The 1994 film Pulp Fiction seemed to help elevate the surf guitar music from under a pile of seaweed to a spot on the party-song playlists of hipsters around the world.
But what is surf guitar? How does it differ from other styles of guitar playing? What equipment is used to get the sound?
Fender-style guitars with single-coil pickups have typically been the weapon of choice, while vibrato bars are used to help express the rolling of the surf. Sometimes the vibrato bar is used very smoothly; sometimes it is shaken to the point of breaking off–enough to make Ike Turner proud! (Check out his instrumentals from the early 1950s).
Big, gnarly guitar strings that when played loud and proud, through a huge Fender amp, could shake the building, even when drenched in reverb from a tube-driven Fender Reverb unit. Even with all that reverb, there’s still enough bigness to the sound to do some major crowd control!
It seems that the surf guitar players of the early 1960s were possibly among the first guitarists to make music and sounds that represented something more than just “playing a popular song for people to dance or listen to.” They were trying to create, sonically, the sounds and feeling of surfing the waves.
Throw in some tribal beats and mysterious, mournful-sounding minor chords, and you have the basic elements that helped define this music. It’s almost like they took Duane Eddy’s big guitar sound and mixed it with some of the energy and primitive attitude heard in the guitar playing of Link Wray.
A lot of you—most of you, in fact—have heard the usual batch of surf-rock instrumental classics from the early Sixties. Things like “Pipeline,” “Out of Limits,” “Wipe Out” and my favorite, “Penetration.” However, it’s sae to surmise that millions of you might know almost nothing about the modern brand of instro-surf rock that you’re likely to witness in a club in 2016. Or about the bands that play it.
Below, check out a guide to 10 surf-rock tunes—played by nine different bands—that should be on your radar. The good news is, most of these bands still exist!
CALHOUN SURF | Los Straitjackets
COFFIN CLOSER | Slacktone
BELLS OF ST. KAHUNA | Slacktone
SURF! SURF! SURF! | The Aqualads
FLIGHT OF THE SURF GUITAR | The Atlantics
FATHOMIZED | The Fathoms
GREASE YOUR HAIR AND GET TATTOOED | The Razorblades
MISERLOU | Dick Dale
VARYKINO SNOW | The Mermen
MOJAVE | Insect Surfers
10 Instrumental Surf Rock Songs You Need to Hear Now
Source: Guitar World