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SurfGuitar101 Forums » Surf Music General Discussion »

Permalink The story behind "Cecilia Ann"

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I found this on the Steve Hoffman forum. It's Steve's own account of the making/faking of this great surf tune and how it became an inadvertent classic:
Steve Hoffman:
"15 people have asked me today for some reason about CECILIA ANN and if I wrote it..

Yes, it is true. I wrote this song with Charles "Frosty" Horton and we played it as The Surftones on record. Then the Pixies heard it and asked if they could cover it as the opening song for their Bossanova record. (They sampled me kicking the Fender Twin amp at the start).

Update: 9.21.16: The Story of Cecilia Ann.

When I worked at DCC Compact Classics, Marshall gave me one CD a year. In other words, I got to release an album on CD that we knew would lose money but was still neat anyway (He was good that way, still is.) One year he let me do Chris Montez Greatest Hits (which actually made money) and in 1989 he let me do a Surf compilation mainly because I was crazy about a song that was at Wenzel's Music Town called "Inertia" by the Hustlers.

I wanted to find more like that and release a surf music disk. Our sales manager HATED the music, hated the idea, hated me. But, Marshall let me do it. I mean, there was a budget for artwork, mastering, manufacturing, etc. He knew it wouldn't sell but he liked the music as well.

So, I compiled the disk but was feeling that we needed a good kick off (truly, and I kicked my amp) song. I couldn't find one, so, I decided to create one, make it seem like a long lost song, gave a fake band name, old record label, etc. and just put in as the starting song on SURF LEGENDS (And Rumors). To make the album stronger, and, well, because I could.

Charles "Frosty" Horton, the new age music guru was in the next office and we were talking about how to do this. We decided to write a song, Frosty could play a convincing Surf lead and we could use my Sony TC-788 four channel tape deck to do it. I only had two microphones and that was all that was needed. So we overdubbed.

At any rate, one night at my apartment on Riverside and Longridge in Sherman Oaks Frosty came over after work and we started.

Now, I had a deal with my landlord, my oldies band could practice in my apartment every Tuesday night for two hours, FULL BLAST and the neighbors couldn't complain (it was in their lease agreement that we were doing this). The trade off was that I was the acting landlord when the real one went on vacation (which was often.)

So, on a Tuesday night, I got Jeff Traintime's Fender black face Twin (with JBL speakers), Frosty brought over his Fender bass and I pulled out my G&L beater strat-like guitar and we started in, without a clue in the world what to write.

My drums were already in the living room, I put a mic near the snare, the other mic on the Fender amp and Frosty and I sat on the couch and tried to write an old style surf song. Wasn't working. Frosty's wife brought pizza and after our second slice, Frosty had a brainstorm. He thought of a little melody fragment by Gabriel Fauré' that he liked and he played it for me. It was good but we changed the notes around, and progressed. I took a yellow legal page and knocked out the chords (I still have the page) as Frosty played his new melody. We liked it. We called it CECILIA ANN, a joke; a rough translation of Faure's little ditty from French to English.

So, around 9 pm, I turned on the tape recorder, got on the drums, Frosty on the bass and we both stared at the yellow paper and knocked out the basic track (drums/bass guitar) in one take! That was the easy part. The rest of the night we overdubbed Frosty's lead line. At midnight we stopped, he did an OK take, a few flubs (even better, we sounded like teenagers) and left it.

In the morning, instead of going to work, I recorded the rhythm guitar part on my 1965 Fender Strat. Then, I mixed it, OLD SCHOOL style right on to my Tascam DAT machine, really vintage style, nothing in the middle. Twin-track, like those old small studio Surf songs. Frosty never heard it until I played it for him at work that afternoon. He liked it, thought it made a worthy Surf Song..

So, I decided to slip it on the disk as the opening track. The next night I figured out an intro opening for the song to punch it up a bit. I turned on the recorder, kicked the reverb chamber and strummed a chord, using the wang bar, spliced it on the four channel tape right at the start, remixed and that was it. The opening song for SURF LEGENDS! It was perfect, and we went right into the second song, Inertia by the Hustlers which was ALSO twin track, same mixing style. Excellent.

Now, let's be clear here. We didn't charge DCC Compact Classics any money to license the song, we just gave it to them for free. never published the song, never charged royalties, never put our names on it (written by THE SURFTONES), it was a freebie for the good of the album. Nothing else. Just wanted a good, strong, memorable first song to get the album going.

I mastered it at Location Recording Service in Burbank with Kevin Gray.

The album was released, sold initially around 10 copies in the USA (as predicted by our sales manager), but in the UK and around the world it sold a LOT more. Surf music is very popular overseas (so we discovered). Our sales manager still hated me but he eventually did order a repress (after we sold 10,000, mostly imported.)

So, a long time passed. The Pixies heard the song while on tour in the UK and recorded it. Their manager found us through the address on the back of the disk. So, Frosty hurried out and registered the song, got it published and the next thing we knew it was the opening track on the new Pixies album "Bossanova!" Holy crapola.

That's how I became a BMI writer. One song.

Then, it was chosen for the opening title credit music for a great 1995 film called "Kicking And Screaming" and not the Pixies version, OUR version, up on the big screen. So cool, and then the Pixie's box set on Elektra, and then, and then, and then... The gift that kept on giving.

Now, several other songs off of SURF LEGENDS were noticed, one, by the Pastel Six was licensed for use on that show with Johnny Depp, 12 Jump Street or whatever it was called.

And of course, The Revels COMMANCHE was pulled from it and featured in PULP FICTION in the Gimp scenes.

So, that's the story, forgive the length of it, but I thought you'd find it interesting..

Frosty and I were delighted, of course. Thing is only today we discovered that the song has gone deep into YouTube, inspiring musicians of all types to give it a try. It's quite flattering. The first link is our original, then the Pixies and then a bunch of intense strangers trying it. Gotta love 'em. Feels weird that a song we wrote as a lark is now so ingrained in the pop culture and judging by the size of our royalty checks, this is happening all over the world. Bitchin'."

Last edited: Jan 08, 2018 14:29:34

We had some discussion about that a long time ago, but it's nice to see it again because the original link here needs a login or something.

Site dude - S3 Agent #202
Need help with the site? SG101 FAQ - Send me a private message - Email me

"It starts... when it begins" -- Ralf Kilauea

Lots of new background information there. It's an amazing story. Old or new, Cecilia Ann is a great addition to the canon. That comp was one of the first I bought when I got into surf music. I thought it fit seamlessly with the vintage tracks. Never questioned it until the cat was out of the bag some years ago. Some here with better ears claimed to know there was something modern sounding about it (in the bass I think?). I love the Pixies version as well.

one of my favs

This pretty much sums up our genre since 1965:

I wanted to... release a surf music disk. Our sales manager HATED the music, hated the idea, hated me.


The Madeira Official Website
The Madeira on Facebook
The Blair-Pongracic Band on Facebook
The Space Cossacks on Facebook
The Madeira Channel on YouTube

Ha-ha, yes!

Site dude - S3 Agent #202
Need help with the site? SG101 FAQ - Send me a private message - Email me

"It starts... when it begins" -- Ralf Kilauea

Besides Cecilia Ann, this compilation was SO important to me when I picked it up in 1990 or 91, as far as exposing me to the "real" surf beyond Dick Dale, The Chantays, The Surfaris and the other "big name' artists of surf. I remember I almost didn't buy it based on the cover art of an 80s Spicoli style surfer. I'm glad I did, because it introduced me to The Hustlers, The Rumblers, The Blazers and many other bands that were so crucial!


The "Surf Legends (and Rumors)" CD is the only collection of old garage-y surf guitar songs I've bought and enjoyed enough to listen to repeatedly. I have the original Garland label CD from 1988 I bought new, probably between 1989 and 1993. It still sits on my rack of favorite instro CDs.

I bought it because I liked "Boss" by The Rumblers and I hoped other songs on the 26-song CD would be as good. I already had the Chantays' Pipeline on LP. Somehow, Cecilia Ann leading off makes the whole CD sound better. Echoes of it linger through the other songs.

The Insanitizers!

Last edited: Jan 12, 2018 18:07:17

Mine is the original issue with Pipeline on it taken from the actual master. (Apparently the original Dot pressing was done from a dub.)
The later issue of the comp substitutes "Intoxica" when the license for Pipeline ran out (according to Steve Hoffman).

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