Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
The Neon Spores - Reverb In The Etherdotdotdotdot
artworkThe surf band with the unlikely name of the Neon Spores existed in Santa Cruz for a short while, from around 1990 to 1992, when they played their last live radio performance at KFJC. The group was an amalgam of styles and interests. Group leader Roger Rush had been around surf bands for quite awhile. In the early eighties, after leaving Santa Cruz legends Not Cool, Roger joined Soave Loco's legendary band the Thrusters, which had evolved out of the ashes of the Surf Pistols. Roger played keys in the Thrusters. As the Thrusters came to an end in 1989, Roger began looking for another surf band. He was asked to join San Jose's surf monsters, the Shockwaves, as rhythm guitarist. That lasted for about a year. Roger then set about forming his own band, which he eventually named the Neon Spores. What began as a jamming project, ended up as a stellar surf outfit. Roger played rhythm guitar in the Spores on most songs.

Roger recruited long time friend John Anderson to play lead guitar. John is a legend in his own right. In the early sixties, John had his own band called the Baymen. They issued a single "Banzai" c/w "Daybreak," and were doing really well in Southern California at the time, so well that Eddie Bertrand recruited John to join his band Eddie & the Showmen to eliminate the competition. Also in the Showmen at the time were Eric Gies and Sterling Storm. As the Showmen came to an end, John, Eric, and Sterling moved to Santa Cruz, where they formed the first version of the Humans in 1970. By the late seventies, the Humans were on IRS Records, had a national hit, and were a touring band. They had kept "Pipeline," "Miserlou," and "Mr. Moto" in their sets all those years, in addition to new instros from John's pen. The Humans eventually ended when Sterling moved to San Francisco and change vocations. Reformed under various pseudonyms, including Ed Hatch, Ed, and the Ninja Nomads, Eric and John continued to gig and record. John wrote "Dusk on the Ziggurat" and "Geronimo" with them. He brought those two songs to the Spores, as well as a song he'd been using for a decade called "Madame Prairie Dog."

The drummer they found was Sam "Bam" Adato, who was a metal drummer in a band called Wrekking Machine at the time. Sam is a softball pitcher, so his snare arm is more than strong. His snare is often not mic'd in large halls - no need.

Their bassist was Keith, a local player. Together they made uniquely crafted surf instros. They never caught the public eye, but their recorded legacy is astoundingly good. This set was recorded in the Pit at KFJC on May 23rd, 1992.
Picks: El Aguila (The Eagle), El Aguila / The Hearse, Mr. Rebel, Telstar, Madame Prairie Dog, Swedish Rhapsody, Squad Car, Penetration, Perfidia, The Wedge, Similau, Where'd Ya Get That Bruise, The Cossack, Dusk At Waddell Creek, Windy And Warm, Miserlou / Pipeline, Liberty's Whip, Louie Louie

Track by Track Review

El Aguila (The Eagle) dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This classic Lee Hazelwood tune uses very different textures from the original, or any other cover. With unique filigrees on the lead melody, and Sam 'Bam' Adato's machine-gun precise whacking, this performance redefines the power and attack of the song. Highly energetic, and ringingly crisp.

El Aguila / The Hearse dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This time, two classic Lee Hazelwood tunes are medleyed together. Hazelwood's classic and highly melodic tunes are reborn into a modern rhythmic monsters when they are joined at the hip. Magnificent! This take is the source of the version of "El Aguila" used for track 1.

Mr. Rebel dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This take provides a completely different variation, due mostly to Sam Adato's drums. John Anderson played rhythm on this track with Eddie and the Showmen in the sixties, so it could be said he understands the song. The mid song speed up courtesy of Sam's dyno drums is pretty cool.

Telstar dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Thick surf interpretation of this UK classic, based strongly on the version John Anderson Played for 15 years with Santa Cruz's Humans. Ringing tones and pumped drums.

Madame Prairie Dog dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is one super deluxe original from the pen of John Anderson. He's been playing around with it for about 20 years. It's rambling and playful, delicate and melodic, and very infectious. A glorious merger of surf and prairie, of wet and dry. Exquisite.

Swedish Rhapsody dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Proving you can surf up anything with a solid melody, this unusual choice for a cover was chosen by rhythm guitarist Roger Rush. John Anderson's great delicate picking combined with a real Swedish sense gives this an irresistible draw. Wonderful.

Squad Car dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Sam 'Bam' Adato's drums are much more metronomic than any of the early Paul Johnson or Eddie Bertrand versions. More rhythmic and crunchy, this is infectious and way fun.

Penetration dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

There's nothing traditional about the arrangement. The rhythm guitar, bass and drums are providing an original backdrop while the lead guitar is dribbling out a double picked melody line. Excellent.

Perfidia dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Perfidia" is played with great reverence, updated only to blend with the Neon Spores's sound.

The Wedge dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Dick Dale's tune, pounded out with al l the fire available while sitting down. More delicate than powerful, it moves right along and works really well.

Similau dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The Surfaris' first adapted this exotica classic from the sugar cane fields to the surf idiom. When Roger brought it to the Neon Spores from the Shockwaves, he guided the initial run throughs at half speed to give everyone the change to get it down pat. I happened to be at an early rehearsal when they were still slowly moving through it. It was amazing. I convinced them to think of it live that way. As a compromise, they worked it up once all the way through slow, and once fast. Sequed, the two renditions are very effective. Long for a surf sing at around seven minutes, it sneaks right in and hooks you. Amazing!

Where'd Ya Get That Bruise dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Evan John's tune from one of his H-Bombs albums. Evan didn't remember the tune when Roger Rush was doing their stage sound at the Catalyst and told him about the Neon Spores' covering it. This is a fuzz lead, ska rhythmed melodic tune.

The Cossack dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Jim Messina's coolest tune, rhythmically grooved in pure wet surf style. Powerful and exotic.

Dusk At Waddell Creek dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This fine John Anderson original had been kicking around for a few years before he brought it to the Neon Spores. He'd worked it up for the post-Humans band Ed Hatch. It was then known as "Dusk on the Ziggurat." Waddell Creek is an outlet to the Pacific from the magnificent redwoods of the Santa Cruz Mountains. This is a rhythm dominated number with an infectious sound and feel, and a mess of double picked power.

Windy And Warm dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

John D. Loudermilk's wonderful and playful tune, full of lilting guitar lines and humor. It's strictly for the good times.

Miserlou / Pipeline dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

These two classics are pummeled out, with John's using the thick arrangement he had played for many years with the Humans / Ed Hatch / Ed / Ninja Nomads before coming to the Neon Spores. It is a nice change from the norm. "Pipeline" is a monster. What John Anderson does with feedback and power to the melody is remarkable. Roger and Keith and Sam provide a steady and powerful backtrack for John's playing. It's long, and just about as huge as "Pipeline" gets. Amazingly textured and wonderfully pounded. The glissandoes in sync with the drums predate Slacktone's excellent use of the technique in "Tidal Wave," and is very effective. Totally powerful.

Liberty's Whip dotdotdotdotdot
Psychedelic Surf (Instrumental)

John's blazing psychedelicization of the Chantays' "Pipeline" under it's original name "Liberty's Whip" shows just how fiery the Spores could be. It was captured live in the Pit.

Louie Louie dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Richard Berry's ultra classic love song, brought full circle to a near Ventures' arrangement. Tasty.