Covers Corner: “Surfin’ USA” by The Jesus and Mary Chain

It’s that time of year again! Warmer weather has arrived, and with it, my summertime songs. We return to my Covers Corner feature with the version of “Surfin’ USA” that The Jesus and Mary Chain did back in 1987.

It’s classic Mary Chain, with blistering guitar and Jim Reid’s rough voice. The combo is an excellent continuation of the sound they established with their debut Psychocandy: pop music that’s layered thickly with a fuzz of feedback echoing the Kinks. Their version also sets up an intriguing contrast. A band from Scotland is singing about “Californ-i-a” and “waxing down our surfboards/can’t wait ’till June.” It’s not funny, exactly, but I love it just the same. The cover has a rebellious vibe. When Jim Reid sings, “tell the teacher we’re surfin’,” I picture a group of kids skipping class to head to the beach.

Meanwhile, the Beach Boys’ version is squeaky-clean a capella. You immediately want to jump on a surfboard yourself, or at least hang out on the sand with a radio playing. The best part, in my opinion, is towards the end with the high, ever-so-slightly nasal “yeah, everybody’s gone surfin‘” onto the fadeout. It’s youthful and sweet. The kids in this song aren’t skipping class; they’re waiting until the weekend or until the summer surf season begins.

Spend some time in the sun by listening below:

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