4. Surf Music

During the mid 1960's, few American groups were able to compete with the wave of British music that dominated the pop charts. However, in California, several American bands were trying to change all that by combining two of their state's favorite pastimes: music and surfing. The result was what we now refer to as Surf Music, and the beach in the 1960's would not have been the same without it.

Surf Culture

As the rest of the nation was obsessing over the Beatles, Californians were busy making their own kind of music. Even though it had been around for a while, the sport of surfing was becoming very popular in California in the early 1960's. As more and more Californians caught onto the fad, an entire culture began to form. Along with it, a new style of music was born.

There are two kinds of surf music; instrumental and vocal.

Instrumental Surf Music

Instrumental surf music used instruments only. There were never any singers or lyrics. The instruments used were generally lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass, and drum set. Instrumental bands would turn up the reverb on their amps, which would give the music an echo effect. Bands would also use the whammy bar; a metal bar on electric guitars that allows the player to bend the pitch.

One of the most well-known examples of instrumental surf music is Wipeout by The Surfaris. Here's a video of them performing it:

This kind of surf music is still often used in TV and movies when characters are surfing. Spongebob uses it all the time. Watch this short clip and listen for the instrumental surf music in the background.

The Ventures - Wipeout live in Japan 1966.mp4
Spongebob Squarepants Surf Short 1.mp4
The Beach Boys- Surfer Girl (1964).mp4

Vocal Surf Music

Vocal surf music was unique for its use of close harmonies and falsetto voice. Falsetto is a high vocal register that allows a singer to reach notes out of their usual range. The voices for many cartoon characters are made in a falsetto voice, including Micky Mouse and Herbert from Family Guy.

Vocal surf music was almost always about one of these three topics:

  • Surfing
  • Girls
  • Cars

This video is an example of a ballad. A ballad is a slower (usually romantic) song.

The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys are by far the most well-known surf rock band. Three brothers; Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson grew up harmonizing and singing with each other. In 1962, the three brothers, along with their cousin and a friend, renamed themselves "The Beach Boys". Their first album, "Surfin' Safari" was somewhat popular, which inspired them to quickly create three albums the next year. Each of these albums reached Billboard's top 10 list. Some of their early hits included Surfin' USA and Surfer Girl. Even as Beatlemania was spreading throughout America, the Beach Boys' unique sound and positive, light-hearted songs were unstoppable. The Beach Boys popularity was worldwide, and they became the Beatles' main competition.

The Beach Boys - I Get Around (1).mp4
Beach Boys - Surfin Usa HD.mp4
Sources:https://mentalitch.com/history-of-the-beach-boys/History of Rock n' Roll - Surf Rock - Fun Music Company