Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Collection: The Surf Setdotdotdot
artworkThis 3 CD set contains some gems and some hit pop, being an odd mix of the charts and the obscure, both instrumentally and vocally. Vocalists include the Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, the Fantastic Baggies, the Rip Chords, Ronnie & the Daytonas, Gary Usher, the Honeys, Bruce Johnston, the Ambassadors, the Young Cougars, the Four Speeds, the Surfer Girls, the Super Stocks, Gene Moles & the Softwinds, the Knights, the Sunsets, James Darren, Donna Loren, Paul Peterson, Pat Boone, and the Tradewinds. 72 tracks in all, and it's a budget release. The enclosed booklet is packed full of tidbits about the artists, including some member info and some rumors. It's enjoyable reading, as the CD is enjoyable listening. This is like the story of surf from the pop chart point of view, less scholarly than the Rhino box, and half the price as well.
Picks: Surf Beat, Wipe Out, Pipeline, Penetration, Baja, Surfer's Stomp, Big Breaker, Miserlou, Move It, Burnin' Rubber, Theme From 'The Endless Summer', Surf Party, Surfin' John Brown, Let's Go Trippin'

Track by Track Review

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.

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.

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.

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.

Baja dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"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!

Surfer's Stomp dotdotdot
Sub Surf (Instrumental)

The Mar-Kets created this nearly Lawrence Welk forties-ish "Surfers Stomp." Frankly, Susan and the SurfTones do the best version of this song. Simple slow paced innocent instrumental rock and roll, with great piano and saucy sax. Infectious and unpretentious. Don't look for the classic surf sound here, but do enjoy the simplicity and fun. Smooth and right nice.

Big Breaker dotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Joe Meek's production does not make this surf, nor does the inclusion of the annoying chorus. It has the UK guitar sound of the Shadows, not the surf sound, and a melody that is clearly not West Coast. The Ambassadors are believed to be the Saints in disguise.

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.

Move It dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The Chantays' "Move It" is a classic flip side... one of the best B-side melodies and concepts ever, but the rendition is hard to listen to. The version of this that truly rules is the live recording of the Spiedels. It's A-side is "Pipeline," the definitive surf instro. "Move It" is an infectious and playful ditty that emphasizes choked slides for a unique experience. The warbly almost tape-flutter mix is a difficult listen.

Burnin' Rubber dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Screaming dragsters and spirited surf guitar work with a melodic main riff and strong performances, together as is seldom heard in studio projects. The double picked bass is a very cool touch, but the organ is out of place. Cool track.

Theme From 'The Endless Summer' dotdotdot
Classic Film Score Surf (Instrumental)

"Theme From The Endless Summer" is a world renowned tune. It incorporates nontraditional instruments and has been an influence to many others. The use of melodica is particularly interesting.

Surf Party dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is the title track from the movie Surf Party, and it appeared on the soundtrack and a as a single, but never on an Astronauts album. A great example of what a college band from Boulder Colorado can do with Al Schmitt at the controls at RCA Hollywood. Remarkable.

Surfin' John Brown dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Another Joe Meek attempt at the surf sound, based on "Glory Glory Alleluia." Little more than interesting, like a minor Tornadoes thing, though the guitar is quite intense and almost has a surf twang.

Let's Go Trippin' dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a pretty decent version of the Dick Dale classic. The Hot Doggers were Bruce Johnston & Terry Melcher's studio band before Bruce & Terry. The Hot Doggers were much more credible a surf band than any other involvement of these two. A decent take.