TOP 40 SURF MUSIC VOCAL
This is a top 40 surf vocal tunes list compiled under a subjective point of view.
If you want to know more about the genre, just check the book “Summer Fun” in this site, but sorry it’s written in spanish language only.
Sorry for my poor english.
1.- BEACH BOYS – Surfin’: Just avoid the electrified Capitol version. Only counts the acoustic version recorded at Stereo Masters studios in Melrose Avenue, Hollywood. This is the version released by Candix Records.
The Hawthorne five sound like the Kingston Trio would jam with the then dowoopers Jan & Dean.
The Wilson brothers give us this gem along with cousin Mike Love and folk singer wannabe Al Jardine. Just before this record, they were known as The Pendletones.
2.- FOUR SPEEDS - R.P.M.: Besides being a hot rod tune, R.P.M. is a good manual on how to get a boss vocal surf/hot rod song: fast tempo, vintage equipment, vocal harmonies, lyrics full of teenage subculture jargon and finally the same Hammond organ that the Beach Boys used in their all time hit “Surfin’ USA”.
3.- RONNIE & THE DAYTONAS – Little G.T.O.: Another hot rod hymn full of brianwilsonisms in the arrangement. Acoustic guitar break courtesy of Ronny Dayton from Nashville. Published by Mala Records.
The decadent Beach Boys from the 80s (punished by Mikel Love’s whip) made a cover of G.T.O..
4.- SURFARIS – Surfer Joe: You must hear it in its long version and you’ll hear the Ron Wilson’s dream about a surfer named Joe.
This is not the typical vocal surf harmonies in the Four Freshmen style. This is pure late 1962 garage surf sound from Glendora.
5.- BEACH BOYS – Surfer Girl (Candix version): Unplugged version only!!!
George Gershwin is the sentimental responsible of the beauty of this ballad.
Brian Wilson wrote it under the influence of "Rhapsody In Blue". A teenager’s wet dream encapsuled in this pre Capitol version recorded in 1961.
6.- AL CASEY & THE K-CETTES – Surfin’ Hootennany: The wonderful voices of the Blossoms embellish this farntic theme enjoyable vocally as well as intsrumentally.
7.- TRASHMEN – Surfin’ Bird: This is a proto-punk piece of rock’n’roll history. So decadent for a mellow year as 1964. Thanks to Steve Wahrer for his raunchy vocal work
8.- SUNRAYS – I Live For The Sun: Sure I know it sounds a little bit corny, but it’s pure vocal surf sound.
Murry was the Beach Boys manager and was fired by his son Brian in 1964. Then Murry kicked back forming the Sunrays in order to give his sons some competition.
"I Live..." got into the charts in the summer of 1965 and was written by its drummer Rick Henn.
9.- JAN & DEAN – Honolulu Lulu: Great surf song from 1963. One of the forgotten J&D tunes of that era. The hawaiian sounding drums were performed by the surf drummer man himself: Hal Blaine. The pseudo-slack key guitar break is awesome too.
10.- RIVIERAS – Let’s Go To Hawaii: Ok, this is not a surf band, but the song is summer bound, happy and for its composition were required just a couple of neurones (monkeys in coconut trees in Hawaii?). Danceable and fresh like 99% of what this band made.
11.- PYRAMIDS – Record Run: The first beach party movie I saw was “Bikini Beach”. I thought the Pyramids were the geatest thing of the whole movie (besides that blonde bombshell Mary Hughes). With a beatnik/hotrod/ratfink mural at their back, the bald ones performed also the surf instro “Bikini Drag”. One the few surf bands if not the only to have a colored member. Surf nazis must die!!!
12.- FRANKIE & ANNETTE – Beach Party: More surf corny stuff with a redcurrant syrup taste and Coppertone lotion smell. Mmmmh… Due to their conservative behavior, they had to relieve themselves screeching songs like this. Vacation is here, fuck party tonight!
13.- DICK DALE – Secret Surfin’ Spot: This man was the real McCoy! After school, he went to his secret surfin’ spot with his woodie where the gremmies and the ho-dads never go. This is our Dick Dale, emperor of the surf sound, until a colon cancer shriveled his summer spirit in 1965, just when that hairy Bob Dylan came along. DICK DALE FOR PRESIDENT!!!
14.- DONNA LOREN – Muscle Bustle: If you follow the instructions of the song on how to dance the muscle bustle, you will find yourself in a shock therapy against embarrassment. The Challenge records version of this tune is by far more powerful than the version with Dick Dale you can hear in the film “Muscle Beach Party”. Long live to the queen of Dr. Pepper Drink Company!!!
15.- PETTICOATS – Surfin’ Sally: This is girl group sound + surfin’ sound.
Incredible powerful surf tune at the level of the Beach Boys, Jan & Dean and Gary Usher. This song gives us images of dusty californian avenues, hot rods, Playboy covers and pastel colored surfboards.
16.- FOUR SPEEDS – Barefoot Adventure: Effective and easy. What do you want? Endless Jimmy Page guitar solos? This is vocal surf music with saloon sounding piano. Production courtesy of the king of the beach and the strip: Gary Usher.
17.- SURFARIS – A Surfer’s Christmas List: Another simple composition (a golden rule for every surf song composer wannabe). The Surfaris were specialised in doin’ simple stuff and make it sound gorgeus, just think about their all time hit “Wipe Out”. You can hear the major influence of Dick Dale in this band from Glendora.
18.- BEACH BOYS – Surfin’ U.S.A.: Master piece of the surf sound. The basic melody was stolen from Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen”. Four Freshmen sound-alike vocal harmonies, guitar break by Carl Wilson (or it was Karol Kaye?) and Hammond organ. Lyrics written with the help of Brian’s brother-in-law.
It reach the third position in the Billboard list in 1963.
First time drummer Dennis Wilson was substituted by king of the surf drums Hal Blaine.
19.- LLOYD THAXTON – Image Of A Surfer: Proto-rap performed by this radio/tv personality. All the clichés of the surf and hot rod slang are recited with indulgence. He lists all the major surf spots like the Beach Boys did with “Surfin’ U.S.A.”.
Weird way to catch in the surf trend. Thaxton got lots of surf bands in his tv show.
20.- FANTASTIC BAGGYS - This Little Woody: The two composers P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri were the brains behind this studio group. Their most famous surf theme was “Tell’em I’m Surfin’” covered by Jan & Dean among others.
I prefer this album filler from his 1964 Lp. Naïve sound, almost childish… so innocent is wonderful.
21.- TORNADOES – The Phantom Surfer: Aquatic mystic that would fit well with the mood of the tune “Aquavelva” by Dave Myers & the Surftones. Great surf guitar solo. This band from Redlands weren’t into surf vocal, actually they were more surf instro-rock'n'roll friendly. Lead vocal by their bassist, Gerald Sanders.
22.- JAN & DEAN – Surf Route 101: A filler song from their Lp “Drag City”. Anyway, this song has a great gimmick in its brass section. Classy vocal tune without abusing from nasal voices.
23.- PHIL & THE FLAKES – Chrome Reversed Rails: Rare single from this long haired guy Phil Pearlman. He was into the L.A. folk scene, but in the surfin’ fever days recorded this fine song. Some trivia: his son was a converted islamist and got in touch with Al Qaeda. Surf sucks!!!
24.- HONEYS – Pray For Surf: This harmless but powerful song produced by Brian Wilson was banned in several radio stations due to its “blasphemous” title.
Instrumental backing track performed by the best L.A. studio musicians from that era.
25.- JAN & DEAN – Surf City: Another one I can’t miss it. Jan Berry, Dean Torrence and Brian Wilson, we can’t ask for no more. Trademark falsetto and quite a good lyric compared with similar tunes. The one and only number 1 hit for the surf music genre. Sorry girls, if you go to Surf City, there’s 0’5 boys for every girl.
26.- RONNY & THE DAYTONAS – California Bound: Ronny Dayton (a.k.a. Buck Wilkin) was an advanced disciple of Brian Wilson. Ronny constructed his own version of the Beach Boys sound that would fit with his style.
27.- TRASHMEN – King Of The Surf: More clean sounding than his famous “Surfin’ Bird”. The Minneapolis boys use the formula created by Brian Wilson: vocal harmonies plus Chuck Berry chords. The Trashmen were infected by the surf virus when they discovered Dick Dale during a vacation in California.
28.- ASTROANUTS – Kuk: Another landlocked band, this time from Boulder, Colorado. Kuk (or kook) is referred to the pseudo surfers or wannabes that were a pain in the ass for the “real” surfers.
29.- BEACH BOYS – Surfer Moon: Ballad in the “Surfer Girl” mood. Appears in tehir third Lp in september of 1963. First use of a string section in a Brian Wilson production. A year before, this composition was used in another Wilson production for an unknown duo named Bob & Sheri.
30.- DEE DEE SHARP – Riding The Waves: This colored girl sang about the waves, when some record industry executives forced most of their artists to catch in the surf bandwagon. The vocal track by Sharp is combined with a solid reverbered backing track wich it wasn’t common in the vocal surf genre.
31.- ANNETTE FUNICELLO – Muscle Beach Party: What a candid girl she must be… Not the same version heard in the movie of the same name. This is a re-recorded version for its inclusion in a Lp of Vista Records, owned by Walt Disney.
32.- HONDELLS – Cycle Set: Never published in a commercial way, this song is featured in the film “Beach Blanket Bingo”. In the movie the Hondells back up a young and lovely Linda Evans in a romantic and forgetable ballad.
Typical Gary Usher production.
33.- HAL BLAINE & THE YOUNG COUGARS – (Dance With The) Surfin’ Band: In the same style as “Surfin’ Hootennany” by Al Casey (in fact boths songs share the same vocal group). Blaine took a chance releasing his own records after being a drummer in the shadow of producers and big name artists.
34.- DEE D. HOPE – California Surfer: Book of style for every teenager that wanted to become a surfer in 1963. The lyrics are about dressing and behaving like a real surfer. The backing band are pure L.A. garage surf sound.
35.- BEACH BOYS – Karen: This is the main theme for the Tv series. It was covered by the BB with a good amount of energy. The Carl Wilson guitar with the reverb button at ten shines through the song. Rare Beach Boys tune maybe played a couple of times live.
36.- JAN & DEAN – I Gotta Drive: A surf sound little jewel. Jan Berry was a misunderstood composer, arranger and producer always in the shadow of Big Brother Brian. He showed he could do such a powerful songs like this. The spoken intro is great.
37.- VALRAYS – Get A Board: Another rare tune from a single released in july of 1963 by Parkway Records. Without being firmed by the great names of the genre, this song is fresh, simple and captures the spirit of the era.
38.- WHEEL MEN – School Is A Gas: Another typical Gary Usher production following the Brian Wilson pattern: vocal choruses, faslettos and nasal lead vocal.
39.- BRUCE JOHNSTON – Surfin’ Round The World: Good ol’ Bruce didn’t have the same subtilities in the studio as Brian had, but what the heck!!! The song is great. Before he became a full time beach boy in 1965, Johnston composed and produced lots of surf/hot rod stuff.
40.- CORNELLS – Surf Fever: They were a light sounding surf instrumental combo. In late 1963 they released this song full of surf clichés in its lyrics. Silly and simple… it’s surf music you know…
Written by Didac Piquer Puigdemont.