The main body of the text features a paragraph or so about each song. These notes were written by Alan Taylor and Dave Burke, of Pipleline magazine, and they really know their stuff. There are also some fabulous pictures, including vintage ads for Fender guitars, and even a “Fender Pretender,” from the Kent Guitar Company. That one is hilarious; it features a band set up on the beach, surrounded by some hot chicks with surfboards. The musicians are (of course) all dressed up in their stage suits. There are also some fantastic comic-book covers reproduced, including one featuring Wonder Woman surfing!
As wonderful as the packaging is though, Surf-Age Nuggets is all about the music. If ever there were a collection with which you could just hit “shuffle” on your CD player, and never be disappointed, this is it. There are even some surf-related ads included. These feature spots for radio stations and soft drinks, as well as trailers for movies such as The Horror of Party Beach and House on Haunted Hill.
While I expected that there would be plenty of great music, I was still a little surprised at the consistently high quality of the material. Those ads and movie trailers are an inspired inclusion by the way, as they really make you feel like you are listening to AM radio (in your car, of course) back in the day.
With so much music, we have to begin somewhere, so I will start at the top. “Doheney Run” (1965) by the Velvetones is the first track of the first disc, and rocks most convincingly. As is apparent in nearly everything on the set, the use of reverb, monster riffs, and a rhythm section that holds everything in place, this music just screams “Surf!” Although I have never surfed a day in my life, (living in Seattle is hardly conducive to the sport), these songs seem like the perfect musical representation of what it must be like.
Many of the tunes start out in a manner which suggests paddling out on your board, then hitting that big wave. When the (usually very brief) introduction is over, the music just takes off, and never lets up. Surf music is almost always associated with the guitar, but once in a while the lead is taken by the drums. The very second song is a great example. “Sheba” (1963) by The Shan-Tones (where do they get these names?), is very much driven forward by the drums.
Chronologically, the earliest track on the set is “Scandal” (1959) by King Rock and the Knights. In addition to the previously mentioned musical discussion of each song, the book also lists the label, the number, and the date of release for each. Reading between the lines, it appears that many of these records were one-shots. My guess is that quite a few of them were self-released, and probably sold on consignment in local Southern California record shops. Most of this material is pretty obscure; in fact, there is even an “Unreleased/Undubbed Version” of “One Pine Box” (1965) by The Royal Flairs included.