3 Eternal Classic Surf-Rock Songs

When it comes to the genre of classic rock, there are a few subdivisions that have stood out over the years. One of the most prominent and early offerings is the style known as surf rock, which rose to popularity in the late 1950s thanks in no small part to the harmony-driven, Southern California-born band The Beach Boys.

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But The Beach Boys aren’t the only collection of musicians to bring the sun-inspired swinging sounds of the West Coast and island territories to the airwaves, as you can see here below. There were other prominent bands forging their own way or following in the footsteps of the Brian Wilson-led band. Let’s dive into three of those songs here below.

[RELATED: The Beach Boys Says That Without John Lennon and Paul McCartney Their Classic 1966 Album “Could Have Failed”]

“Surfin’ U.S.A.” by The Beach Boys

Released on the 1963 album of the same name, this song is credited to the band’s frontman Brian Wilson and rock icon Chuck Berry, as it’s a surf rock-inspired version of the latter’s song “Sweet Little Sixteen.” What’s so crucial to this song (and the genre in general) is the bright rockabilly guitar riffs combined with the falsetto vocals that sing all about sun, SoCal and, of course, surfing (the ancient water sport that gained popularity in the mid-20th century thanks, in part, to the United States connection to Hawaii). On this song, Wilson sings,

If everybody had an ocean
Across the U.S.A.
Then everybody’d be surfin’
Like Californi-a
You’d seem ’em wearing their baggies
Huarachi sandals too
A bushy bushy blonde hairdo
Surfin’ U.S.A.

You’d catch ’em surfin’ at Del Mar
Ventura County line
Santa Cruz and Trestle
Australia’s Narrabeen
All over Manhattan
And down Doheny Way

Everybody’s gone surfin’
Surfin’ U.S.A.

“Misirlou” by Dick Dale

This instrumental offering from Dick Dale is a surf-rock rendition of music that was being played as early as the 1920s by Greek, Jewish, and Arabic artists. Later, Dale’s version gained even more popularity thanks to the soundtrack of the groundbreaking 1994 movie Pulp Fiction. On the song, Dale plays a blistering guitar lead over an almost tribal surf-rock beat. His sound has that same sun-bleached rockabilly tone and touch, making this song one of the all-time classic surf-rock anthems.

“Wipe Out,” The Surfaris

Another instrumental song (except for the titular opening), this song, like Dale’s above, boasts the driving, almost tribal drumbeat combined with the sped-up bluesy, rockabilly guitar riffs. The tempo of this track, from The Surfaris’ 1963 album Play, is perfect for dancing in the sand in your swim trunks and with your favorite bikini babe. The song’s title is the cherry on top, highlighting in an almost novel manner what happens when you let a wave crash over you and you lose your balance on your surfboard. That’s a wipe out!

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Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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