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Music Review: The Surfaris – Fun City USA/Wipe Out

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Its summer, it’s hot, I’m hot, and I’m bored. Driving home today, “Wipe Out” came on the radio and all of a sudden, summer did not seem so bad. When I returned home I dug out my Surfaris CD and life was good for an hour or so.

The Surfaris were a California band formed during 1962, which was a perfect time to ride the crest of the wave of the American surf music movement that was being popularized by The Beach Boys and Jan & Dean. The band consisted of drummer/vocalist Ron Wilson, lead guitarist Jim Fuller, bassist Pat Connolly, guitarist Bob Berryhill, and saxophonist Jim Pash. Wilson passed away during 1989, but the band continues to perform to the present day.

The best retrospective of their music is Fun City USA/Wipe Out, which combines their two best albums and virtually all of their better material.

“Wipe Out” may be the best known rock instrumental of the 1960s and one of the most popular of all time, plus it remains instantly recognizable almost 50 years after its initial release. It became a big hit during 1963 and again in 1966. Millions of teenagers, and probably adults, have tried to play the drum solo down through the years with pencils on boxes, dashboards, or whatever else happened to be handy at the time. The maniacal laugh at the beginning has announced the song through tens of millions of radio plays. It was recorded by Dale Smallen, who owned the recording studio, and left this one imprint upon rock history.

Their other well-known song, and one of the classic songs of the surf era, was “Surfer Joe.” Fitting yrics include, “Down in Doheny where the surfers all go, there’s a big bleached blonde named Surfer Joe.” It was originally the flip side of the “Wipe Out” single but became a hit in its own right. The best thing about this album track was it contained the long version of the song and not the shorter single version.

The remainder of the 24 tracks range from the very good to typical album filler of the day. They are on solid ground with a number of instrumentals. Their original compositions, “Point Panic” and “Waikiki Run” are excellent representations of the instrumental surf sound of the day and their covers of “Apache” and “Jack The Ripper” are worth a listen as well.

Wilson’s vocals were not the strongest but he managed to get by. Not counting “Surfer Joe,” the best vocal song was “Hot Rod High,” which is one of the great forgotten songs of the surf and car era.

On the other hand, songs such as “Hound Dog,” “Bat Man,” “I’m A Hog For You,” and “Misirlou,” which will always be associated with Dick Dale, are just there to complete an album’s worth of material.

The music of The Surfaris may not be essential in the evolution of rock music but it was a pleasant way to wile away some time on a hot summer day. A cool breeze, the smell of the ocean, some aging memories, and some old surf music are just perfect once in a while.

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