In an article profiling Kate Bosworth’s new surfing movie Blue Crush, this month’s Interview Magazine gives a list of 10 Great Surf Songs. Well, just for the record we’d like to present our view of the 10 Greatest Surf Songs, Ever! With deepest apologies to Interview Magazine, of course...
1) Mr. Moto – The Belairs (1961)
Taking their name from the sax player’s car, this group of South Bay, LA high school students produced one of surf music’s pivotal recordings in the summer of ’61. Paul Johnson’s rhythmic minor key strumming style completely masks the fact that this song was recorded with only drums, sax, lead and rhythm guitars -no bass.
2) Latin’ia – The Sentinals (1962)
Formed in San Luis Obispo, California, The Sentinals produced this beautiful Spanish melody portraying surf music’s solitary and sometimes haunting sound. Next time you’re watching an E! Channel segment having anything to do with beaches, babes, or surfing, you’ll most likely hear this song in the background.
3) Miserlou – Dick Dale & The Del-Tones (1962)
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to drive a nail through your own head, this tune will give you a general idea. Dick Dale got his start at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Newport Beach, California and the ripping guitar riffs coming out of his Fender amp soon filled the Southern California airwaves with a frenzied new sound that came to be known as surf music. Known for the last forty years as the “King of the Surf Guitars,” Dick Dale’s hammering Miserlou was most recently used as the title tune for Quentin Tarantino’s warpo masterpiece, Pulp Fiction. (Leo Fender designed the world famous Fender Dual Showman amp especially for Dick Dale’s live performances at the Rendezvous Ballroom)
4) Pipeline – The Chantays (1963)
In the mid-sixties, every kid above the age of zero could play Pipeline’s haunting four-note backdrop. Pipeline, along with The Ventures’ Walk Don’t Run and Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Good, probably inspired more budding guitar players over the next thirty years than any other songs in the history of rock.
5) Wipe Out – The Surfaris (1962) (long version, of course)
Conceived on the spot as a flip-side filler tune for the groups freshly recorded Surfer Joe, Wipe Out is surf music’s most recognizable song. Wipe Out / Surfer Joe went on to become a double-sided national hit—not bad for a group of 15-year olds from Glendora, California. (The cracking sound during the opening was supposed to represent the sound of a surf board smashing into a thousand pieces)
6) Surf Rider – The Lively Ones (1962)
Given their name by KFWB disc-jockey Gene Weed after a hot on-stage performance featuring the group’s gorgeous twin blonde female singers, The Lively Ones recorded the instrumental Surf Rider as a knock-off of The Ventures’ Spudnik. The song was most recently used during the closing credits of Pulp Fiction.
7) Surfer Girl – The Beach Boys (1963)
Man does not live by surf alone.
8) Surfin’ On Heroin – Forgotten Rebels (1983)
Life on the beach isn’t always sun and fun, as evidenced by the line “I’m swimming in a sea of puke.” Catchy tune, though.
9) Bombora – The Surfaris (1963)
Heavy reverb, blown notes and all, Bombora is the one song that best portrays the frantic exuberance of youthful sexuality in the early 1960s. Matching blazers, skin-tight high-water pants, bushy blonde hair and some serious whammy bar action, the Surfaris’ beyond-live Bombora is one of surf music’s hardest driving instrumentals.
10) Surf City – Jan & Dean (1963)
Recognize the high voice in the background? It’s Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys singing along with friends Jan Berry and Dean Torrance on surf music’s national anthem of cars, girls and the eternal summer of youth—a song that heralded both the pinnacle and the beginning of the end for the last truly American pop phenomenon—surf music.
If only the world could remain seventeen forever…