Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Collection: The History Of Surf Music: A Four Volume Complete History Of The Real California Sound - 4 LP Box Set, Limited Editiondotdotdotdot
artworkCertainly not a "complete" history, but a repackaging of the individual albums for Knotts Berry Farm and Horizons West. Predates the Cowabunga box set.
Picks: The Belairs - Mr. Moto, The Blazers - Bangalore, The Challengers - K-39, K-39, Telstar, Mr. Rebel, Mark Of Zorro, Foot Tapper, Kami-Kaze, Channel 9, Tidal Wave, Bulldog, Pipeline, The Chantays - Pipeline, The Crossfires - Out Of Control, Dick Dale and his Del-tones - Miserlou, Surf Beat, Eddie and the Showmen - Mr. Rebel, The Evasions - Son Of Surf, Jon and the Nightriders - Suicide Bay, Journey To The Stars, The Lively Ones - Goofy Foot, The Original Surfaris - Bombora, The Pyramids - Penetration, The Sentinals - Sunset Beach, Tom Starr and the Galaxies - Chiflado, The Surfaris - Wipe Out, The Surf Raiders - Crash, Point Conception '63, The Wedge - Endless Sun, Night Of The Living Wedge

Track by Track Review


The Belairs - Mr. Moto dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

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 - Bangalore dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a MONSTER track! The Blazers were one hell of a surf band. The guitar tones are piercingly powerful, and the rippin' double pickin' is a sound to behold. It is melodic, hot, infectious, and among the best twenty vintage surf instros. Why it wasn't a hit, I'll never know. Totally great!

The Challengers - K-39 dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"K-39" is one of the best late Surf tracks. It is named after a Surf spot 39 kilometers south of the California-Mexico border. Hal Blaine's drumming is exquisite, and the melody is great. This is a true Surf classic, melodic, powerful, double picked joy!

The Challengers - K-39 dotdotdotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

"K-39" is one of the best late surf tracks. It is named after a surf spot 39 kilometers south of the California-Mexico border. Hal Blaine's drumming is exquisite, and the melody is great. This is a true Surf classic.

The Challengers - Telstar dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A spirited performance, in a purely surf forum, with the organ melody carried by a shiny double picked guitar. The energy is fine, and the arrangement is very good.

The Challengers - Mr. Rebel dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A decent cover of Eddie and the Showmen's one hit. The playing is solid, and the arrangement is mostly true to the original. Not unusual, but competent.

The Challengers - Mark Of Zorro dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Suggesting nothing of the title, no Spanish flavor (except the moderate mariachi horns in the break), and only occasional sword swipe sound effects. Otherwise, it's a nice track, not too melodic, but energetic and rhythmic. The overall melody suggests something more suitable for a spaghetti western.

The Challengers - Foot Tapper dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a fine West Coast variation on the Hank Marvin / Bruce Welch (Shadows) composition. This version is very clean and full bodied. It is lively, and fun. The male chorus of "ahhhh" makes it a bit too commercial for my tastes, but I have always liked it. It's no "K-39," but then what is? melodic mid tempo fun.

The Challengers - Kami-Kaze dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Actually a Belairs master, this track is classic Paul Johnson. In the studio on many future albums, Paul would do guitar honors. This is choppy, rhythmic, and solid.

The Challengers - Wipe Out dotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

No one covers this well, and no one does Ron Wilson's drumming, and when you further get the melody wrong (or morph it into an unrecognizable and not very good form), well... it all adds up to a no way Jose thing.

The Challengers - Channel 9 dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Ed Fournier wrote this wholly infectious surf monster that was dubbed "Channel 9" because of it's use as a theme on LA television channel 9's series "Surf's Up!." This is a must have for any surf collection. It's alternative title is "Hop Scotch." It's highly melodic and rhythmic, much in the "K-39" / "Pipeline" style.

The Challengers - Out Of Limits dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

True to the original Mar-Kets' version, this cover has nothing special or new
going on.

The Challengers - Apache dotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

It's funny to hear the Challengers do this in essentially the Jorgen Ingmann arrangement on an album that is not far from being a Shadows clone collection of songs. It is nowhere as good as the Ingmann version, but is quite competent.

The Challengers - Tidal Wave dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

An Eddie Bertrand tune from his days with the Belairs. It has energy, and some edge. It is quite like the Belairs would do it. Mostly a simple progression with tinkly piano and stinging guitar solos. Cool.

The Challengers - Back Beat dotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This ancient tune is little more than a fifties progression with a bit of updating. It's rhythmic and fun, but doesn't leave a lasting impression.

The Challengers - Bulldog dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Pretty true to the intent of the Fireballs, but dryer and chunkier, with Jim Roberts' piano adding a fifth dimension.

The Challengers - Pipeline dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The best cover of this tune from the sixties, except for possibly the Lively Ones and the Van Slyke. Hal Blaine's drumming is superb, and his use of the toms in place of guitar glissandoes is brilliant! Great song

The Chantays - Pipeline dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

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 glissandoes, first rhythm guitar dominance in the mix, and just plain essential.

The Crossfires - Out Of Control dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Flying evil double picked guitar from Al Nichol slaughters a couple of notes and a grinding chord progression. This bruiser invokes dreaded images of immense storm surf, choppy and all hashed out. High powered and high energy. A blazer.

Dick Dale and his Del-tones - Miserlou dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

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.

Dick Dale and his Del-tones - Surf Beat dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Demonstrating the power of CHUNK in surf, "Surf Beat" lent it's name to the genre, and clearly is a standard. A great performance captured live at the Rendezvous Ballroom and issued in 1962. This is the embodiment of rhythm based surf chunk.

If you want to play the chords right, when the lead and rhythm both play together, the rhythm guitar would "push" the chord downward, while the lead must "pull" the chord upward - remember, Dick Dale played left handed and used a right handed guitar upside down without restringing. That meant when he pushed the chord, it was the same as pulling it. I verified this with Dick personally in '88, so there ya go.

Eddie and the Showmen - Mr. Rebel dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Eddie and the Showmen's third single was a tribute to KRLA DJ Reb Foster, who also owned the Revelaire Club, where Eddie Bertrand found themselves to be the house band for a while. This is one of the great surf singles, sporting a totally infectious and optimistic melody and beat.

The Evasions - Son Of Surf dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

They blended really cool damped percussive obscuros with rhythmic chunky originals. Originally a four piece, they decided to remain a trio after the departure of one of many rhythm players, making them the first surf trio on disc. This track is from their incredibly beautiful Rick Griffin picture disc.

Jon and the Nightriders - Suicide Bay dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Cool rhythm track behind a sad/eerie instro. Moody, sullen, yet seems to imply a rebirth. A really a good listen.

Jon and the Nightriders - Journey To The Stars dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Totally accurate and much more magical cover of the Ventures classic single!

The Lively Ones - Goofy Foot dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

It just doesn't get better than this! A high power track is an essential part of any vintage surf collection. This is just about the best Lively Ones track ever! Fast, powerful, high energy, ripping good guitar work, ample changes. Stunning! It's been covered, but never matched.

The Original Surfaris - Bombora dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The Original Surfaris' "Bombora" is one of the great surf pounders, with it's heavy tom tom action and low-E lead growling away. A great and essential track.

The Pyramids - Penetration dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

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.

The Sentinals - Sunset Beach dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

I like this most Polynesian of all Sentinals the best, and it's enduring power is testified to by the incredibly infectious ska arrangement that the Surf Piranhas did in the early eighties in Paris, as well as the Category 5 version from 1995 in Florida. This track is both "Little Grass Shack" fun and energetically infectious. A great track!

Tom Starr and the Galaxies - Chiflado dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Tom (aka Thom) Starr idolized Paul Johnson's Belairs. His band the Galaxies were a carbon copy. When Tom finally left the band, Paul took over. He told me once that it was "spooky" to plat with a band that already knew exactly what he wanted all the time. Here, Tom Starr & the Galaxies do a Paul Johnson song called "Chiflado," which loosely translates (according to Paul) as "some kinda nut." It's rhythmic and infectious, and much the way Paul played it. Excellent second echelon surf band.

The Surfaris - Wipe Out dotdotdotdot
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.

The Surf Raiders - Crash dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The Creations' "Crash" is covered here with great reverence. Pure trad surf stylings. "Crash" is a very infectious tune, and the band does well with it, fitting it nicely into their sound. Melodic, energetic, and well played.

The Surf Raiders - Point Conception '63 dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is an exceptionally good track. Better than nearly all other Surf Raider songs (IMHO), this employs a moderate pace and great dribbling glissandoes. It is melodic and very surfy. The enduring power of the track testifies to it's strength. I've been drawn to it since first hearing it in the early eighties.

The Wedge - Endless Sun dotdotdotdot
Spaghetti Western Surf (Instrumental)

This fine tune lies somewhere between spaghetti western and the Shadows. It is melodic, well crafted, and memorable. It's slightly mean, yet friendly enough to keep close at hand. A very nice track.

The Wedge - Night Of The Living Wedge dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Night Of The Living Wedge" is from their 1980 mini album on Rhino. It has been covered by the Mallards. It's a rousing modernized surf sound, with an edgy guitar and a full-on attack. Now, you'd think with all that money and them having such a strong "in" at Rhino, they could talk the scheduling masters there to release a complete Wedge CD. Their "Pipeline" from the second album is unsurpassed in clarity and brilliance.