Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Collection: Rare Surf Volume 2: The South Bay Bandsdotdotdotdotdot
artworkVolume two continues with more incredible rare tracks from the South Bay Surf Scene. It contains 28 tracks, 20 previously unreleased. It features The Nocturnes, Wheely McSidewalk & The Ball Bearings, The Revelaires, and The Vibrants.

The Nocturnes were an Orange County band, but they recorded at Paul Johnson and Mike Leitz's garage studio (P.M. Studios) in Redondo Beach. This Santa Ana band has been described as "outer-space-surf-urban-Latino-garage" because they blended some of the Pachuko Soul sounds of East LA's Rhythm Kings and Soul Kings with a mariachi styled horn section, the space sounds of an organ influenced by the (London) Tornados, a touch of West Coast Jazz (Martin Denny and Cal Tjader), and the surf sound. Pachuko Soul is an overlooked and unique variety of surf instro based on mariachi, Jazz, and R&B, with songs like "Latin Soul", "Exotic", and "Delano Soul Beat" played by wonderfully infectious young Latino bands like the Rhythm Kings and the Soul Kings, who were precursors to Cannibal & the Headhunters, Thee Midnighters, Chan Romero, and Ronnie & The Pamona Casuals. The Nocturnes were hard core surfers, but lived inland where they got influenced by their mixed culture neighborhoods. They were even using feedback in 1964! Originally called the Vi-Counts, they issued a single "Wipe Out" c/w "Shootin' The Pier" (included here as by the Nocturnes), before changing their name. I wonder if the change was due to confusion with the Viscounts of "Harlem Nocturne" fame? By the way, Nocturnes guitar player David Amaro was 14 when these sides were cut.

Wheely McSidewalk & the Ball Bearings were a fictitious band, and were dubbed by famous surf humorist/artist Rick Griffin. The players included a young Larry Carlton (who was in Eddie & The Showmen at the time), Challengers Phil Pruden, Buzz Carre, and Mike Mills, and Paul Johnson. It was a project targeted at cashing in on the fast-rising skateboard craze of 1964.

The Revelaires were real surfers (relatively rare for vintage surf bands). Manhattan Beach was home for them. They modeled themselves on the Belairs, even playing without a bass for a couple of years early on. The Revelaires played frequently at the Revelaire Club, but there was no intentional connection via their name.

The Vibrants were a Manhattan Beach band that emerged in '61, and enjoyed a long running friendly rivalry with the Revelaires. Lead player Tony Guidace later switch to the Revelaires. Much of their material owes more to the Ventures than to surf, but when they reverbed up, look out! The CD has been processed to slightly spread the sound from the original mono tapes.
Picks: Third Star To The Left, Sticky, Baha-Ree-Bah, Space Probe, Surfer Street, Midnight Run, Journey To The Stars, Honky Tonk, Comin' Home Baby, Wipeout, Shootin' The Pier, Memphis Beat, Funky Beat, Surf Beat, San-Ho-Zay, Hawaiian War Chant, Ridin' High, Skokian, Scorpion, Zorchy, Stomp Crazy, Wild Fire, The Breeze and I, Fuel Injection, Whispering, Theme From 'Black Saddle', Dark Eyes, The Cruel Sea

Track by Track Review


Third Star To The Left dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Heavily influenced by the Ventures' "Journey To The Stars," this is a very strong track, with reverby space effects and a moderate melody line delivered with double picking and power. The mariachi horn section is a primal part of this band's prowess. Very cool track! Thundering drums and eerie tones.

Sticky dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is jam track, with little of a melody, and those great mariachi horns pumpin' away over an organ, like what Freddie King might have sounded like in Las Vegas.

Baha-Ree-Bah dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The Trademarks' "Baha-Ree-Bah" is covered here with a ton of edge and damn fine mariachi horns. The guitar is grodie and pure surf heaven. This band sure knew how to get a chunky sound. This song is so infectious anyway, that it's hard to imagine a bad version. Wonderful!

Space Probe dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This Chantays song is spacie and chunky, with great second guitar tone and dramatic power. It features some of the same reverb effects as they used in "Third Star To The Left." The lead plays single notes.

Surfer Street dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This fades in at the start. It is an instrumental treatment of the Olympics "Big Boy Pete," with the mariachi horns carrying the melody line. Bold and infectious.

Midnight Run dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a solid cover of the Gary Usher-Richard Burns-Roger Christian tune that the Super Stocks delivered so well. It's much chunkier than any of the other versions. The whammy is sweet, and the power is immense. Very rhythmic, as required.

Journey To The Stars dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is an emblazoned version of the Ventures' "Journey To The Stars." It is monstrous and chunky, and throbs with power. With the extra drive it receives from the space sound effects of the Nocturnes, this song comes into new territory. Very good, and more dramatic than the original.

Honky Tonk dotdotdot
R&B Surf (Instrumental)

Heavily surfed up, this is a fine cover of Bill Doggett's hit single. Crunchy and thoroughly R&B mean. The twin horns add a sense of sophistication to an otherwise pedestrian song.

Comin' Home Baby dotdotdotdot
Jazz Surf (Instrumental)

This is a very cool version of the jazz standard. It's frisky and the twin horns make it quite savvy. The organ is cool too. Exceptionally good listening, though at the edges of surf.

Wipeout dotdotdot
R&B (Instrumental)

Major space surf noises introduce this tune, which is no relation to the Surfaris or the Impacts songs of the same name. It's a growling R&B thing with mean tone and growly boomy sound. It's quite reminiscent of Larry Williams' "Bony Marone."

Shootin' The Pier dotdotdot
R&B (Instrumental)

Raw sax instrumental, with plinking piano and dark energy, driven by the horn. Mean.

Memphis Beat dotdotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Studio tomfoolery, based on Chuck Berry's "Memphis." It's well cut, but just a playful jam.

Funky Beat dotdotdot
Blues (Instrumental)

Very close in tenor to Freddie King, this grooving' track is light and fluffy, while retaining some cool chop. Fun and infectious.

Surf Beat dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Not even the slightest relationship to Dick Dale's tune, nor surf for that matter. Great guitar noodleage, but little melody. Just a workout for the players. The break does sorta nod to Dick's "Surf Beat."

San-Ho-Zay dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a much more muddy recording than the rest here. It is also a tame performance of Freddie King's classic blues instro.

Hawaiian War Chant dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a very cool rendering of the classic Hawaiian song, with tribal war drums, rolling rhythms, and splashy guitar. Very fun indeed.

Ridin' High dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Great drums open this surf rant. It features a strong surf lead playing a mean progression, and backed in parallel by a nasty sax. This is not very melodic, but it is a powerful riff song, and sports some big drum power.

Skokian dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This standard, probably copped from one of Sandy Nelson's albums, is a sax lead cover, with rhythmic surf guitar carrying the support role. The break is cool as it rises to meet the third verse. Very cool.

Scorpion dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is one of the great legendary bands of the old school, who's name I used to hear on ads for surf dances on KFWB and KRLA. This is a throaty Ventures kinda thing, rhythmic and churning. It has a decided surf feel, with an unusual melody and structure. Great track. The melody line is very close to "Super Jet Rumble." This was a single.

Zorchy dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Throbbing vibrato guitar leads this crispy track. It is a progression thing, using only a few notes, and mostly on the low-E. It is very powerful without being assaultive. The break is a little too jammy.

Stomp Crazy dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a quirky thing, with a pattern like a fifties rocker, and a sound like a soft surf blues. Very unusual, and quite appealing.

Wild Fire dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This single was the B-side of "Scorpion." The guitar string bending gives it a demented tone, almost as weird as the Pastel Six's "Bandito," but much richer and lower, and faster too. Quite a nice track.

The Breeze and I dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is simply the best cover ever of this Ernesto Lacuoña classic tune. It shimmers with vibrato, embodying the band's name. It shines with perfect playing. This is a completely enthralling track. I can't recommend it enough. Each verse is a little different. The damped verse totally magical! This was a single on Bay Towne.

Fuel Injection dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Opening with dragsters off the line, this rhythmic almost flamenco song is choppy and really cool. It throbs with chopped guitar licks and pristine tone, like the Duals' "Stick Shift," only clean and surfed up. Very nice track.

Whispering dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Surf deluxe, in a very pretty and rhythmic vein. The melody is strong and pretty, and the arrangement is very cool. The horn adds a smoothness to the verses it leads. Nice track.

Theme From 'Black Saddle' dotdotdotdot
Spaghetti Western Surf (Instrumental)

This is the theme from a short lived TV western series. It's mighty cool, slightly brooding, quite spaghetti western, and very chunky. What a fine track this is, the sort of thing you find yourself humming later, not sure what it is.

Dark Eyes dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The Russian traditional folk song, turned inside out, blasted near a surfboard, and still retaining the eastern giant's heritage sound. Nice track.

The Cruel Sea dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Mike Maxfield's classic British instro, played with less Brit feel and more California surf pound. Heavy and powerful, this is a solid surf track, with dramatic hesitation, and fine double picked bridges.