At the end of Jimi Hendrix’s “Third Stone From The Sun” he can be heard in the background saying, “may you never hear surf music again.”
That was 40 years ago, and may have been a reference to the Beach Boys after the group pulled out of the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival that introduced much of the world to Hendrix’s talent. (Or, according to Dick Dale, the king of surf guitar, it was Hendrix’s way of encouraging him in his battle with colon cancer at the time the album was recorded in 1967.)
But surf music is still alive. And that’s what this mix (titled “You’ll never hear surf music again”) is about: A tribute to the genre and a little history to boot.
Most tracks date from the early to mid-’60s when the surf music phenomenon began to ebb, washed over like a tsunami by the British invasion that was led by The Beatles. The mix has an introduction, three “sets” and an epilogue.
The surf music genre had a resurgence in the 1980s and again in the 1990s with Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 “Pulp Fiction,” which used Dick Dale’s “Miserlou” to begin the film and closed with The Lively Ones’ “Surf Rider” (with a handful of surf tunes from The Tornadoes, Link Wray and The Marketts sandwiched between).
Now in its fourth decade, the music still fuels “The Stoke,” that energy that brings watermen and waterwomen back in search of another ride. It’s the perfect soundtrack to any surf trek … whether you’re bound for A-Beach in Morro Bay or Trestles near Oceanside.
On the beach
The mix opens with Jack Johnson and helps establish the vibe. This track comes from the soundtrack to his 2000 surfing film “Thicker Than Water.”
Why: The track is reminiscent of “Pachelbel’s Canon,” which many brides and grooms choose to play when they begin their life journey together. Plus I just liked its tone.
2. “Tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I’m fine …”
Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn) from 1982’s “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” offers his insights about work vs. water time.
Why: Who thinks about that stack of papers in your inbox when you’re out for a session? At moments like that, with the sky above and the horizon in front, Spicoli isn’t the only person feeling fine.
3. Theme from “Endless Summer”
The Sandals (formerly The Sandells) from San Clemente will be forever remembered for this instrumental from Bruce Brown’s pioneering 1964 film. The group broke up a few years later, but reunited in 1994 to work on music for the film’s sequel.
Why: This track is key; the mellow instrumental shape the entire mix, foreshadowing what’s to come, like mackerel skies and mares’ tails signal blustery sailing ahead.
4. Surfin; Tragedy”
Bob Vaught & The Renegaids was another act that caught the ear of L.A. music producer Tony Hilder, who brought the surf sound to a host of indie Southern California labels in the early 1960s.
Why: I needed a bridge to the next track. This one segues nicely with a tempo that’s slightly faster than “Endless Summer.”
The Sentinals was a San Luis Obispo-based surf band that formed in 1961. Their Latin-influenced riffs and melodies (heard in this tune — which was a 1962 hit on the West Coast for this group of San Luis Obispo High School students) gave surf music a distinctive sound from other guitar-driven instrumentals of the era. Drummer Johnny Barbata would later go on to record with The Turtles, Jefferson Starship and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
Why: This was a must-have track because it was a hit by a SLO-based band. It provides a little slice of home as the surf trek moves south.
Paul Johnson, one of the pioneers of surf guitar, was a charter member of The Belairs when he was 14, and later The Surfaris.
Why: This song starts with a wave and a faster tempo and completes the mix introduction to the three “sets” that will follow.
7. “All I’m looking for is a smile.”
Dave Kalama is a big-wave surfer from Maui. This sound bite is from the 2003 documentary “Step Into Liquid.”
Why: Kalama rides gi-mungous waves (when they’re breaking), other days he’s like anybody else in search of The Stoke.
The Chantays recorded this landmark instrumental originally as a B-side under a different name (“Liberty’s Whip”) in late 1962, but renamed it after seeing one of Bruce Brown’s surfing films. “Pipeline” remains the group’s only hit — but what a hit!
Why: This classic is almost a cliché (it’s so familiar), but my goal was to season the unfamiliar with a few classics to, well, keep up the musical Stoke.
9. “Santimamineko Fandangoa”
Kepa Junkera is a folk music icon in the Basque region of Spain; he is known as an innovator on the diatonic accordion or “trikitixa.”
Why: This Basque accordion music segues pretty well. The guitar notes are reminiscent of something you might hear from Los Lobos. The accordion gives it a distinctive sweet edge that helps you get lost in the sound.
10. “Surf Jam”
Carl Wilson got his first songwriting credit for this instrumental that appeared on the Beach Boys’ 1963 release “Surfin’ USA. He was 16, and, no, he’s not the Wilson brother who surfed. (That was Dennis, who drowned, but that’s another story …)
Why: A short clip from “Gidget,” the Hollywood exploitation film that forever changed surfing, segues into this instrumental that the Beach Boys recorded near the height of the surf music craze.
11. “Beach Party”
This is the title track (from the 1964 movie of the same name) written by two songwriters who were frequent collaborators of Brian Wilson. Roger Christian co-wrote “Little Deuce Coup,” “Don’t Worry Baby” and “Shut Down.” Gary Usher, who discovered the comedy troupe The Firesign Theatre, co-wrote “409” and “In My Room.” In the movie, singer-star Annette Funicello heeded Walt Disney’s advice about protecting her image by appearing in a bikini that reached up to her navel.
Why: This is part of Hollywood’s homage to (silly) surfing — those awful flicks aimed at teens that drove surfers of the era crazy — but the song by the “Queen of the Beach” is peppy and, more importantly, over before it grows weary.
12. “Bongo Rock”
Oakland native Preston Ebbs scored a No. 14 pop hit in 1959 playing these skins. Epps learned to play bongos during the Korean War while stationed in Okinawa, Japan.
Why: It carries forward the beach party theme but steers the mix back to the instrumental vibe.
13. “Goofy Footer Hodad”
This 1963 single by Shean & Jenkins was recorded at the old RCA Hollywood studios at Sunset and Vine. A goofy foot is a surfer (or snowboarder) who rides with the right foot forward. Hodad is a guy who never goes in the water but acts and dresses as if he does.
Why: This track starts with a clip from Gerry (Mr. Pipeline) Lopez. I love the voiceovers on this tune and the sax solos. Hodad is said almost with contempt: “Rollover Hodad!”
In early 1964, The Pyramids’ composition peaked at No. 18 with this “Pipeline”-inspired instrumental. When the Long Beach group’s first single fizzled, the bassist studied the Chantays’ classic and came up with a variation of that opening reverb riff. Lead guitarist Will Glover stood out among surf bands. Glover, who is black, was also one of the few left-handed surf guitarists (so was Dick Dale). While other surf acts were left in the wake of the British invasion, The Pyramids fought back. They’d appear onstage wearing Beatles wigs that they’d whip off mid-song to reveal chrome domes (they’d shaved their heads in protest). Other gimmicks included arriving for gigs on elephants or in a helicopter. The group makes an appearance (along with Stevie Wonder) in the 1964 Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon movie “Bikini Beach.”
Why: This is another classic surfing track although not as well worn as “Pipeline.”
15. “Walk, Don’t Run” (Edit)
The Ventures, which formed in 1958 in Seattle, reached No. 2 on the pop charts in 1960 with this instrumental. Four years later, the group released an updated version, “Walk Don’t Run ’64,” which hit No. 8. The group also recorded additional versions in 1968, 1977, 1986 and 2000.
Why: I’m pushing my luck by following one well-known track with an even better-known one. But this edit (from a medley) is short enough to offer a sample of how sweet The Ventures were (and continue to be). It’s the end of my first set, “Paddling Out.”
16. “Surfin’ and Swingin’ ”
Les Brown Jr. got his start playing as a teen in his dad’s famous Band of Renown. Junior cut this track for his 1962 album “Wildest Drums Yet!” In 2001, the one-time TV actor (“Gunsmoke,” “General Hospital” and “Gilligan’s Island”) became the full-time leader of the Band of Renown, which is based in Branson, Mo.
Why: The drum is front and center in this release by a young guy who had it all — good looks, talent, a famous (and presumably rich) old man — and doing what he loved. It and the next track are part of the transition to the next, more soulful set.
17. “Surf Age”
Jerry Cole (& his Spacemen) was a member of The Champs, whose initial single “Tequila” sold a million 45s and won a Grammy in 1958. Along with Cole, other Champs alums include Glenn Campbell, and Sash Crofts and Jimmy Seals (Seals and Crofts). “Surf Age” is from the 1964 album of the same name, which includes “Martian Surf,” “Rosarita Surf,” “Movin’ Surf,” “Power Surf” and “Deep Surf.”
Why: The drums on this track segue nicely. Also, the horn section will help foreshadow what is to come.
18. “Holes in Heaven”
Jack Johnson, the surfer-turned-filmmaker-turned musician, wrote this song about a trip to Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India to film (and surf) for his surfing documentary “Thicker than Water.”
Why: It’s one of my favorite Johnson tunes, with a great vibe to start the “Soul Surfing” set. The track segues into a clip describing how surfers also find solace and inspiration from watching waves break.
19. “Soothe Me”
Sam (Moore) and Dave (Prater) took this cover of a Sam Cooke tune to No. 16 on the 1967 R&B charts. Dan Aykroyd recalls that “Soothe Me” was “the first rhythm and blues song I heard. I just turned 14 years old and was at Expo ’67 in Montreal, where I saw Sam & Dave in concert,” he told a reporter. “And I went away not being able to think of anything else.”
Why: It helps establish the tone of soul set by one of R&B’s most dynamic duets. Plus, the song lives up to its soothing title.
20. “Mr. Moto”
Just what is the first official surf record, “Mr. Moto” or Dick Dale’s “Let’s Go Trippin’ ”? The Belairs’ tune, penned by then 14-year-old Paul Johnson, was recorded and released before Dale’s tune, but it “sat there for months before it got on the radio,” Johnson later told a reporter. Dale’s tune charted first and thus is credited by many as being the first in the surf genre. Johnson said the tune is based on the mild-mannered Japanese detective of the same name (played by Peter Lorre) in a 1930s film series, adding that he “stole the entire chorus from a guitar solo from “Hot Rod Lincoln.” The Belairs took their name from the 1955 Chevy owned by the sax player.
Why: This classic keeps the mix swimming through the whitewater to the soulful outside.
21. “Soul Beat Part II”
Jim Waller formed The Deltas in 1961 while attending Fresno State. It was one of the few keyboard-oriented surf bands. The group disbanded six years later during a yearlong gig at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. Waller later directed stage bands at Santa Barbara Community College for a year while completing his music degree at UCSB.
Why: This song includes something different: Waller’s Hammond organ takes command. And at one point in the song the band screams: “From the soul …” Yeah baby!
22. “Pachuko Soul”
Producer Tony Hilder called nonsurfing Soul Kings the No. 1 exponents of the soul beat. The group was based in Delano.
Why: This segues well and shreds with its funky skip-to-it beat and powerful trumpet and sax solos.
23. “Watermelon Man”
In 1957, members of the Lamplighters from Delano joined up with members of rivals the Rhythm Aces, from Tulare, to form a new pachuco surf-and-soul combo called Al Garcia and the Rhythm Kings. This cover of the 1962 Herbie Hancock composition was recorded live in March 1963 during a battle of the bands at the Santa Monica Pier. The group won. The hipster introduction is by surf producer Tony Hilder.
Why: The horn section drives this baby, giving the listener a nice break from pulsing Fender reverb.
24. “Delano Soul Beat”
A soulful tune from Kern County’s Surf City — that county’s second largest city, better known for table grapes than its beach break.
Why: After the crazed intro (“It’s soul time. Let’s make it on over to the soul house”), we plunge back (with pachuco gusto) into more soulful reverb guitar.
25. “Soul Man”
This classic (considered by many to be an anthem for the black consciousness and black pride movements at the time) was No. 1 on the R&B charts in 1967 for Sam & Dave. Twenty-five years later the pair was inducted into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Dan “Elwood Blues” Aykroyd said that without the singers, known as the “Dynamic Duo” for their rousing performances, “there never would have been a Jake and Elwood.” The exclamation “Play it, Steve” heard in the song refers to guitarist Steve Cropper, a member of Booker T. & the M.G.’s and The Blues Brothers Band. Cropper co-wrote “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay” with Otis Redding.
Why: This is a fitting cap to the soul set. Some people surf for The Stoke; some surf for the soul; some do both.
This rockabilly tune has been a favorite of advertisers (Vonnage and Chevrolet). It was first recorded in 1959 by West Viginia-based Rock-A-Teens who, according to Cub Koda of Goldmine Magazine, “could barely play their way out of a paper bag. … Check out that wackoid (Gene) Krupa solo, complete with cowbell licks. Check out that meaningless acoustic guitar solo. Check out that blood-curdlin’ rebel yell right before the ‘woo-hoos’ start comin’ on. … Hey, we’re talking about one of the great, truly stupid records of all time.”
Why: This track starts with a (“Gnarly!”) clip from surfer Jeff Spicoli that segues into this admittedly goofy instrumental recorded before there even was a surf music genre. It’s got everything and the kitchen sink in a breath over 2 minutes and sets the mix up for the third set.
27. “Wipe Out”
The Glendora-based Surfaris needed a B-side for their “Surfer Joe” during a 1963 recording session (which cost $13 at a studio owned by Frank Zappa). The group created the song almost on the spot at Pal Recording Studio in Cucamonga, jamming for a half-hour before recording it in two takes. The sound of the cracking surfboard at the song’s intro is a 2-by-4 breaking. It’s followed by the manic voice of the band’s manager, Dale Smallen, who says: “Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha, wipe out.” By August of 1963, “Wipe Out” had become a million seller, and rose to No. 2 on the Billboard charts; “Surfer Joe” eventually reached No. 62.
Why: This classic goes from goofy to rockin’ in 15 seconds! It’s a classic that segues nicely and is a complete change of direction from the soul section to the final set titled “The Stoke.”
Link Wray (& his Wraymen) pioneered a new sound for electric guitars in the 1958 instrumental “Rumble,” which sold 4 million copies and inspired a generation of guitar players including Pete Townsend of The Who. Before “Rumble,” electric guitars produced clean sounds and jazz chords. Wray led the ragged way, achieving the sound by deliberately punching holes in his amplifier speakers. “Raw-Hide,” released in 1959, was another hit that sold 1 million records.
Why: The three Rs (1950s raw, ragged and straight-ahead reverb)!
29. “Storm Surf”
The Surfaris claim that this was their last surf tune as they were transitioning from surf instrumentals toward a folk-rock style in the late 1960s.
Why: This track tones down the reverb a bit and lets you catch your breath just in time for a …
30. “Tidal Wave”
Los Angeles-based SlackTone formed in 1995 and is made up of surf band veterans. They describe their music, which has been featured on the WB’s “Summerland,” “MTV Real People” and Fox Sports Network, as “a hyper-kinetic mix of melody, speed and jaw-dropping technical skill.”
Why: More reverb guitar action and a pounding drum beat with a solo that makes you feel like you’ve just gone over the falls and were pounded in a washing machine. The turnaround at the end sets up the showstopper tune that follows.
31. “The Lonely Surfer”
Jack Nitzsche gained a name working as an arranger on some of Phil Spector’s greatest productions. (He also worked with such recording artists as the Rolling Stones, Marianne Faithfull, The Monkees, Neil Young and Graham Parsons.) Nitzsche was also an occasional recording artist in the 1960s and early ’70s. “The Lonely Surfer” peaked at No. 39 in September 1963. “(It) was not surf music in the classic sense,” wrote rock critic Richie Unterberger. “It was something like an appropriate soundtrack theme to a surf documentary, the low, reverberating bass lines setting the mood for shots of building and ebbing waves, enhanced by soaring strings and Latin-influenced horns with an epic sweep.” Session players included Leon Russell on piano, and David Gates (later of the soft-rock group Bread) on bass.
Why: This tune really is more epic in nature with a wall of sound (French horns and strings!) to marvel at.
The term stoked (happy, excited or contented) sums up what surfing is all about. The Beach Boys, inducted into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, have been fanning the stoke since 1961. This instrumental is found on the “Surfin’ Safari/Surfin’ USA” CD re-release.
Why: This track (prefaced by a clip from a Lake Michigan surfer from Sheboygan, Wis.) expresses what all wave riders crave — the buzz that keeps them coming back for more. It also marks the cap for the third set.
33. “Do It Again”
This song, written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love, was released first as a single in 1968. The hammering sounds at the end of the song were from the “Smile” sessions recorded two years before. The lyrics reportedly were inspired by a day Love spent surfing with a friend.
Why: Every session ends. But who doesn’t want to remember the good times?
34. “A better ride tomorrow …”
Why: Pete “PT” Townend, the 1976 Surfing World Champion, sums up the hopes of all watermen and waterwomen on this sound bite from Dana Brown’s “Step Into Liquid.”
35. “Endless Summer II”
Why: Gary Hoey covered The Sandals ’60s classic and brings the mix full circle.
36. “The Wave”
This is a mix of sound bites from a collection of movies (“Step Into Liquid” and “Ride the Wild Surf”) and sound effects.
Why: The hope of any session is big (or big enough) waves. In the film the tube of this wave could contain a two-story mansion. On this rolling hill of thunder, a lone surfer (big-wave rider Laird Hamilton) catches the ride of a lifetime.
37. “Donny … was one of us …”
Why: This eulogy for Theodore Donald “Donny” Kerabatsos (Steve Buscemi) by Walter Sobchak (John Goodman) in 1998’s “The Big Lebowski” pays homage to surfing, from Pismo Beach to La Jolla.
38. “In the Sun”
Blondie released this song in 1977. It takes us out on a hopeful note (after Donny’s untimely demise) from Debbie Harry’s opening scream (“Surf’s Up!”) to her closing refrains that ask: “Where is my wave?”
— Jay Thompson
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