Category Archives: Billboard Music Charts

The 1963 chart topper, “Shut Down” by The Beach Boys, glorifies a drag race between a 327 fuel-injected Stingray and 413 Super Stock Dodge.

FEATURE image: “Drag Racing in Austin Texas,1967” by Hugo-90 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Shut Down is a song by Brian Wilson and Roger Christian that appeared on a pair of 1963 Beach Boys’ albums: Surfin’ U.S.A. in March 1963 and Little Deuce Coupe in October 1963. The song was first released in March 1963 on side B of the Surfin’ U.S.A. single that climbed to no.3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Six months later, Shut Down was released as its own single and peaked at no.23.

The lyrics of Shut Down describe the dangerous activity of drag racing that is also illegal. Drag races were once popularly held on the public streets of southern California using muscle cars. As these races attracted many enthusiastic supporters, streets were sometimes closed off for the race cars and even had the cooperation of local police though unofficially.

The Beach Boys’ lyrics are filled with technical and slang terms for drag racing.

IT HAPPENED ON THE STRIP WHERE THE ROAD IS WIDE
(Oooo rev it up now)
TWO COOL SHORTS STANDING SIDE BY SIDE
(Oooo rev it up now)
YEAH, MY FUEL INJECTED STINGRAY AND A FOUR-THIRTEEN
(Oooo rev it up now)
REVVING UP OUR ENGINES AND IT SOUNDS REAL MEAN
(Oooo rev it up now)

One dragstrip in the early 1960s was Glenoaks Boulevard in southern California between Glendale/Burbank and San Fernando/Sylmar. It is a major thoroughfare which stretches over 20 miles. Since a drag race caused disruption to public traffic’s normal flow as well as likely increased harm to law-abiding bystanders, drag races were usually held at night when traffic volume tapered off and was low.

“Two cool shorts” refer not to some spectators’ bermudas, but the truncated length of the race cars.

In 1963, a “fuel injected Stingray” was very much the latest cool car feature. While computerized fuel injection became standard on passenger cars it was, from 1963 to 1965, a specialized mechanical feature found only on the Stingray. What fuel injection accomplished was to optimize the air-to-fuel mixture that made for powerfully efficient engine performance.

TACH IT UP, TACH IT UP
BUDDY GOING TO SHUT YOU DOWN

“Tach it up” refers to the moments before the start of the race when muscle cars revved their engines to achieve high rpms. This idling pedal-to-the-metal stores energy in the car’s flywheel so that when the car accelerates it literally jumps off the start line with extra power. Tach it up too much and the car accelerates and does a wheel stand or “wheelie.” While the car’s front wheels lifting off the ground is cool, it is also quite dangerous as the car could more easily lose control.

BUT THE FOUR-THIRTEEN’S REALLY DIGGING IN…
SUPERSTOCK DART IS WINDING OUT IN LOW…

The Dart is the other car in the Beach Boys song’s drag race. The 413 is a super-sized engine in the body of the 1962 Dodge Dart. The 413, also called a “hemmie” for its hemispheric dual combustion chambers, started being made by Chrysler way back in 1951.

BUDDY, GOING TO SHUT YOU DOWN.

“Shut Down” is slang for beating the opponent in the race by any and all means. After a car crosses the finish line it enters the shut-down lane. The first car in and out of the shut down lane is the winner.

Since its release in 1963, Shut Down has generated controversy—that it glorifies drag racing, an illegal activity and using what Cash Box at the time identified as “top rock-a-teen sounds.” But some believe the song’s greater scandal is that it seems to imply that the 327 fuel-injected Stingray beat the 413 Super Stock Dodge.

Dodge fans who really know what’s under the hood understand that that outcome couldn’t possibly be real.

Drag Racing in Austin Texas,1967” by Hugo-90 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.