Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Beach Boys: 409

A few years ago the product Formula 409 used the Beach Boy’s tune “409” for a limited time as backing track for their TV commercials. Since today is our 409th post, I thought I’d throw out this classic Beach Boy’s hit as our TV Thursday post. While the song was not conceived with the idea of the 409th formula that became the cleaning solvent of renown, it was actually written about Chevy’s big block 409 cubic inch automobile engine.

It is said that coauthor Gary Usher wanted a hot rod equipped with a 409 motor and that was the impetus for the song's creation. Originally promoted by Capitol Records as the “A” side of the Beach Boys’ first single, radio stations began flipping the record and playing “Surfin’ Safari” instead. Although “409” did well in a number of markets, it only charted at #79 nationally; however, “Surfin’ Safari” was a top 15 hit.

Besides Gary Usher, Brian Wilson and Mike Love contributed to the writing of the song. Unfortunately, Love’s name was left off the credits of this and other song contributions. In the 1990s, Love sued his first cousin Brian Wilson for his share of royalties and won a $13 million dollar judgment and recordings pressed after that time included Love as a coauthor on the songs he had helped pen.

“409” was featured on two Beach Boy studio LPs – their first, “Surfin Safari,” from 1962 and their fourth, “Little Deuce Coup,” from 1963. Mike Love sang lead on “409.” It is widely rumored that the revving engine sounds during the song was actually a smaller Chevy V8 engine.

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