The original version of Barbara Ann, recorded by The Regents in 1961, was actually release after the group no longer existed. The record sat around the studio months after the group recorded it. After the group broke up, the demo was discovered, and then became a hit for a band that didn’t exist.
Four years later in 1965, a live cut from the Beach Boys’ Party album became a hit record, reviving The Regents originally recorded version of Barbara Ann.
The song was a hit for the Beach Boys, but it was Dean Torrence (of Jan and Dean) who sang lead on the song.
The Beach Boys recorded their version on September 23, 1965. Dean Torrence of Jan and Dean is featured on lead vocals along with Brian Wilson. Torrence is not credited on the album, but Carl Wilson is heard saying “Thanks, Dean” at the song’s conclusion.
The song entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart the week ending January 1, 1966. The week ending January 29, the song leaped from No. 15 to No. 2 and was in position to replace “We Can Work It Out” by The Beatles as the next No. 1 song. However, “My Love” by Petula Clark unexpectedly vaulted into the No. 1 position the week ending February 5, 1966. Consequently, “Barbara Ann” peaked at No. 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 (No. 1 in Cash Box and Record World) and at No. 3 in the UK in January 1966. It also topped the charts in Germany, Switzerland and Norway. It was The Beach Boys’ biggest hit in Italy, reaching No. 4.
Variations of the Beach Boys’ recording have seen release. A version without the party sound effects can be found on the Hawthorne, CA album. The group sang the song as an encore on their Live in London album. As a solo artist, Brian has a rendition on his live album Live at the Roxy Theatre, and in 2001, performed it himself, with the ensemble, on An All-Star Tribute to Brian Wilson.
The Who perform “Barbara Ann” in the film The Kids Are Alright with Keith Moon on vocals. Moon, a massive Beach Boys fan but a notoriously limited singer, plays and sings much to the delight of his fellow band members.
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