Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA Collection: The Birth Of Surf
|New to surf. You must start here! |
This is a very well put together comp. It's a retrospective of the evolution of surf that's reasonable solid, well mastered, and it's well annotated too. Lots of groovy stories and pix. the only downer are some inconsistent entries in the internet track listing database.
The Birth Of Surf becomes the logical entry point for new enthusiasts for two reasons. The Rhino Surf Box is long out of print, and the modern bands in that release are also longer representative of the current scene.
Picks: The Astronauts - Baja, The Avantis - Gypsy Surfer, The Belairs - Mr. Moto, The Blazers - Beaver Patrol, The Chandelles - El Gato, The Chantays - Pipeline, The Chevells - Let There Be Surf, The Crossfires - Fiberglass Jungle, Dick Dale and his Del-tones - Miserlou, Eddie and the Showmen - Squad Car, Duane Eddy - Ramrod, The Fireballs - Bulldog, The Gamblers - Moon Dawg, Bob Hafner - Surf Creature, The Illusions - Jezebel, Johnny and the Hurricanes - Crossfire, The Lively Ones - Surf Rider, The Nobles - Earthquake, The Original Surfaris - Latin Soul, The Pyramids - Penetration, The Sentinals - Latin'ia, The Surfaris - Wipe Out, The Surfmen - El Toro, The Tornadoes - Bustin' Surfboards, The Ventures - Lullaby Of The Leaves, Link Wray and his Raymen - Jack The Ripper
Track by Track Review
"Baja" displays power of their trademark three guitar line up, and shows what a few weeks at RCA Hollywood could do. Actually, having said that, I'd really like to remix this. The lead guitar is too loud in the mix. Anyway, if there's a list of the ten most significant surf singles, this must be on it. Hazelwood had a knack for melody, and the Astronauts had a knack for the sound, and together, look out!
The Avantis - Gypsy Surfer
This is a chilling track. The surf rhythm guitar is harsh, the lead shimmers with vibrato, and the sound is both thin and effective. Great infectious classic obscure surf with a hauntingly magnetic sound. The organ break is different from other discs of the day.
This is it, their claim to fame, their most familiar song, and the first surf release from May 1961 on Arvee Records. "Mr. Moto" is just about the most influential surf instro ever. "Mr. Moto" came to be a surf classic, and was recorded and released months before Dick Dale's "Let's Go Trippin'," before he opened the Rendezvous Ballroom, and before it was called surf. If you must draw a line in the sand, it must be drawn here. "Mr. Moto" was recorded at Liberty.
Covered by countless others, this song features 15 year olds Paul Johnson and Eddie Bertrand trading guitar parts in their trademark style on a prototypical PJ writing masterpiece. Jim Roberts' piano work is stunningly perfect for this song. A historical absolutely must have!
The Blazers - Beaver Patrol
Many of the Surf bands (maybe most) from Southern California were teen bands, some not old enough do drive yet. The Blazers were a Fullerton teen band that just ripped. The recordings this band made were among the hottest most energetic of any band of the era, including the New Dimensions and the Fender Four. "Beaver Patrol" was banned here and there due to it's obvious slang meaning. It's raucous and mean and high energy. It ranks right up there with their incredible "Bangalore" and their beautiful "Sound Of Mecca."
"El Gato" is a track John Blair sent me on cassette years ago, and it ranks as one of my favorite obscuros, at least as far as moderate tempo numbers are concerned. It's not exactly double picked, but it is a very infectious low note tune based on a unique riff. It makes you wanna drive the open road on a hot day with the top down on your '67 Camaro. Originally issued in 1963.
This is it. This track defined surf. It is the archetype! Paul Johnson once told me that when first heard this tune on his car radio, he said Whoa! Wha-at is THAT?, and pulled over to the side of the road to listen. The Chantays defined the classic surf line up, 2 guitars, piano, bass, and drums. Glorious first use of glissandos, first rhythm guitar dominance in the mix, and just plain essential.
The Chevells - Let There Be Surf
The Chevells were around for a while, but recorded little. "Let There Be Surf" is infectious. It has a melody line and rhythm interplay that stick with you. And the title... brilliant! This is one of the great lost infectious surf tunes. Above average pace with a great rhythmic and driving feel to it.
The Crossfires - Fiberglass Jungle
A gentle wave rippling at the shore chord opens to a totally ominous low-E grinder, with evil sax from the twins Kaplan-Volman a.k.a. Flo and Eddie, thundering bass from Chuck Portz, rhythmic tribal drums from Don Murray, and utterly incredible Al Nichol guitar work. This is a must-have surf MONSTER!
Dick Dale and his Del-tones - Miserlou
The introductory note of Miserlou is somehow bigger than life. Dick's machine gun staccato is perfect. This is Dick Dale's biggest Del-tone singles, the incredibly archetypal "Miserlou" featured so prominently in Pulp Fiction. No comprehensive Surf collection should even be conceived without this song. This IS the sound of primal surf, the source of the idea of really LOUD guitar leads. It's reported that the arrangement was developed after Dick saw Johnny Barakat do it this way.
Eddie and the Showmen - Squad Car
This is THEE Eddie & the Showmen song, and their second single. Written by Paul Johnson, it totally shreds. The best news is it finally appears in stereo.
An often covered rockin' jamster designed for party time. Not much melody, just energy and fun. Incidentally, Duane Eddy was on tour while this was recorded. It's Al Casey's guitar on the record (he wrote it too).
Pre Surf (Instrumental)
"Bulldog" is rhythmic and infectious, and has a quiet power about it, as did most of the Fireballs / Norman Petty output. All of their sessions are available in various CD forms, from ACE, Sundazed, and others. The Challengers borrowed "Bulldog" for their debut album Surf Beat.
Pre Surf (Instrumental)
Right in the pocket is "Moon Dawg" from this great studio band. "Moon Dawg" is intense and energetic. Even Paul Revere and the Raiders covered it on their first album. Producer Nik Venet did the dog howls. As a side note, the B-side of the original World Pacific single was called "LSD-25," one of the earliest drug-titled rock songs.
Bob Hafner - Surf Creature
This track is a very moody vibrato laden monster with distant howling in the background. Bob Hafner aka R. (Robert) J. Hafner wrote numerous surf tunes. This is his only direct credit for performance. It's been covered, because it's mighty evil and mysterious. Great track.
The Illusions were one mean sounding surf band! "Jezebel" totally pummels the living effluent out of you. Low-E menacing staccato powerhouse! Need I say more? Drummer Tom Brown wound up later in the Wedge. John Blair says that Tom told him this track was recorded with a single mic... yikes!
This amazing version of the Frankie Lane classic is mimicked almost exactly by Mark Brodie and the Beaver Patrol.
Johnny and the Hurricanes - Crossfire
Sax Guitar (Instrumental)
Guitar machine gun riff and a growling sax in a most ominous tune. You can just see a stylized prohibition gang land drive by...
The Lively Ones - Surf Rider
This is what happens when a real surfband covers a Nokie Edwards (Ventures) tune that had no relation to surf as written. In fact, it started life as a Potato concept song called "Spudnik." This is the grand and beautiful song that runs under the ending credits of Pulp Fiction. This is the full length version, not the single edit.
This fine tune was covered by the Surfaris. It is mean and vibrato laden, and uses Echoplex string swipes to simulate the same sorts of sounds they used when they covered "Moon Dawg." It's a very rhythmic track, full of body and power. This band's output on Vee Jay should be released!
The Original Surfaris - Latin Soul
While crudely recorded, particularly the drums, this is the poundiest, hottest, and most infectious version of this fine tune. Ultra powerful guitar tones take it beyond the Sentinals version. It has all the Latin flair, but is monster surf guitar dominated.
The Pyramids - Penetration
One of a handful of nationally successful surf single, this track has been covered more than "Miserlou," and in more varieties of rock styles. If you don't own this track, you have entered the surf idiom yet. This is one of the essential classics. The production is unusual and masterful, and the melody is simple and enduring. It spawned hundreds of covers, and is still quite infectious.
Easily one of the most beautiful Latin surf instros ever recorded. Tommy Nunes' writing and guitar wizardry were unsurpassed. I'd sure like to hear what he's doing now. This song shimmers. It's been on my top ten surf instro list for 33 years.
TV Surf (Instrumental)
"Wipe Out" is simply the definitive drummer's badge of courage. If he can do a decent "Wipe Out," he's hired. Simple, and written and recorded in just minutes, this is an international classic that has sold multimillions of copies, and still does every year worldwide.
For all the world, this sounds like the foundation for "High Tide," and may hint at the original arrangement that the Surfaris copied at the controversial "Surfer Joe" session, and, if verified, may put to rest the argument against the track dating on the "Surfaris Stomp" CD. This is slow and moody, and melodic. It pleases the ears with its round guitar tone and very pretty melody. It's listed on the sleeve as "Paradise Cove."
The Tornadoes - Bustin' Surfboards
"Bustin' Surfboards" is one of the most recognizable of the tribal surf instros from the sixties. It's drum dominated raw sound was nothing short of magical when I first heard it on KRLA. This is one of the essential surf instros, a desert island must-have.
The Ventures - Lullaby Of The Leaves
Among the most often requested of their vintage tunes, this is well surfed from a whammy point of view, but really is in the "Walk, Don't Run" mold stylistically. Excellent treatment.
Link Wray and his Raymen - Jack The Ripper
Is there another instro up to the power or importance of "Jack The Ripper?" I don't think so. I still vividly remember the chill I felt (there it is again) the first time I heard this record. Even on cruddy little table radio, this stood the hairs on the back of my neck on end. This is a powerful and ominous recording, with its rolling rhythm and tom tom cadence, and intense guitar tone. It dominates you as you listen. It is as essential as it gets. Issued in 1961, it has inspired and been covered by countless guitarists. It is dark, brooding, mysterious, and the vibrato is superb. This timeless melody personifies the ability of voiceless rock to convey an image, even more than "Rumble" does. It is simply superb.