Various ‘Riding The Curl – The Surf Music Explosion 1958-61’ – album review

Various ”˜Riding The Curl ”“ The Surf Music Explosion 1958-61′ (El Records via Cherry Red)
Released 18th June 2012

A timely and welcome release when you consider the recent death of Bert Weedon, the re-release of The Ventures back catalogue (via Sundazed), and the re-emergence of the Beach Boys marked by the release of the rather tired ”˜That’s Why God Made The Radio’

It’s been said that surfing is the only sport with its own particular musical genre ”“ a genre that evolved in 1958 along the Southern California coastline, the location is crucial; not only did the coast provide the rips and peaks – the area was musically influenced by early rockers Duane Eddy, and Chuck Berry, the music of Mexico, the tequila soaked jazz filtered through, however the greatest influence was the development of reverb units by guitar maker Leo Fender. Fender used Dick Dale to road test his equipment, Dale himself had for some time been pushing the boundaries with guitar maker Les Paul. Dale experimented with tremolos, echolettes then promoted himself as a surf guitarist and people began to take notice.

Purists insist that surf music is an instrumental sound, though come 1961 and the formation of The Beach Boys it had widened to include vocal harmonies, and became known as ”˜hot rod’ primarily following the songs subject matter of cars and girls.

”˜Riding The Curl’ focuses on upon the music that anticipated surf and its early originators. As such we get Link Wray’s unsurpassable ”˜Rumble’ from 1958 which pioneered the use of overdriven distorted guitar; the track was originally titled ”˜Oddball’ but due to its ominously dark overtones it was re-titled ”˜Rumble by Phil Everly, we also get tracks from The Fireballs and The Gamblers, before we arrive at Dick Dale & The Del-Tones ”˜Let’s Go Trippin’ which surely defines surf music. Dale was by known using the tag line ”˜King Of The Surf Guitar’ and had taught various Wilson brothers how to play guitar, in turn the Beach Boys had covered his songs on their first album as well as providing support for Dale when he played live.

Other area bands sprung up, most notably The Frogmen and The Belairs both included here; The Belairs ”˜Mr Moto’ became an early surf anthem ”“ its influence can be clearly heard in the theme from The Munsters to the keyboards of The Doors. The Ventures magnificently incessant ”˜Wailin” demonstrates the reason they went on to become the biggest selling instrumental group of all time ”“ they had an uber cool logo and even had a guitar named after them, the Mosrite Ventures Model.

Despite the UK have no notable surf locations that didn’t stop the music travelling across the Atlantic, The Ventures gained international distribution and they became grouped with The Krew Kats who began life as The Wild Cats (Marty Wilde’s backing band) ”˜Peak Hour’ being the stronger track, ”˜Samovar’ sounds too similar to The Shadows; though members Brian Bennett and Licorice Locking later joined The Shadows so it’s not really a surprise.

Joe Meek at this time was busy in his London studio, he was essentially a mad sonic scientist experimenting with the pioneering use of echo, reverb, compression and all manner of distortion ”“ surely there cannot be many who have not heard The Tornados’ Telstar’. Included here are The Outlaws (Meek’s studio band) with ”˜Spring Is Near’ before Bert Weedon demonstrates his particular guitar picking style with his 1961 hit ”˜Ginchy’

The album also includes the soundtrack to one of the earliest surf movies; Bruce Browns ”˜Slippery When Wet’ from 1959 ”“ despite being a surf movie Brown selected established musician Bud Shank to provide the score for the film ”“ this despite him having no experience at composing film scores. Shank composed ten instrumental jazz numbers which Brown used “because it would be new and different”
For me it’s an interesting discourse, but it just doesn’t work; the sounds Shank created somewhat stereotypically evoke feelings of intimate basement clubs, amphetamine fuelled souls playing into the early hours. Surfing has its own distinctive energetic sound, the two are so intertwined that to marry surfing with an alternate soundtrack does neither any favours.

An excellent release that demonstrates just quite how much influence surf music has had and continues to have, the clear links from the beaches of Orange County to The Jesus & Mary Chain, and on to new bands like Liverpool’s El Toro! who bring a strong surf element to their garage skuzz.

Track Listing:

1. RUMBLE ”“ Link Wray
2. SLINKY ”“ Link Wray
3. BULLDOG ”“ The Fireballs
4. MOON DAWG! ”“ The Gamblers
5. PERFIDIA ”“ The Ventures
6. CHURCH KEY ”“ The Revels & Barbara Adkins
7. RIGHT TURN ”“ Link Wray
8. LET’S GO TRIPPIN’ ”“ Dick Dale & The Del-Tones
9. UNDERWATER ”“ The Frogmen
10. MR. MOTO ”“ The Bel-Airs
11. SURFER’S STOMP ”“ The Mar-kets
12. WAILIN’ ”“ The Ventures
13. SANDSTORM ”“ Johnny & The Hurricanes
14. THE STORM ”“ The Hunters
15. PEAK HOUR ”“ Krew Kats
16. SAMOVAR ”“ Krew Kats
17. BOOTS ”“ Nero & The Gladiators
18. SPRING IS NEAR ”“ The Outlaws

19. MOOK’S THEME – from Slippery When Wet
20. SURF PIPERS – from Slippery When Wet
21. THE SURF AND I – from Slippery When Wet
22. UP IN VELSYLAND – from Slippery When Wet
23. SURF FOR TWO – from Slippery When Wet
24. SLIPPERY WHEN WET – from Slippery When Wet
25. GOING MY WAVE – from Slippery When Wet
26. OLD KING NEP’S TUNE – from Slippery When Wet
27. WALKIN’ ON THE WATER – from Slippery When Wet
28. SOUPSVILLE – from Slippery When Wet.


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  1. The Secret Spot surf band

    ‘The Secret Spot’ surf band from sunny Bournemouth loves this album!!

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