Barbara Ann


The Beach Boys


Beach Boys Party!

"Barbara Ann"
Single: December 20, 1965 - US: #2 UK: #3
Album: Beach Boys Party! - November 8, 1965 - US: #6 UK: #3

Party! is the kind of novelty record it’s pretty safe to assume no one could really get away with today (or any time since the late 60s). Here’s what happened. Brian had stopped touring with the band in ‘64—hence the need for guys like Glenn Campbell and Bruce Johnston to ‘replace’ him—and was spending a lot more time perfecting songs in the studio. There are stories from this era of all-day-and-night sessions with the Wrecking Crew, hours of tape expended, performances tweaked over and over until everything was just so. Although the Beach Boys’ massive success gave them a good deal of clout when it came to getting more time and money out of Capitol, the label was still impatient for new material. Party! was devised as a fun one-off album that would fill the gap between the more ‘serious’ recordings Brian was working on. It’s supposed to be a recording of a get-together the band hosted with all their cool pals, but what really happened was they went into the studio and recorded a handful of mostly-covers with acoustic guitars and hand percussion, really loose and casual-like. Then they brought in friends to laugh and clap and chatter over those recordings to make it sound like a room full of people. Pretty clever—if not a bit underhanded—eh?

"Barbara Ann" wasn’t released as a single until DJs around the country started playing it straight off the LP and it became a grass-roots hit. The original version of the song, by doo-wop group The Regents, sounds like a bunch of angry, embarrassed tough-guys from the Bronx rushing through a dumb tune as quickly as they can. It fits the Beach Boys like a glove though, even (or especially?) in a laid back atmosphere. They always sound like they’re saying “Barber Ann” or “Bopper Ann,” not “Barbara Ann,” so this was another one where, as a little kid listening to the radio in the basement, I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. The hook is all syllables, though: ba-ba-ba, etc. It’s easy to latch onto. I’ve heard way more people sing the wrong words along with this song than the right ones, from my little brother to people twice my age, which to me shows just how fundamental, how serpentine and primal, its catchiness is.