Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
The Wailers - The Fabulous Wailersdotdotdot
artworkThis is the Seattle based band from 30+ years ago, the band that was fronted by the late great Rockin' Robin Roberts, whose snarly whine predicted sixties punk, and whose raw recording of "Louie Louie" was the likely first of over a thousand covers of Richard Berry's immortal rock monster. This CD is a two-fer, containing the entire first album The Fabulous Wailers from 1959, and their 1964 album Tall Cool One. They had a national hit in '59 with Tall Cool One. There's nothing purely surf here, but several of these tracks have been surfed up by surf bands, and others sure should have been. This is a vital and necessary pre-surf band, the prototype for what became the Pacific Northwest Sound.
Picks: Tall Cool One, Driftwood, Shanghaied (Shanghai'd), Gunnin' For Peter, Long Gone, Beat Guitar, High Wall, Wailin', Road Runner, Tough Bounce, Swing Shift, Mau-Mau, On The Rocks, Tall Cool One '64, Seattle, Hokey, Doin' The Seaside, We're Goin' Surfin', Frenzy, Shakedown, Tough Walk, Mashi

Track by Track Review


Tall Cool One dotdotdotdot
Pacific Northwest Bachelor Pad Club Instro (Instrumental)

The Wailers issued this and had a national hit with it in '59. It's a great honky tonkin' piano and sax squankin' R&B track. Wonderful!

Driftwood dotdotdot
Elevator Beach (Instrumental)

An odd track for this band, being very MOR, and tame as they come. It features a vibrato guitar slowly letting out long shimmering notes, a piano delightfully plinking away, and a downright elevator sax. The "enhanced" stereo is dreadful.

Shanghaied (Shanghai'd) dotdotdotdot
Pre Surf (Instrumental)

Bobby Fuller & the Fanatics used to do "Shanghaied" and is has all the elements necessary for inclusion in a surf set, with just a little imagination. It's raw and garagy, and primal. The melody is playful, while the tone is ominous. Fake stereo delay detracts significantly from the original raw power of this track.

Gunnin' For Peter dotdotdot
Detective (Instrumental)

This is based on the "Peter Gunn" rhythm, but doesn't really compare, either sonically or structurally. A grodie low down progression with a long sassy sax.

Long Gone dotdotdot
R&B (Instrumental)

A "What'd I Say" kinda thing under a "Johnny B. Goode" sorta rhythm, but no melody. It's infectious.

Beat Guitar dotdotdot
Bachelor Pad (Instrumental)

The inevitable clone followup to a hit single, this is as close to "Tall Cool One" as you can get without being the same. It's pretty smooth, and more beat generation oriented. Fake stereo.

High Wall dotdotdotdot
Pre-Surf (Instrumental)

This is a mighty ominous and sad number. It's about being inside, walled off from freedom. There are sounds of escape, but primarily, this about captivity. Slow, melodramatic, and highly inventive. The Debonairs released a cover of "High Wall." A very Link-like tune, slow and eerie.

Wailin' dotdotdot
Northwest Rock (Instrumental)

A fast Link Wray-like number, in his less interesting fifties progression style. The track is overdubbed with echoed handclaps. Originally issued in 1959.

Road Runner dotdotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Not only is this a very chunky and surfable track, but it is so percussive, it could probably be done with just an array of drums. Really tribal, and very rhythmic.

Tough Bounce dotdotdot
Fifties (Instrumental)

A fifties progression, almost like the backtrack to Dirty Robber, but tamed to a pale imitation.

Swing Shift dotdotdot
R&B (Instrumental)

A soul groove, featuring a sax and guitar harmony duet jam. Mid tempo fifties fare.

Mau-Mau dotdotdot
Tequila-like (Instrumental)

While you might expect tribal thunder here, what you get is a "Tequila" like number. It's good, but doesn't quite sync with it's title. From 1964.

On The Rocks dotdotdot
Rock (Instrumental)

Now, I love the Wailers, but this is just a pale attempt to recapture "Tall Cool One" by playing a clone slightly faster, or did it come before? Maybe it was the earlier arrangement. I don't know. It's a solid Pacific Northwest rocker.

Tall Cool One '64 dotdotdotdot
Pacific Northwest Bachelor Pad Club Instro (Instrumental)

The Wailers issued this and had a national hit with it in '59. It's a great honky tonkin' piano and sax squankin' R&B track. Wonderful!

Seattle dotdotdot
PNW Rock (Instrumental)

Great drums, and a sound more like Seattle's Viceroys than the Wailers. It's a progression, funky, tough, and tribal.

Hokey dotdotdot
R&B (Instrumental)

An organ lead R&B groove, with the organ stops clearly heard.

Doin' The Seaside dotdotdot
Blues (Instrumental)

This is a bluesy number that approaches but does not reach surf. It is infectious and interesting, rhythmic and fun.

We're Goin' Surfin' dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Like every other band on earth at the time, the Wailers tried to move into the pop consciousness on the wave of the surf sound. Their vocal attempts (Party Time U. S. A.) were pretty lame, but this instro is quite good, though not very surfy in the traditional sense. No double picking, and no Fender reverb, but plenty of watery groove. The girls chorus singin' "everyone's surfin', we're going surfin..." etc. could have been dropped, but still, it was a great single, and stands up well over time. The melody is the same as Dave Myers and the Surftones "Aqua Limbo Luau."

Frenzy dotdotdot
Big Band (Instrumental)

A big band number with Cozy Cole overtones. Sax, organ, and guitar all grooving and vying for the front line position.

Shakedown dotdotdot
PNW Rock (Instrumental)

Guitar boogie progression with a swingin' melody for the bachelor pad. Spunky fun, but doessn't rise above the jam.

Tough Walk dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A growling organ and piano jam, with a "Have Love Will Travel" backtrack.

Mashi dotdotdotdotdot
Grodie Organ (Instrumental)

This is my all time favorite organ based instro. "Mashi" has a distinctive sound, with the organ literally growling along, and Rockin' Robin Roberts shoutin' "Mashi" from time to time. Melodic, evil, infectious, nasty, and lasting.