On this day in 1962….

….the Beach Boys signed to Capitol Records in the US, their first hit was in Sept this year with ‘Surfin’ Safari, the song itself would be the subject of a long court case as it was alleged to have (ahem) borrow heavily from Chuck Berry’s 1958 hit ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’, you can judge for yourself (and read what Rolling Stone had to say about the case) below…if you’re looking for Beach Boys vinyl, CDs and more be sure to visit eil.com to see what Beach Boys goodies are currently in stock…

From Rolling Stone

The Beach Boys vs. Chuck Berry (1963)

“Surfin’ U.S.A.,” by the Beach Boys (1963) vs. “Sweet Little Sixteen,” by Chuck Berry (1958)

The Case: The California boys often incorporated rock & roll pioneer Chuck Berry’s songs into their early concerts. But 1958’s “Sweet Little Sixteen” set Beach Boys’ composer Brian Wilson into overdrive. Inspired by Berry’s rapid-fire references to various American cities, he recast the song as a paean to a fun-in-the-sun sport. Wilson penned a new set of lyrics listing off the hot surfing locales across the Pacific coast. Wilson said he intended the song as a tribute to the rock guitarist, but Berry’s lawyers used another term: plagiarism.

The Verdict: With the threat of lawsuits looming, Beach Boys manager – and Brian Wilson’s father – Murry Wilson agreed to give the publishing rights to Arc Music, Berry’s publisher. However, Berry’s name wouldn’t appear on the songwriting credits until 1966.

Why It Matters: Although the genre was built on a handful of standard three-chord progressions and blues licks, the “Surfin’ U.S.A.” incident was one of the first major plagiarism scuffles in rock history.

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  1. Your introduction copy is incorrect!
    It was “Surfin’ U.S.A.” that was the subject of the court case, not “Surfin’ Safari” as you stated.

  2. I didn’t know about the Surfin’ USA vs. Sweet Little Sixteen controversy, so thanks for posting. Note, though, Surfin’ Safari and Surfin’ USA are different songs, from different albums/years.

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