The Evolution of Surf Music
Jack Johnson’s new album Sleep Through the Static: buy it here.

The Surf Sound Wave

Jack Johnson’s electrified new album, Sleep Through the Static (out February 5), sees the laid-back beach troubadour getting a little fired up—and tapping into surf rock’s high-energy legacy. It’s the latest reinvigorating jolt to the once flailing genre, which has seen a steady resurgence since the dire days of “Kokomo.&rdq

The Evolution of Surf Music
Damon Tabor

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First, there was the poseur, and his name was ELVIS. In 1961’s Blue Hawaii, the King dodges a corporate job, dons vacuum-sealed trunks, and fronts like a brosef while singing “Beach Boy Blues” and “surfing” in a studio.


1962 and ’63 see the brilliant BEACH BOYS, heartthrobs Jan & Dean, and “Wipe Out” champs the Surfaris roll up the charts with huge vocal hits, while Dick Dale and his Stratocaster bring reverb to the masses. California beaches are awash in bikini’d, baby-oiled blondes on ten-foot Hobie longboards.


The endless summer ends (bittersweetly) with the British Invasion of 1964. Lads like THE WHO don’t surf, baby.


The low-water mark: In 1987, the Beach Boys, desperate for a hit, team up with morbidly obese novelty-rappers THE FAT BOYS for a cover of “Wipe Out.” Some say it’s a sign of the apocalypse.


In the nineties, SoCal explodes with post-mod, surfer-fronted bands like JANE’S ADDICTION and Sublime; the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ drugs-heavy Blood Sugar Sex Magik reveals the surf scene’s gnarly underbelly; and Dick Dale’s 1962 cover of “Misirlou” gets big play in Pulp Fiction.


Egged on by those pesky Germans, blow-dried crooner DAVID HASSELHOFF (Knight Rider, Baywatch, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie) covers the Beach Boys’ “California Girls” in 2004.


These days, it’s surfing, singing, songwriting heavies like JOHNSON, Ben Harper, Eddie Vedder, and Donavon Frankenreiter who lay claim to the break.

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