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Music Review: Various Artists – Surf-Age Nuggets: Trash and Twang Instrumentals 1959-1966 [4-CD Box Set]

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Get out your bikinis and swim shorts, mix up some summery drinks, and get ready to have your own beach party, even if you live in a landlocked city, have never been near a surfboard, and there’s snow on the ground outside! Just lay down a blanket on the floor, make a fire in the fireplace, and put Surf-Age Nuggets on, and you’re there.

This is authentic surf music, mostly done by very young groups who were only known regionally. But if you like surf music at all, you will be amazed at how thoroughly enjoyable 100 very short instrumentals by musicians you probably never heard of can be!

The most well-known musicians on the CD are Dick Dale, who became a surf music legend, and Bobby Fuller, who went on to fame with “I Fought the Law” with The Bobby Fuller Four.  Some listeners might also recognize jazz trumpeter Shorty Rogers, here a member of Calvin Cool and The Surf Knobs, or guitarist Jimmy Johnson, who recorded at the time with the Mosriters. But the other 96 groups represented here are basically unknowns, groups like The Vaqueros, The Sting-Rays, or The Debonairs, who recorded on obscure labels like Timber, Velvet, or Angela which came and went like the surf genre itself.

The songs are interspersed with amusing bits of audio such as radio spots, commercials and several movie intros, Alfred Hitchcock’s for The Birds, which  inspired a song in the collection, and Vincent Price’s for House on Haunted Hill, which inspired another, among them.

The packaging of the box set is sheer genius. The four CDs are embedded in the front and back cover of a very sturdy book, which is full of essays, color photos of ads, comic book covers, magazine covers, and other surf-related media from the ’60s. There is information, too, for each song and group.

One very small quibble is the last track in the set, which is 16 minutes of commercials. It starts out fine with a Coke commercial and a Pepsi commercial, but quickly loses momentum. After 11 minutes, I turned it off. But that is a small complaint after hours of exciting, thoroughly enjoyable music!

This is the perfect package for any fan of surf music. The genre has attracted a whole new set of fans in recent years, and those young listeners who were not even dreamed of when these songs were recorded will be thrilled with it, as will all the baby boomers who either hit the beaches or dreamed that they did in that golden time when surf was king.

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About Rhetta Akamatsu

I am an author of non-fiction books and an online journalist. My books include Haunted Marietta, The Irish Slaves, T'ain't Nobody's Business If I Do: Blues Women Past and Present, and Sex Sells: Women in Photography and Film.