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SurfGuitar101 Forums » Best-Of SG101 »

Permalink The Spaghetti Western Thread

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Get Three Coffins Ready (G3CR), see

http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=11066909&MyToken=6d9f89e2-6ff9-453c-92ef-e9706057627d

claim to be Spaghetti Western oriented. This is true enough, but there are other elements of their sound.

I guess Action on their MySpace page is the best example easily accessible. On their CD I suppose Theme to Van Cleef and The Gallows show the traces most.

On the whole, their stuff reminds me more of Man ... Or Astroman? or maybe the darker side of Monster Pete & the Chiefs than Morricone. Or Planet Seven, if the Hell Guitar were to scrag the Heaven Guitar in the alley before the show. However, there is a definite whiff of marinara there.

Is there such a thing as "B Movie Surf"?

I don't know about Spaghetti western music per se, but a lot of surf music sounds to me like it's heavily influenced by "Western" music. I mean "Western" like "Cowboy Songs" as in the Western part of Country & Western.

This sticks out particularly in the work of the Ventures (_Diamond Head_), the Astronauts (_Pipeline_ aka Liberty's Whip), the Torquays (_Rescue at Mavericks_, Overdrawn at Cortez Bank), the Chantays (_Riders in the Sky_), the Bone Sharks (_Captain Wave_), King of Hawaii (_Dead Highway_, Western), the Nebulas (_Tuco's Lament_, Vendetta), Space Cossacks (_Mir Rescue_, Tsunami Tsurprise) and so on, all sound to me quintessentially like "cowboy movie" music. Half of them are even titled for it. Understand that in some cases here I'm just putting the mouse down in the collection at random, not necessarily picking the best examples.

To give another example, Slacktone's Saga . The title kind of says it all.

I may be way off on what these folks - with a nod to those present - were thinking, of course, but I think they were all writing theme music for the imaginary western.

There is a problem here, which is that I have no idea how to define what I mean by "Western" music, except that maybe barring instrumentation it would fit behind some scene in a western, mostly John Wayne and company galloping into the sunset or the wagon train winding across the plains.

I think part of it is the selection of melodies - more in the Northern European tradition - not bluesy - and part of it is the rhythm. I ask myself, does it have a horse's gait to it? 123 444, 123 444 or 1 234, 1 234, and so on. I think there's also a charged quality to the presentation, too, as if something of particular significance was being played out. This is not a simple act - it's destiny, it's fulfilment. The right person is doing the right thing; the doomed person is meeting their fate. Good qualities for cowboy movie soundtracks.

I suspect this is a part of the genre that appeals particularly to males. It occurs to me that there aren't many love songs in surf. Mostly the themes are heroic behavior, danger, exotic places. And I've noticed that in the annals of surf music we don't hear so much about young women swooning over the players as of admiring young men studying their playing. In short, the musicians seem to be admired more as role models than love objects.

So, surf music - the sound track of machismo?

Mavericks and Cortez Bank are surfing spots...and I'm afraid I don't hear the Spag. Western feel in a lot of those songs you cite (Diamond Head...Pipeline...Space Cossacks?). However a lot of surf songs do have soundtrack-like qualities to them.

If you don't have the Hellbenders disc, pick it up. It has Western branded all over it. The drum beat, the sand blasted twang of the guitars, Morricone covers (!), and the vocal tunes are very fitting. Since I grew up watching westerns on TV with my Dad, the music hits a sweet spot for me.

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

MoonDawg_
Sorry I missed this thread on the first go-round. Let's see, what can I add? All the current spaghetti-surf bands have been mentioned.

Everything I know about Morricone is on this page, graciously hosted by Ferenc: http://www.pollodelmar.com/mart/morricone/index.html

My reviews of a bunch of spaghetti soundtracks are on this page, graciously hosted by Jon Deadman: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/jon.fagg/Dawg.htm.

There's a current British band called Spaghetti West, but there stuff is more atmospheric than surf-like.

In addition, people might like to check out my current band, Los Fantasticos http://www.myspace.com/losfantasticos, who have some spaghetti-ish stuff (try listening to the tracks Tilting At Windmills and Sergio).
I know this sounds like I'm blowing my own trumpet, but that actually Tim, not me, doing that!

HangNine Blog
Los Fantasticos
HangNine on Facebook
Los Fantasticos on Facebook

Ennio Morricone has been a big influence on El Capitan and thee Scallywags as well. Our lead guitarist James "The Scourge of the Silvertone" Freeman has penned several spaghetti western style tunes. We feature one on our myspace, "Pistols at Dawn," which is a demo we recorded in my basement a few weeks ago.

You can check it out at:

www.myspace.com/elcapitansurf

Jet

Great sounding Demos Jet,
let us know when we can buy something.....

Jeff(bigtikidude)

Jeff(bigtikidude)

We're still "learning" the songs ourselves. We've only had 2 gigs with our new bass player John "The Plunderer" McCrae, but we seem to be set for the long haul now. I'm deploying to SW Asia this spring (get ready for a new round of T-Shirt Tributes), so El Cap will be on a brief hiatus. We've talked about hitting a studio more formally sometime this fall. Til then, demos will have to suffice...

Jet

Take care out there Jet. Can you still check-in to the site while deployed?

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

Last year I could access the site from over there. "Social" sites are supposed to be off-limits, and many are blocked (ex, all myspace). We'll see if they've figured out SG101 yet. Of course I'm hopin' they haven't. No music/media downloads are authorized/possible.

Keep yer fingers crossed!

Jet

Brian
Mavericks and Cortez Bank are surfing spots...and I'm afraid I don't hear the Spag. Western feel in a lot of those songs you cite (Diamond Head...Pipeline...Space Cossacks?). However a lot of surf songs do have soundtrack-like qualities to them.

Right! Exactly! Soundtrack-like qualities!

I meant "Western" as in Country & <u>Western</u>. Country - originally called "hillbilly" music - has so swamped C&W, and rock-influenced pop has so swamped Country, that nobody really knows what Western music is anymore. I've sort of heard of it, at least, but I'm not really sure about what it is. Mostly I've run into it in pre-Spaghetti western movies. Oatmeal westerns?

I think Spaghetti Western music is just a souped up approach to Western music. I've always assumed there was a pretty direct influence of surf or at least instrumental rock on the Spaghetti sound tracks.

I don't claim that all surf music is "Western," of course, just that there's a broad streak of it that we don't usually notice today because Western music has more or less dropped off the charts, and because the surf approach to Western songs has become so integral a part of surf music that songs of this nature are not seen as "making a surf version of a Western song." We're more likely to hear a Western song and think they borrowed it from surf.

In fact, I'd say that the "native" material of suf music has basically four major branches or sub-genres - "Western" music (_Pipeline_), "Middle Eastern" music (_Misirlou_), "Moorish" music (_The Wedge_), and "R&B-based" (_Surf Beat_, Wipeout). There are a few minor sub-genres, too - "Mexican" songs, "Spy Music," etc.

I found a link on Western music at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_music_%28North_America%29.

Heck, I've just noticed that one of the artsts cited is called Riders in the Sky! It appears they were formed in 1977, but they do in fact perform Ghost Riders in the Sky ... with lyrics. I didn't even know it had lyrics. See http://www.amazon.com/Cowboy-Songs-Riders-Sky/dp/B000003OA9/sr=1-1/qid=1170908098/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/102-5702121-9028956?ie=UTF8&s=music. The tempo is not rock but the tune is real familiar.

As for the titles of the pieces I don't think it really affects my point if they are references to surfing places like the Cortez Bank, or don't consistently provide some sort of "Western" double entendre, e.g., Rescue at Mavericks and Saga ] do, but Diamond Head doesn't. It's clear that a lot of the titles do provide such a hint, but the decisive issue is the music itself, I think, not the titles. The titles do seem to hint that the artists in question are/were aware of the situation.

It's interesting that in some cases, songs contain covert hints at their Western origin, e.g., Pipeline was originally titled Liberty's Whip (as in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence), but was retitled to take advantage of the growing popularity of surf music.

Another example, it seems to me, would be the mysterious rasping noises (string scraping?) in Diamond Head. What's the story on that? Why such noises in Diamond Head? Yeah, they're cool, but why are they there? The sound of somebody polishing their surfboard?

Anyway, I think this all works out to be a pretty strong case, even though I'm so fundamentally ignorant of Western music that I didn't even know that Ghost Riders wasn't a Chantays original. My knowledge of Western music is pretty much limited to buzzwords, e.g., "Roy Rogers", "Gene Autry" and "John Wayne Movies." Most of these things I haven't heard since, well, since the 1960s. OK, John Wayne movies ..., but not Roy and Gene. They were in reruns then.

I can't be the only person who has noticed this. Unless, ... OK, I might be delusional.

The spaghetti western soundtracks are very much influenced by the 50s US westerns, Frankie Laine (Rest His Soul) stuff.
When the spag westerns were made in the early and mid 60s they used the guitar sound of that day, it really suited the atmosphere imo.

On western music, fredgermany compiled 2 nice dvds of western music scores on dimeadozen.org I know I made the artwork. Dunno if the torrents are dead or alive though...

image

Tuck - I'm sorry but I really don't hear a Western (spaghetti or not) influence in songs like Pipeline and the Torquays songs you mention. Those are clearly surf songs!

These songs we are talking about don't have lyrics, so it's kind of hard to say a certain song is "Western" influenced just because it has "Cowboy Hat", for example, in the title. I don't hear anything of the sort in that Slacktone song. Maybe Dave was out surfing and saw a cowboy hat floating in the water. Who knows. The song hardly says "yippee-kai-yay" to me. Confused It sounds clearly like a Slacktone song to me...not a nod to Western music. All IMHO of course.

Riders in the Sky goes back a long time...with lyrics..it is one of those Western songs you speak of. That song clearly supports your case as many surf bands covered it. (Was Dick Dale the first?) BTW - I saw the Hellbenders play this live...with vocals... Cool

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

Taken from New York Times (Feb. 4) review of concert by Ennio Morricone, the father of the "Spaghetti Western" music genre...

"If it’s odd that Mr. Morricone’s music for westerns, which constitutes less than 10 percent of his output, has been so fetishized, while his more overtly symphonic film music has been relatively ignored, it’s understandable from an American point of view. His scores for Sergio Leone westerns revolutionized the vocabulary of western movie music standardized by Hollywood.

His introduction of rock ’n’ roll guitar descended from surf music out of Duane Eddy was an American cultural export. And the resulting hybrid, a slightly cheesy mixture of rock ’n’ roll and European formality, created a dramatic tension that energized movie music around the world."

Lorne Greene had a great 45 disc back in the day: "Bonanza b/w Ringo"

image

Both were vocal/spoken word tracks...but, both are also ripe for the picking...in other words, they'd both make excellent spaghetti tunes:

"Ringo"

They lie in boot hills all through the west.
The outlaws, the gunslingers, the Billy the Kidds and worse.
Say a fella like the coward that shot Bill Hickok in the back.
Theres always one like that in every time of history.
Most of them were varmints, but every once in a while, in one of them,
there may have lived a man...

Spoken lyrics:

He lay face down in the desert sand
clutching a six gun in his hand
Shot from behind I thought he was dead
for under his heart was an once of lead
But a spark still burned so I used my knife
and late that night I saved the life of Ringo

I nursed him 'til the danger passed
the days went by he mended fast
and then from dawn 'til setting sun
he practiced with that deadly gun
and hour and hour I watched in awe
No human being could match the draw
of Ringo

One day we rode the mountain crest
and I went east and he went west
I took to law and wore a star
while he spread terror near and far
with lead and blood he gained such fame
all through the west they feared the name
of Ringo

I knew someday I'd face the test
which one of us would be the best
and sure enough the word came down
that he was holed up in the town
I left the posse out on the street
and I went in alone to meet
Ringo

They said my speed was next to none
but my lightning draw had just begun
when I heard a blast that stunned my wrist
The gun went flying from my fist
and I was looking down the bore
of the deadly 44
of Ringo

They say that was the only time
that anyone had seen him smile
He slowly lowered his gun and then
he said to me "We're even, friend."
And so at last I understood
that there was still a spark of good
in Ringo

I blocked the path of his retreat
he turned and stepped into the street
a dozen guns spit fire and lead-

A moment later
he lay dead

The town began to shout and cheer
Nowhere was there shed a tear
for Ringo

The story spread throughout the land
that I had beaten Ringo's hand
and it was just the years they say
that made me put my guns away
but on his grave they can't explain
the tarnished star above the name
of Ringo

Brian
Tuck - I'm sorry but I really don't hear a Western (spaghetti or not) influence in songs like Pipeline and the Torquays songs you mention. Those are clearly surf songs!

OK, first point - I hope I didn't imply these weren't surf songs! They are definitely surf songs. I'm just saying that I think a large subset of surf - but not all surf - is based on western music - cowboy songs. Commerical cowboy songs from this ... uh, the last ... century - not things hummed along the Chisholm trail.

It might help to point out a few songs that aren't the least bit western-influenced, as far as I can tell. I've mentioned Misirlou, and a few others already. I didn't mean to imply that they were surf or not surf in any degree, either. But for example, I'm pretty sure Malibu Run, Bulldog, Cheater Stomp, Church Key, etc., are not western. I say they were more rhythm & blues.

As far as the Chantay's Pipeline - I don't actually think of it instinctively as a western song, though it does have the galloping rhythm, but, e.g., the Cowabunga liner notes state that

The tune was originally called Liberty's Whip, inspired by the movie The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. However, after Spickard and Carman saw a Bruce Brown surfing film ... the tune was renamed.

I think I've read elsewhere that they specifically renamed it to attach it to the surf music phenomenon, i.e., before the renaming it wasn't so much a surf song named for something in a western movie as something else - a "pop" song alluding to movie. Tell me it doesn't sound a little bit like the Theme to Rawhide to you. The rhythm is different. The Theme is more of a canter. A very cool offshoot, if it is. I kind of like the original, too. Actually, I remember the TV show a bit.

Brian
These songs we are talking about don't have lyrics, so it's kind of hard to say a certain song is "Western" influenced just because it has "Cowboy Hat", for example, in the title.

I definitely didn't identify Saga (Of The Floating Cowboy Hat) as "western" based on the title. Sadly, without lyrics to guide me I tend to vague on titles until I check them. This song was "the western-sounding one" on Into the Blue Sparkle until I looked up the title and thought "Oh. Oops." Of course, I have no idea why the song has the name it has, or what Wronski was thinking of when he wrote and titled it. For me this song is "western" because of the rhythm of the lead guitar line and the melody. I'm a bit vague what it is about the meolody. Incidentally, off the top of my head this is pretty much it for "western" in the Slacktone repertoire, if you don't count Gung Ho for Don Ho. I also figured Hawaiian music was basically country swing with an added Hawaiian zing. (Damn, now I can never visit Hawaii.) Most of Slacktone's stuff sounds to me more like jazz.

Brian
The song hardly says "yippee-kai-yay" to me. Confused It sounds clearly like a Slacktone song to me...not a nod to Western music. All IMHO of course.

Yeah, the yippee-kai-yay git along little dogie strand in western music doesn't seem to be very prominent any of the surf stuff. Nothing really reminds me of The Streets of Laredo.

Brian
_Riders in the Sky_goes back a long time...with lyrics..it is one of those Western songs you speak of. That song clearly supports your case as many surf bands covered it. (Was Dick Dale the first?) BTW - I saw the Hellbenders play this live...with vocals... Cool

Riders is sort of a gift from my perspective, since it has a pedigree. However, you could easily argue that it was something different from the rest. And I admit that it is, of course - in the sense that it is something pulled in from real western music and not a western-esque creation that begins its existence in (or shortly before) the surf genre. In that respect it's like Malaguena as opposed to, say, Latinia.

I won't argue the Torquays' songs at this point, since clearly this is something you hear or don't hear and I don't feel I have a good grip on why I think I hear it when I do. Again, it's not really the titles. I noticed the pattern in blissful ignorance of the titles, as in most cases, but considered the titles (albeit double entendres) to suggest that the artists were aware of what they were doing. Actually, the Torquays are a very "western" sounding band generally, as far as I can tell.

Another clue, useful in the absence of more traditional lyrics is a shout of "ho" or "whup" or anything that might be construed as useful for driving cattle or managing a horse. Not sufficient in itself, of course, since these also occur in Dick Dale's Misirlou. This is why I wonder what the story is on the added sounds in Diamond Head.

Hey, dp - thanks for recalling Lorne Greene's single! I remember this one.

Hey Tuck,
I hear the Western Influence in Saga of a floating cowboy hat.

Jeff(bigtikidude)

Jeff(bigtikidude)

Yeah Brian, I think that's interesting that you don't hear "western" in "Saga..." because the whole western feel hit me right in the face just the first time I heard it. Hmmm Neat how we all enjoy, and even hear, songs differently.

I'd say that the Space Cossacks' "Mir Rescue" is definitely western influenced. Mark English wrote that one. It's got several western-like characteristics: the major-key melody which sounds kinda 'heroic' (in the style of many western movies from the '40s and '50s) as well as the horse-gallop-like rhythm, and, maybe even more importantly, the bass playing rhythmically-alternating (fourth notes?) root-fifth throughout the song. Like Pipeline. I think that's the bit that gives the country-and-western feel to some or many surf songs.

Ivan

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

One more thing: there was a big 'western' influence in early sixties British instrumentals. The Shadows had many western songs. Obviously, there's Apache. Then, their first EP was all western themes: Mustang, Shane, Shotgun, Giant (Shane and Giant being adaptations of movie themes). Their huge hit Wonderful Land has the same sweeping feel that many western themes had, and in fact the songwriter Jerry Lordan said in an interview he was thinking of 19th century America when writing that song. On the Shadows first LP there was Gonzales, which was clearly western influenced. Around the same time, there was the single The Savage b/w Peace Pipe. I'm sure there's more....

Joe Meek's answer to the Shadows, the Outlaws, released a concept album called Dream of the West, with a painting of an Indian village on the cover, and song titles such as: Rodeo, Smoke Signals, Ambush, Indian Brave, Tune For Short Cowboys (??!??). And most of their singles had that same theme: Valley of the Sioux, Sioux Serenade, Texan Spiritual, etc....

I think the heroic and melodic uptempo film scores of westerns of that time were a big influence on those early r&r instrumentals.

Ivan

PS On the US side of the big pond, there was Theme From The Black Saddle by the Revelairs, off the top of my head...

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

Thus spake Moon Dawg:

"Ennio Morricone reinvented western movie music with his score for A Fistful of Dollars in 1964. He discarded the symphonic and the noble (lush strings and brass) and brought in the folkloric and the grotesque: whistling, choral shouting, dissonant harmonica, lonesome trumpet, Jew's harp, ocarina, chimes. Most importantly - to those of us raised on rock and roll - he brought in the gnarly electric guitar."

"At Leone's request, Morricone arranged the main Fistful theme with elements (whip cracks, bells, hammers, flutes, vocal chorus, and electric guitar) that he had previously used on a 1962 folk-pop single (for Peter Tevis, who was the vocalist on Gunfight at Red Sands and Guns Don't Argue, singing Woody Guthrie's "Pastures of Plenty"). Possible influences on the decision to feature electric guitar are many. The American Duane Eddy had famously recorded western themes on his trademark "twangy" guitar in the late 1950s. British instrumental bands the Shadows and the Outlaws followed suit in the early 60s. We don't know whether any of those recordings ever reached Morricone. The British composer John Barry had featured the distinctive guitar work of Vic Flick on his soundtracks for Beat Girl (1960) and the James Bond films (1962-on), but any direct influence is likewise unknown. Looking for specific inspirations is probably pointless: by 1964 the electric guitar was everywhere in popular music."

The Revelairs' "Theme from The Black Saddle", btw, is a cover of the theme for a US cowboy TV show.

Two bands that consciously try to integrate surf and (spaghetti-) western influences are the Surfdusters (note the name) and the Cadillac Hitmen.

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