Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
|This is the first of five volumes of charting instrumentals... 30 on each. A solid slab of charting vocal free rock and roll, with good liner notes and plenty of rare stuff.|
Picks: Teen Beat, Swanee River Hop, Raunchy, Rumble, The Green Mosquito, Poor Boy, Topsy II, So Rare, Tequila, The Happy Organ, Clouds, Twitchy, Guitar Boogie Shuffle, Wild Bird, Midnighter, Fast Freight, In The Mood, So What, Wild Weekend, Torquay, Bongo Rock, Walk, Don't Run, Nut Rocker, Wheels, Bulldog, Rockin' Crickets, Wham!, Summer Party, Spunky, Memphis
Track by Track Review
Sandy Nelson's first single, from 1959, set the stage for many rock drum records to follow. Only Cozy Cole's "Topsy Part II" had charted before, and it was a big band monster. This is a simple drum pattern, guitar and bass thing that was both innocent and infectious in its day.
Rock 'n' Roll (Instrumental)
This 1956 piano number from New Orleans legend Fats Domino shows off a style that is immediately identifiable as Creole, a method and flair that grew out of the rags of the twenties and became the signature of Jerry Lee Lewis when pounding pumping attack was added. It is most characterized by the style of Professor Longhair. An infectious early rockin' romp on the eighty-eights.
Sax & Piano Rock (Instrumental)
Bill Justis' rockin' tune so often covered by surf bands was a sizable hit for Ernie Freeman. It's a sax number with an infectious R&B rhythm and s soulful groove. It could be heard coming out of every late night gas station in town in 1957.
Classic Dark Rock (Instrumental)
The original street gang record. This drips juvenile delinquency and chains and knives and broken bottles. It's the first evil rock instro. Very powerful after 40 years! Link Wray is the originator of lead guitar instros, of the ominous guitar sound, of the use of extreme sustain for danger, of the tribal thunder and drama under rock instros, of the gradually changing effects to impose a rising threat, as he does by increasing vibrato at the end of the track. This is a must have for any self-respecting rock instro fan, and a definite requirement to understand the foundation that was laid for the later surf bands.
This 1958 instro was an oddity for two reasons. First, it was a guitar instro instead of sax, as was most common in the fifties. Second, it featured the even rarer use of guitar tinkering for effects, namely the simulation of a mosquito's annoying buzz. Mostly a progression, was melody free, but gutty and primitive.
Upper Midwest instro rockers the Royaltones recorded many a fine track. 1958's "Poor Boy" is their most familiar track because it was a hit for them. It is pretty tame as their tracks went, with damped echoed guitar, piano, and cryin' sax, all flowing out a weeping melody. Today, they are more revered for the surf rage "Black Lightning" and the incredible "Flamingo Express," the song that the Sentinals' "The Sentinal" is based on.
The title is in reference to Uncle Tom's Cabin. There just aren't many better drum solo tracks than this 1958 single. The basic track is a very powerful big band thing, like "Sing Sing Sing" in terms of it's infectious melody and power. Cozy Cole's drums are incredibly great, incorporating light work, tribal beats, and big band power snare work. This is a singular track of unparalleled energy and soul.
This was a monster MOR hit, as much among sappy teens as the WWII generation. Orchestral pomp with shrill chorus.
Latin R&B Rock (Instrumental)
This is their BIG HIT!. It is a sax based number that was probably the frat house standard, long before "Louie Louie" was. The spoken "Tequila" at the end of the lines has become a standard of Latin party rock. Very infectious.
Churning organ runs, calliope sensibilities, and pure joy. This disc broke the organ out of it's paradigm as a jazz-soul instrument and brought it squarely into rock 'n' roll. This is an utterly infectious wailin' organ instro that just can't be held down. Pumpin' screamin', and drivin' hard on the wind. If there's a single instro that embodies the rock and roll spirit, "The Happy Organ" is it. The production makes the organ sound very loud. Still hot after all these years.
Oft compiled slow instro from the fifties. Its melody riff is simple, mostly relying on tradeoffs between the plinky piano and the honky sax. No squirtin', just dribbling. Fun.
this sports a slightly dirty sax and a traditional bar room rock beat. Not much that can be confused with a melody, but plenty of that innocent small town rock sound.
Rockabilly Boogie (Instrumental)
This was a monster hit for the Virtues in the fifties, and defined the already overcrowded rockabilly boogie field. The track has been stereo-ized, using a fake spread induced to create a rather effective illusion of a fairly modern and natural stereo. The performance is great. The guitarists are Frank Virtue and Jimmy Bruno.
15 IPS slap back on the drums, and a basic guitar progression behind a simple riff rockin' twanger. The guitar is loud and nasty, like a Minneapolis roadhouse blues extraction.
Latin R&B Rock (Instrumental)
Raw sax R&B based rock, pumpin' a party jam, drivin' the poodle dress crowd nuts. Fine jammin' dance tune from Champs.
This track has little or nothing to do with surf, but on the other hand, it is a fine rhythmic instro from one of the truly great losses to the rock world. Arvee Allens aka Richie Valens' name was shortened by Del-Fi from Valensuela) to overcome fears of a stigma from the Mexican name. His raw energy and magnetic appeal were unmistakable from his sessions. This track has plenty of his flair, and while not very melodic, and void of any surfisms, it holds attention throughout with it's shear innocent excitement.
Jungle Exotica (Instrumental)
Fluted whistling desert riffs, cool middle eastern scenery, but then this dreadful Korla Pandit organ (you know the kind, you've heard it in the mall piano and organ stores, a former shoe salesman in a tie sequencing notes with faux drama and too much Leslie). The line that comes to mind is from Jagger-Richard, "Give me shelter."
The Yellow Jackets perform a really slow and slightly dirty blues based guitar instro. A typical blues with some demonic shouts and nasty sax work.
This is the one. This is the song everyone thinks of with this band. It was cut originally as a theme for the Tom Shannon Show on Buffalo, New York's legendary WKBW, from whence came free form progenitors Tom Donahue, Bob Mitchell, and Peter Trip. This is growly, dark, evil, chunky, melodic, and features near-surf rhythm guitar behind a raw R&B sax. A great and necessary track.
Pre Surf (Instrumental)
"Torquay" is still a great tune, even 37 years after it was committed to tape. It was borrowed by the Challengers for their debut album Surf Beat, and by the Lively Ones for the Surfin' South Of The Border album. It's primal near-surf sound and rim shot percussion is quintessential Fireballs. The song's power is testified to also in the name being used for numerous bands, including San Jose's circa 1963 surf band the Torquays.
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."
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 pre-surf 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.
Piano Rock (Instrumental)
"Nut Rocker" is on the "Nutcracker Suite," this rocks mightily in the Jerry Lee Lewis pumping piano vein, with incredible energy and a totally infectious sound.
Ain't no surf here, and barely hot rod. It's melodic, fluid, and borders on MOR. "Wheels" is closer to the Norman Petty Trio than the Fireballs or Buddy Holly. It is a very pretty quasi rock piece with an infectious melody line and arrangement. It was a Billboard hit in 1960 on Warwick, the same label that brought us Johnny and the Hurricanes. It peaked at number 3. Not bad for a guitar instro. This is a Norman Petty composition.
Pre Surf (Instrumental)
"Bulldog" is rhythmic and infectious, and has a quiet power about it, as did most of the Fireballs / Norman Petty output. All of their sessions are available in various CD forms, from ACE, Sundazed, and others. The Challengers borrowed "Bulldog" for their debut album Surf Beat.
Pre-Surf Rock (Instrumental)
This track has been done a few times by others. This take features great behind the bridge through an echoplex guitar work, and that raw sax sound that is their trademark. Simple and unpretentious pre-surf fun.
This is one of the GREAT RI tracks out there, and it's taken its bloody time getting to CD. "Wham!" is just plain infectious. It's use of whammy, the early dominance of power chords, and the flights of joy in the performance are all top notch.
The Van-Dells make basic Bill Dogget kinda tune, with a slight bit of a surf sound in the lead guitar, which is pretty low in the mix. Mostly, it's a jam kinda thing, highly repetitive.
"Spunky" sports a nice guitar melody in an upbeat format. It sounds like a solo guitar playing its own rhythm notes as well. Pretty cool, though very basic, with LA surf sax sounds.
Like the Surfaris' "Wipe Out," "Memphis" and "Wham!" were recorded to consume twenty minutes of leftover studio time. Both were solid hits in 1963. This is a highly rhythmic track, infectious and playful in a post Chuck Berry world.