October 28, 2011

Friday Flashback: The Beach Boys/Four Seasons Rivalry!

October 28th, 2011

Was there a Beach Boys/Four Seasons rivalry back in the ’60s when both American groups were topping the charts?

On their 1963 album “Surfer Girl,” The Beach Boys let the world (and The Four Seasons) know that they were in charge with the song, “Surfers Rule.” Check out around 1:35 when they state, “Four Seasons, you better believe it!” and their “Walk Like A Man” falsetto.

Well, of course, The Four Seasons let it be known that The Beach Boys weren’t the guys in charge with their response song–”No Surfin’ Today”–on the B-side of “Dawn” in 1964! How ’bout that “angry sea”?!


  1. You thought the Beach Boys might mean that you can surf in all Four Seasons in California, but then they break into the vocal from “Walk Like A Man”.

    And at least somebody did a song about the dangers of surfing, with the one and only Surfer/Tear Jerker song ever written, “No Surfin’ Today”.

    Neither was over the top. I suspect that “Surfers Rule” was written after the Wilsons’ father goaded the Beach Boys about not having any #1 Hits yet while the Four Seasons had three by early 1963. And the Four Seasons still lead 5 to 4 as a group, and as Brian Wilson’s solo career never really took off, 7 to 4 if you count Frankie Valli’s solo hits.

    Comment by Ted Hammond — October 29, 2011 @ 10:05 pm

  2. It may not have been about the dangers of surfing, but in the category of “Surfer/Tear Jerker songs,” Ted, don’t forget the oft-forgotten “New York’s a Lonely Town” by the Tradewinds. Sad but sweet lyrics (“My woody’s outside…covered with snow”), nice harmonies, even a lead singer who can slip in and out of falsetto.


    Comment by stubbleyou — October 30, 2011 @ 9:57 am

  3. If his ’34 Wagon is outside in New York City, it is covered with snow today, stubbleyou! The oldies stations in New York City, if there are any left that play many songs from the 60s, should play that on this historic “snow day”.

    I also liked that Tradewinds hit.

    Comment by Ted Hammond — October 30, 2011 @ 10:26 am

  4. Great points, Ted! So interesting that The Four Seasons had the Big 3 chart toppers by early ’63 & The Beach Boys didn’t score their first #1 until “I Get Around” in ’64.

    Stubbs: Thanks for the Trade Winds video! That was a treat!

    Comment by Susie — October 30, 2011 @ 11:07 am

  5. While “Surfer’s Rule” was a direct challenge to the Four Seasons, “No Surfin Today” was more of a metaphor and an indirect response.

    Wilson admitted that he was always trying to compete with the Four Seasons and release better singles.

    I thought that it was also interesting that when Valli released “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)” under his name in the summer of 65, Wilson followed with “Oh Caroline No” 6 months later as a Brian Wilson single.

    The rivalry was great. I think the Four Seasons did have the upper hand and that Wilson had to use more falsetto in his recordings just to keep up with Valli.

    A local disc jockey used to introduce Beachboys singles by saying…”Here they are, The Four Seasons in bermudas…..The Beachboys!”

    Comment by Ray — October 31, 2011 @ 6:57 am

  6. Frankie Valli also had a Top 40 hit before Brian Wilson with “You’re Gonna Hurt Yourself”.

    Frankie Valli was one of the first, if not the first, simultaneous solo acts to hit the charts while still recording with the group in the Post 1955 era, anyway. I think it inspired Berry Gordy to have Michael Jackson do solo recordings almost immediately after the Jackson Five became well known. Jerry Butler had left The Impressions before he embarked on a solo career, and as Diana Ross had left The Supremes.

    Comment by Ted Hammond — October 31, 2011 @ 10:27 am

  7. Remember that in 1985 FV4S and The Beach Boys did a single on FV and BG’s FBI records called East Meets West.

    Comment by Marty Hoffer — October 31, 2011 @ 6:13 pm

  8. “East Meets West” was a great song, Marty, and deserved to be a hit, at least an Adult Contemporary hit. It did actually get some airplay as I recall. The vocals of FV4S and BB blended remarkably well. There may have been fan resistance on both “coasts” for “selling out” to the rival group.

    Comment by Ted Hammond — October 31, 2011 @ 10:51 pm

  9. I always thought of the groups as having a friendly rivalry, nothing more than that.
    The difference between the Four Seasons and the Beach Boys was evident in their music though. Almost all 60′s groups had the exact same sound, background and riff’s from any song that was in the top 40. Listen to Surfer’s Rule. How many other B.B. songs sound just like that, and I am not talking about the vocals
    FV4S, each song had a different beat, melody etc. Even the ” sound of Frankie Valli ” was different in each and every song. Do some comparison, you will find out why the Seasons were on top. Only thing they did not do was make a public spectacle of themselves to attract more record sales.

    Comment by Bob Nelson — November 1, 2011 @ 8:12 am

  10. I bought a 33 1/3 wagon and we call it a woody
    (Turf bidding, here we come)
    You know he’s beltin’ out “Sherry,” it’s an oldie but a goodie
    (Turf bidding, here we come)
    You take a bass, a guitar and add a piano
    But he still gets me with his falsetto…

    (“Surf City” was Jan and Dean’s best song. Could it also have been the first rock’n'roll video, as seen here in an alternate version?)


    Comment by stubbleyou — November 1, 2011 @ 10:02 pm

  11. I was surprised to look in Mr. Whitburn’s books and find out that Jan and Dean recorded “Walk Like A Man” and “Let’s Hang On” along with an assortment of other East Coast, West Coast, British Invasion, and other covers on their LPs, stubbleyou.

    Along with all the other nostalgia sites, I also found a site that has pictures of those wooden sided station wagons. I guess the ’34 Wagon was a classic partly because of “Surf City”.

    Comment by Ted Hammond — November 2, 2011 @ 12:14 am

  12. This topic is irresistible, especially for those of us who lived through it. In my neighborhood you couldn’t be a fan of both groups.

    You either associated with the “street” sound of the Four Seasons or that “palm tree in the sand” sound of the Beach Boys. There was no in-between.

    In later years all parties spoke well of one another. It was a friendly rivalry, all said.

    I did happen to run accross an interview with 2nd generation Beach Boy member Bruce Johnston who commented on their “East Meets West” colaboration.
    “I hated it”, he said, “those guys know nothing about harmony” Well, that’s pretty strong.

    Does the rivalry continue???

    Comment by Ray — November 3, 2011 @ 6:19 am

  13. To turn Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” around a little bit regarding Bruce Johnston’s comment, “Et Tu, Bruce?”

    And Bruce Johnston actually did say it. Here’s the link to the interview.


    From what I understand, the Beach Boys polished vocals were not so much from natural talent, but often from scores of takes and retakes in the recording studio. Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe were used to recording in one or two takes. I’d like to hear what “Good Vibrations” sounded like after one or two takes. Anyone with any talent at all can do scores of takes and have one that statistically turns out nearly perfect.

    And after this long, you would think Bruce would rise above the rivalry for a moment. Or does dissing the Four Seasons sell more Beach Boys records?

    I think Bruce Johnston should apologize.

    Comment by Ted Hammond — November 3, 2011 @ 10:58 am

  14. @Ray: Fascinating about how you couldn’t be a fan of both groups in your neighborhood!

    @Ted: The interview w/Bruce Johnson was highly interesting…You’re right–he should apologize.

    Have any of you seen this Four Seasons bio from AllMusic.com: http://allmusic.com/artist/the-four-seasons-p12974/biography

    It offers interesting insight/comparison of the Seasons & Beach Boys.

    Comment by Susie — November 3, 2011 @ 11:10 am

  15. As with most songs, “East Meets West” has its fans and detractors. What’s interesting to me is that the song, with historical hindsight, turns out to be prophetic as it relates to the start of Jersey Boys in La Jolla and its eventually opening and continued run on Broadway:

    “From the nights in Hollywood…to the lights on Broadway”

    “Riding down the Jersey Shore…riding ’round La Jolla”

    “Who knew”

    Comment by David Cace — November 3, 2011 @ 11:45 am

  16. Ted, thanks for the link to Bruce’s interview. Yea, pretty strong words there, very full of himself. He should be locked in a room and listen to 4 Seasons music for a full day just so he gets the big picture.
    I would never have anything bad to say about Brian Wilson but, have you ever heard Mike Love perform live? Not even close to singing, I can do better. They did a drunken performance years ago in Atlantic City ( Beach Boys. ) AND WERE TOLD NOT TO COME BACK AGAIN

    Comment by Bob Nelson — November 6, 2011 @ 9:52 am

  17. I got to see the Beach Boys peform in the 68/69 time frame when they came to Jersey City New Jersey – The Stanley Theatre – seats about 4,000. The place was maybe 1/3 full and they were awful, vocally and musically.

    While I guess there might be some debate about the respective group’s recordings, there is no debate about their respective live performances. The original 4 Seasons from the 1960s, always said this way to be inclusive of both Nick Massi and Joe Long, were outstanding performers and always put on a great show. And they sounded in concert just like the record, vocally and instrumentally. Even Bob “performing was never my thing” Gaudio sang great and played the organ like a “mad man.” Two of my favorite 4 Seasons songs performed live were “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” where Bob’s organ replaced the violins that were on the record, and you would never know the difference; and “Tell It To The Rain” where Bob and Tommy DeVito on guitar would do the musical bridge that again sounded just like the record. And then there were the comedy routines that had the audience laughing between the live performances of the hits and album cuts. If you never saw a 4 Seasons concert in the 1960s you missed an evening that would have stayed in your memory.

    Comment by David Cace — November 10, 2011 @ 11:18 pm

  18. David, the studio recordings of “And That Reminds Me” and “Who Loves You” have very polished sounding background vocals.

    Adrian Baker, who is the only touring member I know of who was with both The Four Seasons and The Beach Boys, sang “Sherry” at Beach Boys concerts! Right in front of Bruce Johnston! But Gidea Park, a group that does imitations of both groups, and used to have Adrian Baker, sounds much better in the recording studio than it does live.

    Comment by Ted Hammond — November 12, 2011 @ 10:46 pm

  19. I like this thread; glad it’s still alive. ;-)

    Growing up in SoCal, surrounded by if not immersed in the beach and car culture, I would say that the 4S had an edge in popularity pre-Beatle, but after the Invasion, that edge flip-flopped like a 45 loading in a jukebox. Everybody dug the BBs but the 4S probably had a few fewer big fans.

    A few more random thoughts re all of the above:
    I never considered Bruce Johnston a real BB.
    I have often told my sons Mike Love is one of the luckiest guys in rock’n'roll – because his voice is average at best, and often a bit nasal. Brian’s is a thousand times better.
    That being said, imho nobody touches the BB’s harmonies at their best. Not the Beatles, the 4S, the Mamas and the Papas, Queen, or whomever else you’d want to insert here. Magical. Even if they had to do a hundred takes.
    La Jolla is also mentioned in Surfin’ USA. And didn’t Rick Elice describe Christian Hoff in early interviews as a blond SoCal surfer boy?

    Comment by stubbleyou — November 15, 2011 @ 9:33 pm

  20. In the link below, Ernie Bringas admits that his falsetto on “Here I Stand” by the Rip Chords was a “Four Seasons falsetto”, whereas Bruce Johnston added a Beach Boys falsetto. Doris Day’s son Terry Melcher was another member of the Rip Chords.


    Comment by Ted Hammond — November 16, 2011 @ 1:45 am

  21. Cool, I will check out “East meets west”, that sounds interesting.

    It is interesting that both the Beach Boys and Four Seasons influenced each other. For example, “Rag Doll” has a similar style to “Don’t Worry Baby”, and “Finder Keepers Loser Weepers” sounds like “Big Girls Don’t Cry”; “Sherry” and “Walk Like A Man” also have the Beach Boys style.

    Both groups also influenced other bands, such as the Beatles, the Hollies, Jan and Dean, the Ivy League, and the Rockin’ Berries.

    Both bands are great, and definitely earn a respectable place in rock and roll history.

    Comment by Brandon — September 1, 2013 @ 10:17 pm

  22. “Comparisons are odious” I read in the book “Heroes and Villains” by Steve Gaines that Brian use to love to sing “Sherry Baby” in his car while his friends hung out at the “Wichstand” in LA

    Comment by Eddie Jansen — June 28, 2015 @ 4:24 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. | TrackBack URI

Please leave a comment