Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Thom Starr and the Galaxies - South Bay Surf: Anthology 1963 -1964dotdotdotdot
artworkThom Starr and the Galaxies were fixtures on the South bay scene. They were very strongly inspired by The Belairs right down to their sound. Formed in 1962, The Galaxies were Thom Starr - guitar, Ray Brown - guitar, Doug Hensen - bass, Phil Pruden - sax, and Skip Hand - drums. Phil Pruden went on to join The Challengers when Richard Delvy split from The Belairs with Jim Roberts before moving on to Eddie and the Showmen, where he reunited with Skip Hand, Jim Boyle, and Doug Hensen. Others appearing here include Steve Pugh (The Packards) - bass, Chas Stewart (The Belairs) - sax, and Jim Boyle - rhythm.

The often muddy sound hides what were likely really interesting tracks with vintage crispness in tact. This release was salvaged from the only known test pressing of the unreleased Sons Of The Beach album, plus tapes from Thom Starr's archives. Historically essential!
Picks: The Launching Pad, Strange Fever I (Just Before Dawn), No. 1 Son, The Big Ding, Cherry Wipe Out, Surfer's Bubble, Woodie Welcome Wagon Part 2, Jellyfish Kiss, Sand Blast, Stomp Crazy, Heatwave, Shake And Stomp I, Mr. Moto, Enchanted Island, Bedlam, Strange Fever II, Vamonos, Squad Car, Shake And Stomp II, Renegade, The Nomad

Track by Track Review


The Launching Pad dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Partly built around "You Can't Sit Down," this track sports some cool surf guitar and early Belairs' style sax. A bit on the jammy side, but genuine and raw.

Strange Fever I (Just Before Dawn) dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Introduced with the progression that opens The Belairs' "Kamikaze," "Strange Fever" aka "Just Before Dawn" has a pretty chunky sound, with sax and great drums.

No. 1 Son dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is pretty cool. "No. 1 Son" is a riff rocker, but it has surf chunk and is much more engaging than many such instros, and the guitar break is pretty strong. With a title suggesting The Belairs ("Mr. Moto" & "Charlie Chan"), you'd expect a more Belairs sound.

The Big Ding dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Gourd and an exotic rhythm and beat liberated from "Tequila" create a compelling Mexican attraction. The double picked melody is quite nice. Poppy, yet genuine surf. I like this.

Woodie Welcome Wagon Part 1 dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Big splash chord opening, then a frat rock structure with great drums. "Woodie Welcome Wagon Part 1" isn't very memorable, except historically.

Cherry Wipe Out dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Cool drums and what is essentially The Belairs' "Rampage" played with dark reverb guitar and strong drums. This just feels like the real deal, as if you were right there at the Retail Clerk's Hall. The double picked verse rules!

Surfer's Bubble dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Surfer's Bubble" is on the happy side, with a South Bay feel and basic sound. Its melody is catchy and uplifting.

Woodie Welcome Wagon Part 2 dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Very much unlike part 1, "Woodie Welcome Wagon Part 2" is lumbering and dark, with rich tone and a rhythm that's almost Indian. The drums are exotic, and the melody very cool and island cool. This is an excellent song.

Jellyfish Kiss dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A glissando and some Dick Dale-isms launch this track, which has elements of a slowed "Moon Dawg." The rhythm track is kind of infectious, and the rough sound fitting. The sax is dangerous.

Sand Blast dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Inspired by Dick Dale, "Sand Blast" is a mid tempo blast with a sort of frat rock structure. Rockin' drums and shiny reverb. Boy does this sound like 1962! Gritty and primitive.

Stomp Crazy dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Maybe a little like The Swanks' "Ghost Train" at times, "Stomp Crazy" is a rockin' stomp with a fine riff and ballsy sound. Dripping with Rendezvous Ballroom ambiance, this is chunky and straddles The Belairs and Dick Dale.

Heatwave dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is a cruder version of "Heatwave" than has appeared elsewhere. Perhaps an alternate take, the song features cool double picked riffs and a great surf melody line in the style developed by Paul Johnson, but including elements of the Orange County Sound. A great track with ample spunk and coolness.

Shake And Stomp I dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is version one of Thom Starr and the Galaxies covering Dick Dale and his Del-tones' "Shake-N-Stomp." Heavy with raw sax and metallic percussion. It stands up with the original in strength and guts.

Mr. Moto dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

It's tracks like this that make you realize why Paul Johnson referred to The Galaxies as spooky to front. Almost more Belairs than The Belairs, if you know what I mean! Spot on!

Enchanted Island dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Robert Allen's "Enchanted Island" is done with fluid sway and tribal drums. This is really nice, with its gentle flow and picturesque sound. What a cool song!

Bedlam dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The Belairs' "Bedlam" is done much as they did it, but with wetter guitar, and perhaps a little chunkier. A very reverent cover.

Strange Fever II dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This alternate version of "Strange Fever" is a little less wet and chunky, but no less cool with its great sax and drums.

Vamonos dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The Belairs' "Vamonos" is wetter than the original, but otherwise, very much in the groove. It's raucous in an innocent kind of way. Quite nice.

Squad Car dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Like a cross between The Belairs and Eddie and the Showmen, Thom Starr and the Galaxies rock on "Squad Car" as required. Very nice splashy guitars and sax reed sirens.

Shake And Stomp II dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Starting out slowly, this is another take of Dick Dale and his Del-tones' "Shake-N-Stomp." It features really cool stinging whammy chords and crisp energy. The raw glissandos and walking bass are superb. Very cool indeed!

Renegade dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Thom Starr and the Galaxies recut this in the nineties, but I think this early version is much cooler. "Renegade" has a nicely written surf progression melody, a great period sax break, and a Belairs sound. Excellent!

The Nomad dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Tribal and moody, "The Nomad" sports echoed sax for a distant and dangerous sound. Great guitar and drama. Its Indian structure and dark guitar lines add up to a fine track.