Brian Wilson Co-Wrote a No. 1 Song Before The Beach Boys Had a No. 1 Song


  • The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson co-wrote Jan and Dean’s only No. 1 song in his apartment.
  • A future country star worked on the song as well.
  • Jan and Dean’s Jan Berry revealed what he thought of working with Wilson.

The Beach Boys‘ songs touch on many of the same themes as Jan and Dean’s songs. Unsurprisingly, The Beach Boys’ Brain Wilson co-wrote Jan and Dean’s only No. 1 song. In addition, a future country star contributed to the track.

The 1st song The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson made with Jan and Dean was a huge success

During a 1997 interview with Goldmine, Jan and Dean’s Jan Berry discussed collaborating with a Beach Boy. “‘Surf City’ was the first song that Brian and I worked on together,” Berry recalled. “I went to his apartment, and we sat side by side at an upright piano. I put together the arrangements on that while Brian played along.”

Berry revealed other notable musicians worked on “Surf City.” Once we put it together I brought in Hal Blaine, Earl Palmer, Glen Campbell, and the rest of those guys,” he said. “We cut it at United [that’s now Ocean Way Studios] and laid down the rhythm track; shortly after that, we laid down the vocals.” For context, Blaine and Earl were famous drummers while Campbell was a future country singer.

What Jan Berry thought about working on the song with The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson

Berry further explained how “Surf City” came together. “I over-dubbed my voice on the lead microphone and had Tony Minicello [of the Matadors] and Brian singing in the background,” he recalled. “The vocals on that were done in unison.” 

Berry couldn’t praise Wilson enough. “Brian was such a joy to work with, because he concentrated so hard when it came time to working, and he was such a nice guy to be around,” Berry opined. “I’ll never forget working with him. We had a lot of collaborations, but ‘Surf City’ was such a great song.” Berry said creating the song was his most treasured memory.

How Jan and Dean’s ‘Surf City’ performed on the chart in the United States

According to Stereogum, “Surf City” became Jan and Dean’s only No. 1 song in the United States. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks. Notably, this happened before any of The Beach Boys’ songs reached the top of the chart.

“Surf City” became a bit of a standard. Bands such as the Ramones, The Go-Go’s, and The Deltones covered the song. The track helped usher the genre of surf music into the mainstream.

“Surf City” is a classic 1960s rock song — and it wouldn’t be the same without Wilson.

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