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SurfGuitar101 Forums » Best-Of SG101 »

Permalink The Astronauts - Surf Hits Recording Locations?

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Moderators note: this thread was split off from this one: http://surfguitar101.com/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=8729

JC
Ok, of course. Although this recording seems to be very poor. This is more obviously a live recording in a low budget strange studio, not a space-age one as the Astronauts sessions.

Be careful, there, JC. Though many of the Astronauts' recordings were indeed done in the amazing RCA studios and sound immaculate, some of their most renowned songs were actually recorded under pretty lo-fi conditions: on September 19th and 20th, 1963, in Club Baja in Denver, CO, the Astronauts recorded "Surf Party," "The Pier", "Surfs You Right", "Firewater," "Surf Softly and Carry a Big Board," "Let's Surf Again," "Surfer Girl," and "My Little Beach Bunny". I seem to remember reading somewhere that it was done off-hours, while the club was empty, and there was a simple portable recording machine used to capture these tracks. And when you take a closer listen to them, they certainly don't sound nearly as clean and big as "Baja" or "Hot Doggin'" or any of the tracks on "Surfin' With the Astronauts". (Incidentally, Club Baja is also where the live "Everything is A-OK" was recorded, this time with the full crowd in tow!)

My personal favorite for mucho-reverbo is "The Birds" by the Motivations. When the heavy-reverb-guitar kicks in about 30 seconds into the songs, it always sends shivers down my spine....

Ivan
The Madeira Official Website
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The Blair-Pongracic Band on Facebook
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IvanP
Be careful, there, JC. Though many of the Astronauts' recordings were indeed done in the amazing RCA studios and sound immaculate, some of their most renowned songs were actually recorded under pretty lo-fi conditions: on September 19th and 20th, 1963, in Club Baja in Denver, CO, the Astronauts recorded "Surf Party," "The Pier", "Surfs You Right", "Firewater," "Surf Softly and Carry a Big Board," "Let's Surf Again," "Surfer Girl," and "My Little Beach Bunny". I seem to remember reading somewhere that it was done off-hours, while the club was empty, and there was a simple portable recording machine used to capture these tracks. And when you take a closer listen to them, they certainly don't sound nearly as clean and big as "Baja" or "Hot Doggin'" or any of the tracks on "Surfin' With the Astronauts". (Incidentally, Club Baja is also where the live "Everything is A-OK" was recorded, this time with the full crowd in tow!)

Interesting Ivan! Where did you get this info? I thought those dates were the dates they recorded the live LP (everythings a-ok)

to me, I can hardly find a sound on the Everythings A-ok album that sounds like "surf party" or "the pier" both those tunes, along with "firewater" have that classic Astronauts "splattttt" rhythm sound. A sound I know I can't duplicate 100%. I always attributed "that" sound to the studio.

"The Pier" "Surf Party" "Firewater" and "Surf softly" all sound more like the recording session for the "Competition Coupe" LP. "The Hearse" and "El Aguila" all have very similiar sounds to the above mentioned. Esp. the lead guitar, and that clipped sound it has. This LP was recorded at the RCA studio.

"You can't tell where you're going if you don't know where you've been"

Sonichris
Interesting Ivan! Where did you get this info?

From the liner notes for the three Bear Family CDs (Competition Coupe/Surfin' With; Orbit Campus/Everything is A-OK; Rarities). The liners list all the recording dates for all the songs, as well as as the personnel on each recording and the place of recording.

I thought those dates were the dates they recorded the live LP (everythings a-ok)

That is correct! I guess they were already set up to record the live album and they knocked out these tracks during the daytime.

to me, I can hardly find a sound on the Everythings A-ok album that sounds like "surf party" or "the pier" both those tunes, along with "firewater" have that classic Astronauts "splattttt" rhythm sound. A sound I know I can't duplicate 100%. I always attributed "that" sound to the studio.

Well, in this case the 'studio' would be the acoustics of the club, plus the mics and (most likely) primitive recording machine used to capture it!

"The Pier" "Surf Party" "Firewater" and "Surf softly" all sound more like the recording session for the "Competition Coupe" LP. "The Hearse" and "El Aguila" all have very similiar sounds to the above mentioned. Esp. the lead guitar, and that clipped sound it has. This LP was recorded at the RCA studio.

A-ha!! Guess again! I just checked the liners for Competition Coupe, and, sure enough, it lists "The Hearse" and "El Aguila" as also being recorded in Club Baja on September 19th, 1963! (I must admit that I forgot about those two songs, and was only looking at the liner notes for the Rarities CD. The rest of Competition Coupe was recorded at RCA.

Interesting stuff, eh? Kinda shatters some of the Astronauts myths....

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

IvanP
A-ha!! Guess again! I just checked the liners for Competition Coupe, and, sure enough, it lists "The Hearse" and "El Aguila" as also being recorded in Club Baja on September 19th, 1963! (I must admit that I forgot about those two songs, and was only looking at the liner notes for the Rarities CD. The rest of Competition Coupe was recorded at RCA.

Interesting stuff, eh? Kinda shatters some of the Astronauts myths....

My liner notes for that album don't have any of that info. Which disc do you have?

At least my ears were right, all those songs have the same sounds.

This really does shatter some myths about the Astronaut sound. ALL my favorite Astronauts songs were recorded over the course of 3 days, in a club in Denver, using a marginal recorder..... I need to find out where the "Club Baja" was, and go by and check it out.

"You can't tell where you're going if you don't know where you've been"

This post has been removed by the author.

Last edited: Sep 27, 2009 19:54:57

some of their most renowned songs were actually recorded under pretty lo-fi conditions: on September 19th and 20th, 1963, in Club Baja in Denver, CO, the Astronauts recorded "Surf Party," "The Pier", "Surfs You Right", "Firewater," "Surf Softly and Carry a Big Board," "Let's Surf Again," "Surfer Girl," and "My Little Beach Bunny".

Ups! Thanks Ivan. I was thinking on the more common (RCA) stuff and much to my regret I forgot in this case the obscure recordings that are inherents to every major group (two of them not as obscure, as we know well that they were released in this time, even though not under a RCA-Dynagroove label in the USA).

"The Hearse" and "El Aguila" as also being recorded in Club Baja on September 19th, 1963!

Interesting. Of course maybe that´s true, but for me it´s very hard to believe that these are the same versions that we can hear on the RCA LP.

I just took a close listen to all the Astronauts tracks. Though Zak is right that the recording machine used for The Hearse, Surf Party, El Aguila, The Pier, Surf Softly, etc. should not be described as 'marginal', the fact is that all those Club Baja recordings DO sound much less clean than the tracks on the "Surfin' with" LP (Baja, Movin', Batman, etc.) plus Hot Doggin'. These latter tracks sound immaculate - listen to the crispness of the drums or the reverb on Fifield's Jazzmaster on Baja or Movin' - it's got depth. On the Club Baja recordings Fifield's guitar tone is somewhat dirty. Listen to the solos on Surfs You Right - they are clearly overdriving the mic preamps, but you can hear that happen on pretty much all of Club Baja tracks (especially Firewater). There's nothing like that on the earlier RCA studios recordings (sometimes to their detriment - Quasimoto could have definitely used some dirt, it's just sterile sounding).

It sounds to my ears like the band was not playing as loudly on the earlier RCA recordings, and the engineers were also able to fit each instrument into its own EQ space, making each much clearer in the overall recording. The recordings there are much more transparent, probably not coloring the overall sound of the band very much. On the Club Baja recordings, there's more dirt, there's overdriving of mic preamps indicating either the band was louder or the preamps were not as high quality and couldn't handle the volume. Also, the two rhythm guitars overlap much more in EQ and are harder to tell apart. The recording simply seems to be coloring the overall sound much more.

(JC, I'm just reading the info from the liner notes of the Bear Family CDs and I certainly can't vouch for it, but Bear Family can usually be relied on to get their facts straight. It also sounds right to my ears.)

(Chris, I don't know why my CDs would have this recording info and yours wouldn't. Very weird. I bought my CDs in the mid-'90s. Maybe yours are later versions and they tried to cut down on some costs by not including such extensive liner notes?)

I was thinking also that some of these facts explain why the guys in the Astronauts didn't really feel that connected to surf music and thought of themselves as simply a rock'n'roll band. If you think about it, a very very small portion of their sixties' career was spent on surf music. If they knocked all out their iconic tracks in a matter of a few days here and there and then never played them live, they probably didn't have much emotional attachment to them. Just thinkin'....

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

This Astronaut info need to be separate topic I think..

Brian?

"You can't tell where you're going if you don't know where you've been"

Done.

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

IvanP
(Chris, I don't know why my CDs would have this recording info and yours wouldn't. Very weird. I bought my CDs in the mid-'90s. Maybe yours are later versions and they tried to cut down on some costs by not including such extensive liner notes?)

I was thinking also that some of these facts explain why the guys in the Astronauts didn't really feel that connected to surf music and thought of themselves as simply a rock'n'roll band. If you think about it, a very very small portion of their sixties' career was spent on surf music. If they knocked all out their iconic tracks in a matter of a few days here and there and then never played them live, they probably didn't have much emotional attachment to them. Just thinkin'....

I've got the later 2-fer "Competition Coupe/Orbit Kampus from Bear.

Excellent point about why they don't feel like a surf band. if they recorded all these great tracks the day before (or during the day) as they prepared for the big live show, then, didn't play any of those tunes at the live show, those "iconic" tunes would just be a bunch of filler and practice tunes...

I haven't been able to find out where the Club Baja was, other than the street, but no exact address. I'll ask around town.

Rich Fifield still lives in Denver - Should I attempt to call him, or is that too "stalker"?

"You can't tell where you're going if you don't know where you've been"

Chris, If you're up for it, call him and ask if he's interested in doing an interview with you about his brief surf period. I'll put it on the podcast.

Danny Snyder

aka Mycroft Eloi of The TomorrowMen
aka Shecky Shekels of Meshugga Beach Party

Please check out our latest album FUTOURISM, it's a deluxe box set with original artwork from 10 artists and a bonus download sticker.

There is a wikipedia entry about the owner of the Baja:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verne_Byers

(defunct) Thee Jaguar Sharks

Plus! Other stuff not surf: https://soundcloud.com/jamesmileshq
Enjoy every minute

Well, I did a bit of digging, and I spoke to a guy (via email) that played at the Club Baja in the 60's - and......its not there any more. It was apparently at one time a huge roller rink, that was converted to a club. It was on the second floor, above a bowling alley. I think it was torn down for a parking garage? and even that has been torn down to make room for a new hotel in Downtown Denver. He did send me a cool ad for a show there...

image

More to come.

"You can't tell where you're going if you don't know where you've been"

Cool Chris, keep digging!

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

is there any books or dvd's about the astronauts detailed history that i can order online?

Edit: with international shipping! i'm very interested Very Happy

Guitar Player in Nahuelaizers
http://nahuelaizers.bandcamp.com

There's the Bob Dalley book on instrumental surf bands generally - a set of interviews with a large number (I never counted!) of bands, including essentially all the well known ones. I've exchanged a few brief notes with Dalley recently - he's quietly on MySpace - and he's at least somewhat interested in reissuing his book in expanded form, so if you know anyone from the old days who wasn't interviewed ... He's definitely still fascinated by surf music.

His book is currently only available, as far as I can tell, in a library hard cover edition from the UK (see the link), or used (mostly, I would guess, in the US). It's kind of expensive in the US, but as the link suggests, it might be less so to other countries. For peculiar reasons the vendor doesn't actually ship to the US! It would be well worth it, I think. There's nothing even close, otherwise. I wouldn't wait for a hypothetical new edition, either.

For the Astronauts specifically, I'm not sure what to recommend. Maybe Sonic Chris (see above in this thread) has some ideas? I've only seen things like this thread and various short articles based on interviews, but not necessarily overlapping in content. Apart from the article in Dalley's book, I've seen another in a book on Colorado bands that my sister has.

I understand some members of the band are still around (in Colorado), but I've never met any of them.

Thanks for all this info! I will check everything.

Guitar Player in Nahuelaizers
http://nahuelaizers.bandcamp.com

Here's a link to a book about Colorado music that has a section on the Astronauts (with some interviews):

http://books.google.com/books?id=BZOKXOtOM9oC&pg=PA1960&lpg=PA1960&dq=the+astronauts+band+colorado&source=bl&ots=IoWPpyzz2y&sig=A9-0rGpznftru_Kx09LRem4AR-Y&hl=en&ei=i2mVSrqmFaewtgex_qRG&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1#v=onepage&q=the%20astronauts%20band%20colorado&f=false

Another link with a bit about Rich Fifield:

http://www.the-faces.com/lane/articles/19891120.htm

(defunct) Thee Jaguar Sharks

Plus! Other stuff not surf: https://soundcloud.com/jamesmileshq
Enjoy every minute

Also found this link, which is an interview (?) with a singer from the Astronauts, gives a short kinda funny history of how the band ended up on RCA.

http://www.sparkythedog.com/words/strapping_danforth/2001/10StrappingAug2001astronauts.htm

From the webpage:

Next day, he called his bosses in LA and asked what kind of bands they were looking for. They said, “Get us a surf band.” He said, “I've got just the group.” He didn't mention the strip poker.

Me: I assume there was no place for a musical visionary in a band controlled by a studio...

Dr. H.E.W.: Exactly. I have to grant the guys this much: They stood up for me...to a point. They said, “We're NOT a surf band. We have all these great songs and this great singer.” The RCA guy said, “If you're a surf band, you get signed. If you're not a surf band, you don't. Leave the singer in Boulder and come with me to California .”

They couldn't say no. So they became the legendary Astronauts. They had a hit. They toured. They were in movies. They were told to forget about me so they did.

(defunct) Thee Jaguar Sharks

Plus! Other stuff not surf: https://soundcloud.com/jamesmileshq
Enjoy every minute

Last edited: Aug 26, 2009 13:20:42

Sonichris
More to come.

Did you find anything else out Chris?

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Need help with the site? SG101 FAQ - Send me a private message - Email me

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

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