Posted on Oct 13 2018 10:37 PM
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.
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