Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Collection: Surf City's Greatest Hitsdotdotdot
artworkThis is one of those frustrating comps that proves how little both the label and the public know about surf music. Not only is most of it not surf, or surf pop vocals, but not even beach music! Of course, it contains some great stuff, and some of the better foundations tracks from which surf sprang. The vocals include the predictable Beach Boys, Jan and Dean before they went surf, Freddie Cannon, the First Class, and the Rainbow Girls.
Picks: Mr. Moto, Penetration, Bongo Rock, Underwater, Surfer's Stomp, Percolator, Caterpillar Crawl, Rumble At Newport Beach, Balboa Blue, Surf Trek

Track by Track Review


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!

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.

Bongo Rock dotdotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

This is a marvelous and fun classic rock 'n' roll single. The rhythm is totally infectious, and the simple melody line sticks in your memory cells despite any attempt to clear your head. This has almost nothing to do with surf music, though it was a staple among some of the bands. It predates the genre, and has no reverb at all. It is important for a couple of reasons. It was the first rock instro featuring the bongo drum as a central instrument, and it was the structure of this song that was one basis for the Surfaris' "Wipe Out."

Underwater dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The Frogmen romp with "Underwater." It's very much a surf precursor, and important for that reason. Numerous of their tracks have appeared on various budget comps over the past few years.

Surfer's Stomp dotdot
Big Band (Instrumental)

Among the established studio lizards on the original track were Tommy Tedesco and Plas Johnson, who appeared on many a studio project in those days. One of the road versions of this band would include Pat and Lolly Vegas in a lineup that was essentially the Avantis. Frankly, Susan and the SurfTones do the best version of this song. This sounds like a recut, and darn close. This is 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. By the way, this is a re-recording.

Percolator dotdotdot
Pop Rock (Instrumental)

This gimmicky postsurf period instro was based on a Maxwell House Coffee TV ad running at the time. The lead simulates the gradual escalation of the coffee bubbling up into the glass dome in the top of the coffee pot. It was an instant success, and is still pretty darn fun. It's not surf, but it sure endures well.

Caterpillar Crawl dotdotdotdot
R&B Big Guitar (Instrumental)

This is the ultra grodie original of a tune that the Lively Ones did so well, and that Dick Dale still includes in his set. Totally funky and groovy, and very sensual.

Rumble At Newport Beach dotdot
Fifties Rock (Instrumental)

This is very much rock instro of the melody free progression variety, like so many fifties instros. It has no relationship to surf, other than the presumed title link. It's just a party jam. Mike Gordon wrote "Out Of Limits" for the Mar-Ketts.

Balboa Blue dotdotdot
Big Band (Instrumental)

As the years went by, he strayed even farther from the genre under continued use of names like the Routers and the Marketts. Kinda cool for a gimmicky horn band thing.

Surf Trek dotdotdotdotdot
Not (Instrumental)

When mountains collide! Davie Allan is King Fuzz. Dick Dale is King of the Surf Guitar. Put 'em together, and you get an unbelievable powerful synergy. Davie's wailing performance on lead is stellar, and Dick's powerful support work and lead break are equally delightful. This seems like an alternate mix.