It's the last day of summer, and what better way to celebrate it than for middle-aged fat guys to revel in the wonder that is surf music? So I sit in my cubicle, eat my leftover meat loaf sandwich, and contemplate carving a line atop a 50-foot wave at Malibu. Don't dwell too long on the image. It can make you crazy.
Still, I'm a sucker for surf music in general, and surf instrumentals in particular. Even if I can't surf, I can still vicariously participate in the culture. To that end, Rhino's Surfin' Hits compilation is still the best place to start, and features the expected Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, and Dick Dale tunes, along with marvellous one-hit (or sometimes two-hit) wonders The Marketts, The Chantays, The Rumblers and The Trashmen.
Another big favorite is San Francisco's Mermen (one of whom is a woman, but why quibble about beings with fins?). All of their albums are good, but 1995's A Glorious, Lethal Euphoria has to be heard to be believed. There are definite Dick Dale influences, as well as some hints of Sonic Youth and John Coltrane, all speeded up to ridiculous tempos and put in a sonic blender. Plus a song called "The Drowning Man Knows His God" and a surf take on Brahms' 3rd Symphony.
I also have to put in a plug for French, Frith, Kaiser and Thompson's (as in Richard Thompson) album Live, Love, Larf, and Loaf, which features a goosestepping version of "Surfin' USA" as it might have been performed by Heinrich Himmler.
Surfers have their own version of human depravity and the fallen world that we live in. It doesn't really account all that well for the Heinrich Himmler's of the world, but I've always loved it just the same:
There's a moon in the sky somewhere I know
Waiting for all the love to burn below
If you fall and it happens all to soon
Blame it all on the surfer moon
But not today. It's the last day of summer. The sun is shining gloriously. It's as beautiful as California, only with corn. I'm going to take the iPod outside after I finish my sandwich, stroll sedately to some old surfin' tunes, and imagine that I'm on Zuma beach.