Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Pedigree of PETER GUNN

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The Pedigree of PETER GUNN

"Louie Louie" is a riff that underlines the whole history of Rock'n'Roll, and "Peter Gunn" shadows it on the same trail.

It was created by unusual supsects who would become the world's most wanted. Writer/director Blake Edwards created the 1958 TV show, bringing in Henry Mancini to compose the themes, who cloaked the worldly detective in a jazz-noir score of torrid sax and motor engine riffs. (They went on to make their fame with the Pink Panther films.) The pianist on the sessions was future film composer John Williams.>

It was a surprisingly sophisticated and yet street-lethal score for the fresh new world of television. In fact, with its liberal use of West Coast free jazz, it opened the door for using Jazz in movies and television from then on. The bestselling soundtrack became a hinge into modern jazz for mainstream audiences. And its fusion of dramatic intrigue and brashly sensual bop created the Crime/Spy Jazz sound, paving the grooves for the soundtracks of James Bond and all his clones.

More immediately, it captured the dangerous allure of the modern city in the fantasies of young people nationwide.

Craig Stevens (r), starring as Private Eye "Peter Gunn".

Most of all, it was the power of that striding strain that arrested their attention. "Peter Gunn Theme" was the sound of walking cocky, punching felons, chasing roadsters, talking cool, and entangling hot. It was steamy and unseemly, a grinding prowl, a hungry stare, a hip-grinding dance. It was the entirety of the forbidden side of adulthood that teenagers ached to have. "The Peter Gunn title theme actually derives more from rock and roll than from jazz," Mancini clarified.

Rock'n'Roll guitarist Duane Eddy snuck his way into the club first. His twang-bar style, with its extra heavy reverb, amped the walking bassline into a tougher strut on his 1959 cover version. While Mancini's was sassy horns swinging in a hot nightspot, Eddy's was horny young nightowls on the prowl down midnight tarmac. At least in teen fantasies, it was a sidedoor into the sleazy twilight underworld they longed to slink into. The hard clang instrumentals of Duane Eddy and Link Wray ushered in Dick Dale and Surf guitar, which kept the edgy heart of Rock'n'Roll alive into the British Invasion.

Duane Eddy; Sarah Vaughan; Dick Dale.

Beyond simply the riff, the moody sound evoked by Eddy mutated into a shroud of instant atmosphere. For instance, the mid-60's English bands The Lost Souls ("This Life Of Mine") and The Syndicats ("Crawdaddy Simone") aren't playing "Gunn" specifically, but their songs are clearly rewrites of its chords and sound. Same thing for instrumentals by Freddie King ("Hide Away") and James Brown ("The Scratch"). When The Monkees broke free of their producer to play on their own records, the first thing they tried was a shambling pastiche called "Peter Gunn's Gun". Its status as a standard in any upstarts' repertoire carried it through the rehearsal holes of the world. Somebody somewhere would always don its instant cool, no matter whether honest or bootleg. Jazz queen Sarah Vaughn sang a lyrical version called "Bye, Bye" in '64. Dick Dale, Jimi Hendrix, and myriad garage bands donned its trenchcoat for some midnight rambling.

In the 70's, as rock began rebelling against its overblown indulgences, the tight riff became crucial. It was like cutting to the chase with a switchblade. Boston's Jonathan Richman had admired the lethal lyrics and blunt buzz of the Velvet Underground; he and the Modern Lovers trawled the city's dusky deadends in Peter Gunn's roadster in 1974's "Pablo Picasso". (This song is most remembered for its immortal lines, "Pablo Picasso was never called an a$$hole/ not like you.") His terse hum would soon transport punks.

X-Ray Spex; The Cramps; The B-52's.

For punkers, this edgy sordid nightscape was their reality. It became a theme song where the usual suspects were now the heroes. You can detect it in the surging buzz of X-Ray Spex's "The Day the World Turned Day-Glo" in '78. The Cramps crimped that stalking stocatto for their mix of pychobilly, garage, and horror movies by mutating it into 1979's "Human Fly". Duane's rival, the original psychobilly Link Wray, sprungload it with new edge in his "Switchblade", with punkabillies nodding in approval. The B-52's relay that riff into an alien signal via throbbing satellite with 1979's "Planet Claire", cut through with the stabbing clang of silver surfer Ricky Wilson.

The Blues Brothers; Nina Hagen; REPO MAN soundtrack.

The BLUES BROTHERS movie (1980) may have done more to expose the song to a new generation that any other source; their version is fueled by the guitar of Steve Cropper and bass of Duck Dunn, of the legendary Booker T And The MG's. Conversely, out in some bleak no man's land, Bruce Springsteen hears it on his dashboard as "Mr. State Trooper", burning through the ebon byways with some bad menace in his heart. His stripped down acoustic seethes like a harrowing confession before something terrible happens. Also in 1982, German alien Nina Hagen germinated the riff with Captain Beefheart's rasp, quotes of Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust", and cascades of cosmic clang and shrill in "Iki Maska".

The title theme of the 1984 REPO MAN film, by Iggy Pop, has definite treadmarks of Peter's ride. To underscore the point, fellow acolytes Burning Sensations repo-ed Richman's carriage, putting a Duane Eddy kit on it in their "Pablo Picasso" cover for the same movie. This version is so popular that many thought it was the original.

The shamus haunts the darks of Bauhaus' "Hair Of The Dog", Front 242's "Body To Body", and L7's "Uncle Bob". Grandmaster Flash and Tthe Furious 5 flipped fresh spin on the theme with "Style (Peter Gunn's Theme)", where Flash honed back in on the horn riffs. The British Art Of Noise chopped that HipHop with some orchestral flourish, congas, and the hard twanging strut of the actual Duane Eddy himself in their "Peter Gunn", an alternative dance smash in 1986. Aussie rebels Midnight Oil called in the lawman's ghost to bust its country's guilty conscience over issues of Aboriginal land-rights with "Beds Are Burning", with the riff's phantom flickering through their 1988 breakthrough hit. (There's also brief chops of Chuck Berry's "Little Queenie" in there, too.)

The TWIN PEAKS soundtrack by Angelo Badalamenti.

Much of Mancini's original score haunted Angelo Badalamenti's brilliant music for the TWIN PEAKS TV series (1990); the clanging reverb takes possession of the title theme, while the fingersnapping hipster jazz tunes take their cues from Mancini tracks like "Brief and Breezy". Poison Ivy, the axe-slinging dominatrix of The Cramps, claims to own about every cover of "Peter Gunn" ever made; she puts her stiletto all the way through the floorboards in her ultimate version. Covertly, Peter dogs the footsteps of '90s era songs by Living Colour, Diamanda Galas, and The A-Bones.

England's vastly underrated Elastica, known for their chop shop tricks, trysted Peter with The Beatles' "And I Love Her" for a scintillating twist in their fuzzy stomp, "Love Like Ours" (2000). Iggy & the Stooges refueled their reunion in 2003 cruising Peter's night haunts with "Skull Ring", skewering the mugging partystars and glampires who have gentrified his beat. It's the propulsive bassline of The Strokes' "Juicebox" (2005). On the eternal trail, the flatfoot still pounds the beat of The Come Ons, Los Explosibvos (Mexico), and Django Django.

Have riff, will travel. That memorable hook and the atmosphere that surrounds it always resonate beyond the moment, transporting anyone who ever hears it, and forging new paths into the future.

© Tym Stevens

See Also:

-The Legacy of LOUIE LOUIE

-Shock Waves: How SURF MUSIC Saved Rock'n'Roll!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Legacy of LOUIE LOUIE

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This Music Player contains 11 hours of covers, clones, and cousins of "Louie Louie",
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The Legacy of LOUIE LOUIE

Sometimes a single song is the refrain. You can group music by genres or eras, but one song can tie all of them together. Or even one riff.

In 1957, Richard Berry created one of those. His ode to Jamaican love was inspired by a few surprising sources: a variant of a Cuban Mambo song called "Cha Cha Chá Loco", and Chuck Berry's "Havana Moon" (which had in turn responded to the brief Calypso boom after "Day-O" broke big). It was a regional hit around San Francisco and made its way into many West Coast 45" collections and jukeboxes. It had a lurching stairstep riff that kids had gone crazy for, one that stuck to your brain and feet.

Richard Berry; The Kingsmen.

Up in Seattle, where cold and rain made the emerging early '60s rock'n'roll courser, bands battled each other for supremacy in frats, bars, and proms. Someone latched onto "Louie Louie" and then everybody had to. But The Kingsmen stumbled into the studio first, one day before their rivals Paul Revere And The Raiders. In their haste, they didn't know it well enough. The singer slurred the words to hide it and his false starts after the bridge got left in. The riff lost a beat and became the classic 1-2-3/ 1-2, 1-2-3/ 1-2 that made it The Riff. That arresting combo of jang-ing riff and sloppy attitude built the Garage of the future. It also got them investigated by the FBI on suspicion of slipping obscenities into the unintelligle lyrics.

Great riff + Attitude + Controversy = cultural phenomenon.

In comes imitation and mutation, the catalyst of all culture. There's a moment in music where a riff becomes a general rhythm, and a bedrock for new songs.

It sure stuck in its originator's mind, because Richard Berry did one of the first clones of his own song with 1960's "Have Love Will Travel". His original was a splice, and now that the chords have now become standard chops in any band's repertoire, the re-splicing by his followers begins. East L.A. Mexican rockers The Premiers used the riff under their cover of a different song, "Farmer John". The Trashmen combined both songs openly as "Farmer Louie". The Bobby Fuller 4 medley-ed the two together right into their own clone, "Jenny Lee". Wayne Fontana And The Mindbenders' "The Game Of Love" trysted the Bo Diddley beat into the middle.

Meanwhile, Surf naturally caught the wave, such as "Surfin' Louie" by The Shockwaves and The Surfaris' "Go Go Go For Louie's Place". Fresh from "My Boyfriend's Back", the girl group The Angels went tough chick with it, even preserving the false start in harmony! The Wailers, The Raiders and The Who wrote sequels to it (The Raiders also got 'revenge' on their friends for the lost hit with "Just Like Me"). David Bowie's first recording was a cover of The Raiders' sequel, as Davie Jones And The King Bees (1964). Meanwhile, the Seattle scene was still on fire with the song in every band's repertoire; The Kingsmen's rivals, The Sonics, virtually invent garage rock and punk with a 1965 take so brutal, even the Sex Pistols would wince in admiration.

The Sonics; The Troggs; The Rolling Stones.

Now the covers have turned into clones and cousins.

The riff has now become so common that everyone went from a cover into new creations. The Drifers usher in a new standard with "Sweets For My Sweet". The Castaways pull a cover-up with "Liar Liar"; the Soul group The Vibrations scooped a baldfaced substitute as "My Girl Sloopy", and The Real McCoys inserted irony by covering the clone as "Hang On Sloopy".

In Boston patois, The Barbarians' drummer plied his hand with the hook in his autobiographical "Moulty". The Kinks tried to cover it and instead found "You Really Got Me" and "All Day and All Of the Night", two new standards. As garage and pop started colluding on radio hits, The Rare Breed ("Beg, Borrow, and Steal"), The Troggs ("Wild Thing", another new standard), The Rolling Stones ("Get Off of My Cloud", another), The Remains ("Why Do I Cry"), and The Eyes ("I'm Rowed Out") heisted the Jamaican ship for new ports.

Culture is typically cyclical based on response, and a song that was first inspired by Mambo cha-cha-cha rhythms was in turn covered extensively in Spanish-speaking countries (including its clones) by acts like Los Loud Jets, Sonia, and The Sandpipers.

Julie London; Bob Dylan;
Toots And The Maytals.

From covers, to clones, to cousins, and finally to culture. At this point it became a free-for-all. An idea has become universal, and every response transforms it with new perspectives. It's everybody's party, and everybody has a part in it.

Quincy Jones did a jazz cover of a clone with "Hang On Sloopy". Conga god Mongo Santamaria sailed back to Cuba in his take on "Louie Louie". Torch damsel Julie London gave it a sultry shoreleave it will never forget. Ike & Tina Turner gave it an soulful shakedown at the Apollo while Otis Redding cruised it through Memphis.

It lazes under the bridge of "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" by The Righteous Brothers. A twist on it rolls through Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone". It twined through Frank Zappa's work continously, including firing a guitarist when they couldn't play it. Quietly, the sing-song riff sways under The Rascals' "Good Lovin'", Erma Franklin's "Piece Of My Heart", and Tommy Roe's "Dizzy".

It was wham-bammed by Glam bands in the early '70s, of course. The funk-pop band Hot Chocolate familiarized it into their hit "Brother Louie". Toots & the Maytals brought it home to Jamaica in reggae stylee. It grooves under "Summer Days, Summer Nights" from the movie musical GREASE. Barry White got up close and personal with it. Stanley Clarke and George Duke funked around with it.

The Stooges; Lou Reed; Motorhead.

But the song never forgot its edge. The song had become less a riff and more of a shorthand writ of young swagger and rebel sneer. In the '70s and '80s it often took on a seedy and dangerous allure, continuing to kick against the pricks.

Garage rock had spat out the crazed stepchild, The Stooges. On a bootleg of their last gig in '74, Iggy Pop uses "Louie" as a frame to taunt his audience out of boozy complacency. One patron purportedly beans him with a beer bottle, which is the thump and buzzing mike heard at the end. Lou Reed's "Vicious" helped inspire Sid's name. The Clash lashed it and The Fall sneered it in concert in '77. Johnny Thunders stumbled through it on his way to the glass table.

"Louie Louie" was now being unfurled like a Jolly Roger. L.A. punks X flash glimmers of its sway within "We're Desperate". Some of its ghost can be traced in the swaying buzz of The Dickies' "You Drive Me Ape (You Big Gorilla)". It was Motorhead's first single. Black Flag refuses surrender with it in 1981. "Love Sinks", by The J. Geils Band, is a revamp of it via "Wild Thing". Acts as diverse as D.R.I., Joan Jett, The Pretenders, The Fat Boys, The Ultra Magnetic MCs, Sisters of Mercy, and more shanghaied its course through the '80s. For Russian emigres Red Square it was a very real rejection of repression and a charter to deliverance.


Then it came full circle. From the hinterlands near Seattle, Kurt Cobain corrupted the chords into a splice with Boston's "More Than a Feeling" in 1991. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is a perfect summation of everything that made "Louie Louie" great in the first place: a kicking riff, a sloppy attitude, mysterious lyrics, and a combustible audience. Again, it had become the rallying cry for fun and foment, which is Rock'n'Roll incarnate. Perfect.

From culture into community. Ultimately, a riff becomes a communal experience, a rallying cry, a Morse-code beacon, a universal bond like the heartbeat; this is Us, this is home.

In 1993 Iggy Pop revolted from style back into sting, using the song to navigate modern protests and soul-searching. He said the song always steadies him when he goes off course. Likewise, the insanely prolific punk Billy Childish keelhauled it for a sequel with his garage band Thee Headcoats in '95: "Louie Louie (Where Did She Roam)" sets course for new shores in pursuit of that elusive island love. Which, beyond the riff and its attitude, may be the secret refrain of the song that haunts the memory; ache at the landlocked present and longing for an open future.

Great idea + varied response + shared experience = culture.

Culture is formed and maintained by the interchange of community; like the ocean, every current, crosscurrent, ebb, flow, swell, and wave remolds it while holding it together. "Louie Louie" is an undercurrent of raw Rock'n'Roll spirit driving the tides across time. It is ever-current, from Jane's Addiction, The A-Bones, and Blur, to The Black Keys, Boonaraas, Foxygen, and The Love Me Nots. Set course. Said we gotta go now.

"Okay, let's give it to 'em, right now!"
A-A-A, D-D, Em-Em-Em, D-D...

© Tym Stevens

See also:

-The Pedigree of PETER GUNN

-Shock Waves: How SURF MUSIC Saved Rock'n'Roll!

Friday, August 17, 2007

BO DIDDLEY: The Rhythm King and His Disciples

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Today, the romp-bompin' Bo Diddley, the baron of the beat!
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Part 1: The Rhythm King of Rock'n'Roll

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It's that rhythm.

It had been around before in variations. "Shave-and-a-haircut, two-bits." His band says it came from a song called "The Hambone" (based on a rhythm and dance descended from the Juba dance of Haiti). Bo Diddley says it actually came out of his love of the insistent cadence of Country & Western star Gene Autry's "I Got Spurs That Jingle Jangle Jingle" (1942). Anything comes from anywhere, it's all in how you use it.

Chess Records in 1955 Chicago was the home of the electric blues gods; Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, their writer and bassist Willie Dixon, harpist Little Walter. Mature men from hard lives in the sharecropper South. When that gave out they migrated among millions to the Rust Belt states around the Great Lakes for factory jobs and record deals. Muddy's was the first all-electric Blues band, plugging Rock'n'Roll in in 1948. Wolf was the leer of the forbidden, crackling through the night airwaves. With the edgy John Lee Hooker, they stoked the souls of rambunctious young listeners, squirming to bust out.

You can hear it on those first singles by the new upstarts at Chess; when Chuck Berry and Bo crashed the party, it was like someone had flung writhing livewires onto the dance floor crowd. There is a jolting rush and breakneck intensity to those songs that had never been there before. Suddenly the Blues seemed plodding by comparison. It is alive, rude, both mean and joyful. So fast and so fuzzed out it made everything else trip over itself tepidly. What the hell was this? That hard stomping snarl of "Maybelline", that thundrous gallop and phasing tremolo of "Bo Diddley".

BOOM-de-boom-boom, De-BOOM-Boomp. Dag!

Little Walter, Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry (1986)

Bo's sound was the past and the future. The crossroads.

It was tribal drumming under an eerie richochet of distorted guitar. In your midnight bedroom, preening your ear covertly to the alien voices sparking out of the radio static, it transported you to some beyonder badlands where mad hooves cascaded like hailstones. BOOM-de-boom-boom, De-BOOM-Boomp. Above this thunderground shimmered an aurora of electronic reverb. Through this nether void Bo would ride hard on sheer pride. He was ego ("I walked 47 miles of barbed wire/ Wear a cobra snake for a necktie"), identity ("I'm a man/ I spell M-A-N"), insane ("You shoulda heard just what I seen"), and hilarious ("I came into this world playing a gold guitar!").

Surging sidesaddle was maraca man Jerome Green, comedic foil and timekeeper. And whiplashing with him lick for lick was Peggy "Little Bo" Jones, her guitar striding beside on "Roadrunner", "Pills", and "Hush Your Mouth". After her came Norma-Jean "The Duchess" Wofford to kick more ruckus. And Bo, a cracked inventer and inverter of sound with his square-box guitar he cobbled from stray junk. These incomparable compadres carried him through more classics than you can shake a drumstick at.

L: Peggy "Lady Bo" Jones;
R: Norma-Jean "The Duchess" Wofford

To reiterate, the M-A-N was adult enough to respect the women. Female guitarists of the era often got spotlight specifically as the singing front, but weren't routine band members. While Bo Diddley could have hogged the light, he instead had a woman in his band as his equal sparring partner, not once but twice. Bo knew that well-rounded inclusion was the right way to go.

That persona. That rhythm. That attack. That fusion of the earthy and the eerie. That booming voice on "I Can Tell", that delirious giggle on "The Story of Bo Diddley", that gutteral sneer on "Oh Yea", those mournful highs on "Mona". What kid wouldn't fall in love with that? And around the world many did and would for years and years. The story of Bo Diddley would amplify every time a new movement plugged in a guitar.

When someone recently mentioned him in relation to the Blues, Bo calmly but clearly set them straight. "I'm not a blues artist. I'm a rock'n'roller."

You're the Man. M-A-N.

Part 2: Diddley Daddy:
The Disiples of Bo Diddley

Bo Diddley and The Clash

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BO DIDDLEY: Disciples
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All songs in order from the 1950s to today.

The riff that will not fade away.

Bo's 1950s friends were the first to jibe handily with the hand jive. Buddy Holly, like Bo from South America ("south Texas"), was among the first to give Bo the thumbs up weaving his rhythm into "Not Fade Away". Johnny Otis, famed Jump Jive bandleader, bumps it lively with his "Willie & the Hand Jive", Elvis Presley with "His Latest Flame", and Mac Rebbenack (a.k.a., Dr. John) with "Storm Warning".

Gene Autry, Buddy Holly, Muddy Waters, Etta James

Bo had transmuted Gene Autry and now others were transfiguring him. This is that fluid moment in creativity when a unique riff or beat transcends to a consensual pattern -like the shuffle, the rhumba, the bossa nova, and the waltz- which pollinates laterally. Lawyers, accountants, and separatists aside, this is inevitable and natural. A creator does deserve credit for their efforts or innovations. But then every good idea takes on new lives in the responses of others.

Creativity is intrinsically cyclical and progressive, a crossroads relay of past and future. Muddy Waters's "Hoochie Coochie Man" (1954) had inspired Bo's "I'm A Man". Muddy then answered Bo's song with his "Mannish Boy" (1955), and later they did "I'm A Man" together with Little Walter (1967). And Etta James set them all straight with "W-O-M-A-N".

As the original big bang of rock surged into early 60's Surf, Bo's sense of rhythmic propulsion undergirded the rumbling attack of Surf and Hot Rod instrumentals. Dick Dale's "Surfin' Drums", The Imps "That'll Get It", and Lonnie Mack's "Memphis". Our man even did a 1963 album responding back called "Surfin' With Bo Diddley". (Ax murderer Link Wray foreshadowed Punk in 1962, churning through a hyperspeed "Bo Diddley" like his sleeves were burning.) In covers, homages, or in sonic spirit, Bo's influence was now encoded in Pop's DNA.

Lonnie Mack, Marvin Gaye, Olivia Molina, The Pretty Things

It hipshakes through Soul in hits like Smokey Robinson & The Miracles' "Mickey's Monkey", Marvin Gaye's "Baby, Don't You Do It", The Shangri-La's' "Simon Speaks", and Shirley Ellis' "The Clapping Song" (and Olivia Molina's cover "Juego De Palabras"). BOOM-de-boom-boom, De-BOOM-Boomp...

England always values our culture better than we do. From their perspective the Blues masters and the rocker rogues were gods raining from Olympus in sheaths of steam. The resultant mid-'60s British Invasion was the second ring of the big bang, and Bo's beats pulsared through it as much as Chuck's comet flares. The Liverbirds' sent a father's day card covering "Diddley Daddy". The Pretty Things, tougher older brothers of The Rolling Stones, took their name from Bo's song and his rhythm for their classic "Rosalyn". (Then later, Bowie borrowed their name for three songs and covered "Rosalyn"!) The Animals made up a fake tale of meeting him in their "The Story of Bo Diddley" in homage to his mythos. The Stones made their big breakthrough covering "Not Fade Away" with extra emphasis on Bo's beat.

As the bluesy vamps of The Stones, Yardbirds, Animals, Kinks, and Pretties snarled their way into the emerging Garage Rock, Bo's legacy blew cheap speakers in rehearsals worldwide. English bands like Stovepipe No. 4 ("Pretty Thing"), Rey Anton & the Peppermint Men ("You Can't Judge a Book"), and The Who (Jerome's maracas live in their "Magic Bus"). Bo's strut further disordered borders with artists like Jacques Dutronic (France), Els Xocs (Spain), Dawn Penn (Jamaica), and Jeannie C. Riley (Texas).

American bastards like The Juveniles ("Bo Diddley"), the garage gods The Sonics ("Diddy Wah Diddy"), and The Preachers (who throw some immortal 'twist-and-shreik!' into their "Who Do You Love" cover) all bomped the bomp. Most famously/infamously, The Strangeloves stomped the streets with their beat repeat "I Want Candy". Besides covers and clones, the beat was now splicing into interpolated cousins. The Byrds married The Beatles' "I've Just Seen a Face" to Bo's beat with their "Don't Doubt Yourself, Babe". Bob Dylan brought it all back home to Jerome with "Maggie's Farm".

Bob Dylan, The Strangeloves, The Who, The Stooges

As the music got rougher in the ascending '60s, in came Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band screaming Howlin' Wolf in Bo's clothing with their corrosive "Who Do You Love". Soon enough The Doors expanded that song into a panting rant in panavision. Hard on their heels were the bristling Stooges with their homages "Little Doll" and "1969", stripping the excesses of psychedelia down to a primal, throbbing buzz that would invent Punk. (Recently Iggy wrote a loving essay about Bo for Rolling Stone: "Bo's hands are about a foot long from the wrist to the tip of the finger. He really controls his guitar." It's all about concentrated chaos.)

As early 70's Glam vamped on '50s Rock, David Bowie expressed that pulse as "Panic In Detroit", The New York Dolls spilled their ills with his "Pills" in 1973, and Bo footed the platform for songs by Fancy, Roxy Music, Brian Eno, and The Sweet. His pattern also pulsed unexpected parts like Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" and Jethro Tull's "Aqualung".

David Bowie, Talking Heads, The Slits, Bow Wow Wow

When late '70s Punk brought it all back to basics, they were aflame with the direct fury of '50s rock. Chuck and Bo's riffs ricocheted through reverb in squalid alkie-holes planetwide all over again. On The Clash's first tour of America, they insisted that Bo Diddley be their opening act. "Every time I look at him, my jaw just drops," said Joe Strummer. It was a middle-finger salute to their coked-and-clueless record label and a laurel leaf to their Dionysus. Their songs "Hateful" and "Rudie Can't Fail" pound with the maestro's pulse. The impulse of PostPunk bands to marry primal polyrhythms with sharp abrasive textures, such as The Slits, Talking Heads, Pulsallama, Bush Tetras,and LiliPUT, is Bo's crossroads recrossed again.

Bow Wow Wow made it big on a cover version of a swipe, with "I Want Candy". '80s kids didn't know to judge a beat by its cover because it was too busy moving their backsides. And did so again with George Michael's "Faith". It strobes through Lyndsey Buckingham's swirling "Loving Cup" and The Smiths' amazing "How Soon Is Now". That ferocious edge cycles again in Minutemen's "Case Closed", Husker Du's "Hare Krsna", and songs by X, The Milkshakes, Throwing Muses, and Jane's Addiction. In 1987 the Jesus & Mary Chain declared in wax that "Bo Diddley Is Jesus".

Public Enemy's radical cocktail of hardbumping rhythms with sheets of flanging noise is the very spirit of Bo. (Chuck D is a deep fan of the pychedelic Chess albums of Wolf and Waters, and Bo in his SM fetish belts on 1970s "Black Gladiator" cover freaked him out). Deconstructing the past reconstructs the future. U2's heart bumpathumped with "Desire". Chris Isaak may have been Elvis Orbison, but he still brought it to Jerome with his take on "Diddley Daddy" in '89. Guns'n'Roses free-bass'ed it as "Mr. Brownstone".

Public Enemy, The White Stripes, Janelle Monae, The Love Me Nots

As a pattern beat or polyrhythmic approach, Bo's hooves steadily galloped through the '90s and '00s. The beat was a pathway, of knowing where you came from to know where to go next. And to spite any currently popular trails you didn't want to go near. Whether Dick Dale, The Gories, Shonen Knife, The White Stripes, Gorillaz, Fatboy Slim, tUnE-yArDs, Ty Segall, Janelle Monae, Bleached, or The Love Me Nots, the original primal beat of Rock'n'Roll strode on and on...

It's that rhythm. The riff that will not fade away. BOOM-de-boom-boom, De-BOOM-Boomp. This is the continuing story of Bo Diddley...

"Bo Diddley", by Peter Blake (1963)

© Tym Stevens

See Also:

-The Real History of Rock and Soul!: A Manifesto, A Handy Checklist

-Revolution 1950s: The Big Damn Bang of Rock'n'Roll!

-1950s PUNK: Sex, Thugs, and Rock'n'Roll!

-CHUCK BERRY: The Guitar God and His Disciples

-BUDDY HOLLY: Rock's Everyman and His Disciples

-LITTLE RICHARD: The Voice of Rock and His Disciples

-JIMMY REED: The Groover of Rock, From Motown To Sesame Street

Friday, August 10, 2007

CHUCK BERRY: The Guitar God and His Disciples

...with 2 roaring Music Players!

now brings you the actual, all-inclusive history of Rock'n'Soul music each week.

History Checklist

Today, the road-rippin' Chuck Berry, emperor of electric guitar!
Hear 2 massive music players, one of Chuck and one of all his disciples from the 1950's to today!

Music Player quick-links:
Chuck Berry
Chuck Berry's disciples: 1950s-2010s

Part 1: LET IT ROCK:
The Music of Chuck Berry

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It was all new.

Sleek aerodynamic autos clacking down all that fresh freeway tarmac, silver bullets soaring you from city to city, idyllic neighborhoods where families could breathe in space and television, and the mystery world of airwaves whispering melodies in the night. The Depression was a sepia memory, the War a receding ache.

Everything was wide open in 1955.

Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry, circa 1970

Bo Diddley was the beat, but Chuck Berry was the rest.

He was the rhythm and the roll, the voice, the theater, the instrument, the speed. "If you're going to give Rock'n'Roll another name," John Lennon opined, "you might try Chuck Berry." The hard-charging riff into a stomping 4/4 beat, that comes from this man. The terse clang of a guitar (rock) with the rollicking laughter of piano (roll), that's Chuck.

The attitude, whether flush with adrenalin, joyful in youth, scornful of entanglement, celebratory of lust, outrunning the Man, or spinning cinematic fantasies, that's our hero. Though older, Chuck was careful to articulate the triumphs and tensions of the new post-War youth. Better yet, his rapier wordplay staccato-ing at a breakneck tear was rich, vibrant, eagle-eyed, and silver-tongued. He was haughty, hilarious, and horny. He was the brown-eyed handsome man and he was perfect.

His show and persona were absolute style: sharp suits, hair to die for, duck walks, wild kicks, and cocky ease. No rocker would exist without his granduer and theater. And the guitar, well, come on: the Riff, the rhythmic hum, the bristling leads, the fretboard as an arm a lover a battering ram a communal tuning fork a divining rod of the soul. And that clackclackclack roar straining the speedometer. Every king and queen in the 50's rock pantheon gave us great gifts, but Chuck had it all in one gleaming caddy.

Jerry Lee Lewis; Little Richard; James Brown

He wanted it fast and free.

From a large St. Louis family, he dreamt big and wide. His early gigs fused bluesy boogie with hillbilly gallup and bluegrass flux. When he walked into Chess Studios with a homemade demo, his cover of Western Swing king Bob Will's "Ida Red" startled them. He retorqued it as "Maybelline" and hit the tar a star. Most bought a suit, car, and house. Chuck bought real estate and blueprinted a theme park. He opened a nightclub mixing the musics and the audience to the city's ire.

As his breakneck classics redefined Rock and empowered him, he was suddenly hit with a suspect charge that undid him; he'd once given a ride across state lines to a club greeter later busted for prostitution. That thin association was used to put him in prison for two years. Meanwhile Elvis was drafted by his neighbors, Buddy and Eddie died, Richard went God, and Jerry Lee redefined 'young love' badly. Rock'n'Roll got pulled over to the shoulder.

Chuck came back out in the early '60s embittered. But his influence was suddenly all around again in the British Invasion. He spun a new bluestreak that reflected the Beatles reflecting him. He rocked the hippies at the Fillmores, and rolled into the '70s on the '50s revival spurred by AMERICAN GRAFFITI and Glam and then Punk. He may never have matched that bracing blast-off, but migod what a fabulous ride he gave us!

The Disciples of Chuck Berry

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CHUCK BERRY: Disciples

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All songs in order from the 1950s to today.

Chuck Berry is the throughline of Rock'n'Roll.

The original power trio:
Ebby Hardy, Chuck Berry, Johnnie Johnson

Boogie was the secret spine of the Twentieth Century. It twined though Ragtime, Swing Jazz, Country Swing, acoustic and electric Blues, Honky Tonk and Hillbilly. It is the thread that sutured them all into Rock'n'Roll. That briskly walking bassline stairsteps through Bob Will's "Ida Red" until the guitar does that crucial lockstep kick that enflamed Chuck's heart. Then, the boogie woogie pound and ripple of his foil Johnny Johnson's piano routed his sound onto the road as they rode shotgun into the future.

Buddy Holly; Dick Dale; The Beatles; Bob Dylan

His '50s peers were immediately peeling rubber in pursuit. Buddy Holly is singing Chuck's praise as much as his song, "Brown Eyed Handsome Man". And Carl Perkins, Ernest Tubb, Margaret Lewis, and Los Teen Tops (Mexico) are churning asphalt into ash behind him.

Those are his treads blazing through the Beach Boys' and Dick Dale's early '60s surf whorls and drag strips. Surf and Hot Rod bands woodshopped their chops on Berry covers before cascading waves and scorching raceways. At this point the interaction becomes intwined; with "Surfin' U.S.A.", Brian Wilson brought a harmony dimension to Chuck's riffs that will ripple through the tides to come ("Back In the U.S.S.R.", "Ca Plane Pour Moi").

The Beatles and their British Invasion flank existed because of Chuck, and they test-drove dozens of his songs. The royalties and exposure even brought Chuck back into the race again. Chuck's blues-base was the starting gate for purist bluesers like The Rolling Stones, The Animals, and The Pretty Things to expand the tracks. Jeff Beck of The Yardbirds paved his future path with his retread of "Guitar Boogie" as "Jeff's Boogie".

Dylan hotwired the cadence of "Too Much Monkey Business", which Chuck picked up from little girls skipping rope, to getaway from his folk box with the pumping "Subterranean Homesick Blues". This signature beat will ricochet through the future.

The combo of Berry fire, Beatles style, and Dylan snarl led to mid '60s Garage Rock, whose bands flushed the engines with fuzz. Blazing in late, the crazed and underrated Dean Carter kept '50s rock revved through his Garage stylings the entire 60's, such as covering "40 Days".

The Rolling Stones; The Yardbirds; Jimi Hendrix; MC5

Late '60s Psychedelia seemed like a different model, a plastic fantastic funnycar assembled by Coltrane and Kesey, but Chuck still fueled the silver machine. What was Jimi Hendrix but the cosmic jetcar sparked by Chuck's airmobile? Just buckle tight and soar with the roar of his live staple, "Johnny B. Goode".

In the hangover from Psyche, when the MC5 and The Stooges wanted a return to brute essence, it was Chuck who was the vehicle; the former's "Back In the USA" cover rolls like a stroll through better days. This blunt, stripped-down approach -along with tours of the counterculture ballrooms and festivals by 50's Rock mentors like Berry, Diddley, and Thornton- led from nostalgia to a spin-around renaissance.

T.Rex; Led Zeppelin; New York Dolls; The Runaways

Psychedelia was a hydra, with rough corrosive rock as one head and expansive dynamics as another.

In the early '70s these heads morphed into Glam and Progressive Rock: Prog was all spectacle, sonic wizardry, ambition, a showboat; but Glam was an ironic glitz, tighter, all three-minute pop in a boogie chassy. Both are trails forged in Rock by Chuck.

T-Rex put a Glam kit on his "Little Queenie" and even quote it at the end of their breakthrough "Bang a Gong (Get It On)". Suzi Quatro jacked a rhinestone chevy with "Glycerine Queen", playing chicken with Gary Glitter's "Do You Wanna Touch Me". (The Runaways and Joan Jett are the collision.) The New York Dolls, whose butch tranny take on Chuck had inspired Glam, rip it up in their dragster "Personality Crisis".

Led Zeppelin grounded themselves in the basics with "Communication Breakdown" and "Rock'n'Roll". Movies like AMERICAN GRAFITTI and THAT'LL BE THE DAY (with Ringo), TV shows like "Happy Days", Broadway shows like "Grease", and boogie bands and cover songs stoked the flames. The terse, raw, careening riffs were a revelation and a transport for new youth, speaking to their lives and fantasies in a direct way that didn't "sound just like a symphony" like Prog.

Drop the coin right into the slot!

Mick Jagger; John Lennon; Debbie Harry.

Soon a stripped-down mover called Pub Rock hit mid-'70s England, simply '50s Rock and R'n'B on new cylinders.

Eddie & the Hot Rods injected youth frustration into this mix with "Teenage Depression", and then Punk flooded it magnificently. In early rehearsals, Johnny plunged the Sex Pistols off a cliff trying to be good, in their wipeout of "Johnny B. Goode". It mutates into songs like "No Future", The Damned's "New Rose", and The Clash's "I'm So Bored With The U.S.A.". Under its ragged veneer, Punk was high-octane Rock'n'Roll grinding the guardrails and shredding the shiny off.

That "Too Much Monkey Business" staccato rattles back in again in Ultravox's "Satday Night In the City", jumps in the new Elvis, Costello's, "Pump It Up", and scats through The Police's "It's Alright For You".

Those retro reprobates, Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe, hotwired Chuck's torch; in solo songs like "Crawling From the Wreckage" and "Maureen", and with their band Rockpile's "Oh What a Thrill". Meanwhile, back in the USA Bruce Springsteen prowled the byroads of the interior with "From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)".

By the late '70s, the spectre of Johnny B. Goode flies full-bore past the flagman in Punk, stadium rock, Power Pop, and New Wave; Cheap Trick cruising the night when the "Clock Strikes Ten", Ohio expatriate Chrissie Hynde chauffeuring the coupe to England with The Pretenders' "Watching the Clothes", Nikki and The Corvettes clamping the clutch with the "Criminal Element".

Rhythm'n'Blues and Rock'n'Roll have always been the same music, but given different names specifically to separate people. By 1980, FM radio had programmed this segregation into mass minds simply by formatting: you could be played on Rock stations for sounding like Chuck Berry, but not for looking like him, and R'n'B stations played neither. It takes two dummies to complete a shared delusion. The BusBoys parodied this blinkered idiocy of dividing music and humans by skin and sound barriers with the acerbic "Johnny Soul'd Out".

The Cramps; The BusBoys; The Stray Cats; Gary Clark, Jr.

The essence of "Johnny B. Goode" -furious riff, rapidfire rap, strutting singer, and guitar god- defined essential Rock'n'Roll for the ages. More so than any singer or song ever. Ever.

And on he careened, in every chunky riff, arrogant swagger, and rushing roar from Aerosmith to Guns'n'Roses, The Cramps to Demented Are Go, The BusBoys to The Bobbyteens, The Undertones to The Hives, George Jones to Heavy Trash, The Twangies (IndoRock) to Peter Tosh, Pussy Galore to The White Stripes, Joan Jett to The Kills, Robert Gordon to Guitar Wolf, Steve Miller to Gary Clark, Jr..

Flipping donuts brings you full circle.

Paul McCartney had convertabled "Back In the U.S.S.R." once, and told John to slow "Come Together" down so it wouldn't sound sooo much like Chuck (dig the "flattop grooving" lines copped from his "You Can't Catch Me"). In recent years he re-swung through the swamplands with the full-on Chuck amok of "Run Devil Run". And Swedish Nic Armstrong & the Thieves brought it all roundtrip with his cover of "I Want To Be Your Driver", a Beatles freak doing Chuck Berry doing The Beatles doing Chuck Berry!

Around and around, forever fast and free...

Johnny B. Goode

© Tym Stevens

See Also:

-The Real History of Rock and Soul!: A Manifesto, A Handy Checklist

-Revolution 1950s: The Big Damn Bang of Rock'n'Roll!

-1950s PUNK: Sex, Thugs, and Rock'n'Roll!

-BO DIDDLEY: The Rhythm King and His Disciples

-BUDDY HOLLY: Rock's Everyman and His Disciples

-LITTLE RICHARD: The Voice of Rock and His Disciples

-JIMMY REED: The Groover of Rock, From Motown To Sesame Street

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Shock Waves: How SURF MUSIC Saved Rock'n'Roll!

...with 2 Music Players,
of classic Surf + all its modern disciples!

now brings you the actual, all-inclusive history of Rock'n'Soul music, with Music Players.

Music Player Checklist

Surf Music kept the Rock movement alive from its original Rock'n'Roll origins into the British Invasion, and continues today.

Here are two Music Players charting that enduring influence on Rock history.

Music Player Quick Links:
1) SURF ROCK: : the First Wave of the 1960s
2) SURF ROCK Disciples: from 1962 to today

Each Music Player is in chronological order, from the '50s to the present.

1-Tidal Waves: 1958-1964

Spotify playlist title=
SURF ROCK: 1958-1964

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This first Music Player covers the initial rise of Surf Rock from 1958 to its mainstream peak in 1964, in chronological order.


The rhythm sections made it Roll but guitars made it Rock.

There was a bristling edge to those pulsing strings that was unearthly yet dirty, as ebullient as it was evil. The stinging leads in those first 1950s Rock'n'Roll songs jolted every kid in their tennies and rung them like tuning forks.

Many unsung heroes electrified the star's hits: Charlie Christian (Bennie Goodman), Scotty Moore (Elvis Presley), James Burton (Ricky Nelson), Cliff Gallup (Gene Vincent), Paul Burlison (Johnny Burnette Trio), Hubert Sumlin (Howlin' Wolf), Joe Maphis (Wanda Jackson), Danny Cedrone (Bill Haley), and many more. Chuck Berry broke through because he was able to write and sing as well as he played. But slowly, the guitarists started to get the limelight of their own.

Two of the new Guitar Stars paved the course. Link Wray, sartorial sharpie in a pompadour, was the sonic equivilent of a knifefight. Naturally his breakout was the moody instrumental "Rumble". His hard reverbing strings and prickly chords would open up the door to Surf, Garage Rock, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Punk, and beyond. His peer Duane Eddy tuned his weapon to echo a brutal twannng that would mug you as soon as look at you. His rocking take on Henry Mancini's "Peter Gunn Theme" launched a thousand covers and clones. Their sound and its attitude paved the wave of instrumental breakdown that followed.

Now the undercurrents churned to the surface with the rise of guitar-driven instrumental rock bands. Riff hits like "Raunchy" and "Tequila" roiled a swell of instro acts by 1959 like Santo And Johnny, The Vampires, The Montereys, Sandy Nelson, and The Frantics. This cascaded into the huge success of The Ventures' "Walk Don't Run" (1960), a sunny island melody on clanging guitar with a rolling drum break that brought the rogue wave into vogue.

The underflow is in motion, even if the mainstream hadn't reeled in the notion. They were too busy trying to sink Rock'n'Roll at the dawn of the '60s. And with the almost simultaneous loss of most of its singing figureheads (to the Army, death, God, or marrying your underage cousin), it seemed to be capsizing itself. Maybe this new punk music had only been a fad after all, like the quaking straights had been shreiking.

But the flame was kindled in the beach fires of the budding surf communities of southern California. The Pacific sport had hit the beaches and swept up the young with it. Kids practicing in garages began pounding out their covers of Rock'n'Roll and Rhythm'n'Blues in beach houses and party clubs, and then surfed the rest of the time. One of these guys, a Lebenese fan of Hank Williams and Mediterranean melodies, had an epiphany.

Dick Dale wanted to channel the roaring rush of power he got from surfing through his amplifier. He worked with nearby guitar maker Leo Fender to develop an amp that could project and withstand his aural assault. After myrad exploded amps they developed the Fender amps that rockers use to this day. Leo also came up with the Fender Reverb Unit, a crucial pedal that Dale used to create the signature tough-echo Surf Music sound. Dale rode the crest of fame up and down the west coast, christening acolytes by the score. The new wave of Rock had risen.

Instro bands worldwide caught a ride. Surfin' the USA were The Lively Ones, The Sentinels, The Surfaris, The Challengers, and The Trashmen. From the UK, idiosyncratic producer Joe Meek streamed The Tornados, The Shadows, and The Outlaws (with Ritchie Blackmore). "Catch a wave/ and you're riding on top of the world."

The novice narrative tells you that Surf was a local Cali scene that subsided. In reality, it was reflected worldwide and has never really stopped. Surf had liberated Rock in a way that chartwatchers and fadflits miss: it democratized Rock by lacking vocals and including world melody styles. It became a purely musical language beyond borders that could include anyone playing their music in its style. For every Cali band that imagined surfing in Mazatlan, Hawaii, and Bangalore, there were world acts likewise teeming with California dreaming.

Rolling in on the flip were The Spotnicks and The Noise Men (Sweden), The Twangies (Indo-Rock from the Netherlands), The Skyliners (Belgium), Les Crescendos (Canada), and Los Sleepers (Mexico). The Ventures had as much impact on Japan as The Beatles would everywhere else, inspiring the 'Group Sounds' guitar bands like The Spiders, The Quests, The Pinky Chicks, and The Golden Cups. Spain cruised the slews with Equipe 84, Los Sirex, Los Continentales, and 4 Jets.

Surf also advanced Rock in another way. Like Jazz and Bluegrass before it, Surf brought chops, speed, and diversification through an exploratory instrumental style. (Psychedelia would extend this as a response to Free Jazz.) It amplified and intensified Rock pace and power into a fierce surge beyond the gallop of Rockabilly, mapping the course for every single harder Rock form that would follow.

The Beach Boys and Annette Funicello

But if instros set the mood, vocals set the scene. The tides of Surf really broke nationally when The Beach Boys and Jan & Dean wrote Pop postcards about the surfari. The harmony hooks and slang lyrics pulled in the popular imagination with dreams of this sunshine fantasia. One deeply profound sea change from this financial windfall was the recentralizing of the recording industry from New York to Los Angeles. There, in sunbaked new studios, young upstarts like producer Phil Spector and Brian Wilson pipelined hits like the tides, with the brilliant L.A. session mob "The Wrecking Crew". They inspired and competed with each other with classics at a ferocious clip.

The torrents tumbled laterally. Spector's astute arranger Jack Nitzsche literally scored a hit with the majestic "The Lonely Surfer" (1963). He wasn't the only composer so inspired. Surf had become a whirlpool of stinging echo guitar, tribal rhythms, Spanish flamenco inflections, Latin claves, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern and Polynesian melodies, and often intense horns. It was cinematic and cosmopolitan in ways that film and TV composers quickly channeled.

In London, former Rock/Jazz combo leader John Barry tersed up this heady mix into his first film scores. His bold move of placing Vic Flick's severe Surf lead upfront gave the JAMES BOND films their cutting edge. Quick on his wave was Ennio Morricone, who deconstructed all of these new pop influences into a darker avant tsunami of his own. His textural and experimental scores for the Italian westerns and thrillers ricocheted with the hard clang (and whistle) of Alessandro Alessandroni; from NAVAJO JOE and THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY, to DANGER: DIABOLIK and ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST.

Surf's success opened the floodgates of beach movies, often starring Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon, which projected the technicolor fantasy to every shore, and included guest performances by hit Pop artists. The GIDGET books and films led to the TV series starring newcomer Sally Field. [The trend of combing beach culture continued into later films like AMERICAN GRAFITTI (set in Cali 1962), FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, POINT BREAK, and BLUE CRUSH; and TV shows like Magnum P.I., Miami Vice, Baywatch, and Laguna Beach.]

Women have been part of every form of Rock and consistantly been ignored like they weren't. In truth, one of the very first Surf songs to break was Kay Bell And The Tuffs' "(The Original) Surfer Stomp" (1961). And like their brothers, plenty of vocal groups like The Honeys, The Beach Girls, and The Powder Puffs blitzed the spritz.

But women played Surf music, too. 13-year-old Kathy Marshall tore it up in clubs as guitarist for Eddie And The Showmen but she was never recorded.> Lead guitarist Chiyo Ushi at least got that shot with The Crescents' "Pink Dominos". Germany's Peter Reese And The Pages featured Helga Gwiasta on Fender Jazzmaster. And all-female bands rode toes on the nose, as well: The Pleasure Seekers (with teenaged Patti and Suzi Quatro) caroused the proto-Garage classic "What A Way To Die" (1964); The Continental Co-ets' reverberated with "I Don't Love You No More"; and the great Char Vinnedge's lead snarl fueled The Luv'd Ones' surfstrumental "Scratchy".

Dick Dale and Stevie Wonder

Surf floated all boats. Soul songs by The Isley Brothers, The Mad Lads, Dee Dee Sharpe, and Johnny Otis crashed the splash. Duane Eddy's "Your Baby's Gone Surfin'", Hal Blaine's "Dance To The Surfing Band" and Al Casey's "Surfin' Hootenanny" were all actually sung by the dynamic Darlene Love And The Blossoms. There were covers of The Beach Boys by The Tymes, The Orions, and The Supremes. And the osmosis was fluid, as The Trashmen's classic hit "Surfin' Bird" was a combined cover of The Rivingtons' "Papa Oom Mow Mow" and "The Bird's The Word".

Riding the wave were albums like "Bo Diddley's Beach Party" (1963), "Freddy King Goes Surfin'" (1963), and the compilation "Look Who's Surfin' Now" (1964) featuring surf songs by James Brown, Albert King, and King Curtis. In 1964, Little Stevie Wonder raised some sand performing in the movies MUSCLE BEACH PARTY and BIKINI BEACH, and with his "Stevie At The Beach" album. And young Jimi Hendrix took some initial lessons from Dick Dale (both lefties who played their flipped guitars with strings unreversed).

The outmoded narrative is that '50s Rock imploded in 1959 and was resurrected by the British Invasion five years later. In reality, Rock had kept going worldwide on into the early '60s>, and was bouyed by Soul, Girl Groups, and Doo Wop. But it was the ferocity of guitar-driven Surf rock that most carried the movement into that transition. Surf music peaked commercially with the advent of The Beatles, but its ongoing tides have whitecapped through Rock to the present day.

2) Tsunami: 1962 To Today

This Music Player contains six decades of music influenced by Surf Rock, including:

The Beatles, John Barry, Stevie Wonder, Bobby Fuller, TV themes, The Yardbirds, The Who, Ennio Morricone, Love, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, The Stooges, Incredible Bongo Band, The Damned, Blondie, Ramones, The B-52's, Radio Birdman, X, Dead Kennedys, The Go-Go's, Jesus And Mary Chain, Sonic Youth, Pixies, L7, Man Or Astro-Man?, The Raveonettes, Chicks On Speed, and La Luz!

Spotify playlist title=
SURF ROCK Disiciples: 1962-Today
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This second Music Player covers the influence of Surf Music on music, soundtracks, and culture, from 1962 to the present.


Surf had rescued Rock'n'Roll.

It brought back its guitar edge coupled with more power and speed, more chops, and more melodic range.

The Beatles.

This morphed quickly sideways into drag race songs, strip joint grinders, and metallic space shanties. But it also continued to peel out in in the songs of its peers. It underlines The Beatles' "I Feel Fine" and "Back In The U.S.S.R.", The Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction", and The Yardbirds' "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago", as well as songs by L.A. bands like Love and The Monkees. Many bands got their start as Surf bands first, such as The Crossfires who became The Turtles.

It is the running roar in the garage rock of The 13th Floor Elevators, The Chob, The Purple Underground, Los Holy's (Peru), and The Easybeats (Australia).

It continued cruising the world with mid-'60s acts like Los Johnny Jets (Mexico), Los Yorks (Peru), Le Mini Coopers (France), Les Kangourous (Canada), Takeshi Terauchi And The Bunnies (Japan), The Invaders, (South Africa), Kriptons (Angola), Les Krakmen (Congo), Os Rebeldes (Portugal), Los Four Star (Bolivia), and The Golden Ring (Iran).

Helen dancing in joyful abandon

It kicked out in soundtracks like the scores of Ennio Morricone and Piero Piccioni, and the classic "Jaan Pehechan Ho" from Bollywood's GUMNAAM (1965); and snarled gnarly in classic TV show themes like "The Munsters", "Secret Agent", Neil Hefti's "Batman", and of course Morgan Stevens' "Hawaii 5-O" as played by The Ventures.

Surf tubed from drag race into the brutal fuzz of Davie Allan's biker movie anthems, like the classic "Blue's Theme" (1967).

Pink Floyd; Jimi Hendrix.

It thrived into interstellar overdrive via Syd Barrett's alien surf in Pink Floyd's "Lucifer Sam" (1967), and deepdove into the underwater expressionism of Jimi Hendrix's "1983... (A Merman I Should Turn To Be)".

It bombed the bomboras inside the piledriving ferocity of riff bands like MC5, The Stooges, and Pink Fairies.

In the '70s, it caught air from The Incredible Bongo Band to Barrabas (Spain), from The Raspberries' harmonies to the signature Duane Eddy-style riff of Bruce Springsteen's "Born To Run".

Radio Birdman; The Zeros.

Surf's deluge force spunks up Punk with Radio Birdman's "Aloha Steve And Dan-O" (Australia), the speed and bang of the Ramones' cover of "California Sun" (1977), and the bent Alex Chilton. Having taught a generation to play, it stagedives notably in L.A. Punk bands like The Zeros, The Gears, The Last, and The Surf Punks.

It is the angry insect salvos of The B-52's magnificent Ricky Wilson on "Private Idaho" and Peter Gunn-rewrite "Planet Claire", and irrigates the fetish psychobilly of Poison Ivy for The Cramps.

Keeping the focal local in the early '80s were California bands like the hardcore Dead Kennedys, Fear, Agent Orange, and Black Flag; and revivalists like Jon And The Nightriders, The Barracudas, The Go-Go's, and The BusBoys (who naturally flipped the trip with "Soul Surfin' USA").

By its name, how could New Wave not be Surf turf, as reflected in songs by Romeo Void and The Motels, the tart parody in Suburban Lawns' "Gidget Goes To Hell", the ringing guitar and Burundi drums of Bow Wow Wow, and the Morricone majesty of Marco Perroni on Adam Ant's "Desperate, But Not Serious"?

Surf hopped the chops with the rapidfire and rippling dynamics of Speed Metal (mid-'80s); and the late '80s neo-garage of Love And Rockets, Jesus And Mary Chain, and the criminally underrated Joey Santiago's essential leads for Pixies, who covered The Surftones' 1964 "Cecilia Ann".

In the '90s, Man Or Astro Man, The Trashwomen, and the latter day Russian satellites Laika & the Cosmonauts presaged the fullblown resurgence of Surfmania when Quentin Tarantino used Dick Dale's "Miserlou" in his 1994 film PULP FICTION (because it reminded him of Morricone scores). This rip-currented Dick Dale back into currency, along with Surf revivalists like The Mermen, Los Straitjackets, and The Aqua Velvets. Like many other timeless musical styles (labeled Retro by the shallow), Surf returned with a new rise of unironic and exploratory acolytes, which continues unabated with acts like Lost Acapulco, The Woggles, and Mach Kung Fu (Japan).

And like a roundhouse cutback, surfer grrrls are kicking any hoser 'bros' out of the ocean now. Surf dapples brightly in varied acts like The Neptunas, Susan And The Surftones, Baby Horror (Spain), 54 Nude Honeys (Japan), Chicks On Speed, Electrocute, Best Coast, The She's, Peach Kelli Pop, La Luz, and Baby Shakes.

Whether it's the rough Garage of Guitar Wolf (Japan), Dex Romweber Duo, and The Kills, or more abstractly with Dengue Fever, La Femme (France), and Curtis Harding, Surf still 360s for 12/365.

The Silver Surfer,
created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby:
the Static Shock cartoon series.

Surf made Rock'n'Roll roar. It gave swerve to its swagger, rush to its rumble. It gave it sea legs to sail out into the unknown. And its riptides still underscore music, fashion, slang, sports, and sun culture to this day. When was the last time you used the terms Dude, Awesome, For Sure, Bro', Bitchin', Dork, Gnarly, Rad, or Wipe Out? Probably your last tweet. And then there's skateboarding, windsurfing, and snowboarding...

Courtney Conlogue.

That surging rise you're feeling is the roiling, fluid power of Surf guitar. Long may it clang!

© Tym Stevens

See also:

-1950s PUNK: Sex, Thugs, and Rock'n'Roll!

-CHUCK BERRY: The Guitar God and His Disciples

-BO DIDDLEY: The Rhythm King and His Disciples

-The Pedigree of PETER GUNN

-The Legacy of LOUIE LOUIE

-JOHN BARRY: The Influence Of The JAMES BOND Sound On Pop Music