Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Last Day of Summer

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.


norm chompski said...

"Kokomo," beeeehhaaayyootttch!!

Andy Whitman said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Andy Whitman said...

Mike, thanks so much for commenting. How's the Maharishi thing working out for you these days?

Maybe you can clear something up for me. I hear that a lot of the great Beach Boys songs were written by another guy. Bryan Adams. Ryan Adams. Brian Jones. Something like that. Can you clarify?

Also, did you know that Kokomo is in Indiana? Can you please explain the significance of lyrics that combine references to Key Largo, Aruba, Jamaica, and Kokomo? I've been dying to know. Thanks.

Jon said...

Kokomo is also apparently a privately owned Jamaican island:

Andy Whitman said...

Ah, that explains a lot. Thanks, Jon.

norm chompski said...

Check my blog and find out how Transcendental Meditation (TM) is working out for me.

How about you, sugar tits? Can you levitate 3 feet in the air?

Didn't think so.

Welcome to my world!

HCJoel said...

I'm with you, Andy. I would love to try surfing one day. For now, I recline with my plethora of Beach Boys CDs (my turntable is busted so the vinyl can't be played), copies of 'Surfing' magazine and dream. You should check out the book, 'Inside The House Of Waves' by Rick Taylor. It's a very good read (particularly when contrasted with 'Prayer & The Art Of Volkswagon Maintenance' a.k.a. 'Through Painted Deserts' by Don Miller).

Anonymous said...

how can you mention surf music w/o mentioning the Ventures? and a diddy that has abolutely nothing to do with this post but your earlier write up on neutral milk hotel....i just borrowed this album from a friend and hope it's a good as everybody says it is. also, Boards of Canada's "Music has the right to Children" also received a "10" on Pitchfork which was an album that "changed my life". If you don't have it, buy it. nice blog.