Mike Love Said The Beach Boys’ Cover of a Chuck Berry Song Was ‘Barely Finished’ and ‘Scratchy’

TL;DR:

  • One of The Beach Boys’ songs was a Chuck Berry cover they did during a low point of their career.
  • Mike Love said the cover was “barely finished” and “scratchy.”
  • Love said the song sounded different from another version The Beach Boys later recorded.
The Beach Boys holding a surf board
The Beach Boys | Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer

Chuck Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music” was one of the most essential songs of the 1950s. Subsequently, a cover of “Rock and Roll Music” became one of The Beach Boys‘ more popular songs. Subsequently, Mike Love discussed why the cover stood out from several of the group’s previous singles following “Good Vibrations.”

Mike Love wanted to cover a Chuck Berry song when his band was struggling

In his 2016 book Good Vibrations: My Life as a Beach Boy, Love discussed the state of the band in the 1970s. “We had been recording music for a decade while the whole concept of The Beach Boys seemed obsolete,” Love wrote. “We should release 15 Big Ones, I thought, before we lost the momentum, but even with that momentum, we needed did a hit song.”

“When we were in the studio, I reminded Brian of the success we had in tapping into Chuck Berry’s ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’ for ‘Surfin’ U.S.A.,'” he added. For context, “Surfin’ U.S.A.” was based on “Sweet Little Sixteen.” “I told him we should do another Chuck Berry number, and we agreed to cover ‘Rock and Roll Music.'”

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Mike Love felt The Beach Boys’ version of the song sounded good in a very specific context

Love explained how The Beach Boys’ “Rock and Roll Music’ came together in the studio. “Brian did the track, I did the lead vocals, and it was released on May 24th,” he recalled.

“Honestly, it was barely finished and kind of scratchy — Brian produced a better version for the album — but it still sounded cool and ballsy on highly compressed old AM car radio speakers,” Love opined. “I was both relieved and happy that it peaked at number five, making it our first Top 10 single since ‘Good Vibrations’ in 1966.”

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How The Beach Boys’ ‘Rock and Roll Music’ and its parent album performed on the charts in the United States

“Rock and Roll Music” reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100, staying on the chart for 17 weeks. The cover peaked commercially in 1976. The Beach Boys would not have another top 5 single until they released “Kokomo” in 1988.

The Beach Boys included a somewhat different version of “Rock and Roll Music” on the album 15 Big Ones. The album peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard 200. It stayed on the chart for 27 weeks.

Love didn’t think The Beach Boys’ cover of “Rock and Roll Music” was polished but it was popular in the United States.

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