Surf rock

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Surf rock is a style of music that mixes elements of surf music and rock music. While in the 1960s surf music and rock and roll were distinct styles, associated with competing dance styles and representing distinct and competing youth cultures, the development of rock music since then has built upon both styles. Many authorities now retrospectively classify all surf bands as rock bands, and surf music therefore as a subgenre of rock music.

A typical surf amplifier setup consists of a Fender Reverb spring reverberation unit used with a Fender blackface Twin Reverb amplifier. For a guitar, a Fender Jazzmaster, Mosrite, Teisco, or Danelectro are standard choices. Fender, Danelectro, Mosrite bass guitars are common as well. Surf drum kits tend to be Rogers, Ludwig, or Slingerland.

Duane Eddy's "Movin' and Groovin" is thought by many to be the main contender for laying the groundwork as the first surf rock record, while others claim the genre was invented by Dick Dale on "Let's Go Trippin'", which became a hit throughout California.

Dale's influence on the surf genre was profound. He often drew on his Lebanese heritage, incorporating modal tonalities and instruments such as finger cymbals and reeds. Many surf bands that followed him incorporated Eastern influences, as well as Dale's generous use of reverb.

Instrumental rock band The Ventures also had a number of surf hits, their most widely known being "Walk Don't Run". The Chantays recorded a top single with "Pipeline". Probably the most widely known surf melody, however, is from a song "Wipe Out" by The Surfaris.

During the mid- to late 1990s, surf rock experienced a revival in the works of such artists as The Blue Stingrays, Bomboras, Man... or Astro-Man?, and The Aqua Velvets.

For an exhuastive website reviewing surf music past and present, see


Spy Rock is a subgenre of surf rock featuring similarly complex melodies, usually set in minor keys, evocative of film noir. Examples include the bands Double Naught Spy Car and the Twenty-Twos.

Surfabilly is a subgenre often featuring traditional surf melodies played over rockabilly chord structures. Examples include the bands The Red Elvises and Southern Culture on the Skids.

Hot Rod Rock (also called Drag Rock) is also a subgenre of surf rock. Traditional surf rock sounds are applied to lyrics about the also rising hot rod culture. For a few years it gained mass popularity. The Rip-Chords, Ronny and the Daytonas, and The Hondells are good examples of this subgenre. The Beach Boys and Dick Dale produced songs in this subgenre such as "Little Deuce Coupe" and "Mag Wheels".

Space Rock is a subgenre of surf rock. It contains many of the characteristics of the "true" surf rock sound, but it also contains many elements from pop and rockabilly. The lyrics also deal instead of surf with the space race. The album The Ventures in Space is a good example.

Surf Punk is a highly inclusive subgenre of surf rock that incorporates many of the styles and attitudes of punk music with traditional vocal and instrumental surf. The Ramones experimented with surf and numerous small bands of the midwest currently perform this style. Aggressive drumming, distortion coupled with reverb, fast chord changes, and intense vocal stylings are the trademark. The Amino Acids, and The Deformities of Detroit, Michigan and Omaha, Nebraska respectively build on this genre, while bringing in other influences such as heavy metal and/or psychobilly.

See also

Example surf rock artists and groups

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