“Beach Baby” was written by British singer-songwriter John Carter and his wife Gillian Shakespeare in the summer of 1974 and recorded by studio musicians Tony Burrows and Chas Mills under the name “First Class.” Burrows was perhaps the most widely-heard and least-known singer of his generation, having fronted for a number of studio-only groups such as Edison Lighthouse (“Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes”) White Plains (“My Baby Loves Lovin’”) and The Brotherhood of Man (“United We Stand”).
“Beach Baby” peaked at # 3 on the UK charts and # 4 in the USA. First Class later recorded material for an entire album, and a band by that name was assembled and played some live dates, but none of the musicians that recorded “Beach Baby” ever performed live with the group. Carter, Burrows, and Mills later released a second album, but none of its tracks made the charts, and the three men soon went their separate ways.
First Class was definitely a one-hit wonder, but the song has remained a perennial summertime fave, and it’s not hard to see why. If you are a teenager, I cannot imagine a more thrilling call to seize the day, and if you are old enough to have experienced real loss, I cannot imagine a more poignant and elegiac ode to bygone innocence.
Besides, how can you not love a Top-40 hit that features the French horn solo from Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony?