On April 21, 2013, I published the latest chapter in my Wrestling With An Angel series about the song/recording “Surf’s Up” by The Beach Boys.
On April 22, loyal reader ADS left the following comment to that post.
In the mid 1960′s, in the northeastern corner of NJ, there was also a department store where a music-obsessed (or more accurately, a top-40 77WABC radio-listening-music-obsessed) girl could buy records. Actually, being NJ, there was more than one place — Woolworth’s and Valley Fair – where I would go through racks or cubbyholes of 45′s. I still have those 45′s – (no big surprise to those who know me) and among them are two by The Beach Boys: “Good Vibrations” (b/w “Let’s Go Away For Awhile”) and “Barbara Ann” (b/w “Girl Don’t Tell Me”). I played them constantly on my phonograph; singing along……oblivious to those who may have had to listen to me. The soundtrack of our lives? Absolutely! Who knew that about 17 years later I would again be singing “Barbara Ann” – but this time to my infant daughter…..over and over….to her delight. She joined me with big smiles, waving of arms, kicking of feet and attempts to sing along (of course!). It was eventually nicknamed the “Ba-Ba Song” and the tradition continued 6 years later when our son was born. What a wonderful song….”a children’s song”….indeed!
Ah, yes, the “Ba-Ba Song.”
ADS’ excellent comment not only brought back many pleasant memories, but it got me wondering: what’s the story behind that one? Is there a story to be told about The Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann?”
Well, indeed there is.
In late summer of 1965, The Beach Boys – Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston & Mike Love – were riding high on the success of their ninth album (in three years), Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!), and the two hit singles from that album: “Help Me, Rhonda” and “California Girls.” But with the Christmas shopping season fast approaching, Capitol Records began getting after the band for even more new product.
So, the group came up with the idea to do a “party album.” They’d get a bunch of their friends together in the studio and record laid back, acoustic guitar-and-bongo drums, sing-along-’round-the-campfire arrangements of some of their favorite songs by other artists.
They held the sessions in Western Studios, their favorite, located in Hollywood, California. Starting on September 8, 1965 and finishing up on September 27, they cut a wide variety of songs including a Bob Dylan song and three by The Beatles! On September 23, they recorded “Barbara Ann.”
The album was called Beach Boys’ Party! and was released on November 8, 1965. “Barbara Ann” was chosen as the first single and came out on December 20 and went on to be a massive, international hit.
By the way: the single version of “Barbara Ann” clocks in at 2:05. On the album, where it resides as the last song on the second side, “Barbara Ann” runs for 3 minutes and 23 seconds!
Now, before I started doing my research for this sixstr story, I’d have surmised that “Barbara Ann” was a Beach Boys’ original. Any group that would write, record and release a song that started with the line: “She’s real fine, my 409” would most likely, to me, also be responsible for one that starts: “Ba -ba -baa, ba -baa-bra-ann.”
But, after reading in Richie Unterberger’s allmusic.com article that the Beach Boys Party! album was: “a set of covers, mostly of the 50’s Rock and R&B they had listened to as schoolboys,” I knew that I had more to learn.
“Barbara Ann” was originally recorded by The Regents, a New York, Doo-wop vocal group based in the Bronx. The members of the group: Chuck Fassert, Guy Villari, Sal Cuomo, Tony Gravagna and Donnie Jacobucci, named themselves, in part, after New York City’s Regent Sound Studios where, in 1958, they made a number of demo recordings. One of the songs they recorded was “Barbara Ann.”
In March of 1961, after hearing a new version of “Barbara Ann” by a group called The Consorts (one of the members was Don Jacobucci’s brother, Eddie), Cousins Records decided to release The Regents’ demo of “Barbara Ann” as a single. It was a big hit in New York City and was released nationally on the Roulette/Gee label, eventually reaching #13 on the Billboard charts.
In his 1989 book, The Heart of Rock & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made, author Dave Marsh places “Barbara Ann” by The Regents at #986.
By the way again: an original copy of the Cousins 7-inch, 45-rpm record of “Barbara Ann” is today worth close to $1,200!
Finally, the song “Barbara Ann” was written by Fred Fassert, brother of The Regents’ second tenor, Chuck Fassert. Fred wrote it for their little sister, Barbara Ann. Barbara Ann Fassert was 13 years old in 1961, when The Regents’ record was released and probably about 9 or 10 years old when Fred wrote the song.
To once again quote ADS: “a children’s song…. indeed!”