There are not many gears in the musical sub-genre of Surf Guitar. It is straight into overdrive, every time. There are no Surf Guitar tracks called “Moonlight Gently Touches Lapping Waters”. But it is a musical form which has no pretence, and at its best it is fun, exciting music.
I have never learned to surf. I would like to, and I live near some famous surf beaches. Back when I was a teenager, surfers (we usually called them “surfies” or “skegs”) were vaguely disreputable, associated with bad language, dope smoking, and living off unemployment benefits. But that was not why I did not learn to surf. No, it was really just the fear of looking silly: falling off the board, or not even being able to stand up in the first place.
I grew up in a stupid culture of “can or can’t”. There were people who “could sing”, and people who “couldn’t sing”. The same divide applied to drawing, playing an instrument, success with girls, playing cricket – everything, really. The idea that you could try, learn, get better, didn’t really enter into it.
Me? I was good at school, was into music, could write poetry, and look moody. So I did those things, and didn’t try much else – all the stuff I “couldn’t do”. Far better, in this toxic worldview, to stand at the back of the hall looking aloof than to dance and risk looking silly.
I am less self-conscious these days. I even swallowed my pride and took adult swimming lessons a while back. So, when the right time comes, I will take some lessons and catch some waves, and if I fall off and get water up my nose, who cares?
Surf Guitar was invented in the early 1960s, the key figure being Dick Dale and his band the Del-Tones. Decades later, around the time I didn’t have the nerve to try surfing, Dale teamed up with Stevie Ray Vaughan and recorded a reprise of an old hit, “Pipeline”.
And when I catch my modest wave, and wobble awkwardly into the shore, this is the soundtrack I want. Just listen!
- Artist: Stevie Ray Vaughan And Dick Dale
- LP title: Back to the Beach (film soundtrack, various artists)
- Track: A2, Pipeline
- Label: Columbia
- Catalogue: CK 40892
- Made in: United States
- Year: 1987
Many of the records discussed in this blog, along with hundreds or others, are for sale on Discogs.