“Drag City”

SURFIN’ USA – “Various” (Pickwick Startrax SHM 974) March 1979

Did surf music ever go away? I’m not sure but it did have a kind of resurgence in Britain in the late ’70s into the early ’80s with groups like The Barracudas and The Surfin’ Lungs. This album is a neat introduction to American outfits Jan & Dean, The Beach Boys, The Hondells, The Surfaris and The Chantays.

back cover liners:

Surf music began as instrumental music, a direct outgrowth of the sax and guitar instrumentals of the late ’50s, and came to dominate teenage music in America between 1961 to 1965.

Initially just a surf sound not directly connected with surfing, it gradually. It evolved into an all embracing ‘summer’ music with the emphasis switching from the surf through to hot-rods, beaches and fun in general with California becoming the promised land. Surf music from being a local trend grew into an internationally popular sound.

Although the heydays of surf music as such were over by the late ’60s, it is still regarded as a classic form and has played a major role in the development of what is known today as West Coast Rock.

The Chantays, The Surfaris, The Hondells

With the increasing popularity of the surf sound locally, thousands of Californian instrumental bands turned into surf bands. Between 1961 and 1962 the staccato guitar sound of Dick Dale provided a catalyst and he was soon imitated by a whole wave of surf groups including The Chantays, The Surfaris and later, in the hot-rod phase, by The Hondells with the classic “Little Honda”.

Bands such as these firmly established an audience for surf-related music but it took Jan & Dean and, in particular, Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys to give it a commercial cast to which the rest of the world could relate.

Jan & Dean

Second only to the Beach Boys as America’s prime exponents of surf music, Jan & Dean had their first chart success together as Jan & Arnie in 1958. In 1962 they started singing about their favourite pastime – surfing.

Around this time a close association with the Beach Boys began when Brian Wilson introduced them to his composition “Surf City”. Jan & Dean recorded it and “Surf City”, which became a classic surf sound, opened up a vintage period for them.

A string of hits followed such as “Little Old Lady From Pasadena”, “Deadman’s Curve” and “Drag City”. The relationship between Jan & Dean and the Beach Boys developed and they often sang on each other’s hit records – indeed Brian Wilson reputedly sang the lead on “Deadman’s Curve”.

In 1966 a serious car accident left Jan seriously ill, both physically and mentally, and resulted eventually in the dissolution of the partnership. Nonetheless, the impact of Jan & Dean on Sixties pop in general and surf music in particular was considerable.

The Beach Boys

Formed in California in 1961, the Beach Boys, masterminded by Brian Wilson, became America’s only real challenge to the Beatles and were the most prominent white American group of the early and middle ’60s. Variously known as Carl and the Passions and later Kenny and the Cadets, they became the Beach Boys for the release of what was to become their first big hit, “Surfin'”.

“Surfin’ Safari” followed in 1962 but it was “Surfer Girl” which really brought their strong vocal harmonies and cool, cruising falsetto to the fore. It became a sound which, although often imitated, was immediately identifiable with surf music generally and the Beach Boys in particular.

The role of Brian Wilson in the development of surf music cannot be understated. A brilliant composer, he, more than any other single person, placed surf music firmly in the public eye, writing the majority of the best surf songs and guiding the music through its transitional phases when the emphasis switched to hot-rods, beaches and summer fun in general.

Under the aegis of Wilson, the Beach Boys went from strength to strength and ensured the international popularity of the sound, absorbing and reflecting the emerging lifestyle of teenage California.

charity shop purchase @ £1


Jan & DeanLittle Deuce Coupe
The Beach BoysSurfin’ Safari
Jan & DeanI Get Around
Jan & DeanDrag City
The HondellsLittle Honda
Jan & DeanFun, Fun, Fun
Jan & DeanRide The Wild Surf
The Beach BoysSurfin’
Jan & DeanHelp Me Rhonda
The Beach BoysSurfer Girl
Jan & DeanLittle Old Lady From Pasadena
The ChantaysPipeline
Jan & DeanDeadman’s Curve
The SurfarisWipe Out
Jan & DeanSurf City

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