It’s March, and those of us in northern climes are holding out the hold that soon we will be able to put away the heavy boots and heavy boots and enjoy some warmer temperatures. (If you happen to be somewhere that is perpetually sunny and pleasant, we are more than a bit jealous.)
In an attempt to hasten summer’s arrival, may we suggest Surf Beat by Kent Crowley, the first comprehensive narrative history of one of modern music’s most controversial and misunderstood musical movements.
The late 1950s and early 1960s Southern California phenomenon of Surf Music wasn’t about surfing but was an electronic revolution and a key incubator in the careers and futures of some of popular music’s most important and enduring artists such as Brian Wilson, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix and many others. As an electronic music revolution, Surf Music formed the foundation for all subsequent electric guitar idioms as the form in which the amplifier became the voice of the lead guitar and the lead guitar became the voice of Rock & Roll.
Surf Beat explores Surf music from its late 1950s origins as a “do-it-yourself”proto-punk movement erupting along Southern California’s coastlines through the early 1960s where its subsequent technological innovations blazed the trail for acid rock, folk rock, jazz fusion and heavy metal to its resurrection in the mid 1990s as a soundtrack to a new school of urban films noir. Surf Beat also examines how Hollywood exploitation and the music’s relationship to the evolving sports of surfing and skateboarding obscured the form’s musical contributions.
Kent talks about his book here.