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.
- Surfer’s Paradise
- Free Fall
- War Of The Worlds
- Tahitian waters
- Stompin’ Time
- Coral island
- Glassy walls
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.
The Crusher 1963
Flight of the Surf Guitar (released 2000)