Good Vibrations: A Guide to the Beach Boys’ Southern California
The Beach Boys not only produced lasting songs, but they also offered an enticing glimpse of the United States.
Early 1960s hits such as Surfin’ U.S.A., Catch a Wave and Little Deuce Coupe evoked a world of sunny California beaches, tanned surfers and classic cars. By the mid-1960s, the band was creating increasingly complex music, too, including the multilayered, psychedelic hit Good Vibrations and Pet Sounds, which many critics regard as one of the best pop albums ever recorded. Their music made the band a global phenomenon: In all, the Beach Boys sold more than 100 million records worldwide. Fans can explore Beach Boys history, and the surf scene the band celebrated, in coastal communities near Los Angeles, California. Here are five great places to start.
Beach Boys Historic Landmark
3701 W. 119th St., Hawthorne
Most of the Beach Boys grew up in Hawthorne, a suburb of Los Angeles near the beach. Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson lived in a two-bedroom house on 119th Street, and it was here in 1961, while the Wilsons’ parents were on vacation, that the band recorded its first song, Surfin’.
The house no longer stands — it was torn down during the 1980s to make way for a freeway — but a historic landmark with a bas-relief of the band now marks the site.
The Beach Boys Historic Landmark in Hawthorne, a suburb of Los Angeles.
Fosters Freeze “Hamburger Stand”
11969 Hawthorne Blvd., Hawthorne
A short drive from the historic landmark is Fosters Freeze, a fast-food stand frequented by the Beach Boys that still serves hamburgers and ice cream. It’s believed that Brian Wilson spotted a young woman driving her father’s Ford Thunderbird here — a sighting that inspired the 1964 hit song Fun, Fun, Fun and its opening lines:
Well she got her daddy’s car
And she cruised through the hamburger stand now
Dozens of Fosters Freeze restaurants still operate in California.
Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach
With their wide beaches, fishing piers and substantial populations of surfers with “bushy bushy blonde” hairdos, these three adjacent coastal towns located several kilometers from the Beach Boys’ childhood home are ideal places to soak up the sunny California beach scene immortalized in the band’s music.
Both Manhattan and Redondo are mentioned in the Beach Boys’ classic Surfin’ U.S.A. According to the song, if everybody had an ocean, then everybody would be surfing “all over Manhattan” and “Redondo Beach L.A.”
The only member of the Beach Boys who surfed was drummer Dennis Wilson. Wilson rode a longboard with blue stripes that came from a surf shop in Hermosa Beach called The Outrigger. The shop was at 2606 Hermosa Ave. but is no longer there.
28128 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu
In 1962, Capitol Records photographer Ken Veeder shot a series of now-classic photos of the Beach Boys at Paradise Cove, a picturesque spot in Malibu about 50 kilometers from the Hawthorne landmark. Band members wore plaid shirts and khaki pants, and they posed with Dennis Wilson’s surfboard on a yellow pickup truck adorned with palm fronds.
One of the most famous images from the shoot became the cover of the band’s first album, Surfin’ Safari. Another photo from the session — of barefoot band members standing on the shore and holding the surfboard — appeared a year later on the cover of the album Surfer Girl.
In fact, Paradise Cove isn’t much of a surf spot — the water is generally pretty calm — but visitors can enjoy a meal in the cafe and take in great views of the Pacific Ocean.
Chez Jay Restaurant
1657 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica
Opened in 1959, this restaurant and dive bar located a couple of blocks from the sand in Santa Monica was a favorite hangout of Dennis Wilson. Because the main room has changed little over the years, Chez Jay is an ideal place to end a day exploring Beach Boys history.
According to legend, Wilson once started a fight here when he dived over a small wall. Look closely at the many photos hanging in the restaurant, and you’ll spot one of a bearded Wilson at the microphone. He’s wearing a Beach Boys T-shirt.