Barbara Ann is the first song by the Beach Boys to appear in the music library project and it is also one of the first songs I can ever remember hearing. I am still in awe of it, mainly because of the wonderful harmonies and catchy tune which never seems to grow old. Nearly all of the Beach Boys songs remind me of my cousins growing up who went surfing a lot, but ironically only one of the ‘Beach Boys’ surfed, namely Dennis Wilson who tragically drowned in 1983.
Just prior to Barbara Ann being covered by the Beach Boys, Brian Wilson was working on Pet Sounds. But it was taking him so long. The record company kept pestering Brian ‘when’s it coming’? And Brian decided he wasn’t that close to finishing it. But he had this idea of doing a Party record and completing it in a few days and giving that to the record company as a way of getting them off his back for a few months.
Dean Torence from the American rock duo ‘Jan and Dean‘ (who were pioneers of the California Sound and vocal surf music styles popularized by the Beach Boys) recalled how he was recording in a studio alongside the Beach Boys. Dean had a few minutes spare and thought he’d pay a visit to his friends The Beach Boys and they asked which song they could all sing in the time he had allotted away from his studio. He suggested Barbara Ann which Jan and Dean had recorded a few years earlier. So after a few takes and change in key, this is how the iconic Barbara Ann version by the Beach Boys (and Dean Torrece) was conceived. You can listen to the full interview with Dean Torrence here. He mentioned they were having so much fun doing the takes that they felt compelled to get it down. The rare extended version below of Barbara Ann demonstrates just how much fun they were having!
According to wikipedia: Barbara Ann was a song written by Fred Fassert and was first recorded by the Regents as “Barbara-Ann” in 1961. Barbara Ann by the Beach Boys was the most famous cover version and was issued as a single from their album Beach Boys’ Party! with the B-side “Girl Don’t Tell Me”.
The song entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart the week ending January 1, 1966. The week ending January 29, the song leaped from No. 15 to No. 2 and was in position to replace “We Can Work It Out” by The Beatles as the next No. 1 song. However, “My Love” by Petula Clark unexpectedly vaulted into the No. 1 position the week ending February 5, 1966. Consequently, “Barbara Ann” peaked at No. 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 (No. 1 in Cash Box and Record World) and at No. 3 in the UK in January 1966.