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Recently in Surf Category

"A Hint of Nutmeg," Black Flamingos (Hi-Tide)

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I mentioned these guys in the Seasonal Favorites: Vol. 4 post and they got back to me to mention that their "How the Gurch Stole Christmas" from that album is also on a vinyl single for the first time in 2016. This is the B-side, a slightly mellower surf instrumental than their frenetic A-side. Apparently it's just out, so new it's not even mentioned on their website, but I'm sure that will change shortly. Meanwhile, enjoy. UPDATE: The single's downloadable at Amazon.

seasonal4.jpgThis surf music label sporadically comes up with a Christmas compilation, and 2016 is the year for the latest entry. Some of the individual tunes we've seen before, like "Lump of Coal" by the Barbary Coasters, "Hot Rod Hanukkah" by Meshugga Beach Party, "Groovy Old Saint Nick" by Los Straitjackets, and "Ye Merry Gentlemen" from the Falcons is from a decade-old album. The majority of these tunes are surf-style instrumentals, with a bit of late-50s-early-60s balladry mixed in, as in disc opener "Christmas in July" by Martin Cilla. Black Flamingos give us "How the Gurch Stole Christmas," their spelling not mine, which taps on the mood if not the precise melody of the Grinch's theme song, while the Twang-o-Matics go more spaghetti western on "Staffan Var En Stallendrang," a Swedish tune I could get very little about from Google Translate. The Other Timelines bring us "Public Access Christmas Special," a neat guitar-organ duet, the Crazy Aces give us a medley of popular carols called "Crazy Acemas," and the Kanaloas do "X-Mas Palm Tree." The Nutcracker gets a couple of different takes as Fronkensteen's "Nutty Sweet" is essentially a cover of "The Nutrocker," while Travelers of Tyme bring a bit of the tiki hut to "Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy." More familiar carols are performed by Aqualads, "Angels We Have Heard on High," "Santa Claus Is Coming to Surf" by the Takeoffs, and "Jingle Bells" by Tiki Joe's Ocean. Vocals aren't completely ignored here, as Whoa Nellie Vera and Johnny recast the Johnny B. Goode story as "Little Johnny Got a Japanese Guitar For Christmas," The Beagles take on "Snoopy's Christmas" with a "Hang On Snoopy" chorus, and the best cut here, "Xmas Is a Bust" by the Ogres, is a snarky original with more of the garage sound about it. Apparently only available from the label's website, no download or streaming at this time. UPDATE: "I Saw Three Ships (Mr Rebel Version)" by Urban Surf Kings was recorded new for this collection; I erroneously assumed it was from a previous album by them.

Christmas Eve, Wonderlux (Wonderlux Music)

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Surf guitar instrumentals, once the toast of the rock scene in the mid-60s, now are the subject of much cult adulation, particularly in Europe. Although "surf" might be a misnomer, in that the Ventures are the real granddaddies of this style. In the general pop culture, the sound most often pokes its head up in movie soundtracks (see the Dick Dale revival brought to us in the soundtrack to "Pulp Fiction"), so it's fun to hear it pop up in the Christmas realm. In this case, the folks who bring it to us for 2016 are Michael Fontana of the Blue Hawaiians, with the help of Big Bad Voodoo Daddies producer Brad Benedict. Just like the Ventures, they play one thing and throw in snippets of another for seasoning. The one thing you might not expect in this style is that the play times for the individual cuts are longish, in the 4.5-6-minute zone, but that's because most cuts feature multiple songs, as in "Yuletide Moon/It Came Upon a Midnight Clear/O Little Town of Bethlehem." Some of these titles appear to be originals grafted onto familiar tunes, as in "A Nightmare on Elf Street/O Holy Night," which starts with the familiar hymn and backtracks into something more Halloween-sounding in nature. It's not all twang; some string sweetening and female vocal choruses sneak in to build tension, but the twangy vibrato guitars and pounding drums return to the forefront soon enough. Things wrap up with "Mistletoe a Go-Go/Silent Night," which I highlight because I'm always up for alternate takes on this frequently played but oh-so-solemn carol. This is a gotta-have for your holiday playlists, and there are enough liberties taken that you won't feel silly playing it in the summer.

They're back for the third year in a row with another Beach Boys-flavored surf-rock song for 2012. The flying sled, of course, sits in for "Little St. Nick" or your favorite Sixties muscle car, and the vocalists this year are Alyssa and Jo Anna Edmison, 11 and 13 years old respectively, but they've got the era-specific sound this song needs, so no cracks about kid singers this time. Prescott Niles of the "My Sharona" Knack provides the bass work, for you trivia fans out there. Another winner from this group. Click the cover to grab it from Amazon.
Yet another Beach Boys homage comes from this Copenhagen ensemble via Bandcamp for 2012. No relation to "Help Me Rhonda," the story line is that the girlfriend left in December but Santa brought her back. It's a winner, grab a copy and send out some mad California props to Denmark for these guys.
meshugga.jpgWell, the title surely dispenses with the need for a Hanukkah alert. These guys (and a gal) have been a going concern in the southern California region, playing traditional Jewish songs in the surf music style. (I love that the bass player's name is Steve Bacon, by the way.) For 2011 they tighten the focus of their schtick to the eight crazy nights of light, although a cursory look at their discography suggests they've put "Hava Nagila" on every one of their albums, including this one. They even slip a bit of it into "Shleppin' and Kvetchin'," which features a guest appearance by Duane Eddy (it's really his "Moovin' & Groovin") on those big low strings. Now I'm not Jewish, so I don't have a deep knowledge of the traditional Hebrew folk song repertoire, but I'm guessing that a number of the songs on here are either originals or have been renamed for entertainment's sake. For example, I doubt that "Czech Mate" is a traditional Yiddish song, at least under that name. Info at the website is a bit sketchy in regard to songwriting credits. But I'm pretty sure the title song is an original, which treads a little closer to the Beach Boys/Standells realm than the rest of the album, which is more like the kind of stuff Dick Dale does. Probably due to it being the only tune with vocals, unless you count the Jewish mother bit at the front of "Bubbie's Kitchen." And there's little doubt about the provenance of "Oh Hanukkah" or "Dreidel Dreidel." Eighteen songs may be a bit much for what is a one-joke concept, but there's plenty to like here.

hollyberry2.jpgTheir 2009 entry "I Wanna Go Surfin' With Santa" was received well enough that this group went back into the studio for another bite at the apple. This year's entry is not a lot different, except it's more overtly a tribute to the Beach Boys. Also of note is the participation of guest artists Jonathan Paley of the Paley Brothers and Pamela Des Barres, best known as an author but formerly of the Frank Zappa-produced GTOs. I personally can't get enough Beach Boys, so this is aces with me.

seasonal3.jpgFans of the Double Crown label are already up to speed with the first two volumes, so here's another one for 2010. As in the past, the artists featured are from the label, mostly in the early 60's guitar combo sound that stretches from Duane Eddy to the surf music scene. Much of this is instrumentals, kicking off with The Razorblades' "Morgen Kinder Wirds Was Geben," as you might expect from a German band. The Excelsiors take a lot of delightful liberties with "Good King Wenceslas" and The Frankie Handwax Experience superimposes "We Three Kings" over Jimi Hendrix's "Manic Depression." Previously released items from the label show up here, like "Greensleeves" from King of Hawaii's Chrismas disc and The Barbary Coasters' "Secret Santa." Burt Rocket gets a little Joe Meek/Telestar on us with "Santa's Hot Rod," The Balboas throw in a vocal with "This Is Santa Claus," and also resorting to the microphone are The Polkaholics with "Sausage and Sauerkraut For Santa," a rock/polka hybrid. Tiki Joe's Ocean goes exotica on us with their version of "Jingle Bells," and OJ Watson and the Ludlow Ramblers do "We'll Be Home With Bells On," which is straight old-school country, and Peter Curry and Dick Chiclet wrap things up with a twangy "Old Anxiety," better known as "Auld Lang Syne." This is right in line with the previous two collections, and if you grab it from the mothership (assuming your local record store doesn't have the hard copy, that's the only place online that has it) there's an additional song downloadable from the site, "Silent Night Twist" by The Beechwoods, which is just a little sedate for twisting but more uptempo than the song is usually performed. The Balboas did a video, like to see it? Here we go:

dblcrown.jpgThis Bellingham, WA record label specializes in garage/surf bands, and this CD had been previously compiled in 2000. We missed it then, but we have it now, reissued for 2006 with three additional cuts over the original. As we've compiled a number of surf-oriented Christmas tunes over the life of this site, we're not particularly surprised that several items, like Jon & the Nightriders' "Sleigh Ride," Urban Surf Kings' "We Three Kings," Death Valley's "Carol of the Bells" and "Little Drummer Boy" by The Bonesharks, have been done in similar ways by other artists elsewhere. But with 19 tracks to choose from, that's not necessarily a disqualifying point. Some of the more fun tracks on this CD are the Tacoma 4's "Christmas is a Drag" and The Boss Martians' "It's Christmas Time," the latter previously on the Santa's Got a GTO compilation, both in the non-Beach Boys car/surf vein; "Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto" by Frigg A Go Go, a straight rock version of the James Brown arrangement; "Hang On Rudolph," a witty appropriation of the "Rudolph" and "Sloopy" songs by The Ebeneezer Scrooge Appreciation Society; The Firebirds' "Living Doll," a plea for Santa to bring a girlfriend; and "Rocknuts," The Lunatics' version of "Nutrocker" done entirely with surf guitars. Also notable is "Sigue Sigue X-mas," an upbeat surf "Jingle Bells" with spoken word samples ladled over it from old TV shows, and yes, of course from "It's a Wonderful Life." "Jingle Bells" returns in a spaghetti Western version from The Bitch Boys, and the whole thing wraps up with The Surfites' "Santa Claus Goes Surfin'," a straight-up surf instrumental worthy of Dick Dale or The Surfaris. Doesn't appear to be in print, although Amazon has it via 3rd parties and the label had cut-price copies as of this update.
seasonl2.jpgThe surf and garage rock authorities at DC are back for a second go-round in the Christmas realm in 2007. The 20 cuts on here are heavy on the surf guitar and the instrumentals, but they manage to mix things up pretty nicely for those inclined to listen all the way through. Pollo Del Mar kicks things off with their "Carol of the Bells," a fairly stately rendition two-thirds of the way through before the drums start double-timing things. "Drums For Christmas" by the Pete Curry Orchestra is as advertised, heavy on the jungle drums, and The Pyronauts bring a bit of "Pipeline" to "O Come All Ye Faithful." Give musicologist The Incredible Mr. Smith props for surfing up the German carol "Leise Rieselt Der Schnee," Surfin' Santa with the Meshugga Beach Party covers the Ventures' version of "Sleigh Ride," and The Dusty Warren Complex's "Little Drummer Boy" goes all Sandy Nelson drum-wise, with a hint of "Wipe Out." Mustn't give short shrift to the vocals on this disc, though, with the winner being The Barbary Coasters' "I Want a Monkey For Christmas," its fanciful lyrics set to Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven." The Icicles are right in there with their 60s girl-group take on "Snowman," Speedball Jr. knows "Rudolph's Secret," and The Daytonas want to keep "Christmas Time For Fun." Amazon only has this via 3rd parties, but the label still has copies, albeit at premium prices.

Surfin' Christmas, The Wave Benders (Dwell)

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waveben.jpgThese guys won't be having any trouble with the Federal Trade Commission with an album title like this one. Here we have a cool dozen classic Christmas carols rendered as surf instrumentals, except for vocals on "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," which lapses into a bit of "Small World" with different verses in different languages. The rest is straight 60's surf guitar soloing over good old-fashioned drums. The band even credits their source for vintage instruments in the liner notes, too. From 1996. UPDATE: Biographical information for this group is hard to come by, but the folks at Fat City Cigar Lounge seem to think they're a bunch of studio musicians from Amsterdam.

Malibooz Yule, The Malibooz (BCI)

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malibooz.jpgMore surf music for Christmas, but with a twist; a lot of these tunes are apparently originals, unless I somehow overlooked the Percy Faith Orchestra's version of "Santa Drives a Super Stock Dodge:" "And I heard him exclaim as he headed down Vine/Merry Christmas to all, now hear my Hemi whine!" These guys apparently are trying to channel the Beach Boys and come pretty close on many of these songs. This album is a reissue of A Malibu Kind of Christmas, circa 1992; they changed the title but very little else to tie in with another album of theirs, Malibooz Rule. The group is John Zambetti and Walter Egan, the latter the author of a solo album produced by Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, and they have a website. "It's Just Not Christmas" evokes middle-period Brian Wilson after the breakdown but before "Smile," and many others, like "When Santa Comes to Santa Cruz," "And a Happy New Year" and "Santa Man" definitely touch on several Beach Boys hits. Non-originals include "Little Surfin' Drummer Boy," something that's been done before but the Malibooz throw in a little "Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow" vocalizing, and "Carol of the Swells" surfs up the carol about the bells. Then there's "Rudy, the Hodad Surf Dude," based on Rudolph's song, in which a stranded Santa gets a loan of a surfboard to salvage the holiday. And the album ends with "Christmas Wrap," another surf adaption, in this case "A Visit From St. Nicholas," who was, wait for it, surfing. Fourteen tunes was a little too many for a one-joke album, but there's plenty of good stuff here. UPDATE: Malibooz Rule has one more holiday tune, "Santa's Gone Surfin'."

"Little Saint Nick," The Beach Boys (Capitol)

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lilstnick.jpgThis trademark 1963 Beach Boys Christmas song gets a good bit of radio play at Christmas, but it hasn't traveled well over the years, since the car culture it was based on hasn't maintained its place in the popular consciousness. Nevertheless, it was inspired for its time and is still fun to hear; I imagine Little Saint Nick drag-racing the sleighs in "Jingle Bells" and "Sleigh Bells," not to mention chasing after Chuck Berry's Rudolph. A full album followed a year later.

surfin.jpgThe first surf-oriented Christmas song, beating the Beach Boys to the racks by a year (1963). It uses the time-tested "tell Santa what you want" method of writing Christmas songs, but their way was influential enough to inspire the Turtles' update "Santa and the Sidewalk Surfer," more of a spoken-word novelty, and the spoken bridge to The Ravers' "Punk Rock Xmas." UPDATE: Thanks to Radio Rumpus Room (KFAI-FM Minneapolis St. Paul) for telling us the B-side of the original vinyl single was "Santa's Speed Shop."
bluhawai.jpgA little South Pacific surf, a little boogie and lots of steel guitar and you have The Blue Hawaiians. And what could be more natural for a band like this one than to do a Christmas album? Lots of things. Nevertheless, this short (10 songs) but energetic album from 1995 has plenty to recommend it. Most of the tunes are instrumentals, except for "Jingle Jangle," "Blue Christmas," the title song and "Mele Kalikimaka," the official Hawaiian Christmas song. The band manages to maintain a tension between their trademark sound and the material, which also includes "Christmas Time is Here," "White Christmas," "Have Yourself a Quiet (Merry) Little Christmas" and a medley of "We Four Kings (The Little Drummer Boy)" in which the little drummer played on the Surfaris' "Wipe Out" in a former life.

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