In no particular order, the following are the artists that I keep coming back to as

The Most Influential Artists (and therefore most important)
of the 20th Century

Over the years, I've found myseld coming back to the same artists, no matter how many others I hear, no matter what changes in the music scene occur. The reasons are many, but mostly it is because what they did remains groundbreaking, infuenced so many others, or simply created music that continues to deliver the chill up the spine after all these years.

This list is a summary, a mere glimpse at the artists that remain on my essential list as the new millennium dawns.
Tiny Bradshaw

Tiny Bradshaw wrote and recorded the best damn version of "Train Kept-a Rollin'" ever, and it's the original. It bridges the gap between big band swing and rock 'n' roll. This is the original, which Johnny Burnett and the Rock and Roll Trio had a hit with. They were subsequently covered by more bands than I can count, including the Yardbirds. This song defines the raw mystique of rock 'n' roll, the driving rhythm, and the sexuality and inuendo that have always permiated the music.
Bo Diddley

Bo Diddley for my money, IS rock n' roll! He is a true original, and just about the nicest and most decent man I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. His influence is immeasurable and omnipresent. It is he who created the classic rhythm from his version of the Missippippi child's game/instrument called the diddley bow.

Bo Diddley was able to surround himself with superior performers, including one of the first true women rock 'n' roll guitarists, the Dutches and Lady Bo. Bo was the first to use bowed bull fiddle in rock in his single B-side "The Clock Strikes Twelve." It was Bo Diddley that first used a pocket knife to slit his speaker cones to get a raspy pre-fuzz sound. His music was mostly all about being a man, and the man of his music was himself. Songs like "Bo Diddley," "Hey Bo Diddley," "I'm A Man," and "500% More Man" made light of the male ego while being very sensual. It was Bo Diddley that the Colonel took a budding Elvis Presley to see at the Appollo, and subsequently adopt a stylized version of Bo's pelvic grind. Without Bo Diddley, where would surf be?

When the sixties British R&B boom was n full force, Bo was covered more often than any other single artist, and his songs ended up inspiring band names like Cops and Robbers.

When the sixties American garage bands and psychedelic bands started doing their new thing, it was Bo Diddley's beat that inspired the music as much as anyone. You need go no further than count the hundreds of versions of his songs covered by those bands, including the quintessential Quicksilver Messenger Service recoding of "Who Do You Love," which they rightly summarized by introducing it with "This here next one is rock and roll."

Answering the question "who put the rock in rock and roll" is embodied in his song of that title, where he correctly identies "Bo Diddley put the rock in rock and roll." Bo Diddley invented rock and roll.
Richard Berry

Richard Berry was an extremely talent bass vocalist. He sang on many hits sessions wit acts like the Robins, the Coasters, Etta James and many more. Richard was the lead vocal for the Robins before they evolved into the Coasters with the song "Riot In Cell Block #9" (1954). He also shared vocals with Etta James for her R&B number one hit "Roll With Me, Henry." He also wrote thee rock 'n' roll anthem "Louie Louie." It came to him one night in 1955 while waiting back stage go with the Rillera Brothers at Harmony Park. "Louie "Louie" was originally released as a B-side for "You Are My Sunshine" on Flip Records in 1957. It was a regional hit in Los Angeles, and later became an anthem in the Pacific Northwest after the Wailers released it. But it was the Kingsmen's version in 1963, that made the song thee rock 'n' roll anthem, and was the subject of an intensive FBI obscenity probe under J. Edgar Hoover's direction.
Link Wray and his Raymen

Link Wray made the guitar the voice of rock n' roll. He invented minimalism in rock 'n' roll, and made it mean and nasty with Bo Diddley's knife-slit trick and the longest sustain he could muster. Songs like "Rumble" and "Jack The Ripper" defined instrumental guitar rock. "Rumble" is to guitar what "Louie Louie" is to frat parties.
Sun Ra

Sun Ra was the perpetual jazz master who kept out of the "inner circle" of jazz because he was too "out there." His sense of humor shined brightly through his music, which was always an inverted reflection of life as he knew it. No one was more avante garde than Sun Ra. When I saw his Intergalactic Arkestra sing and play Disney's "Hi Ho Hi Ho, It's Off To Work We Go," everything changed. Barriers melted. He was a pioneer throughout his long career.
Johnny and the Hurricanes 

Johnny and the Hurricanes was among the more successful early instrumental bands. More importantly, they were among the few that could rock hard on disc. Their creative reworking of traditional standards, and very strong original writing, made them stand out. While Johnny Paris was a sax man, and about as close to Steve Douglas in prowess as any real band player ever got, it was often the organ that separated their sound from others, and it was Dave Yorko's guitar that was the first identifyable precursor to surf. Songs like "Sheba" and "Sandstorm" drip surf, and anthemic rages like "Reveille Rock," "Rocking Goose," and "Revival" display high energy rock instrumentals with real power for the first time.
 Ritchie Valens

Ritchie Valens created the earliest successful Latino rock and roll, with his honest and immediate energy. Ritchie is often mentioned by garage bands as an influence, due in part to his pure delivery and raw energy. Where would garage rock be without "La Bamba" and "Come On Let's Go?"
 The Fireballs

The Fireballs came as close to inventing surf as you can get without actually doing it. They were very influential to the young bands, particularly Paul Johnson in his perfected balance between the lead and rhythm, which this band created. It was also this band that first displayed the damped reverb sound, even though it was from Norman Petty's acoustic chambers and not the springs. They were also the band that made the two guitar - bass - drums format successful.
Gary US Bonds

Like a monster from out of knowhere, Gary US Bonds shattered my world with "New Orleans," then came back for more with "Quarter To Three," "Seven Day Weekend," "School Is Out," "Dear Lady twist," and more. His records were beyond anything from any other artist. While his sound was in large part due to the LeGrand studio band the Church Street Five and Frank Guida's ultra compressed, bass pumped, huge kick drum in the red production style, still it was Gary Anderson's (US Bonds) voice and delivery, and his spit curl, that rocked the world. His hits were often covered, particulary among the surf bands that included vocals, and the British R&B bands. Gives me chills just to think about the sound of "New Orleans."
The Church Street Five

Without the Church Street Five, US Bonds would have been nowhere. No one ever copied the sound of these fine musicians, but their unusual blend of New Orleans jazz, R&B, and heavy stompin' good times created a thundering sound that dragged you kicking anmd screaming whether you wanted to go or not. It is from the production of their singles and backtracks as well that the in the red compressed sound later exaggerated by Joe Meek came. This is the original wall of sound band.
The Belairs

The Belairs were there at thebirth of surf. It's arguable that they were the first. "Mr. Moto" was recorded in May 1960, three months before "Let's Go Trippin'," and written a full year before as well. Paul Johnson defined the well crafted and balanced two guitar structure, and wrote some of the most enduring instro tunes.

The Belairs were the original surf crucible, including original partner Eddie Bertrand, later of Eddie and the Showmen, and Jim Roberts and Richard Delvecchio, both later of the Challengers. What surf band has not played one of their tunes? Guitarists used to press against the stage and study Paul's playing, and the South Band scene had many bands that emulated the sound and style of the Belairs.
The Ventures

The Ventures made the guitar instrumental into a household theme beginning with their 1960 hits "Walk, Don't Run" and "Perfidia," both of which were very influential on the surf scene, expecially the use of whammy which gave it a watery edge.

They are probably sited by the early surf bands more often as an influence than any other act.
Dick Dale and his Del-tones

Dick Dale created loud and powerful, and made double picking into art form. He gave surf it's drive, and reverbed it for a more fluid sound. While he is self titled "King of the Surf Guitar," it is certainly beyond question that he alone made the guitar a lead force to be reckoned with. His Lebonese ancestry gave him the middle eastern double picking and chord progressions, and his country music roots gave him a twang. His inverted playing gave him an unusual chord attack, and his drive, well, what needs to be said there? Surely, no single player has had a larger influence on surf. Certainly his shear volume amd power fortold of the coming of Blue Cheer and the metal that followed.

Every self respecting surf guitarist tests his meter and speed on "Miserlou" and the difficult (when not played inverted) "The Wedge." The whole Orange County sound evolved out of Dick's poerhouse delivery. Bands like Eddie and the Showmen were midwived by the hugeness of Dick Dale's guitar.
Dave Myers and the Surftones

If there was surf band number three, it was Dave Myers and the Surftones. Dave was a guitar student of Dick's very early on. Dave also pioneered the merger between the limbo luau sound and surf. While he recorded precious little, a few early and formative tracks that appeared on a couple of compilations, one album for Del-Fi, and his final Surftones single "Gear," Dave define adventurous and perfect surf.

He also was among the best players around. Dave's meter was easily the best of anyone around, except maybe Dick himself. Just listen to the liquid glissandos in "Gear."
The Lively Ones

They were called the Lively Ones because they were so wild on stage. The Lively Ones great guitarist Jim Masoner is sighted as the primary instiration for the Syndicate of Sound's guitarist Jim Sawyer. His playing was superb. Their pure energy and drive influenced many player to follow, and Masoner was a guitar teacher to many of the player as well.

They were also very early on the scene, coming from the ashes of the Surfmen, which were an outgrowth of the Expressos. Their "Wandering" became "Paradise Cove."
The Chantays

The Chantays redefined surf with their quitessential "Pipeline." Paul Johnson once told me that he first heard "Pipeline" on KRLA while driving his car. His immediate reaction was to cry out loud "What is THAT?"

This magnifiscent song pioneered the dominance of the rhythm guitar, and particularly a damped reverbed rhythm. It is probably the most covered of all surf instrumentals, and easily the most powerful in terms of defining the genre.
The Sentinals

Tommy Nuñes' writing and guitar work with teh Sentinals has been extrememly influential on the surf scene. His brilliant playing made his compositions come alive. Essentially an R&B band, they recorded surf almost as an aside for the Del-Fi label. Listening to the Sentinals live album on Sutton, you realixe that their natural style as defined in "Exotic" was much more mariachi than surf, and that the raw R&B sounds of the day was where they excelled. Yet, it is the shimmer of "Latiña" that surely has been their most lasting legacy.
The Surfaris

The Surfaris redefined the drum record, and they did it as an afterthought. They had cut "Surfer Joe" and a few warm up covers, and were packing up 45 minute into their one hour slot at Pal Studio. Paul Buff, the engineer on the session, said they needed a flip side for their single, so they discussed it. They wanted an original, but didn't have another one. They decided to write something like Preston Epps' "Bongo Rock." Ron Wilson copped a variation on the cadence he used in the high school marching band, and the others worked up that now all too familiar riff. Originally to be called "Stilletto," they settled on "Wipe Out" for sound effects reasons.

The record was so successful that a generation of drummers were required to play it as an audition. If you could play it well, you were damn good. Ron's fluid playing is still very hard to duplicate.
Chris Barber

Chris Barber may not be a household name in the US. Even in England, he was a trad jazz artist with a few hits and an excellent band. Chris is on this list because he alone was responsible for bringing black blues men to England to play, and he put together a back up band for them from among his musicians.

It was Chris Barber that developed what evolved into Blues Incorporated with Cyril Davies and Alexis Koerner. This was the rot of the British Blues and R&B boom of the sixties.
Alexis Koerner

Alexis Koerner is like the cornerstone of the British Blues Boom. He midwived the development and birth of many a later luminary, from Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Charlie Watts, John Mayall, Cyryl Davies, Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, Danny Thompson, Victor and Annette Brox, Robert Plant, Long John Baldry, Paul Rogers, Andy Frazer, and just about anyone else who was there at the dawn of the R&B scene in England. Alexis never made a dent in the US market, but his influences were everywhere in the British R&B bands that did.
Cyril Davies

Cyril Davies was more Jazz inspired, but held firm roots in the blues as well. His band the Cyril Davies and the Rhythm and Blues Allstars followed his departure from Alexis Koerner's Blues Incorporated. Cyril was a larger than life character with a beatnik lookm and an amazing band. Among his bandmates were drummer extraordinaire Ginger Baker and sax monster Dick Heckstal-Smith. His music was organ centric, with a real sense of R&B and that smoky club groove.
The Rolling Stones

Their inauspicious beginning was a mere side effect of a Blues Incorporated gig on the BBC, which conflicted with a club date for the band. Alexis asked Mick Jagger and Brian Jones to play the club gig for him. They called themselves Brian Jones, Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones. Their earliest lineup included Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Dick Taylor (Pretty Things), Ian Stewart, and Jeff Bradford (Long John Baldry / Hoochie Coochie Men). This band was the inspiration for most of the American garage bands that formed in reaction to the British Invasion.
The Yardbirds

The Yardbirds were just about the most important post surf band. No band has influenced as many other bands as they have. Just look at the players that have gone through them in their short 5 year life, most of whom went on to create other exceptional bands. Eric Clpaton (John Mayall, Cream, Derek and the Dominoes, and solo), Top Topham (Ascencion Heights), Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin and solo), Jeff Beck (The Tridents, the Jeff Beck Group, and solo), Keith Relf (Renaissance, Armageddon) and Jim McCarty (Renaissance, Armageddon, Illusion, Yardbirds-Pretty Things Blues Band). This band was another major inspiration for many of the American garage bands.
The Pretty Things

If you were afraid your daughter would be corrupted by the Rolling Stones, you shuddered to think of the perversion she would face at the hands of the Pretty Things. Ex-Rolling Stone Dick Taylor and Phil May formed this raucus band, and quickly became the buzz of the scene. This band was the third inspiration for many of the American garage bands. In 1967, they also released the first ever rock opera "S. F. Sorrow." They are still very active and vital.
The Standells

Raw intense rock and roll, with just about the earliest of the snot-nosed adolescent whines. From the wreckage of the LA surf scene, this band created raw pumped anngst, with seminal songs like "Dirty Water," "Why Pick On Me," "Try It," and the mother of all teenage anngst songs "Sometimes Goodguys Don't Wear White." They were covered by many of the contemporaries, and certainly influence many more. Ed Cobb's wooden mallet kick drum production was part of their mystique. Tony Valentino talked about catching Ed overdubbing kick drum with a wooden mallet because it wasn't big enough on the original tracks.
The Chocolate Watchband

They never a hit to their credit, yet they had a reputation that reached coast to coast among American garage bands. They weren't original exactly, but with the stereotypical Mick Jagger whine and the driven guitar, they created the most infectious and dangerous garage punk of their day. "Sweet Young Thing" is the closest in prowess and single ever came to the Rolling Stones' "Fortune Teller." They were also produced by Ed Cobb. They never caught on in San Francisco, but along with the Syndicate of Sound and the Count Five, they ruled San Jose. Their name came up frequently among the inspiration lists of the early British punk bands.
Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band

Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band remain originals. From early blues leanings to disjointed grinds with words used only for their sound, this one of a kind band has been hated, loved, and worshipped, while inspiring 30 years of upstarts. Even during the Captain's "pop" period for Mercury Records, they were unable to go soft or follow the day's conventions. The path they pioneered has insted been followed by countless others. In many ways, Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart) is to rock and roll what Sun Ra is to jazz.
The Sonics

The Sonics invented raw rock and roll. This was partly due to their intensity and drive, and partly due the poor quality of the studios in the Seattle area during the early sixties. Birthed in the cauldron that was the Northwest scene under the leadership of the Wailers, they went everyoner one better, one faster, and one louder. You need only count the number of covers of "Cinderella," "Strychnine," and "The Witch" to gage their influence on the following thirty years of music.
The Great Society

"Conspicuous In Its Absence" is both the title of their first posthumous LP release on Columbia, and the perfect description of this band. At the time, they were different and played frequently, but they never really clicked. They were marked by the exceptional vocal work of Grace Slick at one end of the spectrum, and by the stiff guitar work of Darby Slick at the other. They had a curious magnetism in their blending of jazz and beat poetry with their budding psychedelic sound. While they likely have influnce few directly, it was in this birthplace that "White Rabbit" and "Somebody To Love" were born and first recorded.
The Beau Brummels

The best vocal band with the best written original material of the mid sixties was the Beau Brummels. With honest edge and immense tallent, they created incredibly good music and had several hits. They defined the bridge between the British Invasion and the American garage. "Laugh Laugh," "Don't Talk To Strangers," and "Still In Love With You Baby" are perfect garage pop capsules. From here sprang the late sixties pop sound, though never as good as this band made it. From here came Sal Valentino, who's later solo career spanned many years on Warner Brothres. It was Declan Mulligan's warble and his strong guitar that drove the band behind Sal.
The Seeds

Little Richie Marsh left the teen pop star wannabe world to form thee definitive snot nosed punk band. Aside from the shear volume of covers of "Pushin' Too Hard," the number of bands mimmicking Sky Saxon's puty whine is staggering. They had the first great look among the American garage bands, and issued thee anthem of the day. All punk roads passed through here on their way to the present day.
Quicksilver Messenger Service

Never mind the Dino Valenti pop leanings, in its purest form, Quicksilver Messenger Service was a breath of fresh air across a folkie scene, with the immense power of the Brogues drums (Greg Ellmore) and rhythm guitar (Gary Duncan), and the lead guitar wizardry of John Cippolina. What John did was cement the aquatic feel of surf guitar with psychedelia and R&B. His use of whammy is really the point at which shimmer is forst raised to high art. From his performance in "The Fool" flows all that follows. It is John's style that bridges the gap between sixties surf masterpieces like Tommy Nuñes' "Latiña" and the new practioners of the fluid art. It also is an integral part of the the Fillmore sound.
Blue Cheer

Blue Cheer created loud and ugly. Without Blue Cheer, there would be no metal, no punk, no noise, no stacks of Marshalls. From the blues and the garage psychedelic roots of the Oxford Circle, this band became the first power trio, and the first to use ugly as their major tone. Leigh Stphens' extreme distortion and thing tone played on four 100 watt Marshalls stacked prcariously cut through everything that had come before. Dickie Peterson's raw vocals and low-slung bass and Paul Whaley's unique drumming style were the perfect counterpart to the guitar. The current version of the band still has that insane acid blues edge and sound. This is where metal began, no if's, and's, or but's.

Even when you look at their family tree, it's hard to find a "normal" band. The legendary Oxford Circle was way too heavy and psychedelic for their day. The Other Half were ultra heavy and angularly melodic with deep seated anger in their lyrics. Mint Tattoo was pop based, but their strange lyrical content and driven piano did not make for light listening.
The Nice

Keith Emerson founded what would become the root of progreesive with his band the Nice. They focused on classical music, keyboard orietnted and rocked up. From this launchpad comes the inspiration for the genre to follow.
Iron Butterfly

Iron Butterfly stands alone at the original junction between psychedelia and surf. many of their songs used surf guitar and outboard reverb, sometimes even kicked for effect, over lumbering pompous brain twisting music. You need listen no further than "Filled With Fear" or "Iron Butterfly Theme" to get the connection. Surf guitar, reverb kicks, and thick mean catatsrophic sound. Space rock was born here, and it was midwived by surf.
The Flamin' Groovies

The Flamin' Groovies were the Ramones before you needed them. They were completely out of step with the other San Francisco bands, but in the opposite direction from Blue Cheer. Everyone else was singing about love, floers, peace, and dope. The Flamin' Groovies wrote primal unpretentious rock 'n' roll, and paved the way for many of the seventies punks. Songs like "Teenage Head" and "Slow Death" were way ahead of their time.

In the wake of Jimmy Page taking over the New Yardbirds (soon to become Led Zeppelin), Yardbirds vocalist Keith Relf and drummer Jim McCarty left to form a whole new sound along with Keith's sister Jane Relf. They used the classics, but unlike the Nice, they wrote great original dramitc music. They were just a few years too soon, and were mostly ignored. After they left, the band reformed around Annie Haslam, and made big bucks. Still, this is the crusibel for this variety of prog.
It's A Beautiful Day

Aside from writing gorgeous music, this band first introduced the serious use of electric violin into rock and roll. In some ways, they defined the beginning of "hippy dippy artrock" while also being among the few sincere practioners of that era. Before the Flock and High Tide, these folks were making that electric violin sing. This was another of Matthew Katz' bands (Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape, Indian Puddin' 'n Pipe, Tripsichord Music Box, etc.).
Pink Fairies

Out of the entrails of a long string of obscure and legendary bands like the Fairies and the Deviants, and mega band the Pretty Things came this unruly mob. They were to the British scene what Blue Cheer was to the US scene, though they lasted much longer. They got more raw with age where others were gaining sophistication and smoothness. Just look at the players, and their influences become clear. Larry Wallace (Motorhead), Paul Rudolph (Hawkwind), Twink (Pretty Things, et. al.), and Duncan Sanderson. Ask any early UK punk band, and they'll site the Pink Fairies as an influence. Hell, if you listen to what they did with "Walk, Don't Run" in '72, you'll hear an almost Agent Orange sound.
Jimi Hendrix

There are a lot of reasons Jimi Hendrix is a major influence, from his original playing style which infuenced hundreds of players to follow, from Arthur Lee (Vindicator) and the Scorpions (with Uli Roth) to Voodoo Child and Lenny Kravitz. But it's more than that. Jimi was really the first player to raise feedback from a howl to an artform, and to create soundscapes with his guitar ("Star Spangled Banner" and "Machine Gun").
Silver Apples

From out of nowhere, this New York duo combined hypnotic drums and a home grown maze of ptach cords connecting a bank of audio generators, and created the first precursor to the techno-electro-synth waves to come. Before Kraftwerk and Cabaret Voltaire, and even before Hawkwind, these guys were pulsing and whirling. Not often pretty, their music lay virtually undetected until that last part of the twentieth century, when they reemerged as the new dfarlings of the psychedelic underground. A significant number of bands now credit them as influences, and certainly they were the first to make this particular left turn in the rock and roll fast lane.

Hawkwind They were in their own genre alone for 30 years, completely redefining sci-fi and the use of effects as part of the music. Maligned and worshipped, they blazed barnd new trails in music. Alway rhythmic, they made ugly melodic, and made dark threatening music appealing. You didn't need to use drugs to take a trip, but merely listen to Hawkwind. They were thee festival band, and their dedication to space rock and rhythmic driven power inspired a long string of bands in the nieties to explore their territory, fropm D.C.3 and Monster Magnet to DarXtar and Far Flung. Even trance began hear, before Kraftwerk and Neu. This is the original home of hypnotic rhythmic pulsing soundscapes. This is the original crucibel from which Lemmy (Motorhead), Nik Turner (Inner City Unit, Imperial Pompadores, Nik Turner's Space Ritual), Simon House (High Tide), Dave Anderson (Amon Duul II), Allen Powell (Jo Allen and the Shapes), Robert Calvert, and Michael Moorcock all developed their chops. They were formed as Group X in 1969, played a single 15 minute jam, got signed to a mangement company, then within weeks signed to UA before ever recording anything. "Silver Machine" is the anthem of their day, and "Brainstorm" and "Master Of The Universe" the anthems of the latter day space rock bands.
Amon Duul II

Well, where do you start. This band defined Kraut Rock before the term was coined. They were Sun Ra, Hawkwind, Blue Cheer, and Jefferson Airplane all rolled into one. Their music was angular, melodic, loud, powerful, and often difficult. Their undisciplined approach and pure talent has made them legends, and their inventiveness has broken many boundaries. Without Amon Duul II, where would Kraan, Kraftwerk, Neu, Jane, and Can be?

The last song Lemmy (Ian Kilmister) recorded with Hawkwind was "Motorhead." When he was fired at the beginning of their North American tour in May, 1975, he went back home and formed Motorhead with ex-Pink Fairies guitarist Larry Wallis. This marked the bridge between the Pink Fairies and the punks to follow. It also marked the birth of speed metal and punk metal. It's a mighty short step from here to the early British punks.
The Sex Pistols

At about the same time as Motorhead was forming, this short-lived band was being created from the brain of Malcolm McLaren. They were to be the British equivalent to the New York Dolls and Television, and at the apex of a new fashion trend. Every punk band since owes their life to this band. The Sex Pistols proved once and for all that really mediocre players can live on hype alone for little more than a year, play a handful of gigs badly, have studio muscians substituted for them because they were so unskilled, be hated by most and spat upon by fans, and still influence twenty five years worth of players to follow. They captured the imagination of a whole generation.
Jon and the Nightriders

Jon and the Nightriders were at the beginning of the surf revival, with the issue of their first seven inch release. John Blair had no idea what he would start. He just wanted to play the music. From this humble beginning sprang the eighties surf revival, as well as the band that trad surf bands today are generally compared to. His rhythm section was so strong that they became Slacktone, a major influence in their own right. As a surf music historian, John is the single most authoritative source on the genre, and responsible for much of the history of the first wave.
The Insect Surfers

Even from their humble new wave beginnings in the DC area, Dave Arnson had and propagated a unique vision of the surf. "Somgs like "Voice Of America," "Up Periscope," "Dorsal Fin," and "Barracade Beach" continue to hold my interest long after most of the new wave has faded into the murk of the eighties. Once relocated to So Cal, he reconstitutred the band from it's exceptional pop roots into a blazing twin lead desert surf and whammy band. Their output is essential surf listening, and they were among the most important and most over looked of theeighties bands, particularly since almost all of the others were revivalists, and they were breaking new ground like the Bay Area surf bands of the next decade.
The Thrusters

Beginning life from the ashes of the Surf Pistols and Not Cool, this band was the first Nor Cal surf band to get adventurous and break new ground. Lead guitarist Suove Loco's intense near metal warlike attack took classics like "Surf Beat" and "Bombora" and drove them into the future right along side stellar originals like "Surf Check," "Beruit Surf," and "Sunshine Rider." "The Landing" drove audiences nuts, with its unusual five repeats pattern and an intro that is almost as long as the song. This is the missing link between Jimi Hendrix and surf at the other end of the spectrum. It's hard to illustrate thier importance because only "The Landing" was released, and certainly their influence was not felt beyond Santa Cruz. Still, they broke new ground, and had they been more widely accepted outside their home turf, surf music would be different today than it is. They were like a dark and more tribal Mermen, with trad sax and less effects, and a really snotty punk attitude.
The Mermen

Jim Thomas got inspired one day after listening to Dick Dale's Greatest Hits (Rhino Records) and an aircheck of my show. Jim was a closet guitarist, never having played with another musician, but working in a music store. He laid down a dozen or so originals over a few nights in the back of the store, playing both guitar and bass against a drum machine into a four track porta-studio. Allen Whitman assisted with bass on a few tracks. From this beginning, Jim formed the Mermen, playing his originals like "Lonely Road" (later "Krill Slippin'"), "Whales," "Drivin'" ("Drivin' the Cow"), "Ocean Beach," and "Dances With Waves" along side of a handful of covers (most of which still grace their live shows) including "Latiña," "Quiet Surf," "Casbah," and "Unknown." Despite the appearance of a few earlier mavericks like the Insect Surfers, this marks the real beginning of the modern surf era, the rebirth of the genre, brought back to live in vibrant evolution missing since 1965. Since then, the Mermen have inspired others and captured a large audience. It was upon hearing them that Tom Stanton formed the Surf Kings.
The Woodies

The Woodies didn't break new ground. They didn't reinvent the genre. They did write and play music that spread their reputation far beyond their performances, and resulted in a strong demand for a posthumous CD release. They found themselves held up as the band other traditional surf bands were measured by. They became the yardstick of trad. In this way, they held the bar up high, and raised the caliber of the genre by doing so. They inpired others to rise to the occassion. They moved trad from the garage genre it was into the arena of quality. With the exception of Jon and the Nightriders, there isn't another trad band that could do what they did with so much chunk.
Many musicians I've talked to are humbled by the talent of Slacktone. They define the awesome machine that surf can be. They are made up of the best rhythm section in modern surf fronted by one of the most intense guitarists. To see them play is to see other players awestruck by their prowess. To listen to their music is to hear fresh new ideas with reverent roots. many a player has been inspired to push harder by this band.