Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
The Fireballs - Torquay / Campusologydotdotdot
artworkThis two-fer combines the surf-era album with the last mostly instro album that introduced Jimmy Gilmer whose "Sugar Shack" would change how the band was viewed forever. Torquay is a very strong album, and while Campusology is transitional, there are some very interesting tracks on it. It would seem that the writing talent had run out of ideas by the time they got to this album. A low winners to losers ratio.
Picks: Torquay, Alone, Joey's Song, Last Date, Chief Whoopin' Koff (Chief Whoop-In-Koff), El Ringo, Wheels, Honey, Rawhide, Tuff-A-Nuff, Dumbo, Quite A Party, Ahhh Soul, Campusology, Daytona Drag (Daytona Rag), Evermore, Pegleg (Peg Leg), Sheezburger, In The Mood, Mr. Mean, Mrs. Mean, Gently, Gently, Mr. Reed, Find Me A Golden Street

Track by Track Review

Torquay dotdotdotdot
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.

Alone dotdotdot
Shadows-like (Instrumental)

This track is very reminiscent of many Shadows tracks, single note leads, light weight chord accompaniment, and a UK twang in the guitar. It pretty, mid tempo, and unmemorable.

Joey's Song dotdotdot
MOR (Instrumental)

This super familiar Italian influenced tune has always been a spunky MOR number, with a flippant melody line, and an old farts party sound.

Last Date dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

This is a guitar arrangement of Floyd Cramer's brilliant piano tune. It's pretty enough, but lacks the beauty and charm of the original. Pristine playing does not overcome the MOR appeal, or raise it above the background music level.

Chief Whoopin' Koff (Chief Whoop-In-Koff) dotdotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

"Chief Whoop-In-Koff" has a definite tribal coolness about it, a primitivity that transcends the sophisticated and quiet performance. The melody line is quite infectious, and the rhythm is very cool. It is now a regular part of the Eliminators & Splashback's sets.

El Ringo dotdotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

"El Ringo" has a great cowboy feel and a rolling rhythm about it that just carries you down the road. The quirkiness of the melody, the cowboy feel, the rhythmic nature, and the ringing tones combine to create an irresistible track.

Wheels dotdotdot
Pre Surf MOR (Instrumental)

"Wheels" is the same tune that the String-Alongs had a hit with. They were also produced by Norman Petty who wrote this, but their version was much less plucky. This is quite MOR in character.

Honey dotdot
MOR (Instrumental)

Plucky MOR looking for a bachelor pad or elevator to lurk in. Not very interesting.

Rawhide dotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

Link Wray was probably quite surprised when he first heard the Fireballs' "Raw Hide," because their quiet arrangement completely changed the character of the song. It somehow maintained all it's power, but traded edge for pristine beauty.

Tuff-A-Nuff dotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

A light weight funk with a cowboy's sensibility. You can just see a saddletramp shuckin' and jivin' - it's quite a vision, but not much of a track, and certainly not tuff in the vernacular of the day. From March 1961, and previously only issued in Canada on a single.

Dumbo dotdotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

"Dumbo" is a very quirky and memorable melody, and the double picking is perfect and clear as a bell. It has an incredible likability about it, and a magic all its own.

Quite A Party dotdotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

This track displays the first really nice panoramics on a drum kit that I am, aware of. The toms are panned, with snare and kick in the center. The bass is left and the rhythm is right, but because it's a gentle performance, it works ok. "Quite A Party" has been covered as "Quite A Surf Party" by Jerry MacNeish. Quite infectious.

Ahhh Soul dotdot
Hole In The Wall (Instrumental)

This tracks marks a shift in style to a Booker T & the MG's wannabe, Hole In The Wall bandwagon song. It is also Fireballs structured, which is it's saving grace, though it certainly has no particular lasting effect.

Campusology dotdotdot
Memphis College Bash (Instrumental)

Another track like the "Ahhh Soul," but without the heavy handed not to the Stax Volt studio band. More listenable, but not the least bit infectious.

Daytona Drag (Daytona Rag) dotdotdot
Country Fluff (Instrumental)

Very light, almost Three Suns or Buddy Merrill consciousness (were they conscious?). Choppy, acceptable non-MOR, but just barely. A slight breeze would blow this away.

Evermore dotdotdot
Smooth (Instrumental)

Pretty, smooth, romantic backdrop music, with hints of the former glory of this band.

Pegleg (Peg Leg) dotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

Oh so lightly plucked, damped tweakery, slender rhythm guitar, and super lightweight overall sound. This would-be MOR song falls short of the elevator by virtue of it's honesty, and that's a good thing. It's just so sparse and light. Nice tune to eat a balogna sandwich to.

Sheezburger dotdotdot
Low Calorie (Instrumental)

If you thought this would be drive-in song, dripping with fat and juicy goodness, you are in for a surprise. It's low calorie pluckery, nice but unremarkable.

In The Mood dotdotdot
Reduced calorie Big Band (Instrumental)

This big band hit had already been done for the rockin' crowd, and much better. This is just fluff. It's as if they had become a studio band, playing whatever the producer told them too. Either that, or they were now playing the lounges. Either way, this is a throwaway.

Mr. Mean dotdotdot
Timid (Instrumental)

Hearkening back to their roots, but without the lean edge of that time, this is derivative and forgettable. It's also not the least bit mean.

Mrs. Mean dotdotdot
Mrs. Fireball (Instrumental)

This is really nothing like "Mr. Mean." It's much more interesting, and could be a solid track if produced differently. More like their roots, more adventurous, more fun. It sports a catchy little melody, a great bridge, and cool hooks.

Gently, Gently dotdotdot
South Pacific MOR (Instrumental)

Sorta Polynesian drums - sorta, semi South Pacific guitar - sorta, a slow soothing pace, and a pretty melody. It's really quite the MOR piece, but still has a draw - it could be a really cool song in some talented surf band's set list with just a little work.

Mr. Reed dotdot
Memphis Studio (Instrumental)

This is patterned after Jerry Reed's boring interpretations of Chuck Berry and country studio filler of the day. Why he ever got a reputation, I'll never know. Musta been something in the water, or dropped from black helicopters. It has "Johnny B. Goode" all over it.

Find Me A Golden Street dotdotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

"Find Me A Golden Street" is a very nice track. It is melodic, semi spaghetti western or spy conscious, but more chunky and rhythmic. A fine track. The Shockwaves used to due in their set, and Splashback currently do.