What Is Surf
Part III: Name That Tune

Is a song with a surf title a surf tune? Can a song without a surf title be a surf tune?

What's in a name, anyway. Both sides of this argument are seriously flawed. On the one hand, there are the surf titled tunes hoping to cash in on a trend, or named out of some misguided personal definition of the genre. On the other, there are great surf tunes with titles that have little or nothing to do with surfing.

kai winding Who would argue that Creed Taylor stable-mates Kai Winding (trombone) & Kenny Burrell (guitar) were a surf act, yet their version of More album contains only "More," often mistakenly identified as a surf song, but a really bad & badly named surf tune called "Surf Bird," plus one of the lamest versions of "Pipeline" anywhere. Would you vote for England's Damned for surfband of the year because they released a single b-side instrumental called "Wiped Out," even though it's not really a surf song?

Even farther a-field is the inclusion of any title with aquatic leanings. Are the Shadows a surfband because they issued an album in the U. S. titled Surfing With The Shadows which contained hard-core surf titles like "Kon Tiki?" Would Henry Mancini's henry mancini "Banzai Pipeline" have been thought of as a surf song if the Astronauts hadn't covered it? Have you ever heard Henry's version?

On the opposite side of the street are wonderful surf tunes like the Exports' "Car Hop" covered by Nashville not quite surf but great anyway Los Straitjackets. And, what about the Losers' "Snake Eyes?" In both cases, neither the band name or the title imply surf.

Perhaps best of all, there's Dave & the Customs' lost masterwork "Ali Baba." This band and tune raises the ugly head of the Hot Rod vs. Surf argument. From my perspective, only the labels are different. I think these examples demonstrate that the definition of surf is the sound & feel, not the names.

OK, another piece of the usual definition that doesn't really work.