Little Hondas, the Record Business, Summer Fun and Advertising

The Beach Boys recorded “Little Honda” in April 1964, when the Beatles occupied positions 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart (something nobody else has ever done). Written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love, “Little Honda” was released on the Beach Boys’ All Summer Long album in the summer of ’64.

Gary Usher (who had earlier written “In My Room” and “409” with Brian Wilson) heard the album and decided to include “Little Honda” on an album of car songs, mostly written by him and Roger Christian (who had written “Don’t Worry Baby” and “Little Deuce Coupe” with Brian Wilson).

Usher hired some studio musicians and singers to make the album, although it was supposedly recorded by the Hondells, a group that didn’t exist yet. Usher made up a story for the album cover explaining how the fictional Hondells had gotten together. In order to release “Little Honda” as a single, however, he needed a group to tour and promote the record, so four young men, one of whom had sung backing vocals on the song, became the real-life Hondells.

“Little Honda” was the only hit record the Hondells ever had, rising to #9 on the Billboard chart. Brian Wilson and the other Beach Boys went on to other things.

Here’s the Beach Boys’ version of “Little Honda”. I think that’s the late Dennis Wilson yelling “Go!” at the beginning. (From the advertising pictures in the video, it appears that young women weren’t supposed to drive Hondas in 1964, although they were encouraged to have fun and hang on tight.)

In 1997, the “alternative” rock band Yo La Tengo released their own “Little Honda” on their I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One album. It’s unlikely that anyone in Yo La Tengo ever had fun riding a Honda, but it’s a cool, rather disturbing version of the song.

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