Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Collection: Surf Music - iTunes Essentialsdotdotdotdot
artworkThis is a large and sweeping collection of stuff. Many fine racks here, and some WTF choices too. It's hard to decide if the compiler was just ignorant or inspired? I'm not really comfortable with the title "essential" for this set, but cool it is.
Picks: The Back Wash Rhythm Band - High Rise, Richie Allen and the Pacific Surfers - Surfers Slide, Tidal Wave, The Belairs - Mr. Moto, The Centurions - Surfin' At Mazatlan, The Challengers - K-39, Dick Dale and his Del-tones - Miserlou, Let's Go Trippin', Eddie and the Showmen - Toes On The Nose, The Eliminators - Punta Baja, The Fabulous Playboys - Cheater Stomp, The Fender IV - Malibu Run, Everybody Up, The Fireballs - Rik-A-Tik, The Frogmen - Underwater, The Bobby Fuller Four - The Lonely Sea / Lolita, The Gamblers - Moon Dawg, The Go-Go's - Surfing And Spying, The Halibuts - Hammerhead, Don Hinson and the Rigamorticians - Monster Surf Stomp, Impala - Jet Action Brunette, The Insect Surfers - Polaris, The Jesters - The Jester, The Lively Ones - Surf Rider, Man or Astro-MAN? - Super Rocket Rumble, The Mermen - Ocean Beach, Jack Nitzsche - The Lonely Surfer, The Original Surfaris - Church Key, The Phantom Surfers - Poison Clam, The Pyramids - Penetration, The Ready Men - Disintegration, The Rhythm Rockers - Breakfast At Trestles, The Rip Chords - Big Wednesday, The Sentinals - Latin'ia, Thom Starr and the Galaxies - Heatwave, Los Straitjackets - Outta Gear, The Super Stocks - Oceanside, The Surfaris - Wipe Out, Point Panic, The Surf Raiders - Point Conception '63, Wave Walk'n', The Tandems - The Rising Surf, The Tornadoes - Bustin' Surfboards, The Ventures - Walk, Don't Run, Pipeline, The Vibrants - Scorpion

Track by Track Review


The Back Wash Rhythm Band - High Rise dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The Back Wash Rhythm Band's "High Rise" is actually Davie Allan's "War Path." It is an Indian styled surf tune of unusual brilliance. It has a great melody, and a great sound. A totally infectious single! The first of four versions of this tune, this being pretty dry, with nice string bending, and great damped picking transitions. I find this to be one of Davie's prettiest tunes, and this version is very nice.

Richie Allen and the Pacific Surfers - Surfers Slide dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A surf film style instro, great to drive to... light and airy and happy. Cool plucky piano. Also released as "Not So Quiet." Great to drive to.

Richie Allen and the Pacific Surfers - Tidal Wave dotdotdot
Swell Surf (Instrumental)

Based on Henry Mancini's "Peter Gunn," "Ground Swell" is an ominous low-E and sax track. Quite derivative, but cool. "Tidal Wave" is "Ground Swell" remixed.

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 Boss Martians - Driftwood Beach dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is smooth, but a little too riffy for my taste. Flourishes of "Tequila," tight percussive rhythm, but with an unmemorable melody.

The Centurions - Surfin' At Mazatlan dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Surfin' At Mazatlan" is one of their faster more upbeat tracks. It's Spanish influences are obvious, though somewhat mechanical. Bitchin' vintage mean surf.

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!

Jerry Cole and his Spacemen - Midnight Surfer dotdotdot
Studio Surf (Instrumental)

It's OK, but the generic surf standard thievery and the mediocre performance don't pull much weight. It's mostly a studio jam, not well thought out. Musta been written during a coffee break. It has that "let's put a glissando here, and a whammy there" feel to it.

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

This is not the hit single. It's also not the Rendezvous version. This is from Dick's 1975 sessions at GNP, not far from when he recorded those ridiculous demos for RCA... The performance is very good, but the mix is less than energetic. Well worth having. This is it! There is nothing else after this! The first record of it's kind. The ripping monster of all time!!!!!

Dick Dale and his Del-tones - Let's Go Trippin' dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is Dick Dale's 1975 GNP Crescendo version. He doesn't like it, and it is less twangy than the original, but it also is well played and much fuller sounding. It is just a little sterile.

Dick Dale and his Del-tones - King Of The Surf Guitar dot
Surf (Vocal)

This take of "King Of The Surf Guitar" is less gutsy and more showband-like than the Capitol version. The Vegas showgirls chorus doesn't cut it, but then neither did the Blossoms when they sang over Dick's great guitar licks.

Eddie and the Showmen - Toes On The Nose dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

One side of the first single, this is a really grand number, with unusual use of glissandos. It's choppy, powerful, and very infectious.

The Eliminators - Lonely Surf Guitar dot
Hot Rod (Instrumental)

The water breaks on the shore, the vibrato distortion guitar plays a surf-free riff, and the backtrack oozes anything but surf. Then, the overbearing chorus comes in... egad... are the Swingle Singers in the hall?! On the other hand, the melody line could actually be developed into a surf tune.

The Eliminators - Punta Baja dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Like "Dawn Patrol," this is rhythm dominated. It's Spanish elements are strong, and it's reverb is more present. It floats through the rhythm and the whammy, drifts into a dribbled double-pick, eventually arriving at a dramatic high powered screaming sax break. Very nice tune.

The Fabulous Playboys - Cheater Stomp dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

John Blair didn't list this in his "Illustrated Discography Of Surf Music 1961-1965," and neither did Rich Hagensen in his phone book thick compendium of instrumentals. Heavy surf and plucky piano riffola. Very fun indeed.

The Fender IV - Malibu Run dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Malibu Run" of the best examples of how ska was creeping into the surf instro sound just before it ended. This is a fine, very melodic, and rhythmically infectious track. Mid tempo magic. Brilliantly melodic and surfy. Check out the more ska-centered cover by the Halibuts. "Malibu Run" is a beautiful rolling song with a great melody line. It was the B-side of "Everybody Up in February 1965.

The Fender IV - Everybody Up dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

From the first drum beat of the intro, this track shreds. The beat is strong, the rhythm infectious, and the melody incredibly good. There are few surf instros that compare to the power and energy of this magical track. Exceptionally good playing, and magnificently strong writing. The glissandos grab and shake you, leaving you spent when it's over. Originally issued in February, 1965.

The Fireballs - Rik-A-Tik dotdotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

This is a brilliant bit of writing and playing. The rhythmic nature of the piece is relentless, and the melody is among the happiest of all rock instros. It was covered by the Lively Ones to great affect. This original rendering is much lighter than the Lively Ones version, but it has it's own infectious chunk and playfulness. This track rules.

The Frogmen - 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.

The Bobby Fuller Four - The Lonely Sea / Lolita dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Toronado" is dedicated to the classic Oldsmobile. The thick over reverbed sound masks some of the intense energy of this amazingly well written surf pounder. A melodic and rhythmic riff drives this home. The keys are suitably low in the mix for the most part.

The Gamblers - Moon Dawg dotdotdotdot
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.

The Go-Go's - Surfing And Spying dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This infectious surf instro was a regular part of theGo-Go's set for most of their existence. Charlotte Caffey was a surf instro collector as well as their lead guitarist, so the song is a natural. It is catchy enough to have caught the attention of those chameleons of the instro world the Ventures, who not only covered it quite nicely, but used the Go-Go's to do the vocal accents. This version is the better of the two, but the Go-Go's live version (bootleg) is the best of all!

The Halibuts - Hammerhead dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The almost bell-like ringing melody is joyous, with long sax lines to counter the liquid call of the guitar. Dramatic and playful, with thundering drums and bass under the flippant lead. It's a mighty combination of surf elements.

Don Hinson and the Rigamorticians - Monster Surf Stomp dotdotdot
Studio Surf (Instrumental)

This Gary Paxton production was an attempt at surf instrumentals, but like most studio sessions, missed the point completely. Aside from the shimmer of the vibrato guitar, everything else is not part of the surf sound. Having said that, it's a solid instro with an enjoyable sound.

Impala - Jet Action Brunette dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Thumpy riff rockin' and groovin' with whammy, "Another Day, Another Man" is an infectious and rhythmic track with a lounge feel to the melody, though the guitar is intense.

The Insect Surfers - Polaris dotdotdotdotdot
Desert Surf (Instrumental)

This is one perfect instro. The melody line features the kind of hooks that stay with you, the arrangement is nearly magical, and the imagery is stunning. This is a mid tempo beautifully written and played tune with subtle drama and picturesque guitar tones.

The Jesters - The Jester dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is just about as powerful and fast as surf gets, spitting notes out like machine gun bullets. The melody is a fine infectious bit of writing. This high powered track is just about the best Jim Messina writing ever. This is a previously unreleased take from 1963.

Laika and the Cosmonauts - C'mon Do The Laika dotdot
Euro (Instrumental)

Progression based Euro instro instro. It's a fun though slightly weird track, with almost muddy sound and keys and guitars. Not their best track, but typically early Laika and the Cosmonauts.

The Lively Ones - Surf Rider dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

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.

Man or Astro-MAN? - Super Rocket Rumble dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The Breakers' "Super Jet Rumble" is done pretty darn well. The introductory samples is pretty cheesy, but that doesn't stop this from rocking! Modern distortion guitar rips on the tuff melody line, and the drums are perfect.

The Mar-Kets - 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.

The Marketts - Woody Wagon dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Stylistically more like the Routers than the Marketts, but with vibrato shimmer and cool piano work from what sounds like Leon Russell. It's mostly just studio mung, but there is something just South of cool here.

The Mermen - Ocean Beach dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This song has become the modern surf classic. This version is much like the '88 demo, but with more refined band performance.

Jack Nitzsche - The Lonely Surfer dotdotdot
MOR Surf (Instrumental)

"The Lonely Surfer" is an enigma, hardly legit surf band fare, yet definitely a genre classic. It only charted at 39 on Billboard, but it is among the more recognizable and sophisticated surf standards. It's haunting moody and dramatic. The French horns are surreal, giving it a major pompous feel that somehow transcends the dismissibility of other similar works, like the "Surfers Stomp" Marketts sessions. Amazing.

The Original Surfaris - Church Key dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Once the Revels hit with this, every surf band had to play it. It was the party anthem of the instro set, the way Louie Louie was the anthem of the frat bands. This is a much more surfy grode version that the Revels' or Jim Waller & the Deltas', or Dave Myers & the Surftones'. It's rhythmic and gutsy.

The Phantom Surfers - Poison Clam dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Poison Clam" is an interesting song with an unusual rhythm guitar and great drums. Thin and pale, but worth getting under the sound for the performance.

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 Ready Men - Disintegration dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The Readymen were a Minnesota band that played a lot of Surf instros. "Disintegration" is a raver that remained unreleased until last year. Their writing was good, and their performances were spirited. The main riff is a basic surf progression, with jam-like break action. It's rhythmic and energetic, but not very melodic. Raw primal teen surf.

The Rhythm Rockers - Breakfast At Trestles dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

More raw and rhythmic than reverbed, they were a dance band with a solid following. "Breakfast At Treeless" is from their lone album, and exemplifies them. This sports a cool title I've always liked. The basis of the tune is a fifties boogie, with reverbed guitar and lots of twang. No melody, but quite infectious.

The Rip Chords - Big Wednesday dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

At 1:26, this short surf blast shimmers with a tasty vibrato lead and relentless drums. The great whammy chords and Catalinas style bongos make it stand out. and This is a pretty decent surf instro as studio concoctions go. The session was taped on May first, 1964. Specific musicians are hard to determine, but guitarists may have included any of Tommy Tedesco, Billy Strange, Carol Kaye, Jerry Cole and/or Glen Campbell.

The Sentinals - Latin'ia dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

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.

Thom Starr and the Galaxies - Heatwave dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Another previously unreleased track from the illusive and legendary Thom Starr and the Galaxies. Cool double picked riffs and a great surf melody line in the style developed by Paul Johnson, but including elements of the Orange County Sound less reverb. A great track with ample spunk and coolness.

Los Straitjackets - Outta Gear dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The chickens are swaying to this rooster-on-the-walk monster, infectious and tongue in cheek delightful.

The Super Stocks - Oceanside dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Richie Podolor's pristine guitar tones and the fine melody from a collaboration of Gary Usher and Richard Burns combine to make a fine instro. It is very much typical of the classic Super Stocks sound at it's best, defined by Podolor's guitar and the rhythmic underpinnings of Sandy Nelson or Hal Blaine (drums), Richard Burns (bass), and Leon Russell (piano). Podolor's addition to this group made an immense difference. This track is a splendid surf tune, displaying both a gentle sound and a powerfully rhythmic nature.

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 Surfaris - Point Panic dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A-side of the follow up single to "Wipe Out." Great intro scream and tom toms. The fire in the bones of the band is clear here. High spirited, chunky, and rhythmic. Grand power glissandos, and those wonderful Ron Wilson drums. Jim Pash's sax is most appropriate. Not often covered, but a really good tune.

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 glissandos. 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 Surf Raiders - Wave Walk'n' dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Smooth trad surf, with organ added. This is a melodic and warm track, with the kind of draw that brings you back for more.

The Surf Teens - Point Surf dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This previously unreleased 1963 track from the Surf Teens is grode and murky, like many a small studio reverberators of the day. More a jam than a song, yet quite satisfying. The riff is derivative of "Wipe Out."

The Tandems - The Rising Surf dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Primitive surf with pumping one-chord piano and thumpy bass. Richard Podolor's glorious song is radically rearranged. In this arrangement, the similarities to "The Wedge" become obvious. This is a garagy surf instro with muddy sound. Previously unreleased from 1962.

The Tornadoes - Bustin' Surfboards dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"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 - Walk, Don't Run dotdotdotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

This is essential. The Ventures were one of the two bands that served as the model for early surf bands, the other being the Fireballs. This was their first single, and is an absolute standard. It was based on the early fifties Chet Atkins arrangement. This is their signature tune, a solid and enduring cover of Johnny Smith's jazz classic. Rhythmic, solid as a rock, and very warm with presurf whammy. Only the Pink Fairies' vocal version is better than this. Great classic pre surf.

"Walk, Don't Run" and "Perfidia" were recorded a year before there was such a thing as surf music. Totally vintage and majorly important to the birth of surf, this Ventures single is still their hallmark and best effort. Every collection requires this track.

The Ventures - Pipeline dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The Ventures recorded "Pipeline" with no reverb, and very uneven glissando meter, plus little of the emotional beauty of the Chantays' original classic. It's a flat-pickers rendition, not particularly interesting.

The Vibrants - 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.