This is the 12 inch single from the …The Next Generation album. There’s something fascinating about the merger of Oz surf and discotheque production. While it’s not as adventurous as the Surf Coasters remixes, it is nonetheless plenty of fun if you just don’t screw your trad hat on too tight.
Discotheque Surf (Instrumental) Heavily processed with programmed sequences, and a long intro, they eventually get to the classic riffs of their great “Bombora.” This is a fascinating blend of the extreme credibility of “Bombora” and the dance floor. I found it hard not to like this. Its adventurous and brave excursion into the strobe lit world of the disco is attractive in a strange way, perhaps similar to the Surf Coasters industrial remix of “Miserlou.”
Bombora (Banjo Mix) ****
Discotheque Surf (Instrumental) Heavy intense guitar twango, bumpy disco rhythms, and that banjo… it’s like a surf journey into the backwaters of Deliverance backlit by strobes and lasers. Yikes! The banjo break is priceless, especially the banjo glissando… I can’t resist!
Bombora (Nylon Mix) ****
Discotheque Surf (Instrumental) “Bombora (Nylon Mix)” is way more compact, more direct, and more tightly pop structured. The arrangement is brilliant! Amazing!
Discotheque Surf (Instrumental) High flying, spacy, whale-call echoed, and very modern, “Atlantica” is exotic, Latin, infectious. The scream of the guitar is very modern and intense. A bit noodly at times, but quite cool.
Blackberry Blossom Stomp ****
Discotheque Surf (Instrumental) Heavy and thick, bumped beat backed, this circular country hoe-down is like Roy Clark at the disco. Way too fun!
These guys are amazing! This CD includes tracks from the early sixties and recent gems as well. A grand cross section of their work. I think they have more power today than ever before, and they sure have retained their ability to create frantic raging instrumentals.
Picks: Bombora, Mirage, Reef Break, Surfers Paradise, In The Shadows, Moon Man, The Crusher, Gremlin From The Kremlin, Bluebottles, Transatlantic, Glassy Walls, Flight Of The Surf Guitar, Giant, Teddy Bears’ Picnic, Rumble and Run, Greensleeves, Point Zero, Gatecrasher, Shark Attack, War of the Worlds, Night Star, Atlantica, Stompin’ Time, Warp 5, Saturday Night
Track by Track Review
Surf (Instrumental) This is great! The damped chops are more grodie with big room reverb, and rhythmic rumble very powerful. The lead is less piercing, giving the track a fuller more US period sound. Exceptionally cool and infectious! Worth the price of the disc all by itself!
Surf (Instrumental) “Mirage” has an almost Eastern European melody line, and creates picture of Gypsies and optimism. Quite a nice track!
Reef Break ****
Surf (Instrumental) Solid Atlantics surf, with powerful drums, a melodic guitar line, ample twango, and much charm. Great rockin’ energy. The low-E verse is pure surf. Excellent. Your melodic guitar lines require ample twango and charm, and you’ll need to power that low-E verse!
Surfers Paradise ****
Surf (Instrumental) In a strange way, “Surfers Paradise” has an “Endless Summer” feel to it, with a beautiful flow and easy attitude. Lovely and quite tasty.
In The Shadows ***
Surf (Instrumental) As you might expect from the title, this seems inspired by the Shadows’ “Dance On.” It’s very tasty, and haunted in a playful way.
Moon Man ****
Surf (Instrumental) An Outer Limits intro and the trademark whammy of the Atlantics come together for a fine instrumental with appeal and edge. Great drums, solid bass, and boss guitars. This is simply fine.
The Crusher ****
Surf (Instrumental) Twangin’ cool Aussie-Shadows one-upmanship with the Atlantics’ signature rapid drums. Written by drummer Peter Hood and guitarist Jim Skiathitis, you’ll need to play it loud. Really strong!
Gremlin From The Kremlin *****
Surf (Instrumental) Tuff vintage Aussie surf with fine guitar work and great drums. Lots of energy and fiery playing. And, did I mention those drums?
Surf (Instrumental) Boss vintage Atlantics with a sound that’s a cross between their aggression and the more subdued Euro styles. The muted guitar parts are simply superb!
Horror Surf (Instrumental) At seeing the title, I had visions of the Aquamen’s “Ride A Pale Horse” set to reverb. It was not to be. It was not to be. “Pale Rider” is a slow sludgy surf dirge, a morose death march with reverb. The down nature of the song is an inversion of what surf usually is, yet it is quite compelling. Chilling vibrato, distant chorus, and that ultra slow pace stretched out for 5-1/2 minutes. It ends up being a perfect funeral march for a fallen rider.
Glassy Walls ***
Near Surf (Instrumental) An attempt at surf, but a Shadows sound and little surf feel. The damped echoplex bits are nice.
Flight Of The Surf Guitar *****
Surf (Instrumental) Yikes! What a great album opener. Somewhat like a Jon and the Nightriders number, this spectacular track has Dusty Watson-like drum drive. Imagine your furious guitar work and great glissandoes out front of this monster. Lots of power and finesse.
Surf-like (Instrumental) Intense racing tune. Big whammy chord dramatic. If it were double picked, it could be a grand surf tune.
Teddy Bears’ Picnic ****
Surf (Instrumental) This is just too fun! The classic children’s song gets the full tilt Atlantics treatment while retaining the requisite grins. Simply a joy to listen to! Believe it or not, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band recorded a fine version in 1967. They were being cute, this is rockin’ cool!
Rumble and Run *****
Squad Car Surf (Instrumental) Fade in intro with sirens, and your ominous lead belting out stinging notes. Much like the original, except a much better recording and more wisdom. Inspired by the Shadows, driven by Aussie lager, and quirked into perfection with your demented pick-foolery. A really cool song. Intense. Written by drummer Peter Hood and guitarist Jim Skiathitis.
Surf (Instrumental) This traditional song sounds very good in the atmospheric wash the Atlantics have created for it. Lush, delicate, and beautiful.
Point Zero ****
Surf (Instrumental) Unlisted, this is past a long silence at the end of “The Crusher.” The sea shore sounds and yakking of party goers precede a “Surf Beat” intro. Surf riff rock with an eye on the tribal dance of the Rendezvous Ballroom. Fun and primal surf.
Surf (Instrumental) the Halibuts’ catchy “Hammerhead” is an interesting vehicle for the Concaves. It’s energetic and pumpin’, and the melody line is optimistic as are all Pete Curry songs. Great stuff!
Shark Attack ****
Surf (Instrumental) Heavy low-E number with Shadows twang all over it, and those speeding drums. Very nice.
War of the Worlds *****
Guitar War (Instrumental) This is a superb new version of one of their fine vintage instros. Where the original did not capture my attention, this does. Thick racing pace and stinging guitars, dark energy, atmospheric danger, psychedelic edge… need I say more! Wonderful!
Night Star ****
Surf (Instrumental) Slow and silky, “Night Star” floats across an evening sky with a fluid and intense guitar. Both moody and pretty, yet powerful as well.
Discotheque Surf (Instrumental) High flying, spacy, whale-call echoed, and very modern, “Atlantica” is exotic, Latin, infectious. The scream of the guitar is very modern and intense. A bit noodly at times, but quite cool.
Stompin’ Time ***
Rock (Instrumental) “Stompin’ Time” features chunky chords and a basic riff. It’s manic, frantic, and like frat rock for instro buffs, with superb drums. Yikes!
Warp 5 ****
Surf (Instrumental) “Warp 5” is an aggressive song in the classic Atlantics mold, but with thundering drums and a thick sound that’s everywhere at once. Stinging guitar work and pummeling drums and bass. Quite good!
Saturday Night ****
Surf (Instrumental) The melody line here is mighty close to the Nobles’ version of Link Wray’s “Black Widow” while still not being derivative. Punchy and driven, with powerful drums and spunky guitar work over solid bass. A tight and fun track.
In 2013, a surging instrumental rock song was added to the National Film and Sound Archive’s Sounds of Australia registry. It was named after an Aboriginal term for large waves breaking over submerged rock shelves and had what has been described as a “monstrous, pounding, driving sound”. Penned by drummer Peter Hood and guitarist Jim Skiathitis, Bombora went to No.1 in Sydney while the follow-up The Crusher was almost as successful, denied the summit by the Beatles’ chart onslaught.
By September 1963, Bomborahad been released in Japan, Italy, Holland, England, New Zealand and in South America. It was nominated as Record of the Week by US Cashbox magazine and reached No.2 on the Italian charts (where there was even a vocal version released).
It charted in southern California. The song was covered by a number of overseas bands, which made The Atlantics Australia’s first internationally recognised rock act. They went on to cut three albums for CBS, followed by a “best of” compilation which remained in the company’s catalogue for many years. In the closing ceremony of the 2000 Olympics, Kylie Minogue’s arrival in the parade atop a giant rubber thong was accomplished to the strains of Bombora.
The Atlantics was a seemingly odd name for a surf band that assembled along Australia’s Pacific coast, though it makes sense when you understand that it was inspired by a popular brand of petrol.
They weren’t prepared to just cover Shadows and Ventures tracks but had their own exciting sound to pursue. There was no shortage of instrumental acts in Sydney in the early ’60s, before the British invasion exploded – The Statesmen, The Starlighters, The Midnighters, The Telstars, The Dee Jays, Dave Bridge Trio, The Joy Boys, The Leemen, The Sierras, The Nocturnes and The Denvermen among them. But almost none were writing their own material.
Matched with the production skills and enthusiasm of Sven Libaek, their recordings possessed a particular energetic presence, right from their first single Moon Man. They developed an efficient studio association. In a four-hour session they could turn out an entire album. Although songwriter/guitarist Jim Skiathitis says that the success of Bombora took the band somewhat by surprise he can recall Libaek “jumping up and down” about the song when they laid it down. As one online tribute expresses it: “That pounding surf drum beat. He inspired many a teenager to beat the skins!”
The members’ European cultural influences (largely Greek with some Yugoslav and Hungarian), with all members having come to Australia as child migrants, gave their music a passionate edge over other local bands of their day. The members were schooled at Maroubra Boys High, with Theo Penglis coming through Sydney Grammar.
From the start Hood was, as Skiathitis, terms it: “The driving force. He was a powerful character, both creatively and as a muscly, imposing drummer. He always drove us forward.” Apart from the anchor and engine room that Hood provided, the band had the advantage of twin lead guitarists, both highly proficient on solo work and both capable of pushing the band along with a zinging rhythm. Their stage act included them playing their guitars behind their heads and Penglis and Skiathitis on opposite sides of the stage swapping lead lines with one another.
They even found acceptance in Melbourne, at a time when that rarely occurred. There The Thunderbirds ruled the roost but The Atlantics won many friends when they played a residency at Earl’s Court alongside the highly regarded Strangers. Their repertoire was not entirely linked to the ocean; they were also well known for tracks such as Teddy Bears’ Picnic.
Their fourth single, War of the Worlds, was a total break with the surf sound. Released in March 1964 it was a bold and ambitious attempt at a mini sci-fi space opera, it had a dramatic building intro, tempo shifts and dynamic changes. It was way ahead of its time, featuring a battle in space using echo and guitar effects, the like of which would not be heard, according to some chroniclers, until the arrival of Jimi Hendrix.
Penglis switched to keyboards in 1965, they added a vocalist in rock’n’roll hero Johnny Rebb and released a number of tough-sounding singles, most notably, in 1967, the song that is now widely regarded as a classic punk/garage track, Hood’s Come On. They also transformed Screaming Jay Hawkins’ I Put A Spell On You into a live drawcard.
They were one of the first Australian bands to set up their own independent label. From late1967 all their recordings (laid down in their own studio) were released on their Ramrod label. They moved with the times. For their instrumental release Take A Trip/Flowers the band worked under the pseudonym Gift Of Love. Their association with Russ Kruger lasted for eight singles and with Colin Cooper for 10.
Like England’s Shadows, The Atlantics were perfectly capable, in all phases, of recording vocal tracks, though radio programmers made it plain that they were an instrumental band to them and to their listeners. That is why, when they formally reunited in 2000 for another string of albums with new members Martin Cilia and original bass player Bosco Bosanac, they saw that particular writing on the wall and became the hottest, sharpest instrumental outfit in the country. Once again with Hood the engine under their hood.
A new audience got to see them in arenas across the country on the Long Way To The Top Tour in 2002. With original tracks on the Flight Of The Surf Guitar CD and songs such as Reef Break they were redefining their unique position in Oz Rock.
In 2006, they participated in the CD/DVD project Delightful Rain. Filmed at Freshwater Life Saving Club, it celebrated Australian surf music and beach culture. In 2013, they were invited to a surf music festival in Livorno, Italy, to which they tacked on shows in Italy, Finland and Greece. It made up for the tours that never eventuated during their peak years.
Hood’s battle with progressive aphasia confined him to bed and made him gravely ill for the past year. He died on September 22 at Robina on the Gold Coast. Jim Skiathitis was by his side, as was Carol, his wife of more than 50 years.
Peter Hood is survived by his children David, Daniel and Michelle, who is a musician and music teacher, and by four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
It is with a saddened heart that we announce the passing of our dear friend and Atlantics’ Drummer, Peter Hood.
Peter passed away at 11.00am, Wednesday 22nd of September 2021 at Robina on the Gold Coast. Peter, who had been gravely ill for a quite some time and was under professional care, lost his battle with illness and died peacefully with Carol, his wife of over 50 years by his side.
He was also closely attended by family members, and long-time friend and fellow band member, Jim Skiathitis.
Peter will be cremated and a memorial service to celebrate his life will be held at the Gold Coast at a date to be announced/advised.
The Atlantics Jim Skiathitis, Theo Penglis, Martin Cilia & Bosco Bosanac
Buy from Bandcamp. This is a high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more and includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app.
A great compilation of The Atlantics greatest hits on one great CD!
“On the world’s stage of Rock Instrumental music today there are very few bands that can say they have held up their heads and fought through the onslaught of different trends in Pop music and still survive to play amazing gigs and Studio record stunning albums 4 decades later. 40 years on, and the legendary Atlantics are doing just that.Sadly, my teenage years left me awhile back and I now live in the cold, cold North East of England
However I tell you something … when I play the new CD by The Atlantics, I will mentally be down there on Bondi Beach with the rest of them – falling off my surfboard, but still enjoying the music of one of the Greatest Instrumental units in Rock history. The fabulous Atlantics!” Davy Pecket – Editor New Gandy Dancer Magazine
These reviews are provided to help maintain a connection with various genres of popular music extending from the 1940’s through to present time.
“Virtually the only successful surf instrumental band, not from America.” – [Reverberation.com] .. .. .. “THE ATLANTICS-BOMBORA . . . May be the Greatest Surf Instrumental ever put on Wax. – [Australian rock bands 1960’s and 1970’s] .. .. .. “(Bombora)… became Australia’s first international hit and made The Atlantics famous all around the world” – [100 Greatest Australian Singles of THE ’60s]”
This is album review number 201 in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl LP’s and Cd’s, in my collection.
The series is called “Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album that I believe is of significant musical value, either because of it’s rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.
Links to the previous 200+ reviews can be found at the bottom of this review.
Summer in Australia is associated with sun and sand. – the beach!
The beach is associated with Surfing and for this review I have taken out of my crate, an Aussie group that will forever be associated with surfing and, surf music.
The group is The Atlantics and the album is “Great Surfing Sounds“
Released on the mpf (Music For Pleasure )label in 1970, it has the code MPF A8121 and has 10 tracks.
Most people would be familiar with the band name, The Atlantics and might even remember the track, Bombora! Then it gets sketchy for most.
In fact they were one of Australia’s most talented rock groups and started out in 1961 as a purely instrumental group taking to heart first the music of the Shadows, and then groups like the Ventures.
The group initially consisted of:
Theo Penglis – on guitar
Eddy Matzenik – on guitar
Bosco Bosonac – on bass
Peter Hood – on drums
Very early in their formation Matzenik was replaced by James Skiathitis.
The name Atlantics would suggest that the group named themselves after they great, and often dangerous ocean. in fact, the name was far more innocuous – it was the name of a then local petrol brand.
Echoing the Shadow’s Twangy Atmospheric Instrumental Sound, they were snapped up by CBS Records and became a household name with the release of their Giant Hit Bombora.
This led them to being the first Australian rock band to write their own hits!
Their unique twin lead guitar sound caught the attention of CBS who released the track Bombora in July of 1963. More on that track later.
The Atlantics went on to record seven more singles and released six LPs for CBS, all of which are now regarded as classics of the Surf Instrumental Genre. They also recorded a string of vocal singles with various recording companies and these songs are now considered as outstanding examples of Pre-Punk Garage Rock.
Their first record was the 1963 single – Moon Man backed with Dark Eyes with their last release in 2011 on CD titled, Collectables.
The album “Great Surfing Sounds” was never released by CBS – one of its advantages is the track listing is not replicated on any other vinyl album released by the group.
War Of The Worlds
Track 1 – Bombora.
This just had to be the introductory track. Anything else would have been a let-down as this was their most sucessful track and frankly, with good reason.
It was THE big hit of Australian surf music, making it to the No. 1 spot on the Aussie charts in September 1963 and it announced a powerful, but short lived 6 months of surf‘n’stomp.
There was a very good reason for this – the band were as powerful as ever, but, in early 1964 the British Invasion had really hit the shores – kinda like a Bombora – The Beatles were No. 1 in Australia and surf music was over except for a few dedicated souls.
A crashing set of wild sounds created largely on the guitars, it has it all – energy, pulse, slick play and that “certain something”!
It is unlikely that the sound of Bombora could have been created on anything else but a Fender.
In fact that guitar became so iconic is was donated and now resides permanently in the Powerhouse Museum.
According to The Atlantics, on their web site – “
This iconic guitar is an early 1961 slab board Fender Stratocaster in original Dakota Red finish, serial number 69250. It is the guitar that was responsible for the fabulous sound of the classic song Bombora, Australia’s biggest ever No. 1 Instrumental hit which was released in 1963 by The Atlantics, who are now thought of as Australia’s greatest ever Instrumental Band.
The name Bombora? Bombora is an indigenous Australian term for an area of large sea waves breaking over a shallow area such as a submerged rock shelf, reef, or sand bank that is located some distance from the shoreline and beach surf break.
The guitar was originally purchased jointly by Atlantics Guitarist Jim Skiathitis and Drummer Peter Hood in 1961 from J Stanley Johnstons’ Music Store in Sydney.”
The guitar played a big part in many other tracks including Crusher, War of the Worlds, Rumble and Run and Come .
So we move to Track 2 – Surfers Paradise.
While the often frantic if not frenetic pace of the faster tracks such as Bombora and Crusher were fan favourites, the slower more moody instrumentals also played an important part of this music genre.
Tracks such as the Lonely Surfer by Jack Nitzsche represent that period in the life of a surfer when the surf isn’t pounding. It’s not so much “Hangin’ Five” as just hanging around. Waiting in the water or watching from the shore, those almost still waters to change and the swell to rise.
This is the theme of this track – an early summers morning, with off-shore winds and glassy swells slowly moving through the early crystal morning.
Track 4 – War of the Worlds.
This is a most un-Atlantics track, inasmuch as it is not a surf-based track.
There are no breaking waves, there are no tubes to ride. This is a galactic space collision again demonstrating how the Fender can be shaken, bent, twisted and cajoled into providing serious “out-there” sounds.
Skiathitis shows that in the hands of a player with true skill, the Fender can provide sounds that while be easily created today with all forms of digital dovver-lackies.
There are a few subtle deference’s to other instrumental tracks, like the Ventures Walk Don’t Run. The track moves from the frantic, to the out of space, and then around the 1:50 mark to a more gentle theme, still with effects, before flying higher and higher into the strat-o-sphere!
It is some indication of how the track was viewed as being “out there” when it appeared on the album “Sounds Of The Unexpected”.
However, in the days of the early 1960’s there was nothing but the guitar, and in the hands of skilled players the Fender excelled at this, as this track demonstrates.
War Of The Worlds
The final track that I am examining, is the only track I am featuring from side 2 of this album.
Track 5 is Bluebottles.
As most of us know, a Bluebottle is a jelly fish with a sting – a powerful sting.
So, how do the Atlantics provide a sting in this track?
Easy, they call upon the skill of and benefit of having what amounted to dual lead guitarists. Although the track was composed by bassist , and featured Theo Penglis and James Skiathitis.
Compared to the complex guitar work of the guitarists who were to come later in that decade and the decades to follow, this track might seem tame. But we need remember the period we are in and, where music was at.
“Great Surfing Sounds of The Atlantics” represents the pinnacle of this style of music in Australia in this period of our music development.
In various forms The Atlantics have continued on with Skiathitis, Hood, and Bosanac remaining as the key players.
Their ongoing popularity has seen them appear on Australia’s “Long Way To The Top” 50’s and 60’s Rock revival shows, the ABC-TV show – Studio 22.
In a final tribute to how they have impacted upon the Australian music scene, Bombora was used in the Closing Ceremony at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.
May The Atlantics ride the ‘waves” for as long as we can appreciate that they did it first in Australia, and, arguably did it best.
This album is available on Discogs for about $30.00 upward (including postage).
It wasn’t difficult finding some live footage of The Atlantics, so here are some clips from the 1960’s and one of a little later on.
I spent the good part of 10 years as the guitarist (and chief songwriter) in an instrumental surf-rock band.
We played for very little money … drove for hours looking for gig parking onManhattan’s Lower East Side … had people scream at us to turn down the freakin’ reverb …
As Slacktone’s Dave Wronski asked in a GuitarWorld.com column a few years ago, will surf guitar be the last electric-guitar genre to earn some long-overdue respect?
Sure, Pulp Fiction elevated surf guitar from under the seaweed to a spot on the party-song playlists of hipsters around the universe.
But what is surf guitar? How does it differ from other styles of guitar playing? What equipment is used to get the sound?
“Fender-style guitars with single-coil pickups have typically been the weapon of choice, while vibrato bars are used to help express the rolling of the surf,” Wronski wrote.
“Sometimes the vibrato bar is used very smoothly; sometimes it is shaken to the point of breaking off–enough to make Ike Turner proud! (Check out his instrumentals from the early 1950s). Big, gnarly guitar strings that, when played loud and proud through a huge Fender amp, could shake the building, even when drenched in reverb from a tube-driven Fender Reverb unit. Even with all that reverb, there’s still enough bigness to the sound to do some major crowd control.”
A lot of you—most of you, in fact—have heard the usual batch of surf-rock instrumental classics from the early Sixties. Things like “Pipeline,” “Out of Limits,” “Wipe Out” and my favorite, “Penetration.” However, it’s probably safe to surmise that millions of you might know almost nothing about the modern brand of instro-surf rock that you’re likely to witness in a club in 2016. Or about the bands that play it.
Below, check out a guide to 10 surf-rock tunes—played by nine different bands or artists—that should be on your reverb-drenched radar. The good news is, most of these bands still exist! In fact, my band even performed with a lot of these guys back in the day. Ah yes, Slacktone at Asbury Lanes in New Jersey in ’06 … Insect Surfers at the Purple Orchid in El Segundo, California, in ’07. Ah, the memories.
P.S.: Dave Wronski, who is mentioned above, is the guitarist in Southern California’s Slacktone. You can check out two of their songs below.
CALHOUN SURF | Los Straitjackets
COFFIN CLOSER | Slacktone
THE BELLS OF ST. KAHUNA | Slacktone
SURF! SURF! SURF! | The Aqualads
FLIGHT OF THE SURF GUITAR | The Atlantics
FATHOMIZED | The Fathoms
GREASE YOUR HAIR AND GET TATTOOED | The Razorblades
“To you I shall put an end, then you’ll never hear surf music again.”
Jimi Hendrix’s lyric from his 1967 album Are You Experienced delivered an elegy to surf music that was well past its use by date.
But it refuses to lie down and die.
Even today, more than 50 years after they were hits Patricia Amphlett is asked to become her younger self, Little Pattie, and sing He’s My Blonde Headed Stompie Wompie Real Gone Surfer Boy and Stompin’ at Maroubra when performing at clubs or private functions.
“They were such innocent joys and its lovely to relive those innocent times,” she says.
Fourteen-year-old Amphlett sang Surfer Joe (“a truly dreadful song”) at a Maroubra Surf Life Saving Club talent quest, was spotted by a talent scout, signed up and had her first hit within weeks as surf music inundated teenage transistor radio programs.
Until the early 1960s, England set the benchmark for being young in Australia but as Baby Boomers hit puberty America stepped up to the plate, bestowing the gift of rock and roll and car idolatry to teenagers across the world.
The US also had a special present for Australia – surf culture. And it was Sydney’s beach suburbs that embraced California dreaming.
In 1961, the Beach Boys, Dick Dale, and the Chantelles started pumping out regional hits for the Los Angeles beach crew. Session guitarists like Jack Nitzsche and the arranger Henry Mancini took the music into mainstream USA – Mancini, who wrote Moon River, Peter Gunn and the Pink Panther Theme, had a hit with Banzai Pipeline that featured a big band sound laced with jazz accents.
But surf movies showing surfers riding waves in California and Hawaii had sound tracks that brought surf music ashore when the films played the northern beaches, the eastern suburbs and the Shire.
A group, The Denvermen, released Surfside in January 1963 and reached No 1 on the Sydney Top 40. In a nod to the tribal wars, a curtain raiser to the Cronulla riots five decade later, Digger Revell joined the Denvermen to record the deathless My Little Rocker’s Turned Surfie.
Other acts, including the Delltones and the Joy Boys, that had been performing a pale imitation of rock and roll switched to surf sounds. Long before the Bee Gees hit big, Barry Gibb wrote Surfer Boy for television songbird Noeleen Batley. And a New Zealander, Johnny Devlin, jumped on the bandwagon but became lost at sea with his hit, Stomp The Tumbarumba.
The high point came in mid-1963 when the Atlantics released Bombora and it too topped the charts in September. An Indigenous word for a wave breaking on an off shore reef, Bombora was a driving, pounding, much emulated sound that encapsulated a moment in Australian pop music and has continued to have a life of its own.
Although the band disbanded in 1969, their song is such a part of Australian life that they played at the 2000 Sydney Olympics closing ceremony and when the ABC’s 2001 documentary on Australian rock and roll Long Way to the Top breathed new life into their music, they toured Europe.
“It was weird,” guitarist Jim Skiathitis says. “They even knew our music in Hungary.” The Atlantics hung up their instruments a couple of years back. “The spirit was willing, but the fingers were weak,” said septuagenarian Skiathitis.
The first surf music boom of the 1960s was ended by the Beatles but musicians recalibrated and when the next surf music fad landed, it was dressed in drugs and hipness.
The 1972 album that went with Albert Falzon’s surf movie Morning of the Earth featured a grab bag of musicians who either changed styles like underwear (Brian Cadd), were caught in some Woody Guthrie time warp (John J Francis), smoked too much dope (Taman Shud) or were slightly strangers in strange land (G. Wayne Thomas).
Whatever, MOTE went on to become Australia’s biggest-selling surf music album.
Richard Clapton and Midnight Oil, GANGajang , the Celibate Rifles and the Cruel Sea kept the surf music flag flying but their surf sound were heavily surrounded by other music.
Then came The Break. The perfect surf band, comprised of former members of Midnight Oil, Violent Femmes and now Hunters & Collectors, it arrived in 2010 and play that old surf beat, laced with reverb-heavy instrumental rock replete with high-pitched notes that can drill a listener to exhaustion: just ask the journalist George Negus who nodded off during the band’s debut at the Annandale Hotel.
The Break will play at the Groundswell Music Festival, Gippsland Victoria on January 2, proof that surf music can still be heard.
Footnote: Dick Dale has dismissed the belief that Hendrix had administered the last rites to surf music telling Surfer magazine in May 2010 that the guitar god had heard the surf guitar king had rectal cancer and had three months to live. “Jimi said, You’ll never hear surf music again. And then he said, I bet that’s a big lie. Let’s pack up, boys, and go home’.”
Ivan Pongracic (The Madeira) interviewed The Atlantics for Double Crown Records’ Continental Magazine. The interview was conducted by email between January 2013 and March 2014 and is so lengthy that it was presented as two parts over two issues. The first part covered their early days from 62′ to 65′ (issue 21) and the second part covered what has become known as their Garage Days between 65′ to 70′. Also included is their come back, between 2000 to 2013. (issue22).
Here’s a sample of the interview from part 1 in issue 21.
Ivan: Jim, do you remember when you and Theo bought your first Strats?
Jim: I remember that it was Peter’s father that helped us buy the guitars under ‘hire-purchase’ with himself as guarantor. I think he also got Peter’s drums for him, too. He was always a stout supporter and motivator for the band as he was a drummer himself.
Peter: We bought our Strats in 1962. We bought the sunburst Strat first, and then the red Strat. In both cases, my father had to act as guarantor for the loans to buy the Strats. We paid 232 Pounds for each guitar – that was about AU$464.00 for each at that time [ed: roughly US$6000 today]. We put the Strats through a Fender Bandmaster amp. That was our sound at the time. We recorded “Bombora” and many of our earlier recordings using the Bandmaster amp and the Klemt Echolette for echo effects for the lead guitar. Both Theo and Jim used the Bandmaster for lead guitar. We bought the Fender Bandmaster at the same time we bought the Strats. We had no choice in the matter because Vox amps were not available at that time. The Echolettes we also bought in 1962. We had two of them. The Vox amps were bought later, probably 1964.
Jim: To the best of my memory, our Bandmaster only had one big speaker [ed: 12” tone-ring cab]. For a while it was the only amp we had, and both Theo and I played through it at the same time. Then we bought our first Vox amp, a piggyback AC-30, but it was really bassy. So we used the Fender for lead and the Vox for rhythm. Theo and I used to swap sides every time one of us had to play lead. Ahhh, the old days… lol!
Ivan: Are you saying that “Bombora” and those other early recordings were done with both Jim and Theo playing through the same amp?
Peter: Yes, that’s correct! They were both playing through the Bandmaster. I’m not sure which songs anymore, it’s been so long. I know this: “Moon Man”, “Dark Eyes”, “Bombora”, “Greensleeves”, “The Crusher” and “Hootenanny Stomp” were definitely recorded that way. I think the whole Bombora LP was recorded that way.
Ivan: How big of a deal was it to buy the Stratocasters and the Bandmaster? Fender instruments must have been very rare in Australia at that time.
Jim: Yes, they were, and it was a big deal. We had to order them from the States through a local shop here in Sydney, I think it was J Stanley Johnston’s. Of course, I ordered the Fiesta Red model. We were so excited when they called us and said the guitar had arrived, but that soon turned a bit sour when I discovered that they hadn’t sent a Fiesta Red but a Dakota Red. Still, it looked so mighty and new and exciting that I just kept it and used it – and still use it now. It is a 1961 pre-L Strat.
Think surf rock classics and a few songs come to mind. The Surfari’s Wipeout, Dick Dale’s Miserlou, Pipeline by the Chantays and of course Bombora, by Australia’s own, Atlantics. Virtually the only successful surf instrumental band not from America. Echoing the Shadow’s Twangy Atmospheric Instrumental Sound, they were snapped up by CBS Records and became a household name with the release of their giant hit Bombora in 1963.
After completing their European tour in 2013 The Atlantics have announced their retirement from live touring.
“We wish to thank all our fans and friends that have supported us throughout the years by buying our records and coming to our gigs and concerts. It really made it all worthwhile.”