Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
The Fireballs - S/Tdotdotdot
artworkThis reissue of the 1959 Fireballs album is long overdue in the US. The Europeans have had access to the Fireballs great material for over a year now via ACE Records. Sundazed has done a great job on this repro plus bonus tracks. The original album is here in tracks 1-12. Tracks 13 "Wicked" & 14 "Tee Kee" are previously unreleased (in the US) tracks from January 1961, and track 15 is from March 1961, previously only available in Canada on a single. The Fireballs not only were a prototype for surf bands sound wise, but some of their songs were a regular part of many surf band sets. The Fireballs pioneered that now-classic two guitars - bass - drums lineup, and the reverb from Norman Petty's famous acoustic echo chamber coupled with the available spring reverbs created the precursor to the wet surf sound. They played very quietly, and Norman Petty captured their intricacies on tape. The damped lead notes when combined with Leo Fender's outboard reverb would define the surf sound. The line between surf & the Fireballs is pretty blurry, and if it weren't for the preconceived notion of Surf's starting point with Paul Johnson & Dick Dale, musicologists might well identify the genesis as occurring right here with the Fireballs's "Bull Dog". The entire CD is mastered from original mono session tapes. Fireball George Tomsco wrote the liner notes.
Picks: Torquay, Panic Button, Nearly Sunrise, Bulldog, Foot Patter (Foot-Patter), Kissin', Wicked, Teekee, Tuff-A-Nuff

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.

Panic Button dotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

This song has a nifty melody, with an air that is anything but panicked, not even urgent. It's a happy-go-lucky track with a light fluffy arrangement. I has a certain desert soul to it, and is quite recognizable as a Fireballs number.

Nearly Sunrise dotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

This warble-lead guitar tune is not very interesting. As soon as you get used to the almost calliope sound of the tremolo maxed out, you forget the melody. Novel, but not significant or memorable. Pretty darn MOR as well.

Bulldog dotdotdotdot
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.

Foot Patter (Foot-Patter) dotdotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

This is a nice chunky tune, with a certain raw edge and delicate energy that contradict the delivery. It's a very infectious melody, and a fine little number. That is why "Foot Patter" has been covered by the Challengers, and others. This track is an essential pre-surf ditty from 1959.

Kissin' dotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

A "Panic Button"-like number, more halting, and much more Mexican influenced - like a hat dancer waiting for the canteena to open.

Wicked dotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

"Wicked" must surely be the inspiration for the Challengers "Happy Cowboy." It has the basic air of Mariachi cowboy that the Challengers track relies on. "Wicked" is a previously unreleased (in the US) track from January 1961.

Teekee dotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

"Tee Kee" is a Torquay-based track that's cool, but just not as cool as Torquay. It is a previously unreleased (in the US) track from January 1961.

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.