Surfing and music have endured an at times beautiful, at times strained relationship since the beginning of shred. Ever since The Duke first picked up a ukelele and plucked away.
And ever since Jürgen tucked half a dozen blond dreads behind his ear and did ‘Redemption Song’ on one of the surf camp bean bags.
Tastes of course vary, as do the times. In the beginning of California surf culture, it was speedy surf guitar evolving into Beach Boy pop.
In the 70’s boards got shorter, hair and tube rides became longer, as did indulgent lead guitar solos.
In the 80’s surfing borrowed a bit of everything from popular culture before the 90’s and Taylor Steele in particular meant anything semi decent in terms of action was invariably scored with regrettable SoCal punk-pop. Baggy jeans, puffy skate shoe rock. Yikes!
These days of course, anything goes, as long as it’s in no way pioneering or original. Similar to how the youth of today seem reluctant/unable to come up with anything new of their own, preferring to instead ape bygone eras, with or without irony, so too thus does much of the best accompanying surf movie tuneage often emanate from the era that the on screen surfer’s parents were likely rocking out/getting high/heavy petting.
Be that as it may, a great tune is a great tune, and a good video part, like a party, becomes better if generously scored.
Take a great part, match with great music, and you’re into the realms of timeless classic.
The kind of thing you can hark back to with an air of ‘don’t make em like they used to’/’you missed it’ dismissiveness.
After all, isn’t that what surfing’s all about?
Pablo Cruise – Zero to Sixty in Five
(Shaun Tomson, MR, Rabbit, PT, in Free Ride)
If ever a track encapsulated the great leap forward in surfing performance of the Bustin Down The Door era, the newfound performance liberties taken by the Free Ride generation, it’s Pablo Cruise’s Zero to Sixty in Five.
Even the title is like a benchmark of retro rad (sports car, presumably), of what was cutting edge at the time.
And yet, like the surfing, it endures.
It’s endless intros, momentum building (brick by brick), sweeping instrumentals until a gallop that’s so long in the making, feels like relief. You can’t get more 70’s than the music.
You can’t get more handsome than Shaun in short shorts, btw, more stylistically individualistically distinct than the stellar work of Bugs, MR, PT et al.
As the piano riffs build up before beautiful slo-mo Pipe, the guitar inevitably fires at 1m55 and MR, in peak knock knee’d as you’ll ever seen him Wounded Seagull mode, swoops into a beauty.
And it’s on.
Surfing would never be the same again, and similarly, post knuckles to da fuckin head, neither would Rabbit’s teeth.
Slap Ya Mammy – Devo
(Chris Ward from Separate Volume)
Journalistic cliché dictates that this is the point where we utter something about life imitating art, with Wardo having reportedly been on lockdown in maximum security jail in Orange County a few years back, for allegedly assaulting his wife. And then before that even, there was that alleged icicle incident.
Regardless of that, the track is another banger from Oakley’s Separate Volume.
“There’s a madness to your movements, it really gets my goat.” urges Devo’s madcap frontman Mark Mothersbaugh.
There’s a madness to Wardo’s movements, too. To Wardo’s everything, really. And much like Devo were oft dismissed as novelty music, Wardo’s surfing similarly is novelty.
A curiosity, a stylistic cul-de-sac perhaps, but at its best, one impossible not to admire. Delighting in the sense of on edge, pending train wreck doom.
‘Buenas Tardes Amigo’ by Ween
(Bruce Irons in Magna Plasm)
‘Buenas Tardes Amigo’, sung in a faux Mexican accent, ostensibly tells the story of a man’s vengeful search for his brother’s murderer, and accompanies a young Bruce Irons in the closing part of this Volcom classic. “That Ween track goes fucking flawlessly with the surfing,” says Kai Neville — the brooding, wistful guitar work, the sinister menace of the lyrics, the homicidal genius of those lovely lines: “maybe I’d sell you a chicken / With poison… interlaced… with the meat.”
It sounds like something out of Kind Hearts and Coronets.
But if Bruce’s part used to be difficult to watch without your arm-hair standing on end, now the goosebumps extend from head to toe, pleasure mingled with sadness and a sense of tragic coincidence: “You killed my brother last winter / You shot him three times in the back / In the night I still hear Mamma weeping / Oh Mamma still dresses in black.”
It wasn’t until recently that I realised Magna Plasm uses a truncated version of the original song, which turns out to be about sibling rivalry. The missing verses reveal a jealous fratricide and stitch-up job, the scapegoat chosen only because of his close resemblance to the dead brother.
Presumably the song was picked partly with this in mind, for Bruce and Andy were frequently at war, and nearly killed each other on several occasions: karate kicks to the head (Andy on Bruce), fireworks (Bruce on Andy), peer-pressure in the surf… the list probably goes on, and would probably impress the 10th Duke of Chalfont.
Obviously the echoes of reality are inexact and confused, but they’re unmissable, and the double meaning of the closing refrain — “I hoped we’d see each other again” — is fraught with melancholy.
The Rolling Stones, Gimme Shelter
(Dustin Barca from Separate Volume)
Impossible to leave Barca’s part from the incredibly well-scored Separate Volume from oakley off this list, seeing as the track was none other than The Stones’ Gimme Shelter.
“Gimme Shelter has the best 45 sec intro of any rock record ever made,” said legendary producer Robin Millar of the track. And he was quite correct.
“A beautiful guitar riff with a vibrato, giving it a sort of shiver… the producer, Jimmy Miller, plays a little South American fishbone with a stick, then a couple of notes on the piano from Nicky Hopkins, a little strange haunting harmonica from Mick Jagger, and then, Charlie Watts; blap, blap, boom. A perfectly timed riff from Keith, and then Mick Jagger comes in screaming his head off and they mix it way back in mix, and the producer says, ‘I think we should get a woman to sing on the chorus.’
It was the end of the 60’s, and it’s an incredible piece of apocalyptic music, but more than anything else, if you don’t want to play air rhythm guitar and be Keith Richards, there’s no hope for you.”
‘Wolf Like Me’ by TV on the Radio
(Andy, Joel, Taj in Trilogy)
Andy Irons wakes up in SW France, where it’s cold and raining and still dark. He goes to pick up Parko, who’s been awake since 3 and has already checked the surf; it’s “gargantuan”. They drive south to — where else? — Mundaka. And then the drums start.
The surf is perfect. Parko gets the most waves — no surprises there — in fact we see just one ride of Andy’s, but with it he makes both the section and the famous Basque rivermouth his. Of the many AI images lodged in surfing’s collective memory, perhaps the most abiding is his signature pig dog: body arched in an italic C, mirroring the curve of the lip; left flank and knee sunk into the face; right arm dead straight, locked into place on the rail.
In this instance the iconic Mundaka chapel can be seen in the background, and Andy’s left arm is caressing the roof of a wondrous ovoid tunnel, and Tunde Abimpe is howling deliriously about gutting fish and stealing cars and slaking blood lust in one of TV on the Radio’s best songs. It blows your mongrel mind.
Pink Floyd, The Narrow Way
Bruce Irons in The Bruce Movie
(Section starts 17m37s)
Coz Pink Floyd. Coz Superbank in its full early naughties splendour. Coz Bruce when he was still rad, pre Fox, pre everything else.
But mainly coz Pink Floyd. Sure, Floyd purists among you can bicker about Dave Gilmour replacing Syd Barret until your hearts are malcontent, but little matter.
Musically, the track even sounds like surfing a pointbreak, moreover a sand point. On screen, Bruce’s flow matches the score beautifully.
With no into the lip aggression on display, it’s ultra-fluid lines. It’s fades and well-placed snaps into dreamy and at times (very much Floydian) mind-alteringly beautiful endless turquoise tunnels.
Then, as our soundscape continues to tweak and build towards a tripped-out crescendo, we skip to Chopes and the Ments.
Rather than merely dig in the crate and find a bangin track to fit the shred, it’s almost as if the song was writ with the very film sequence in mind. Mmmmmmmm. Aaaaahhhhhhh.
The Sandals – Theme From Endless Summer
(Mike Hynson & Robert August, The Endless Summer)
The seminal surf movie track, appears throughout surfing’s finest ever film, just pick your section. Personally, I’d have to go for the Phil Edwards bit in Hawaii when he’s cross steppin’ up to the nose as seen from above and Bruce Brown’s narration slips into ultra, pared back minimal cool.
As an aside, I met Bruce Brown a couple of summer back in San Sebastian, and he was a legendary blend of carmudgeonly and rad.
I asked him something. He said, “I don’t know man. I’m so old, I pee my pants.”
Right on brother. Right on.
David Bowie – Life on Mars
(Creed McTaggart, Cluster)
Can’t find a link to the actual section, but never mind. Play the Bowie clip, close your peepers and imagine some carnt smokin cigs with a well-developed degree of self-satisfaction and surfin’ pretty good.
You get the idea. Sure, in terms of the all time greatness of the action relative to the all time greatness of the track, it’s a bit of a leap, similar to Barca/The Stones, but say what.
Take a leap, let’s.
Cluster is bang up there in terms of soundtrack. Almost up there all on its own in fact, coming with a mix of heavyweights and even a few Aussie semi-obscurities for the trainspotters among ye.
Coz beside The Thin White Duke, we’re talking Sonic Youth, NWA, Devo, New order, even The Birthday Party (Nick Cave’s first band).
Born To Be Wild – Steppenwolf
(Rabbit Bartholomew (feat Pagey & Lisa), Pump)
Bear with us… a minor departure from all the seriously good music and ‘important’ tracks, allow us to indulge you with some Rabbit Bartholomew in full entertainer mode in Billabong’s classic ‘Pump’.
Behold Bugs miming/mincing like a cross twixt Jagger, Blondie and Adam Ant – Singlet tucked into snow washed jeans, sunnies, gold chain, slick back hair.
Pagey’s in the background doing an impressive, energetic broom geetar. There’s even a cameo from a very young Lisa (who gets headbutted by Pagey). It’s absolute gold.
Blows Taylor Knox’s half arsed karaoke intro from Focus right out the water.
There’re a couple of luke warm La Piste pits from Bugs too, but who cares about that, really? If I’ve learned one thing from this surfing lark, it’s that you can make any kind of lofty lauding regarding anything old by Bong/McCoy, sans comeback.