Saturday, July 30, 2016
When the Surfaris hit it big with the now-classic surf instrumental "Wipe Out" in 1963, no one was probably more surprised than another California band...which was also named the Surfaris. They soon realized they needed to change their name, so they dubbed themselves the Original Surfaris and carried on.
The group released a handful of singles in their day, and in 1995 a CD came out called Bombora! that collected them up, plus a whole bunch of other stuff. But it didn't include anything from this LP, which came out in 1965, the year the group split up.
That's probably because this album was actually and odds and ends collection of tracks the band cut years earlier. Although the group had recorded singles for Reprise, Del-Fi, and some indie labels, this record was put out by Diplomat Records, which somehow must have obtained the right to their early, unreleased recordings.
Since this stuff has never come out on CD, it fits with this blog's focus on rare music. So here it is. Most of this album is instrumental. And while the tracks here aren't like the crazed, Dick Dale-inspired, guitar-heavy instrumentals of the Diggin' Out compilation I recently posted, they do rock.
The opener, "Delano Soul Beat" is a terrific bluesy jam, while some of the others, like "Wheels Theme" and "Speed Jocking" show a bit of a British Invasion influence (something the Ventures incorporated into their sound as well). Several numbers come off like refried '50s rock'n'roll, but that's par the course for albums like this, I've found.
The record is also pretty gritty-sounding, especially in its mono mix. This suits the music really well. Surf instrumentals just weren't meant to sound too high fidelity. No one who recorded for Del-Fi should ever sound too hi-fi. Maybe that should have been a slogan.
Finally, I wonder if the title Wheels was an attempt to capitalize on the String-A-Longs' #3 instrumental hit from 1961, "Wheels." Probably not, but I just thought I'd throw that in. I assumed that song would be covered on this LP, but none of the songs with the word "wheels" in the title are covers of it or variations on it -- as far as I can tell.
1. Delano Soul Beat
2. Gear Down Boogie
3. Dirt Track Baby
4. Speed Jocking
5. Wheel Soul
6. Wheels Theme
7. Shutdown Daddy
10. Way-Out Wheeler
Friday, July 29, 2016
I wish that late Gary Usher could have connected with Andrew Lloyd Webber. Because then maybe they could have co-written a surf/hot rod music theatrical musical. The title? "Jesus Christ Super Stocks."
I've been wanting to put that joke/phrase in writing for about two decades now. And boy am I happy that I finally got to do it. All of which has nothing to do with today's post about the Super Stocks, which were yet another prefabricated session band put together by Gary Usher (the Hondells, the Kickstands, etc.).
The Super Stocks put out three albums, all of which have been reissued and are easily found. What's less obtainable are the various non-LP tracks that were at some point added onto various reissues and imports, but have since fallen out of print.
So I took these stray tracks and put together a Rarities collection. That's the good part. The not-so-good part is that most of these tunes aren't nearly as interesting as what ended up on those LPs.
The first ten songs pre-date those LPs. Songs 1-4 were placed on Capitol Records' multi-artist Shut Down album from 1963, while the next six come from another multi-artist Capitol collection, Hot Rod Rally, also released in 1963. Regular readers of this blog might recall that I posted a mono copy of Hot Rod Rally a few weeks ago. The tracks sound better there.
One reason these tracks don't work so well is that Usher hadn't yet tapped Chuck Girard to be his regular singer. Nor did he sing the songs himself. Instead he got musicians Joe Kelly and Ritchie Burns to do the vocal chores. Their voices, while good, lack that boyish twang that characterized the surf vocal sound.
When the vocals of Girard pop up on "This Bike of Mine," things start to perk up. This song, and all the ones that follow were unreleased in their day -- either as songs per se or the specific version of songs included here. The untitled instrumentals sound like variations on the guitar-based instrumentals on the second Hondells album. If you liked "The Lonely Rider" or "Cycle Chase," you're sure to like these.
And as for that "Jesus Christ Super Stocks" idea, it occurred to me they would have had to gotten Roger Christian involved too. Not only was he a lyricist, but the name "Christian" would have brought serious cred to the project.
1. Wide Track
2. Four on the Floor
3. Street Machine
4. Cheater Slicks
5. Hot Rod City
6. 426 Super Stock
7. Little Stick Nomad
8. '54 Corvette
9. Nifty Little Fifty
10. Wheel Man
11. Surfer's Holiday
12. This Bike of Mine
13. Coffin Nails
14. Beat '65
15. Free Fall
16. Untitled Instrumental Demo #1
17. Untitled Instrumental Demo #2
18. Untitled Instrumental Demo #3
19. Untitled Instrumental Demo #4
20. Untitled Instrumental Demo #5
21. Santa Barbara (Alternate Take)
Thursday, July 28, 2016
This promotional LP for slot car racing was a total rarity until it was reissued. But that reissue was over two decades ago and the reissue itself has fallen out of print. So it's a rarity again.
The GO Sound of the Slots! was an album commissioned by the Revell company to hype the new "slot car" racing fad. Surf music maven Gary Usher got the gig and recruited the guys from the Hondells (the make-believe band he put together and had hits with). Since Hondells singer Chuck Girard sang the leads, this album sounds really similar to the Hondells -- so much so that the liner notes for the reissue call it an unofficial third Hondells album.
As a stand-alone project, it just barely gets by because several of the tunes are rewrites of older Usher songs from previous projects (the liner notes detail what's what, so no need for me to repeat it here). But you're sure to find something you like here if you enjoyed Usher's songs with the Hondells, the Knights, the Kickstands, or the Super Stocks.
The reissue tacks on the Usher single "School Is A/Gas" (not a typo, that's how they wrote it out on the label) and its b-side, "Hon-da Beach," which were put out as being by the Wheel Men. The first of these songs will be familiar to anyone who had the fourth Pebbles collection, "Summer Means Fun." "My Baby Digs Slot Car Races" also made it onto the Everybody's Goin' Surfin'/Nobody's Goin' Surfin' collection I posted a few weeks ago.
1. Lotus 23
2. Fastest Little Racer
3. My Ferrari G.T.O.
4. Wait Till Next Time
5. Slot City
6. My Little Slot Coupe
8. My Baby Digs Slot Car Races
9. Little Stockers
10. The Restless Rookie
11. School Is A/Gas
12. Hon-Da Beach
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Surf Music Month continues with another LP from the budget-line Crown label. I posted a different album from this label yesterday, the Hot Rodders' Big Hot Rod.
This album is a special case, though. A correction needs to be made because it's been listed virtually everywhere else on the Web with the band name and title reversed. This is a band called the Shut Downs with an album called The Deuce Coupes, not the Deuce Coupes with an LP called The Shut Downs -- despite what AllMusic says. How do we know? There are two ways.
First, there is the record label itself. If you look below left at the label of the record I posted yesterday, you'll see the group's name, the Hot Rodders, is listed below the LP's title, Big Hot Rod. So it stands to reason that the label would do the same for its other albums. Which means that for this one the band 's name is the Shut Downs, since that's listed below The Deuce Coupes.
The second clue that the band's name isn't the Deuce Coupes is that there really was a band called the Deuce Coupes that recorded for another label, Del-Fi Records, and the music on this album sounds nothing like them. The Deuce Coupes recorded one album for Del-Fi, Hotrodders' Choice, and that LP has clean, professional sound (listen here). The sound on this record is far more low-budget with a "garage surf" feel. So, despite AllMusic lumping these two records together under the moniker of the Deuce Coupes, they're really two different bands.
If they were "bands" at all, that is. Both were probably studio groups. This group mixes vocal and instrumental and vocal tracks, most of which work due to sheer enthusiasm. The opener, "With My Baby," is pretty clever in that it's a rock adaptation of the old standard "Buffalo Gals" with hot rod lyrics pasted in. It's similar to the way Brian Wilson adapted "Swanee River" into "South Bay Surfer" on the third Beach Boys' LP. In fact, that might just have inspired this track.
"Body By Fisher" takes its cue from Bobby Darin's "Queen of the Hop" and "Goin, Goin, Gone" is a pretty ripping, dissonant instrumental for its time period. A lot of the tracks use automobile sound effects liberally which sets up the atmospherics first time around, but gets a bit old every time after that.
At 24 minutes, this one runs a bit shorter than the Hot Rodders album, which almost made the half-hour mark. At least you can't say these musicians were long-winded and pretentious.
1. With My Baby
2. 36 Window Coupe
3. Two Fast Cars
4. Starter's Nightmare
5. Oil On the Track
6. Body By Fisher
7. Turn Her On Buddy
8. Goin, Goin, Gone
9. Goggles Got A Hole In It
10. Deuce Coupes
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
There are only a few more days left until July ends, and that means Surf Music Month on this blog also comes to a close. So I'm really going to be pulling out the surf/hot rod/West Coast '60s rarities in the next few days. This is one.
There's almost no information online about this budget-line album put out by the Crown label, supposedly in 1964. I say "supposedly" because there's no date on the LP and no info comes up in old issues of Billboard. So I'm going by what Discogs.com says. If this was the old newspapers where I used to work, that kind of fact-checking would never have passed muster. But seeing how this is a blog and we're all more casual, I'm gonna go with 1964.
I found this album at a record show where it was selling for a buck. I was able to clean it up enough to present here, although the cover still looks pretty rough, as you can see above. This is the mono mix, but there are a few stereo mixes of songs that have popped up on YouTube.
This is also most likely one of those albums that features studio musicians masquerading as a band. In this case, the musicians were probably older because they sound like they're playing music from a generation earlier. Specifically, these cuts have more of a 1950s vibe than the sound we associate with hot rod and surf music. There are also two vocal numbers, "Red Hot Rod" and "27 Tub," the first of which at least comes off like it's from 1964, not 1954.
The Crown label released other records of this ilk. I'll post another one tomorrow -- one that has a different title and band name than people assumed.
1. On The Track
2. Fine 39
3. 27 Tub
4. Super Charged
5. The Screamer
6. Red Hot Rod
7. Spirit Of America
8. Drag Shoot
9. Wild Willys
10. The Creamer
Monday, July 25, 2016
This is a 2007 bootleg that's subtitled "a collection of previously unreleased tracks 1967-1980." It brings together a lot of esoteric tracks from various stages of the band's career and will likely only appeal to hardcore Beach Boys fans.
What do I mean by hardcore? Well, if the idea of hearing only the vocal tracks from "The Night Was So Young" piques your interest, you're a hardcore fan. And if thrills you that there's a still-unreleased tune by short-lived members Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar ("Hard Time"), well, you're hardcore.
At least one of these cuts came out on the 2012 box set Made in California -- the instrumental track from "Had To Phone Ya." But other than that I'm pretty sure this is all still unreleased. The one disappointing note is that the version of "All This Is That" is most likely a rehearsal performance from the 1990s and not a studio outtake from the sessions from Carl and the Passions -- So Tough.
Songwriting credits and recording dates are contained within, so there's no need to list that all here. And finally, a few of these cuts aren't quite Beach Boys per se. "Won't You Tell Me" is a song their father, Murry Wilson, cut with the Sunrays and has a few Beach Boys on it. "It's Like Heaven" is best known in its version by Shawn Cassidy*, but the rendition done here is by the group American Spring, which featured Brian Wilson's wife Marilyn Rovell and her sister Diane. It's also a different take than the one included as a bonus track on the American Spring CD.
* Just my opinion: When the Beach Boys signed with Warner Bros. and Caribou there should have been clauses in the contracts stating "Carl Wilson gets first crack at all Brian melodies or all band members get fined and banned from performing." Why THE HELL didn't Carl get to sing this song?! Also, the strange, muddled lyric here shows that while Mike Love might not have been lyricist on the level of, say, Smokey Robinson, his economical teenage-Americana doggerel was something Brian Wilson desperately needed to help focus his songs. You don't realize how important some things are until you don't have them.
1. Time To Get Alone (Stereo Instrumental Track)
2. Country Air (Stereo Mix)
3. Won't You Tell Me (Stereo)
4. Tears In The Morning (Stereo Instrumental Track)
5. Slip On Through (Stereo Take 12)
6. When Girls Get Together (Stereo Instrumental Track)
7. Cottonfields (Stereo Vocal Version)
8. All This Is That (Stereo Alternate Version)
9. It's A New Day (Stereo)
10. Hard Time (Stereo)
11. Blueberry Hill (Stereo Alternate Version)
12. Had To Phone Ya (Stereo Instrumental Track)
13. Palisades Park (Stereo Alternate Mix)
14. Short Skirts (Stereo Right Speed Version)
15. Shake Rattle & Roll (Stereo Right Speed Version
16. Just Once In My Life (Stereo Instrumental Track)
17. Running Bear (Stereo)
18. Let Us Go On This Way (Stereo Backing Vocals)
19. Sherry She Needs Me (Stereo Complete Version)
20. The Night Was So Young (Stereo Vocal Version)
21. Shortenin' Bread (Mono Alternate Mix)
22. Life Is For The Living ((Stereo Instrumental Track)
23. It's Like Heaven (Mono Alternate Version)
24. Our Love (Stereo)
25. Da Doo Ron Ron (Stereo)
26. Oh Darlin' (Stereo Alternate Lead Vocal)
27. Where We Are (Stereo)
Sunday, July 24, 2016
I've now posted over twenty albums since I declared July to be Surf Music Month on this blog. I won't blame people if they're starting to get confused over all the various fly-by-night studio bands who put out one or two LPs and then disappeared. Hell, I'm even starting to get them mixed up.
And here is another: The Dragsters. This group's sole album is similar to the first one by a group I posted about a few days ago, the Buddies. Both groups kicked off each LP side with a popular cover song, then loaded up the rest of the album with originals that had no songwriting credits. Both were also on Mercury Records' subsidiary label, Wing.
Since musician-turned-record exec-turned-politician Mike Curb was behind the Buddies, could he have been behind this group, too? Maybe. I can't find any definitive evidence, though.
The album was listed in Billboard's "new release" section March 14, 1964, so it's definitely a '64 LP. But the review doesn't impart any real info. The uncredited song titles show up in the Catalog of Copyright Entries, but no songwriters are linked with them and they're only listed under "Raleigh Music, Inc."
As cash-in albums go, this one is also like the Buddies in that it's not particularly good. But I will say that if I'd discovered it when I was 21 and all this was new to me, I'd have probably been crazy about it. Back in the pre-Internet days when rare, old records were harder to come by, this kind of thing seemed like a rare find from the distant past and that sort of made up for any musical shortcomings. Now that I can instantly click over to endless other MP3s from every era imaginable, everything seems more expendable. But I digress.
Beyond the two cover tunes, which I'm sure everyone knows, the interesting thing about this album is how closely the "originals" copy other hits. "Go Little Tiger" is basically another version of Ronny & the Daytonas' "G.T.O." (Addendum: A reader astutely points out this came out before "G.T.O." That's correct; this LP is from March and "G.T.O." charted in August. Days Of Broken Arrows regrets the error!) "Hot Rod Queen" is the Hollywood Argyles' "Alley Oop" placed in a drag strip setting. Several of the instrumentals, like "Ferrari II" and "Super Charger," sound like regular old rock'n'roll instrumentals, not surf'n'drag rave-ups -- which is something else it shares in common with that first Buddies album.
1. Hey Little Cobra
2. Drag Strip U.S.A.
3. Ferrari II
4. Go Little Tiger
5. Jag XKE
6. Drag City
7. Super Charger
8. Crazy Cobra
9. Hot Rod Queen
10. Sting Ray
Saturday, July 23, 2016
The second-to-last album before Jan Berry's car accident, Folk 'n Roll shows Jan & Dean moving away from their California surf music sound and into a more acoustic bag. With very mixed results. Some of the originals and songs-written-for-hire, like "I Can't Wait To Love You" and "I Found A Girl" rank among the best things the duo ever did, while the Beatles and Bob Dylan covers rank among the worst.
But then, we're not here to review 50-year-old records. We're here to present the mono mix, which has never come out on CD. This is my own rip, made from a VG copy of the original vinyl. I think it comes off far better than any version of the stereo CD I've heard. Those sound tweezy and thin, while this sounds full and rich.
There don't seem to be any differences in the mixes when you compare mono vs. stereo, and yet the mono mix just hangs together better. It's the same deal as with the last mono J&D rip I posted of the Little Old Lady From Pasadena LP.
The only other point I want to make is that this album came out in 1965, not 1966 like some sources claim. It's listed in Billboard "new release" section in the Nov. 27, 1965 issue. I did a scan of that item along with high-quality scans of this LP's graphics.
Jan & Dean - The Little Old Lady From Pasadena (Mono Mix, 1964)
Jan & Dean - Rarities (1961-86)
1. I Found A Girl
2. Hang On Sloopy
3. I Can't Wait To Love You
4. Eve Of Destruction
5. It's A Shame To Say Goodbye
6. Where Were You When I Needed You
7. A Beginning From An End
9. The Universal Coward
10. It Ain't Me Babe
11. Folk City
12. Turn! Turn! Turn!
Friday, July 22, 2016
Surf Music Month wraps up its third week with an expanded edition of a classic surf compilation. Surf War was a collection of a dozen instrumentals that originally came out in 1963. But this is the reissued, 18-song version that came out in 1978.
I have no idea of the circumstances behind this re-release -- only that the version I bought was on Surf Records, not the original Shepherd Records label, and that it has more songs. I did a rip of my copy, but the source tapes they used to make the original record weren't the cleanest, so beware. As far as I can tell, this has never come out on CD, at least not in legitimate form.
With that in mind, this is a pretty great collection, with cut after cut of first-rate guitar workouts. Unlike with the other "various artists" collections I posted, I wasn't able to dig up info on the individual tracks here for MP3 tags. This, I assume, is because a lot of the cuts were specific to this LP and not released on 45s.
Beyond that, I'm sure everyone knows pretty much what they're getting when they see names like the Lively Ones, the Challengers, and the Champs. So turn it up.
1. The Challengers - The Cruel Sea
2. The Challengers - Banzai Washout
3. The Champs - Low Down Surf
4. The Lively Ones - Surf Rider
5. The Rackets - Continential Surf
6. The Cotillions - Sahara Surf
7. The Cotillions - Surf Twist
8. The Neptunes - Pyramid Climb
9. The Neptunes - Odd Ball Surf
10. Dave Meyers - Exotic Surf Rock
11. Dave Meyers - Smokey Stomper
12. The Rumblers - Lost Weekend
13. The Rumblers - Boss Beat
14. The Surf Family - The Surfer
15. The Surf Family - King Of The Stomp
16. Fabulous Cyclones - Moon Journey
17. Fabulous Cyclones - Boogie Rock
18. Jack Nitzsche - The Lonely Surfer
Thursday, July 21, 2016
“I have no pajamas,” I countered.
“What are you, five-years-old that you need your jammies?” she asked. “I have a big t-shirt you can wear. You have underwear…wait, I hope you have underwear on. Do you?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Then we can both nap,” she replied. “I didn’t get much sleep last night anyway because we stayed up way late and then my mom got an emergency call that woke me up. I couldn’t get back to sleep afterwards.”
“So I guess you’re good with us sleeping together?” I joked.
“It’s a king-sized bed, Eli,” Summer said. “We can both get in and not sleep together-sleep together if you know what I mean. Now close your eyes, please. I need to change my clothes.”
But she didn’t need to tell me to shut my eyes because I was almost out cold by the time she crawled in bed beside me. We weren’t touching, but I could feel the warmth of her body and again caught the sugary aroma of her shampoo. The Peter Gabriel album played softly, his fuzzy vocals lulling me into dreamland: “In your eyes, in your eyes…”
I have no idea how long I’d been asleep when I was suddenly awakened. The record had stopped playing and I heard the buzz of the lamp that sat atop Summer’s desk. But that’s not what woke me up. What brought me back to the land of the living was Summer shaking my shoulder and loudly whispering, “Eli! Wake up! My mom’s home!”
In my state of total sleepiness, I remember thinking she said her mom was cool, so she wouldn’t mind me curling up here for a bit. But even the most liberal parents don’t want to return home to find their daughter in bed with a boy they’ve never met before. Which is, unfortunately, exactly what Dr. Mathis returned home to find.
“Am I interrupting something?” Dr. Mathis asked, poking her head inside the door.
“Mom! My God! No! Mom! It’s not what you think!” That was Summer, yelling way too loud and way too close to my still-hungover ears. I poked my eyes up from under the covers just in time to see Dr. Mathis shake her head and get ready to exit.
“I’ll leave you two alone to get yourselves together, then we can all talk,” she said before ducking out of the room. “See you both downstairs in a few.”
“Oh shit, Eli. What the hell am I gonna do?” Summer said as soon as her mom was out of earshot. She hopped out of bed and smoothed down the grey New York Mets top she’d changed into. In my groggy state, I tried my best to mellow her out a bit.
“I thought you said your mom was cool,” I yawned, rubbing my eyes.
“Not that cool, Eli. No parent is that cool.”
We headed off to the bathroom to splash cold water on our faces, then we combed our hair, staring glumly into the mirror. After that we trudged downstairs to face the music, which I was guessing was going to be a lot more discordant than what we’d been listening to. Summer’s mother stood in the kitchen, hunched over the stove, messing with what looked like an old-fashioned tea kettle. I thought about some of the things Ryan had said about not getting pushed around and was ready to defend myself. I was definitely not going to be blamed for something that didn’t even happen. I mean, I have no problem with a parent getting mad at me for having sex with their daughter. But if that’s gonna happen, I should at least get to have the sex to begin with. I shouldn’t do the time if I didn’t do the crime, in other words.
“Dr. Mathis,” I began, as she sat down. “I’m sorry we had to meet this way, but please let me assure you we were only sleeping. It wasn’t the way it looked.”
“It’s true, mom,” Summer chimed in. “We needed a nap. Nothing was happening.”
“And you are…?” Dr. Mathis asked.
“Um, Eli, ma’am,” I stammered. “Nice to meet you, Doctor.”
“Call me Lois,” she said. “You know, Summer has told me some very positive things about you. I hope they’re true. Coming home to find you in her bed does not give me hope, I’ll tell you that much.”
I couldn’t tell if she was angry or kidding or what. So I decided to press on.
“Dr. Mathis – Lois,” I began. “If I had been doing anything like, um, that, I sure wouldn’t have made it that obvious.”
Well, that came out wrong. Summer looked over at me, eyes wide.
“What I meant to say is,” I continued. “What happened really, honestly, and truly is that I wasn’t feeling well. So I asked to lie down and Summer joined me – innocently, I should add – because she, too, was tired.”
“That emergency call did wake me up last night, mom,” Summer interjected.
“OK,” Lois said, taking a sip from her cup. “I believe the two of you. But let’s be more responsible from now on, shall we? Eli, if you need to nap, we have a spare room. You’re welcome to use that.”
And that was that. We actually ended up all having a pretty good conversation afterward, believe it or not. She seemed to take to me, which made me think that sometimes first impressions can be misleading. Especially when a person’s first impression of you is that you’ve just had sex with their daughter, under their roof.
“Well, that was the weirdest thing ever,” Summer said as we made our way up the stairs and back to her room. When we got inside she plopped down on the floor with a thud, making a sort of “whew” sound as she went to check out the CDs I’d brought over.
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
This is the second album by the Buddies, a studio group put together by producers Mike Curb and Nick Venet. The Buddies were similar to acts like the Hondells, the Super Stocks, the Kickstands, and Knights in that they were created to cash-in on the West Coast surf and hot rod music craze.
The difference is that all those groups were put together by Gary Usher, who had a knack for writing these kinds of tunes. Mike Curb might have been great at running record companies and writing other kinds of songs -- such as his own 1970 hit "Burning Bridges" -- but there's nothing here on the level of classic Usher surf/hot rod tunes as "Hot Rod High," "Custom Caravan," or "A Guy Without Wheels."
Still, this record is a drastic improvement over the first Buddies LP, The Buddies and the Compacts, which seemed thrown together. At least this one is filled with original tunes and the writers actually take credit on jacket. Some of the songs fall into the "really good" category, such as the tuneful "I'll Surf Around The World" and the clever "Wanda on Her Honda." Curb and resident Buddies guitarist Davie Allan's "Sidewalk Surfin' Scene" is also a first-rate instrumental.
This album came pretty quickly on the heels of that first Buddies album. Where that one was reviewed in the "new releases" section of Billboard on Feb. 13, 1965, this one was already being advertised by the May 15 issue and was listed in "new releases" June 5. The only evidence of a single being released from either of these LPs is "Ski Jump" being pulled from this one. It came out as a 45 in Japan with "Ski Party U.S.A" on the flip side in Nov. 1965. Unless there was a U.S. single, that's all she wrote for the Buddies. After this LP, Mike Curb went on to much bigger things in the music biz.
1. Little Iddy Biddy Buddy Rider
2. Skateboard U.S.A.
3. I'll Surf Around the World
4. Ski Jump
5. Wanda On Her Honda
6. Ski City U.S.A.
7. Sickle Riders Rule
8. Sidewalk Surfin' Scene
9. The Surf Is In
10. Mean Little Monza
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Surf Music Month continues with an LP that could be considered a companion to the "Skaterdater" soundtrack, which I posted about a few days ago. Both were produced by the team of Mike Curb and Nick Venet, both of whom should need no introduction to fans of '60s music. Both featured pioneering surf guitarist Davie Allan. And both came out in 1965.
This is the first -- and weakest -- of the two albums put out in 1965 by Curb and Venet under the moniker the Buddies. The group seems to have been a studio-only band consisting of session musicians. This is one element they shared with another surf group, the Hondells. Another thing they shared was songs.
How do we know this one was the first? Besides the fact that the LP's serial number is lower than the ones that followed it, this record shows up first in the "new release" listings in Billboard magazine. Specifically, it can be found in the Feb. 13, 1965 issue.
Not only do the Buddies cover the Hondells' Top 10 hit "Little Honda" (itself a Beach Boys cover), but it sounds like they used the same backing track, and just sped it up a bit. This LP also uses two actual tracks from the second, self-titled Hondells album. Since that album came out within weeks of this one (Billboard reviewed it Jan. 23, 1965), it's probably most accurate to say these albums shared tracks, not that the Hondells "lent" the Buddies these cuts.
What were the tracks in question? "Yahama" on The Buddies and the Compacts is titled "Cycle Chase" on the Hondells LP, while "Little BSA" is called "The Sidewinder." But titles aside, they're both the exact same tracks. I assume the record company didn't mind this, especially since both groups were technically on the same label (the Buddies were on Wing Records, which was a subsidiary of the Hondells' label Mercury).
On top of all that, the Buddies' song "Rebel" is a vocal version of "The Rebel (Without a Cause)," an instrumental that's also from the second Hondells album. At least for this one, they bothered to cut different backing tracks. The closing number here, "Sickle Riders Nightmare," also uses a variation of the main hook for that song.
As cash-in efforts go, this one is especially weak. Beyond the shared Hondells tracks and cover tunes, the originals aren't inspiring. There was also no single pulled from this LP. The second and final Buddies album, Go Go With The Buddies, was a big improvement on this one, as we'll see tomorrow.
There are no songwriting credits on this LP's label or jacket. But we can probably assume Mike Curb was behind the original songs, since all of those aforementioned cuts on the Hondells second album are credited to him. As for the other cover tunes, "G.T.O." is a remake of the Ronny & the Daytonas hit, while "Leader of the Pack" is a reworked version of the Shangri-La's song. It's also the only track to showcase a female lead singer. Wonder who it was? For that matter, wonder who sang the male lead vocals for the Buddies?
1. Little Honda
3. Leader of the Pack
4. Little BSA
8. Von Zipper
9. The Cool One
10. Sickle Riders Nightmare
Monday, July 18, 2016
This is the second and final LP by Mike Love's '70s-era sideband, Celebration. The last one I posted was their soundtrack to the movie "Almost Summer." That one got some publicity because it had a hit song on it, the movie's title theme. Plus, it was released on a major label, MCA Records. This one came out on the independent Pacific Arts label and seems to have gone straight to the cut-out bins. Which is where I found it about five years later for $1.99.
As with most of Mike Love's solo work, this album is no great shakes musically. But it is pleasant to listen to. A lot of the tracks have a sort of laid-back pseudo-Caribbean vibe -- kind of like Jimmy Buffett. To accentuate the positive, this works well as background music. Play it when you have a few people over for drinks.
A few notes about what's inside are in order, though.
Remember the Beach Boys' disco remake of their song from Wild Honey, "Here Comes The Night? It's considered one of their worst efforts and it seriously marred their 1979 LP L.A. (Light Album). Well, the idea probably stemmed from this album: It kicks off with a disco reworking of another Beach Boys tune from 1967, "Gettin' Hungry." Love adds a third verse, but other than that it's no great shakes.
This album also contains a remake of an outtake from the M.I.U. Album, "How's About a Little Bit." That's the good news. The bad news is that the version here is very poorly arranged, with a ridiculously "soulful" intro and Love singing way above his usual range. Listen to the original if you want to enjoying this one.
One of the best tracks is Love's "She's Just Out to Get You," which has a catchy hook and a fantastic saxophone line by jazz great Charles Lloyd, who'd played on previous Beach Boys records. That's the good news. The bad news is that the hook is the same as one in an old David Cassidy song, "Where Is the Morning?" This is probably coincidence. The reason I'm telling you this is because it drove me crazy trying to place where I'd previously heard it, and now you all won't have to wrack your brains attempting to solve this mystery.
About half the songs here aren't sung by Love. Some of the other musicians involved sing, notably Dave Robinson. Paul Fauerso sings lead on "Starbaby," a Love-penned ballad that was pulled for single but didn't chart. Both of these singers seem to have been additional lead singers hired specifically for that purpose and not, for example, a bass player who stepped up to the mic.
Also, for those who care, "Country Pie" isn't a cover of the Bob Dylan song from Nashville Skyline. It's an original co-written by Ron Altbach, who produced the album, and Eddie Tuleja, a frequent Beach Boys sideman who had played with Altbach in the group King Harvest ("Dancing in the Moonlight").
The album has never come out on CD. But it is worth a listen and I was able to at least get a clean rip from my old discount bin copy. One more thing: I've seen this album listed in various places as being from 1979. But since the date on the record label says "1978," I'm going with that year.
Jan & Dean - Rarities (1961-86)
Sneakers & Lace - Skateboardin' U.S.A. (1976)
Celebration - Almost Summer - Music From The Original Motion Picture Score (1978)
1. Gettin' Hungry
4. She's Just Out to Get You
5. I Don't Wanna Know
7. Go and Get That Girl
8. How's About a Little Bit
9. Song of Creation
10. Country Pie
Sunday, July 17, 2016
I put an earlier version of this post up last December, but I'm posting a new one up because I did much better scans of the album art and included proper tags for the tracks this time around. Since I declared July Surf Music Month on this blog, I figured I should use the occasion to improve the quality of this rip, which was one the first ones I did. It still might not be the best LP you'll ever hear but, hey, it at least looks a whole lot better now.
Also, another reason for this re-post is so I could announce to people who care about such things that the movie "Almost Summer" is now out on YouTube. This teen flick was impossible to find for decades and has never come out on DVD. So I'm using this blog as a forum to say "Watch it while you can" because YouTube has a habit of deleting things left and right. Beach Boys fanatics should be sure to listen to the rendition of the movie's title song at its start because it has different lyrics that reference the band members Its first verse is similar to "Chug-A-Lug" from 1962.
This soundtrack is the first of two albums that Beach Boys lead singer Mike Love would release with his side group Celebration in 1978. (I'll have the second one tomorrow.) Why a side group for Love? Because at this time the Beach Boys were in a huge state of disarray and about to split up. Love wanted to keep playing but wasn't getting along with the younger Wilson brothers, so he did his own thing.
In the spring of 1978, Celebration Featuring Mike Love (as they were billed on the single) scored a #28 hit with "Almost Summer," the title track from the aforementioned movie. It was a song composed by Brian Wilson and apparently finished by Love and fellow Beach Boy Al Jardine, who also got songwriting credit.
The tune was a first-rate pure pop Wilson number, replete with a hooky chorus. And it sounded great on radio. Unfortunately, its history leaves something of a bitter aftertaste.
It turns out this was the highest-charting Brian Wilson original in nearly a decade ("It's O.K." by the Beach Boys had only hit #29 in 1976). "Almost Summer" would likely have been a bigger hit had it been released under the Beach Boys' own name. It would have had more name recognition then, plus would have gotten promoted at live shows. And it might have proved to the rather insecure Wilson that he still "had it" and could write hit melodies. Plus, it would have been a worthwhile addition to the M.I.U. Album.
Yet because Love kept this song for his own project, it dropped into obscurity when he folded Celebration a year or so later. The song is not really considered part of the Beach Boys oeuvre, despite the fact that it originated with a Brian Wilson demo (listen here). As such, it never made it onto any greatest hits collections like Ten Years of Harmony or Made in U.S.A. Nor has it been placed on any box sets.
So that's that. This is my own clean rip of the soundtrack to the movie, which has songs by Celebration and a few other acts. If you saw it on other blogs previously, it was because I circulated it before I had my own blog. The LP is long out of print and not on CD. It should interest Beach Boys fans for its obscurity, and the fact that the melody of the instrumental "Lookin' Good" (credited solely to sideman Ron Altbach) turned up a few months later as "She's Got Rhythm" on the Beach Boys' M.I.U. Album.
The best you can say about this soundtrack is that it captures the feel of Southern California in the late '70s. And that it has "Almost Summer," the song that should have been the big Brian Wilson-penned Beach Boys hit of the '70s, but wasn't.
Jan & Dean - Rarities (1961-86)
Sneakers & Lace - Skateboardin' U.S.A. (1976)
Celebration - Celebration (1978)
1. Celebration - Almost Summer
2. Celebration - Sad, Sad Summer
3. Celebration - Cruisin’
4. Celebration - Lookin’ Good
5. Celebration - Summer In The City
6. Celebration - It’s O.K.
7. Celebration - Football
8. Celebration - Island Girl
9. Celebration - Christine And Bobby
10. High Inergy - We Are The Future
11. Fresh - She Was A Lady
Saturday, July 16, 2016
Considering it has no dialogue and a running time shorter than your average early Beach Boys album, the 1965 film "Skaterdater" sure made a big impression. It won a major prize at the Cannes Film Festival, got nominated for an Academy Award, and gained a cult following in the ensuing decades. There is now a campaign to have it become part of the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.
Why the fuss? Well, you can check out why for yourself on YouTube or Vimeo. It's a fascinating look at teen culture from a half century ago. The plot is basically "A skater and his friends discover girls," but it comes off as a lot more than that when you actually watch it. Very atmospheric and impressionistic.
Setting the tone for the film is its tuneful, rocking soundtrack and that's what concerns us today. It's never come out on CD, which is surprising, and good-quality copies go for a fair bit of money on the used market. But this is Surf Music Month on this blog and the Surfing Gods have smiled down upon and blessed us with a top-quality rip.
The musical arrangements are credited to Mike Curb and musical supervision is by Capitol A&R man Nick Venet. (I'm assuming both these names are very familiar to anyone reading this blog, so I won't go into detail.) All songs are credited on the label to "Stout-Dodd," which supposedly is Curb and Venet working under pseudonyms.
One person whose name doesn't show up at all on the album's label or jacket is surf guitarist extraordinaire Davie Allan. According to numerous sources, he and his group, Davie Allan & the Arrows, are the ones actually playing the music here. Allan was also a session musician who had known Curb since high school and later signed with the various record label Curb founded.
The score works on its own and you don't need to know the film to enjoy it. Tracks run the gamut from pounding Dick Dale-styled rockers ("Skaterdater Rock," "Skate Board Safari") to melodic slow cuts ("Missy and the Statue," "Together 1 and 2"). And while it's not the kind of thing you'll play every day, it's perfect listening for long summer drives or lazy, hot afternoons.
1. The Fountain
2. Skaterdater I
3. Missy and the Statue
4. Skaterdater II
5. Skate Out
6. Skaterdater Rock
7. Together I
9. Skate Board Safari
10. Skaterdater III
11. Together II
12. Skaterdater IV
13. Missy's Theme
Friday, July 15, 2016
I'm closing out second week of Surf Music Month with a Jan & Dean rarities collection I made for my own amusement last year. When it came to compiling such a set, I was faced with two choices. The first was that I could have done a rip of my old vinyl Oddities bootleg (pictured right), from 1979. But that album sounds terrible. Plus, it has songs that have since been put on legit CDs like Carnival of Sound. My second choice was that I could make my own collection so that I could hear the tracks that are still rarities in better quality -- and I could add in some new rarities I discovered. I chose the latter option.
The problem with the old Oddities album is that it's kind of an oddity in and of itself. It sounds scratchy, but the actual scratches aren't on the album. They're on the 45 records that served as sources for the LP's tracks. Either that, or my copy is a bootleg of a bootleg, where someone recorded a scratchy copy of Oddities and made their own second generation copy. (Confused? So was I back when I bought it in the '80s and was trying to figure out why a sealed LP had scratches.)
For this set, I put together what I consider to be the best of the Jan & Dean tracks that never made it to CD -- or at least never made it to CDs that were widely distributed. Why didn't I make it a "complete" set? First, because I didn't have access to every single rare thing they ever did, and second because I didn't think a lot of the other rare songs were that good. I'd rather listen to a 45-minute playlist of great music than an overly long set marred by mediocrities.
This collection mostly centers on stuff from the '70s, when Jan & Dean weren't releasing LP and put out 45s under various monikers. This will probably only appeal to fanatics. That said, if you like this sort of thing there are some pretty great tracks, especially Jan's "Mother Earth" and "That's The Way It Is," and the early Jan Berry-Jill Gibson cut "Tomorrow's Teardrops." "Rock City" and "Fun City" are both pretty catchy and hooky, even if the post-accident vocals by Jan Berry are a bit shaky. The other option would be that he didn't cut them at all, and as it stands, I'm happy he made the effort.
Info on which year each song was released and who wrote what is included in the MP3 tags. Just to reiterate something I said above, most of these songs don't come from the golden age of surf music. But since I associate them with being 21, when I first heard them, they're part of my own golden age. So I like them. And beyond that, Jan Berry has long since passed and it all sounds sort of nostalgic now, even the songs with disco-era synths and retro-sounding electronic drums.
Jan & Dean - The Little Old Lady From Pasadena (Mono Mix, 1964)
Jan & Dean - Folk 'n Roll (Mono Mix, 1965)
1. Jan Berry - Skateboard Surfin' U.S.A.
2. Jan Berry & The Alohas - Rock City
3. Jan Berry and Brian Wilson - Don't You Just Know It
4. Jan Berry - Little Queenie
5. Jan Berry - That's The Way It Is
6. Jan & Dean - Totally Wild
7. Jan & Dean - Fun City
8. Jan Berry - Tinsel Town (Hitch-A-Ride to Hollywood)
9. Jan Berry - Mother Earth
10. Jan Berry - Sing Sang A Song
11. Jan Berry - Blow Up Music
12. Jan & Dean - The Best Love Ever
13. Jan & Dean - Hawaiian Mirage
14. Our Gang - Theme From Leon's Garage
15. Jan Berry and Jill Gibson - Tomorrow's Teardrops
16. Jan & Dean - Coke Jingle (Long Version)
Thursday, July 14, 2016
Last month, someone uploaded the stereo mix of this rare budget line LP onto YouTube. Oh, yeah? Well, I'll raise you this mono mix. In a clean rip, no less.
This is supposedly one of the few surf/drag music album that came from the East Coast because it's on the Wyncote label. That label was distributed by Cameo-Parkway which was, of course, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Rumor has it that the group featured on the vocal tracks of this hybrid vocal-instrumental LP is actually the Dovells.
The album's selling point was the two cover versions of hit songs that start off each side. They're followed by a bunch of originals. No one seems to know who wrote these originals since they're not credited on the label or jacket. I did my usual research thing and searched through online edition of the Catalog of Copyright Entries, but came up with nothing. Maybe someday someone will 'fess up to composing these.
That wouldn't be a bad thing, either, because several of the originals are pretty good. First and foremost is "Ridin' the Rails," a song that became a cult favorite decades later when it was placed on the compilation Everybody's Goin' Surfin'/Nobody's Goin' Surfin', which I posted last week. It's a story-song about a guy obsessed with racing to his own detriment -- similar in style and feel to the "character" songs Gary Usher and Roger Christian wrote for Hondells, like "Mean Streak," "The Wild One," and "He Wasn't Coming Back."
Several other originals stand out as well, including "Bench Racer," "Dragster on the Prowl," "Down By the Draggin' Strip." There are some interesting instrumentals, but they sound pretty boilerplate and not like surf or drag instrumentals per se.
As for the cover songs, well, if you ever thought the Beach Boys were a bit stiff you should get an earful of this cover of "Little Deuce Coupe." These guys swing so little it sounds like they're ready to break into the Four Lads' "No, Not Much!" by the end of it. This matters less when it comes to their cover of Jan & Dean's "Drag City" because the young Jan Berry always over e-nun-ci-a-ted -- sort of like that rabbi character from "Seinfeld."
Speaking of the covers, this LP was issued in a different form by the same label with all the originals intact but two other remakes opening each side. This "other version" of the album was called Little Honda Featuring GTO and credited to a group called the Scramblers. The replacement songs for "Drag City" and "Little Deuce Coupe" were remakes of the Beach Boys'/Hondells' "Little Honda" and Ronny & the Daytonas' "GTO."
1. Drag City
2. Hot Rod Races
3. Mister Hot Rod
4. Wailin' Wheels
5. Ridin' the Rails
6. Little Deuce Coupe
7. Bench Racer
8. Dragster on the Prowl
9. Cool Bash
10. Down By the Draggin' Strip
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
One of the rules I have for this blog is that anything I post has to be out-of-print or at the very least hard to find. Did this one fit the bill? Let's see...it's long been unavailable and the cheapest used copies now go for more than $100. So I'd say, yeah, it qualifies. And it's especially good for July, which I've designated as Surf Music Month.
Most of these productions won't be too much of a surprise to long-time Beach Boys fanatics. They've been making the rounds on bootlegs since forever. But a lot of them might come as a surprise to casual listeners and/or people whose lives don't revolve around the minutia of pop music (not that I know any people like that). Wilson did a lot of work outside of the sphere of the Beach Boys during their heyday because he was trying to launch himself as a Phil Spector-type producer.
It didn't take. Not commercially, at least. Wilson's most successful productions were with his motherband, where he had some of the best voices in pop history to mold to his arrangements. Anyone who has heard the group a cappella knows that no voices sounded quite like that anywhere, ever, so right off the bat Wilson was at an advantage in his group situation.
That said, there are quite a few good songs and interesting productions here. First and foremost for me is the original version of "The Surfer Moon" by the duo Bob & Sheri. Sung in two-part male-female harmony with lots of reverb, it's got an unforgettably haunting quality. In the past few years, I've gotten to know "Sheri" (not her real name) and she's a super-cool woman. I should do an interview with her and post it. She has a lot of interesting stories to tell.
I'm also partial to "She Rides With Me," done by Paul Petersen, the kid from "The Donna Reed Show" who is now an advocate for troubled former child actors. Wilson's production comes off a bit then, but Peterson's enthusiastic vocal carries the song, as does the classic Brian Wilson melody/chord scheme. This song might not have been a bad fit on side one of Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!), where I think it would have sat comfortably alongside "Amusement Parks U.S.A." and "Salt Lake City."
As for the rest of the songs here, I would prefer not to go into each and every one. I think doing that runs the fun of discovery for people. Part of the excitement of collections like this is being able to say "Wait, he did that?!" when you hear something surprising. I will mention, though, that I tagged the tracks with release dates and composer info, so if you're looking for details, look there first.
This version of the CD also has five extra songs. One of them is an early rendition of "Surfin' Safari" slugged "Ariola Version." Anyone know anything about this? I can't find much info on it online and it's not in any of the books I have..
1. Kenny & The Cadets - Barbie
2. Kenny & The Cadets - What Is A Young Girl Made Of
3. Rachel & The Revolvers - The Revo-Lution
4. Rachel & The Revolvers - Number One
5. Bob & Sheri - The Surfer Moon
6. Bob & Sheri - Humpty Dumpty
7. The Timers - No Go Showboat
8. Sharon Marie - Run-Around Lover
9. The Survivors - Pamela Jean
10. The Castells - I Do
11. Paul Petersen - She Rides With Me
12. The Nodaens - Beach Girl
13. The Honeys - He's A Doll
14. Gary Usher - Sacramento
15. Gary Usher - That's Just The Way I Feel
16. Sharon Marie - Thinkin' 'Bout You Baby
17. Sharon Marie - The Story Of My Life
18. Hale & The Hushabyes - Yes Sir, That's My Baby
19. Basil Swift & The Seegrams - Farmer's Daughter
20. Annette - The Monkey's Uncle
21. Glen Campbell - Guess I'm Dumb
22. The Blossoms - Things Are Changing
23. Bob And Bobby - Twelve-O-Four
24. Bob And Bobby - Baby What You Want Me To Do
25. The Laughing Gravy - Vegetables
26. Ron Wilson - I'll Keep On Loving You
27. Ron Wilson - As Tears Go By
28. Dino, Desi & Billy - Lady Love
29. Kenny & The Cadets - Barbie (Take 2)
30. Dante & His Friends - Miss America
31. Joey & The Continentals - She Rides With Me
32. The Beach Boys - Surfin' Safari (Ariola Version)
33. The Beach Boys - Karen
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
Like the Everybody Goin' Surfin'/Nobody's Goin' Surfin LP I posted about last week, this is a collection I bought during my college days. Also like that set, this one has extensive liner notes on the back cover that I also scanned in high quality. As such, there's no point in my repeating what they already said. I also tagged the tracks for those who want songwriter and release date info.
This collection is a hodgepodge, featuring some rarities, some instrumentals, and even a few novelty numbers thrown in. Not the best collection ever, but it makes for fun listening. Plus, you have to love the makeshift label they came up with: Satan Records. Maybe they were inspired by the old "Saturday Night Live" Church Lady, who was popular in the late '80s.
1. The Safaris - Kick Out
2. The Crestones - The Chopper
3. The Pastel 6 - Twitchin'
4. The Emerald City Bandits - Full Blown Caddy
5. Gene Gray and the Stingrays - Surf Bunny
6. The Pygmies - Don't Monkey With Tarzan
7. The Triptides - Go Mustang
8. The Trademarks - Baha-Ree-Ba! (Part One)
9. The Titans - Reveille Rock
10. Leon Smith and the Basics - Basic Surf
11. Pat and the Californians - Be Billy
12. The Street Cleaners - Garbage City
13. The Rally-Packs - Bucket Seats
14. Susan Lynne - Don't Drag No More
15. Bob Moore and the Temps - Trophy Run
16. Dave and the Saints - Leavin' Surf City
Monday, July 11, 2016
Surf Music Month rolls into its second week with some sounds of the '70s. Yes, the '70s. See, the '60s surf music vocal sound didn't die when the next decade came around. It lived on, sometimes paying big commercial dividends (First Class' "Beach Baby;" Roy Wood's "Forever") and sometimes failing to connect with the public at all.
This is a case of the latter, which is why the group Sneakers & Lace is being featured on an obscure music blog. I actually hesitate to use the word "group" because this sounds more like a studio project to me, despite liner notes to the contrary. Those liner notes also state that the teenage members of this quartet were students at the High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan.
Really? I grew up in New York City and never saw skateboarding there once in the '70s. It was more a California thing. Whatever the case, this album was created to hop aboard that trend. It didn't quite catch on. Maybe that's because it didn't sound like anything teenagers were actually listening to in 1976 (i.e. Sweet, ELO, Steve Miller, Peter Frampton, the Bee Gees). And that's because it was produced and mostly written by someone from a previous generation.
This effort was helmed by Phil Margo, a member of the New York do-wop group the Tokens who had a #1 hit in 1961 with the often-played "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." (Not to digress, but ten years later the group released a fantastic pop-psychedelic album called Intercourse. I recommend checking it out. Great stuff.) Margo also co-produced the first few Tony Orlando and Dawn albums, when they were just known as Dawn.
On this album, he not only produced, but co-wrote ten of the eleven songs. I'll give him credit for recreating the sunny-day/blue-skies/happy-times California sound of the early '60s. But he gets points off for the actual songs, which are more cutesy than catchy.
Surf music wasn't Margo's background and it shows: These songs sound like someone trying to write surf music, not the real thing. In fact, some of them, like "Down in the Street," sound like early Dawn, while "Skateboard Boogie" is ersatz disco.
Speaking ersatz things, one of the few tunes here that works is a pseudo-do-wop number that sounds like it might be performed by the Tokens themselves. The song is "Singin' On the Corner," and it was written by Margo's brother Mitch Margo. What a street corner do-wop number is doing on a skateboard album is anyone's guess. The other really good tune is "Little Skateboard Queen" which also sounds like latter-day Tokens.
Wow, I really piled on here, didn't I? I didn't mean go this negative. The album is a fun diversion, at least. Plus, it's not like many people know it even exists, so it gets points for being "new old" music, which can always be fun.
2. Sidewalk Convoy
3. Down In The Street
5. Skatewalk Boogie
6. Skateboardin' U.S.A.
7. Singin' On The Corner
8. Little Skateboard Queen
9. The Ballad Of Billy Wheels
10. Skate Talk
11. Skateboard Suite
Sunday, July 10, 2016
This is the stereo mix of the only album by the Vettes, who I assume were a makeshift session band. The reason for that assumption is that it seems they were headed up by saxophonist Steve Douglas. Douglas was part of another "drag music" album I posted about yesterday, Hot Rod Rally. The Los Angeles-based musician, who died in 1993, was a sought-after player who worked with the Beach Boys, Phil Spector, and many others.
As these sort of cash-in efforts go, this one is good, not great. But its cash-in origins aren't the problem with it. I'm of the opinion that sometimes imitations can actually be better than the real thing. One listen to the knock-off Jan &Dean tracks on the fourth volume of the Pebbles series convinced me of that (as did hearing Tina Britt's "The Real Thing," a Motown copy song that's arguably better than, um, the real thing).
But you have to have great songs for imitations to succeed. This LP has got an exciting sound, but the tunes -- most of which are by Douglas -- are merely passable. This is the reason that Gary Usher projects like the Super Stocks have such a cult following. The songs were catchier and you didn't forget the hooks.
As for this album, it has historical interest for surf music fans because future Beach Boy Bruce Johnston sings lead on five tracks: "Little Ford Ragtop," "Happy Hodaddy (With Ragtop Caddy)," "Devil Driver," "4.56 Stingray," and "'55 Bird." Johnston is a versatile singer, but there's another, larger, point to be made about that. Often a singer who has limitations but has an unforgettable tone and personality is better for a song than a singer who is technically better. Examples: Mike Love, Mick Jagger, and Diana Ross. Johnston sings well, but his voice does nothing to make these songs memorable.
"Little Ford Ragtop," which is probably the best song here, sounds a bit like "Hey Little Cobra," a tune Johnson and his cohort Terry Melcher took to the Top 5 in late 1963/early 1964 with the Rip Chords (the song was actually written by former Teddy Bears singer Carol Connors and her brother Marshall). Johnston must have found it amusing to be singing a rewrite of his own hit.
I can't find any mention of this LP in the online scans of Billboard magazine, so I'm going to assume this LP followed the Rip Chords hit, since that came out in '63. Rev-Up, which was originally released on the MGM label, has never been put on CD as far as I know.
1. Little Ford Ragtop
2. Devil Driver's Theme
3. Happy Hodaddy (With Ragtop Caddy)
4. Chevey Scarfer
5. Devil Driver
6. Voodoo Green Part 1
7. 4.56 Stingray
8. Voodoo Green Part II
9. Superstock Vette
10. Cheater Slickin' Time
11. Shutdown King
12. '55 Bird
Saturday, July 9, 2016
Surf Music Month continues with...some hot rod sounds. I consider this surf music even though it's a subgenre of that style. A lot of hot rod music was made by the same group of people who made surf music, as this album shows.
This is sort of a companion piece to Capitol Records' big-selling 1963 multi-artist collection Shut Down: Lots of songs about cars and drag racing that definitely capture the vibe of a long-gone era. But unlike that album, this collection doesn't feature any big names, like the Beach Boys, nor does it have any hit songs on it like "Shut Down."
This is more of a cash-in effort, with songwriter Roger Christian contributing a few tracks (with co-writer Gary Usher) under the moniker "Hot Rod Rog." Similarly, Wrecking Crew session saxophonist Steve Douglas chimes in with a few of his tunes using the name "Shutdown Douglas." How do we known it's Steve Douglas? Because the songs are credited under his real name surname, Kreisman.
The Super Stocks, as I'm sure most readers know, were a project of Gary Usher's who released three albums and some great singles. These songs aren't the best work that (pretend) group ever did, but they're not bad. And they rock harder in mono than on those reissue stereo CDs that came out in the 1990s.
That brings us to the issue of the sound of this rip. It's just so-so. These files were passed along to me a while back, so this isn't one of those pristine-sounding rips I make myself and like to drone on about. The main problem with sound here is the overuse of noise reduction, which has constricted the sonic bandwidth. I did what I could to repair the sonics.
Anyway, since this is a rarity and it doesn't seem to be out anywhere else, I thought I'd post it. This won't be the last second-hand rip I post this month, by the way. Plus it serves as a prelude to another Steve Douglas project that I plan on posting soon...
1. Shutdown Douglas - Twin Cut Outs
2. The Super Stocks - Hot Rod City
3. Hot Rod Rog - Little Street Machine
4. Shutdown Douglas - Flash Falcon
5. The Super Stocks - 426 Superstock
6. The Super Stocks - Little Stick Nomad
7. Shutdown Douglas - Night Rod
8. The Super Stocks - '54 Corvette
9. Hot Rod Rog - Repossession Blues
10. The Super Stocks - Little Nifty Nifty
11. The Super Stocks - Wheel Man
12. Shutdown Douglas - Woody Walk
Friday, July 8, 2016
In 1986, Edsel Records reissued the Fantastic Baggys' 1965 LP Tell 'Em I'm Surfin' with a different title, Surfin' Craze. They also changed up the song order a bit and added three songs to the twelve-song lineup -- the (mono) non-LP singles "Anywhere the Girls Are," "Debbie Be True," and "It Was I."
Six years later, the album was put on CD under its original title. Since that CD is easily available, why would anyone (like me) bother to make a rip of this vinyl version? Because the two releases are very, very different. And because I prefer this vinyl version. Since I declared July to be Surf Music Month on this blog, I thought I'd share it.
The differences between the LP and the CD reissues are so numerous that I'm even not going to attempt list them all. And that says something because I like doing that sort of thing. To summarize: Several of the mixes are different on each edition, while other tracks appear in stereo on the vinyl and in mono in the CD. Or vice-versa). One song, "Let's Make the Most of Summer," even uses a different vocal take.
But most importantly, five songs on the LP run at a faster speed than their counterparts on the CD. These songs include "Surfin' Craze," "Big Gun Board," "Alone on the Beach," "When Surfers Rule," and "Wax Up Your Board." I'd like to know which speed is the correct speed for these songs -- the faster LP speed or the slower CD speed.
The CD edition plays the songs in a "natural" key (i.e. they match up tone-wise with your keyboard). But in the '60s, groups like the Beach Boys used to speed up their songs sometimes, so maybe the Baggys wanted these tunes to play slightly fast.
As for this album, I'm sure most people reading this blog know the details behind it. The Baggys were a pretend group put together by songwriters P.F. Sloan and Steve Barrit, who penned hits for the Turtles, Grass Roots, Herman's Hermits, and others. They'd written surf songs for Jan & Dean (which I recently wrote about) and decided to put together a mock-band and make their own surf album.
And it's not half bad. In my opinion several songs are genre classics, especially "Tell 'Em I'm Surfin'" and "Wax Up Your Board." But as reissues go, I'll continue to listen to this one on vinyl because the songs simply come across better.
1. Tell 'Em I'm Surfin'
2. Surfin' Craze
3. Let's Make The Most Of Summer
4. Anywhere The Girls Are
5. Big Gun Board
6. Alone On The Beach
7. Debbie Be True
8. This Little Woody
9. When Surfers Rule
10. Surfer Boy's Dream Come True
11. It Was I
12. Wax Up Your Board
13. Summer Means Fun
14. Surfin's Back Again
15. Surfer Impersonations
Thursday, July 7, 2016
On the heels of Diggin' Out, which I posted yesterday, here is another multi-artist surf music collection of '60s tunes I bought in my wild and reckless youth. Like that album, this one also has a bunch of crazed surf instrumentals by acts who aren't well-known outside of surf music circles. There are some classic tracks in that genre here, especially "Malaguena" (aka "Dark Eyes") by the Tornadoes.
But this collection differs from Diggin' Out in that it has vocal cuts too. Most of 'em are from the "drag music" subgenre, but the two that close the album are from the psychedelic era -- although not psychedelic themselves (they're sort of "Dragnet"-like warnings against drug use). The concept here is that everybody's goin' surfin' on the first side -- which is mostly surf instrumentals -- and no one's doing it on the second, which is mostly made up of vocal tracks about drag racing. Clever, huh?
As with Diggin' Out, I included high-quality scans along with my high-quality rip. Once again you can just read the liner notes so there's no point in me repeating them here. Plus, I tagged all the tracks with release dates and composer info, so there's no reason to repeat that here either.
But I will throw in a few tidbits I've learned since I used to cruise around playing a cassette dub of this in my super-cool old Dodge Charger with my super-hot teenage girlfriend Bernadette (those were the days, people!). First, the "1988" release date is a guess. This isn't a legit LP and there's no date on it. But I bought it in '88 and it was reviewed in Kicks! by Billy Miller in 1989 so I'm going with '88. I enclosed a scan of that Miller review, by the way.
Second, while tracking down all the release dates, I learned this isn't all '60s music. Whoever compiled this slipped in a cut from 1988: the Phantom Surfers' "Horror Beach." I'm going to assume someone from the Phantom Surfers put this together because of that.
Finally, some of the cuts aren't as obscure as they were back in the Reagan Era, because they've come out on CD elsewhere. Which ones? Well, there may be several. But two I know for sure are the Revells' "My Baby Digs Slot Car Races" and the Kickstands' "The Devil on Wheels," which are -- respectively -- found on the Sundazed reissues the Revells' The GO Sound of the Slots! and the Kickstands' Black Boots and Bikes.
And then there's the track by Gilligan. Or is it Maynard G. Krebs? Either way, you have to hear that one. It's, like, totally far out, man.
1. The New Dimensions - Failsafe
2. Aki Aleong & The Nobles - Panic
3. Aki Aleong & The Nobles - Hiawatha
4. The Phantom Surfers - Horror Beach
5. The Tornadoes - Malaguena
6. The Tornadoes - The Inebriated Surfer
7. The Bongo Teens - Surfin' Bongos
8. The Surf Teens - Bull Winkle
9. Bob Denver - Ho-Daddy
10. The Woofers - Ridin' The Rails
11. The Go-Go's - Chicken Of The Sea
12. Hal Blaine - The Phantom Driver
13. The Revells - My Baby Digs Slot Car Races
14. The Hornets - Shotdown
15. The Eliminators - The Challenger
16. The Kickstands - The Devil On Wheels
17. The Buddies - Skateboard U.S.A.
18. Mike Curb - Pot Party
19. Mike Curb - Make Love, Not War
Wednesday, July 6, 2016
Surf music month continues with this classic LP of early '60s surf instrumentals which has never come out on CD. It features 18 tracks with so much "wet" reverb you might need to call a lifeguard. If you've seen this one online before, this isn't the same rip. This is a clean, new 320/48 version I made. I also threw in some high-quality scans, including the back cover, which has liner notes. Those notes make it a bit redundant for me to go on about each and every band here. But it definitely rocks, I'll say that much.
P.S. -- I took the time to look up release dates and composer info for all these cuts and put the info in the track tags.
P.P.S. -- Regarding the spelling of the title of the first track here, that's not a typo. That's the way they spelled Jezebel on the label.
1. The Illusions - Jezabel
2. The Vistas - Moon Relay
3. The Avengers VI - Heartbeat
4. Dave And The Customs - Ali Baba
5. The Nation Rockin' Shadows - Anesthesia
6. The Newport Nomads - Blue Mallard
7. The Goldtones - Gutterball
8. The Chevells - Let There Be Surf
9. The Progressives - Hot Cinders
10. The Gestics - Rockin' Fury
11. The Phantoms - XL-3
12. The Irridescents - Bali Ha'i
13. The Avengers VI - Good Humor Stomp
14. The Chevells - Riptide
15. The New Dimensions - Cat On A Hot Foam Board
16. The Goldtones - Strike
17. Tommy And The Hustlers - Diggin' Out
18. The Lonely Ones - Miserlou
Tuesday, July 5, 2016
This is one of those albums that never sounded right in stereo to me. The reason for that might be personal. I chanced upon a cheap mono copy of it decades ago and got used to hearing it that way. Now you can hear it that way: This mono mix has never come out on CD and after years of wanting to do a rip, I finally did one.
The album is the eighth by Jan & Dean, and by this point they were heavily into the surf music sound they adopted after playing some concerts with the Beach Boys a few years earlier. Jan & Dean's resident songwriter/producer Jan Berry is in his usual top form here, singing lead and co-writing most of the tracks. Word has it that he co-wrote the title track but didn't receive credit because of some behind-the-scenes business machinations.
Although there are no drastic differences between the album's mono and stereo versions in terms of instruments or voices, the mono mix is pitched slightly higher than the stereo mix. At least it's that way compared to the stereo mix I own on CD, which is the two-fer reissue that also has Filet of Soul on it. On that CD, the keys of the song correspond with the ones on any electronic keyboard. But on this original vinyl copy, they run faster and, as such, are pitched a bit higher.
I don't know if this was a mistake or if Jan & Dean (or Liberty Records) purposely did this. But I want to make clear that the difference in pitch is from the actual vinyl and not a mistake on my part. My Technics turntable runs at the correct speed.
Most Jan & Dean fans probably know that two songs here, "Old Ladies Seldom Power Shift" and "Move Out Little Mustang," were really performed by another surf group, the Rally Packs. These tracks made up both sides of a Rally Packs single, with the former song being originally titled "Bucket Seats."
But unless you own the original LP, you won't know that the version of "Old Ladies" is different here than on the reissue CD. The original LP includes the sound effect of screeching brakes at 1:10 into the song. This isn't on the aforementioned CD copy I have.
The Rally Packs, by the way, were actually the Fantastic Baggys under a different name. That group included Steve Barri and the late P.F. Sloan, who wrote several songs for this LP.
Jan Berry, who served as the group's producer, sometimes used backing tracks by other groups for Jan & Dean LPs and just re-recorded his own vocals over the old vocal tracks. They did this on their version of Bruce & Terry's "Summer Means Fun," which is included here. I guess with the Rally Packs he must have thought, why bother even doing that? Why not just save time and put their songs lock, stock, and barrel on the album?
Maybe Jan couldn't be bothered spending too much time in the studio and instead wanted to hit the beach and hang with the ladies. That's exactly what this album prompted me to do back when I bought it, and hopefully it'll be similarly inspiring to others who hear it.
1. The Little Old Lady From Pasadena
3. When It's Over
4. Horace the Swingin' School Bus Driver
5. Old Ladies Seldom Power Shift
6. Sidewalk Surfin'
7. The Anaheim, Azusa & Cucamonga Sewing Circle, Book Review & Timing Association
8. Summer Means Fun
9. It's As Easy As 1, 2, 3
10. Move Out Little Mustang
11. Skateboarding - Part II
12. One-Piece Topless Bathing Suit
Monday, July 4, 2016
July 4 is a date people associate with surf music, because that's when the Beach Boys used to play on the Mall in Washington, D.C. I got to see them perform there in 1985 and it was an experience I'll never forget: Swarms of people as far as the eye could see all grooving to their classic hits.
To commemorate this, I'm going to kick of a month-long series of surf music posts. So get ready for lots of vocal harmonies, twangy guitars, "wet" sounding reverb, frantic instrumentals, and short, optimistic pop tunes.
Surf Music Month officially starts with a collection I put together last year, Waves of Sunshine: Two Dozen Obscurities from the Crossroads of Surf and Sunshine Pop. I made this when I realized two things: 1). There were a lot of great-but-obscure '60s surf and sunshine pop singles not on compilations; and 2). The line between these two genres could get blurry and there were some songs that encompassed elements of both.
I gave it to some other blogs last year, but since I started my own blog I thought I'd post it here. Consider this a summer counterpart to my Long Lost '60s Christmas set.
Exact release dates and label info for these songs can be found in their MP3 tags. But in general, these tunes are from the years 1964 through 1968. Some of the '64 ones have traces of girl group or Brill Building sounds while some of the '68 ones bear the influence of psychedelia.
All of 'em are pretty obscure and a lot were released on small indie labels. From our vantage point (vintage point?) all are "uncomped," with the exception of two Gary Zekely- related cuts, but those were only put on a bootleg that's now hard to find. All are US singles except for the Finders Keepers track, which was a UK release.
A few other things: The Beach Bums cut is early Bob Seger. The Jill Gibson track is not the standard version from her lone solo 45 release, but has an alternate vocal -- probably the same one from the Jan & Dean duet sans Jan Berry's harmony part.
The song by the Group (track 10) was co-written, arranged, and produced by surf music great Gary Zekely, while the Visions cut (track 3) was produced by him under a pseudonym. According to Discogs, the Linda Gray featured on track 5 here is the same one that went on to play Sue Ellen on TV's "Dallas."
1. Tomorrow’s Peoples - Sting Ray’s Back in Town
2. The Chartbusters - Lonely Surfer Boy
3. The Visions - Keep Your Eyes On the Sun
4. Spring Fever - Stop!
5. Linda Gray - The Sea Took Him Away
6. The Cradle - What a Summer
7. The Impacts - Summer (The Best Time of the Year)
8. The Breakers - All My Nights, All My Days
9. The Hot Dog Stand - C’mon Summer’s Happenin’
10. The Group - Baby, Baby It’s You
11. Phil & the Flakes - Chrome Reversed Rails
12. The Trade Winds - Club Seventeen
13. The Beach Bums - Florida Time
14. The In Crowd - The Girl in the Black Bikini
15. The Creations IV - Dance In the Sand
16. The Forte Four - I Don’t Want to Say Goodnight
17. The Jones Boys - Impressions
18. Finders Keepers - On the Beach
19. The Scramblers - Go, Gilera, Go
20. Linda Hall - Beach Boy
21. The Excels - California On My Mind
22. The Life Guards - Swimtime U.S.A
23. The Sea Shells - Barefoot in the Sand
24. Jill Gibson - It’s as Easy as 1, 2 ,3 (Alternate Vocal Version)