Het is vandaag 55 jaar geleden dat de platenfirma van The Beach Boys een “party” organiseerde om daaruit dan een soort van akoestische live-elpee (een voorloper van de unplugged-serie) te distilleren. Het laatste nummer op deze elpee, “Barbara Ann”, zou ondanks het slordige karakter een geweldige hit worden.

Party! was recorded in a music studio and presented as an impromptu live recording of a party, with informal chatter by friends and family overdubbed later. The record company, Capitol, wanted an album for the holiday season, but as there was no new material ready, several options were considered, including a greatest hits album and a live album, before the band decided on the party theme. The Beach Boys covered songs by the Beatles, several doo-wop groups, Bob Dylan, and the Everly Brothers. The album included versions of the Beatles‘ “Tell Me Why“, “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” and “I Should Have Known Better“; “Devoted to You” by the Everly Brothers; the Phil Spector produced “There’s No Other (Like My Baby)” and a send-up of their own “I Get Around” and “Little Deuce Coupe“. Several other songs were also recorded, but not put on the album. This included renditions of the Drifters’ “Ruby Baby“, the Beatles‘ song “Ticket to Ride“, the Rolling Stones‘ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction“, Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” and the Robins‘ “Riot In Cell Block #9“. David Leaf noted: “In an era when rock stars were beginning to take themselves more seriously, the Beach Boys showed how natural it was to make fun of themselves.”

In November 1965, the Beach Boys released the non-album single “The Little Girl I Once Knew” which repeatedly used a measure of silence in the arrangement and was reportedly disliked by radio programmers owing to their avoidance of having “dead air”; this has been cited as being partially responsible for the single stalling at US number 20. Still wanting to play new material by the band, radio disc jockeys around the United States began starting to play the last track of Party! straight off the LP, a cover of The Regents‘ “Barbara Ann” (1961). The Beach Boys recorded their version on September 23, 1965. Dean Torrence of Jan and Dean is featured on lead vocals along with Brian Wilson. Torrence is not credited on the album, but Carl Wilson is heard saying “Thanks, Dean” at the song’s conclusion.

“Barbara Ann” received good listener’s response and was issued as a single by Capitol when they started hearing from radio programmers; it became a number 2 hit in early 1966 and no. 3 in the UK, which was their highest-charting British single to that point. In Europa werd “The Little Girl I Once Knew” op de keerzijde van “Barbara Ann” uitgebracht (zie foto).

However, while the “beach party” atmospherics fit into the Beach Boys style to that point, the varied musical influences presaged the change of direction that would occur over the next several years beginning with Pet Sounds (1966).

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