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SurfGuitar101 Forums » Surf Music General Discussion »

Permalink EXCELLENT new article on the current surf music scene!

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I always got a kick out of the pompous three chord blues artist asses that play a solo "different" every time. I've played with a few of them and when it came time to play an instrumental with a definite melody note for note, they were lost. I'd usually get the "I'm an artist" hot air excuse and "who wants to hear instros" static. I'd tell them I wanted to as their three chord blues crap was getting rather boring after 5-6 tunes.

But - All types to make a guitar world, I gather.
J Mo'

Loved the article and am glad to know that Surf still gets a bit of ink, from time to time. A few random thoughts:

The Beatles were a seismic event, both musically and culturally. They probably hastened the demise of Surf to some degree, but it’s not so cut and dried.

For the record, I was born in 1954, but having a sister 8 years older than I exposed me to a lot of music in real time. I remember the Everly Brothers, Alley Oop and even Blueberry Hill. I can remember when Chubby Checker’s material was all the rage.

The Beach Boys and Jan & Dean were new and exciting and the Surf instrumentals went hand in hand with that scene, at least to the best of my recollection. I have distinct memories of the summer on 1963 and the two vocal groups mentioned above were all over the airwaves. Then came November 22 and even at nine years old, I was stunned. It was like American pop culture had slammed on its brakes. Our entire sense of nation had been rocked to the core.

Then came Feb 9, 1964, and everything rebooted. The Beach Boys were still there, although starting to move away from the Surf and automotive themes. By the summer of 1964, music was measured against the Beatles. I don’t know that they killed Surf music; I think it’s more that everyone was recovering from Kennedy and something new and different was just what the marketplace ordered.

I can’t think of a better word for what happened than a reboot, but Surf wasn’t exactly dead. The Surf culture persisted, but it wasn’t hitting the Top 40 anymore.

This forum is pretty much about instrumental Surf Music, if you were to ask people my sister’s age about Surf Music, you’d probably hear more about The Beach Boys and Jan & Dean. Instrumental Surf was known and appreciated, but it probably got more airplay due to the boost it got from the vocal bands that sang about surfing and cars. The Ventures were a steady source of Instrumental Rock and to the casual listener it probably all seemed part of the same phenomenon.

Hey, it was a great time to turn on the radio. I loved that music and, even as a child I had a true passion for all of it. I still feel a twinge of nostalgia when I remember The Little Old Lady From Pasadena. The Beach Boys were obviously something very special too. I can’t help but feel that the whole musical scene of 1962-1963 was tightly enmeshed. Nobody was thinking genres, we were too busy enjoying all of it.

Then the Beatles came along and we embraced that as well. In all honesty, it seemed like a natural progression from the music of 1963. Surfing and street racing weren’t part of the Brit-Rock scene, but they had some great “boy meets girl” songs and a bLues sensibility that could not be denied. They also advanced the art of Folk Rock and helped to open the door for that genre.

I don’t think that American music fled Surf so much as it rushed to emulate the Beatles. If you’ve ever seen the movie “That Thing You Do” you will have a pretty good glimpse of the zeitgeist in mid 1964.

But there’s another aspect to this as well, and that is the fact that while hardcore, Dick Dale style Surf was pretty much forgotten by the mid sixties, there were still any number of recordings being made which utilized the basic instrumental Surf instrumentation, albeit at a slightly lower energy level. The Ventures, and innumerable copycat bands, still were receiving airplay and that sound was filtering into what we today would think of as adult contemporary music. Add in the fact that Buck Owens all but owned the top spot on the Country charts and there was still a lot of reverb drenched twang modulating over the AM HF band.

I would say that Surf didn’t so much die as it was a case of mutual assimilation. It was subsumed by follow ons in Pop and Top 40, but it also influenced Pop and Top 40 through out the sixties and into the seventies. I present as Exhibit A, the Doors Riders On the Storm. The world of psychedelic music had some Surf DNA.

Music changes, it redefines itself and it takes on different identities, but for my two bits, I’m just glad that people still appreciate the sound of clean guitars and reverb.

The artist formerly known as: Synchro

When Surf Guitar is outlawed only outlaws will play Surf Guitar.
My Guitar WebSite
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JohnnyMosrite wrote:

I always got a kick out of the pompous three chord blues artist asses that play a solo "different" every time. I've played with a few of them and when it came time to play an instrumental with a definite melody note for note, they were lost. I'd usually get the "I'm an artist" hot air excuse and "who wants to hear instros" static. I'd tell them I wanted to as their three chord blues crap was getting rather boring after 5-6 tunes.

But - All types to make a guitar world, I gather.
J Mo'

I couldn’t agree more. Well played electric Blues is fine by me, but for a while there, anyone with an overdriven amp and a few sloppy Blues chops could find airplay.

The artist formerly known as: Synchro

When Surf Guitar is outlawed only outlaws will play Surf Guitar.
My Guitar WebSite
Dead Thread

Squid and IvanP wrote:

By the way...the Showtime Cable TV documentary special about Eric Clapton shows him referring to the Shadows' guitar playing as simple in comparison to his. That had me rolling on the floor laughing at Clapton's illusions.

Actually, it wasn't Clapton that said that in that documentary- it was Roger Waters of Pink Floyd._

I saw that documentary on TV here in England about three months ago. I can confirm that it was Roger Waters who said that. I can't remember his exact words, but it was something like: "Before Clapton, all we had in the UK was Hank Marvin - very simple, very little technique." I had a bit of a chuckle about that one myself.

Synchro, your "few random thoughts" are one of the best posts I've read on this site: insightful, to the point, and clearly very heartfelt. I think you really hit the nail on the head with "I would say that Surf didn’t so much die as it was a case of mutual assimilation." I totally agree that you can hear traces of surf and other instrumental music (e.g. The Shadows, the work of spaghetti western composer Ennio Morricone) in much of the Western pop music of the 1960s and 1970s. "Riders on the Storm" (which, instrumentally at least, is clearly the illegitimate love child of "Ghost Riders in the Sky" and "Pipeline") is a really good example, but I think you can hear the influence of surf all over the music of The Doors. And as far as pop music on this side of the pond is concerned, whenever I listen to Syd Barrett's guitar work on "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn", the first Pink Floyd LP, the image I always have in my mind is of a kind of Hank Marvin on acid - which makes Roger Water's comment quoted above doubly ironic. I think a lot of British guitarists of that generation owed a lot more to the Shadows and Ventures in particular than they were prepared to admit.

Anyway, thanks again for a terrific post.

Last edited: Oct 14, 2018 15:47:35

I find it amazing that Waters would choose to say such a thing. Hank Marvin is technique personified. Some of the things I’ve seen him explain remind me of Johnny Smith, the great Jazz player and one of the standard bearers of impeccable technique.

I had the privilege of studying guitar with a fellow that was very technique oriented and came away from that experience with the opinion that Rock n’ Roll guitar is a branch of guitar technique which springs from both Country and Blues techniques. A classically trained player will have to learn an entirely new approach in order to play Rock oriented material.

But Hank Marvin holds a unique place in the Cosmos. He was in the game early enough to have been part of the development of the techniques we still use today. He thought out what he did and chose his fingerings carefully. The Hank Marvin Alone instructional video is filled with interesting examples of his approach. I just can’t imagine how anyone could think he has “very little technique”.

Things did change when distortion came to rule the day, but I don’t think that it was always a good change. A player capable of sounding good clean will sound good distorted, but someone that uses distortion all the time may find clean playing to be a bit of a challenge. Distortion can mask choppy technique.

The artist formerly known as: Synchro

When Surf Guitar is outlawed only outlaws will play Surf Guitar.
My Guitar WebSite
Dead Thread

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Always good to see an article like this. It was really interesting to see APSMF and the whole scene through someone else's eyes.
There also seemed to be more mainstream articles about this year's SG101 Convention from more mainstream press in SoCal. Personally, I think this marks one of the biggest years for the genre in a long time, as far as popularity goes. I was also delighted to see more of a younger crowd (early 20s) showing up at our shows on both coasts this year!

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Last edited: Oct 14, 2018 13:01:47

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