The Songs of Summer #34: ‘Wipeout’ by The Fat Boys feat. The Beach Boys
How can one hit song featuring two groups be one of the high points of one group’s success, and the absolute creative low point for the other? Well, let me present Exhibit A: ‘Wipeout‘, a 1987 single by rap group The Fat Boys, featuring The Beach Boys.
The Fat Boys were at the peak of their popularity in the late ’80s, appearing in Run DMC’s film ‘Krush Groove’ and releasing hit albums like 1987’s Crushin’, on which appeared this cover version of The Surfaris’ classic 1963 surf instrumental ‘Wipeout.’
While The Fat Boys were riding their own wave of popularity, The Beach Boys in the 1980’s were wallowing in what I would classify as horrible mediocreness. As their creative leader Brian Wilson descended into drug addiction and mental health issues in the 1970’s and 80’s, and drummer Dennis Wilson’s drowning death in 1983, The Beach Boys basically became an oldies act on the summer tour circuit. These are the days of the Mike Love-led Beach Boys, the days of John Stamos playing in the band…these were the dark days.
The Beach Boys were still making albums, but, and you need to trust me on this, they sucked. But they were still occasionally seeing their music discovered by younger generations thanks to cuts like David Lee Roth’s cover of ‘California Girls’ in 1985 (featuring Beach Boy Carl Wilson on backing vocals. And Christopher Cross. WTF??) and this version of ‘Wipeout.’
Hip-hop was just beginning its march to total world domination in the mid-80’s, moving from the inner cities to the broader (i.e., white middle class) audience thanks to collaborations between rock bands and rap artists. I’m talking in particular of the 1986 cover of ‘Walk this Way’ by Aerosmith and Run D.M.C. The Fat Boys took a look at this hit and figured they’d try their own crossover cover version of a hit song.
And it became a hit, reaching #12 on the Billboard charts, becoming The Fat Boys’ biggest hit, and keeping the Beach Boys in the public’s spotlight a bit longer, until they would again top the charts a year of so later with their massive song ‘Kokomo,’ which I despise so much I don’t even consider it to be part of the Beach Boys’ official canon. (While the Brian Wilson-less Beach Boys were having their biggest success in decades with Kokomo, Brian Wilson himself was releasing his very first solo album in 1988. It didn’t sell at all, but I consider to be a classic, lost Beach Boys album with Brian providing all the gorgeous harmonies himself. It’s still one of my very favorite albums.)
‘Wipeout‘ was on the radio a lot that summer of ’87, but I had largely forgotten about it, until I heard it on a 1987 Top 40 countdown show on satellite radio. Like so much of the pop music of the 1980s, this song truly isn’t very good. But for people who lived through it, like me, maybe like you, it evokes the period almost perfectly. As a warm-weather novelty hit, I think it fits in nicely with the rest of the tracks on my Songs of Summer list, if only for a chuckle or two.
By the way, this video? It is truly cringe-inducing. It’s every bad 1980’s video cliche rolled up into one turdball of a video. But again, those were the times. Enjoy if you dare. THIS is 1987:
BONUS TIME!! I’m going to include David Lee Roth’s ‘California Girls’ video, as well as a track from that 1988 Brian Wilson album I mentioned above, in order to wash that Wipeout taste out of your mouth.