Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
The Packards - Pray For Surfdotdotdotdot
artworkRecorded in May of 1980, this album was among the earliest of the revival releases. The band is surf legend Paul Johnson (Belairs / PJ & the Galaxies / Challengers / Good Guys / Hollywood Surfers / Everpresent Fullness), writer of Mr. Moto and so many more on guitar, Chris Darrow (Kaleidoscope) on bass and dobro, and John Russell on drums.

Originally issued in May 1961 on Arvee Records, Mr. Moto has held up to 37 years of competition from thousands and thousands of later day instros. In the late seventies, Paul formed a new surf band called the Packards. Nineteen years to the month later, he recommitted the jewel in his crown to tape, plus seven others. This album is spectacular. The great artwork is by Rick Griffin.
Picks: Mr. Moto, Andele, Windshield Wiper, Lanky Bones, Bedlam, Tally Ho, Lure Of The Curl, Squad Car

Track by Track Review


Mr. Moto dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

As you might expect, Paul Johnson can interpret his own work better than anyone. This recut of his first recording and most famous composition is fabulous. As usual, it is rhythmic, driving, and fun. What can be said about Mr. Moto. It's among the first surf instros, it's a monster classic, and it's been covered a million times. No One can interpret Paul's writing like Paul can. This is true the spirit of his 1960 youthful innocence when he wrote it, and it's also immediate. This has more power than his 1960 recording, but no less finesse. Great track.

Andele dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Another old Belairs song reconditioned for the eighties, Andelé is a rhythmic and melodic tune that humorously teases at the rushed existence. The sense of relentless churning is omnipresent here, with major emphasis on rhythm and guitar interplay. Playful and Spanish influenced.

Windshield Wiper dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

An old Belairs tune, mid-to-slow number, fluid and friendly. It carries the Paul Johnson signature on it's writing of course, and it lives up to the rep. The hip pace is infectious. Makes you wanna rush it along, but the impatience it creates is part of the attraction.

Lanky Bones dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Covered by many a surf band in the days of old, including the Challengers, this is a marvelous bit of playful writing, melodic and rhythm dependent. Chunkier than the others here, the drums play a major role in the effectiveness of the track. Perfect.

Bedlam dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

After so many years, it's good to hear this committed to tape the way it was meant to be, in effective stereo with subtle intricate guitarology by the master. It's closeness to Beat '65 has been long a curiosity to me. I assume that Richard Burns was influenced by this tune since it came later. Great.

Tally Ho dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Again, the drums create a necessary foundation for this rhythm dominated tune. Paul's sense of rhythm guitar has always dominated, giving his brilliant melodies a unique interlock with the rhythm guitar. Infectious and fun.

Lure Of The Curl dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Almost Polynesian, this extremely slow and beautiful number languishes in the backwaters of history. Too bad, because it foretells the coming of the Blue Hawaiians. Gorgeous.

Squad Car dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Eddie & the Showmen had the hit with this, but it was Paul Johnson who wrote it way back when Eddie was in the Belairs. This is probably the hottest version around... not the best or the most authentic, but the punchiest and hottest mix. Very strong. The police radio calls are marvelous. I've had people call me after hearing this on my show swearing they checked their mirror in panic when they head the siren... The police dispatches are about disturbing the peace, and over laid with a siren that Paul recorded after calling a squad car to the studio. This hot and pumped up interpretation of Paul's 1960 creation is beyond comparison. It is both delicate and precise, and powerful and fast. Eddie & the Showmen may have had the hit with this in 1962, but it is Paul who created it, and it's Paul who best understands the nature of the exquisite interplay between the lead and rhythm guitars.