School’s in for the Beach Boys

The radio re-debut that I talked about in the last couple posts went pretty well.  The helper who was supposed to show me the ropes on how to operate the board was late, so my show, which was supposed to start at 8:30pm, started closer to 8:48. And a couple times, I had the computer open in the wrong window, so the wrong song started playing. But both of those are easily fixed problems.  As for the show itself, once I got going, it flew by.  I got to play 19 songs in the hour and 12 minutes, including songs that the local audience probably hadn’t heard on the radio in years.

So I’ll be back to try again next Tuesday at 8:30 pm on WSWE-FM, 92.7, “The Briar” on the campus of Sweet Briar College just south of Amherst, Va.

Now, to the latest entry in The Top 1,000 Hits of the 1960s.

Another act that was all over the charts in the 1960s was the Beach Boys. They had 11 songs in the final countdown, two of which they first did as an album version and then recorded a completely different version for single release. The single version of the one I’m spotlighting today was somewhat lost until the CD era, in part because the album version rather than the hit version was used on the most popular Beach Boys compilation of the vinyl years, Endless Summer.

# 851
Be True to Your School / The Beach Boys /
Capitol 5069
(Total points: 950 / Chart debut: 11/2/1963 / Chart peak: 6 / Weeks on chart: 12)

The first of 11 Beach Boys songs to make the Top 1,000 Hits of the 1960s, “Be True to Your School” was one of their two big hits to be re-recorded for single release. (The other one, “Help Me Rhonda,” is still to come in our countdown.)

According to the best available evidence, the album version of “Be True to Your School” was recorded in a marathon recording session on September 2, 1963, during which as many as seven songs were taped to round out an upcoming car-themed LP, Little Deuce Coupe. And though there is nothing inherently wrong with the LP cut, Brian Wilson evidently had other ideas.

Sometime later in September, probably after returning from a show at the Lagoon in Farmington, Utah on the 7th, the group returned to Western Recorders in Hollywood, where the first version was done. At that session, the entire “Be True to Your School” was radically rearranged. Not only was the song at a slightly faster tempo, with a modulation just as the song is about to fade, but the instruments were arranged like a marching band, with a much heavier drum sound and what sounds like a flute playing a snippet of “On Wisconsin,” the fight song of the University of Wisconsin. (It also was the melody of the fight song of Hawthorne High School, from which the Wilson brothers had graduated.)

Other elements were added, the most distinctive of which were the female cheerleaders, played with obvious glee by a vocal group called The Honeys (Marilyn Rovell, who became Mrs. Brian Wilson; her sister Diane; and their cousin Ginger Blake). Even the fade, with the Beach Boys still singing “rah, rah, rah, rah, sis-boom-bah!” as the drummer goes off into the distance, sounds like a marching band leaving a football field at the end of its halftime show.

This re-imagining was worth it, as “Be True to Your School” became the Beach Boys’ third consecutive A-side to make the top 10. The flip side, “In My Room,” also made the top 40, peaking at #23 on December 21, 1963, the same week as its top side.

Collector’s notes: Two slightly different pressings exist. Copies pressed on the West Coast have extra-bold print on the title, artist and catalog number; East Coast copies have bold print that is larger, but not quite as dark, as that on West Coast editions.

The U.S. single was not issued with a picture sleeve.

Fast fact: All copies of the 45 give composer credit solely to Brian Wilson. A 1994 lawsuit awarded half of the credit to Mike Love on this and 34 other Beach Boys songs from which Brian’s father Murry Wilson “omitted” Love’s name when filing the copyrights.

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