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Wild Sammy & the Royaltones: Speed Crazy

Wild Sammy & the Royaltones: Speed Crazy (One Million Dollar Records, Germany)
(Originally posted on Surf Guitar 101 on February 7, 2006)

This is the same band as the Royal Fingers, about whom there was some discussion here recently. So, a Japanese trio with a girl bass player. I first heard their song Echo Rocket 66 on the Continental zine compilation and thought it was really great, so I bought their Del Fi album 'Wild Eleki Deluxe' – and hated it. I put the CD away and forgot about it, until people started talking about it on SG101, at which point I pulled it out again and gave it another spin. Strangely enough, I got really into it at that point, and now love the CD. 'Speed Crazy' is pretty much as good 'Wild Eleki Deluxe', though it is more lo-fi in production. Most of it is lo-fi in a way that makes it sound kinda vintage (with a lot of distortion of the rhythm section), though there are two songs (Jet GT and Pipeline, both maybe live?) that sound really bad, like they were recorded on a seventies boom box. There is slight overlap between the two CDs, with four songs being on both CDs: Wild Datsun, The L.A., Running Donkey, Echo Rocket 66. But as far as I can tell they're different performances and recordings, so it's not that big of a deal.
The sound is very much Eleki – the Japanese instrumental surf sound of the mid-sixties. Eleki is more melodic and complex than the typical surf song, and requires more guitar technique. The eleki guitar style sounds like DD meets Nokie – heavily reverbed, somewhat overdriven and aggressive, with lots of pull-offs and hammer-ons and wild, extreme bends. And Sammy has totally mastered it. The guy is a monster guitarist. I bet you he could go head-to-head with Shigeo of the Surf Coasters and completely hold his own. Truly awesome chops, best demonstrated in the closing song Tsugaru Jyongarabushi, which is (after the short main theme) mostly a one-chord vamp with Sammy just going OFF. Most of the songs also have either an additional rhythm guitar or organ (or both), which definitely fills out the sound very nicely. As far as the other two members, the drumming is serviceable if not outstanding, and the bass playing is pretty good, sometimes adding some very cool parts. But what really matters is the songs, songs, songs, and this is where Wild Sammy & the Royaltones excel. There are no songwriting credits, but I think only a couple of the songs are covers of classic eleki (The L.A. and maybe Wild Jet Beach – both really awesome, very tough-sounding), with the rest being originals. Among those, Echo Rocket 66, Wild Datsun, Royal Tones No. 1, Aoi Hoshikuzu and Eleki Heiankyou really stand out, incredible stuff. But hell, every song on the CD offers something really cool. I highly recommend you all pick up this release. All the tradheads will LOVE it, and even the more prog-types may be able to get into more than a few of the songs. (I got both this and the Surfaris CD I reviewed before on

This story has 9 comments.


Ivan should work for Spin ... this is one of the better reviews I have ever read. Informative and well written, especially as concerns the distinction between eleki and standard SoCal instro surf. I had been curious about 'Wild Eleki Deluxe' since I read about it in the Del-Fi catalog. Now, I feel confident to either buy that CD or Speed Crazy.

Thanks, Ivan, you are a true surf music inspiration! Keep the reviews coming!

Gavin 'Windanseabeachboy'

WindanseaBeachBoy | 30-Apr-2006 04:20:22 | Flag

Thanks, Gavin! I'm blushing now... Very kind of you. I'm glad you like the review. If only Spin cared about GOOD music... Warren and Klas actually corrected parts of that review. I think I wrongly guessed which songs were covers and which originals. Here's what they had to say:

Warren: "Tsugaru Jyongarabushi" is an almost note-for-note rendition of the monster version on Terauchi Takeshi's live album, and "The L.A." is a Yuzo Kayama cover that The Ghastly Ones have been doing under the name "Yuzo's Twist." "Aoi Hoshikuzu" is probably a traditional Japanese tune--the Sharp Five, Terry and Yuzo Kayama each did a version. (That's my best guess- -they didn't seem to cover each other's songs, and it's on the Sharp Five's "Japanese Classics" album.) I'm pretty sure "Tsugaru Jyongarabushi" is as well--Terry's studio version was on an album (Let's Go Eleki Bushi) that was traditional Japanese songs played as fuzzed out Eleki, albeit with the drums somewhere waaaaaay off in the distance."

Klas: "I dont own the album myself but after checking out the tracklist, I noticed there are some more covers: "Running Donkey" (Yuzo Kayama), "Road Runner" (not the Bo Diddley song but done by a 1st wave U.S. band which I can't remember the name of) and obviously "Pipeline" ;-D"

IvanP | 01-May-2006 20:21:18 | Flag

Road Runner by The Road Runners? That track that shows up on the Pyramids album?

Brian | 01-May-2006 21:09:59 | Flag

Yeah, it's the Road Runners' tune. Kinda lo-fi, but real cool. Ivan really hit it on the head with his review. It's an amazing album--just slightly better than the Royal Fingers one, albeit with slightly worse production. Both are great, though.

CaptainSpringfield | 01-May-2006 21:45:09 | Flag

Brian, we had a discussion of this on SG101 after I posted the review. Here's what John Blair said: "The Road Runners (a studio group) recorded "Road Runnah" first (on the Felsted label -- late 1963). The same track was used on the Pyramids' LP several months later, so that particular track is NOT the Pyramids." So, yep, there's only one track called Road Runner - and that's the track that Wild Sammy & the Royaltones covered.

IvanP | 02-May-2006 00:50:09 | Flag

Yeah I know its not the Pyramids. That's why I said "Road Runner by the Road Runners" that appears on the Pyramids album...

Brian | 02-May-2006 08:45:46 | Flag

I should have said "Road Runnah written and performed by The Road Runners that appeared on the Pyramids album"...whew!!! Smile

Brian | 02-May-2006 08:47:11 | Flag

Got ya! Yeah, I knew you knew that, but I still thought it would be useful to include John's comments...

IvanP | 02-May-2006 09:09:45 | Flag

Isn't that also mentioned in Dalley's Surfin' Guitars book?

Brian | 02-May-2006 09:27:59 | Flag

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