiar with the Hawaii Five-O TV series which ran from the late 1960s to the late 1970s, you’ll still instantly recognize its theme tune. This dramatic instrumental theme tune features drum rolls and trumpets, and in the TV series it was accompanied by pictures of Hawaiian men battling against the surf in kayaks. Perhaps hearing it will bring back some memories for older fans of the series – and for everyone else, it’s just a great, catchy number. 

Beach song 5: Misirlou – Dick Dale & His Del-Tones

‘Misirlou’ was a traditional Greek song which was re-arranged by Dick Dale as a solo guitar piece after a fan asked if he could play it all on one string. Complete with a trumpet arrangement, Dick Dale’s version helped bring the song to a wider audience. In 1994 it was used as part of the soundtrack to the Quentin Tarantino movie Pulp Fiction, and in 2006 it was sampled to form the basis of the Black Eyed Peas’ single ‘Pump It’.

Beach song 6: Wipe Out – The Surfaris

Another instrumental piece with a continuous surf rhythm. The only vocal is the occasional appearance of the phrase ‘wipe out’. After recording the track, The Surfaris considered it suitable only as a B-side, but DJs preferred this track to the A-side and made it a hit. There’s a laugh at the start of the track before it launches into a tom-tom-and-guitar-driven rhythm which will be familiar to all

Beach song 7: Beach Baby – First Class

A nostalgic look back at days on the sand walking hand-in-hand. Beach Baby is really a Beach Boys pastiche that was produced in the mid-1970s – but even so, it’s undeniably catchy. ‘Beach baby, beach baby, there on the sand, From July to the end of September, Surfin’ was fun, we’d be out in the sun every day,’ they sang – which sums up what you should be doing when listening to this song! Aside from this effort, though, there wasn’t much else in the band’s canon that was First Class, and they effectively disappeared without trace.

Beach song 8: Soul Limbo – Booker T & the MGs

The distinctive calypso-tinged theme music of Soul Limbo will instantly conjure up images of sun-drenched days connected to cricket in fan’s minds – but is also a delightful summer tune that would be great to listen to while lying on the beach. The tune is universally known by sports fans around the world for rounding off each day’s play on the BBC’s Test Match Special program – but it also has wider associations with the Caribbean.

Beach song 9: Summertime Blues – Eddie Cochran

Late 1950s release about a teenager struggling to escape from work in order to enjoy the summer. It’s a classic from its time – and despite its age will be familiar to most. ‘Well I’m gonna raise a fuss, And I’m gonna raise a holler, About workin’ all summer, Just tryin’ to earn a dollar,’ sang Cochran. This is good to listen to when you are relaxing, when you’re thinking about not having to go to work!

Beach song 10: Surfin’ Safari – The Beach Boys

We tried to resist including another Beach Boys number, but couldn’t quite manage it! At least you’ll be familiar with this instead of some more obscure one (which we could have gone for). So come on: ‘Let’s go surfin’ now, Everybody’s learning how, Come on and safari with me!’ Even if you’ve never taken to a board in your life, you won’t be able to resist grooving to this.

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