Saturday, May 24, 2008

1960's Surf Music

A prized possession of mine, when I was all of 5 or so, was a portable record player. At first, I played my collection of nursery rhymes and childrens music. I then discovered the box of 45’s that my sisters had. My uncle was a disc jockey in about 1963, first in the Air Force,and later, at a radio station in Worthington, Minnesota. Surf music was all the rage, and was being played by many a band all over America. I found this music and dived into it. A few of the bands I enjoyed were the Beach Boys, The Astronauts, The Trashmen (Surfin’ Bird was their hit and were Minnesota's most famous surf band), The Hondells and Dick Dale, with his "Watusi Jo." I also had a number of records by The Ventures and though they were really not surf music, I still enjoyed them, along with Duane Eddy and his many instrumentals.

I listened to this music quite a bit, until I found the Beatles and for a short time, played an album with the music from my favorite TV show, Batman, with "Robin the Boy Wonder" being my favorite, played often to annoy my older brother.

The Shadows (with Hank Marvin on guitar) and their great song "FBI" was another huge favorite, and who, by the way, are still around playing. Look up the Shadows on YouTube to view them playing FBI. Apache and others. Hank Marvin was the first person to use a Fender Stratocaster in England, and along with an echo machine and Vox amps, paved the way for guitar instrumentals.

Most surf music, guitar-wise, was played on Fender Stratocasters and Jazzmasters. Look at any old film or video that is around and you will see brand new Fender guitars and amps being used. Lots of reverb was required, too. Just listen to any Dick Dale song. He was the king of
surf guitar, and still tours and records today. He gained popularity when his music was used on the film "Pulp Fiction." Could it be that that movie brought back this music, or has it always been around and just not being heard? It is infectiously fun music to hear, and brings back a time when the Beatles were waiting in the wings to change the face of rock and roll. It was short-lived, and spawned lots of music and cheaply made films.

I still own many of these 45's and after finding the little adapter to allow me to play them on my vintage 1985 turntable, I found that I still liked some of this music. After exploring the internet, I found that surf music is still alive and well, with a few really good bands based here in Minneapolis. MySpace turned out to be a great resource for finding these bands.

I had read about Ronnie Lake in a local paper here in Minneapolis. She is an excellent purveyor of surf music and is a veteran of the music business, with years of experience to back it up. Her guitar tone and style really exemplifies the surf music spirit. I have to catch one of her shows someday. She is excellent. I like her song "Adventures in Paradox".

The Verb Tones from Portland, Oregon really get the vintage surf sound here. Check out their website to hear a few songs. I love their name, too. They look like a really fun band to see.

The Windows, from Nagoya City,Japan, have it going on, too. The heavy reverbs sound is here in abundance. I have read that surf music is very popular in Japan. Fender
guitars are well represented in this band.

Laika & The Cosmonauts, from Finland, show how universal this music is. Great use of the
vibrato arm happening here, too. The organ is featured here, too. "Melodic instrumental rockular music with furious and atmospheric visual vibes." says their website. Fun stuff

The WetTones, from Italy. They add a trumpet to the mix. All Fender gear, as well.

Surf music bands have the most creative names -- The Tremolos, The Aquasonics, The Surf Coasters,The Volcanics -- I am getting all these from MySpace. There is a huge amount of bands to explore here. I could spend hours here, but time to move on. Take a look for yourself. It is all there just waiting to be heard.

I will close by saying that today's surf music is being played in the same spirit that the original bands did, back in the time when it was new. The music seems to be universal, even if the people playing it have never been on a surf board or live anywhere near the ocean.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Ritchie Blackmore and Deep Purple

I just have not had much time these days to post anything here. It seems like I have not had much interest in music things as of late. Other things get in the way, and I put guitars and music on the back burner.

However, I have had fun exploring music gems on Youtube. Last week, I spent a hour or two going through all the Deep Purple I could find, mostly from the early days.

Deep Purple's Machine Head was, if I remember right, one of the first LP's I bought, way back in 1973. I think I had this before I even picked up a guitar. I also had the Made In Japan tape, which I played so much it wore out.

Ritchie Blackmore was a huge inspiration to me. I have never tried to play in his style - it would sound terrible if I did. I can just sit back and listen to him, with no interest in ever copying him.

I found this one, with the original line up, from 1973.

I love the fact that there is no light show or no fancy sets - just 5 guys, in their prime, doing a show at a college in New York. Pure 1970's music. And who says 1970's era Stratocasters were no good. Granted, he is using early 70's models. The quality problems did not show up until the mid 70's.

Compare this to their performance on Hugh Hefner's Playboy at night. This is the very first incarnation of Deep Purple, when Hush was a hit. I have to wonder if the outfits the dancers are wearing were planned, or if they really dressed this way. Maybe this was Hollywoods take on the hippie culture. Here we have Ritchie trying to teach Hugh how to play the guitar. Ritchie was using a Gibson 335 then.

My favorite era of Deep Purple is the 1972-1973, before Ian Gillan left. It is no secret that Ritchie and Ian do not get along. Burn, Strange Kind of Woman, Space Truckin, Highway Star and Lazy are probably my favorite songs of the time.

I became a huge fan of Rainbow, with Ronnie James Dio singing. I probably wore out the Live album they put out. I spent hours trying to play like this, and failed.

Ritchie is one of kind, and it was really interesting to see that he has aband with his wife playing a combination rock, folk and renaissance music in Blackmore's Night. I know there are many fans who are probably mad that he is not playing much of his electric guitar these days. But I think it is cool that he is doing what he wants to do, and moving into different types of music. Everyone has to evolve somewhat.

On an interview somewhere on youtube he is asked if he ever gets tired of playing Smoke on the Water. His answer was "no." He is very proud of that song, which is loosely based on a Beethoven progression played backwards. Like thousands of other young guitarists in the 70's, this song was one of the first I learned. I am sure that this continues today

Anyways, go out there and explore Ritchie's career. I plan to catch up on Deep Purple's music, as I do not have any left, having sold or lost many of my albums over the last 20 years.

Maybe I should start to learn his style of playing. I am getting bored with the guitar and need something new to do with it.