This is, as the name suggests, vol 4 of the ongoing Pebbles
series of CDs of garage band
music from the 60s. This series is of dubious legality - it seems to be put together in a country with less strict copyright laws than most - but can legally be bought, and is recommended by many connoisseurs of the genre, including Mark E. Smith
of The Fall
While this CD is called 'Surf'n Tunes', most of the music is hot rod rather than surf music, although there are several surf instrumentals filling out the end of the CD. This is a fascinating documentary of the more obscure corners of this overlooked genre.
Masked Grandma by the California Suns is a song by Roger Christian and ex-Teddy Bear Carol Connors, and is an attempt to score a second hit with the formula of Christian's hit for Jan And Dean, The Little Old Lady (From Pasadena). This one's about 'a little old lady just a little bit meaner/than the little old lady from Pasadena' and is if anything a better track than the more well known hit.
Top Down Time by The Dantes is another car song, a cover of a track by The Rockaways. A very simple, fun pop song - 'it's top down time again/I hope that summer never ends'. It also namechecks Jan And Dean in the chorus.
Custom Caravan by The Pyramids is, like many of the tracks on this CD, a Roger Christian/Gary Usher track, but is a rather unmemorable one, not one of their best.
California Sun '65 by The Rivieras is a remake of their 1964 hit California Sun. Not a very inspiring track.
Hot Rod High by The Knights is another Gary Usher/Roger Christian studio group track, that quickly became a much-covered song among the hot rod groups of the time.
School Is A Gas by The Wheel Men is another Gary Usher track, a remake of his School Is A Drag that attempts to make the lyrics slightly less negative and thus more commercial.
School Is A Drag by The Super Stocks is Usher's earlier, superior attempt at the track. 'We all see and I think you'll agree that school is a drag'
Image Of A Surfer by Lloyd Thaxton is an oddity, a Californian DJ exhorting a surfer in a spoken monologue, while a generic backing track pounds away underneath.
Beach Ball by The City Surfers is an early work of Jim McGuinn, later better known as Roger McGuinn of The Byrds. The song is a generic rewrite of Da Doo Ron Ron but is a fun track anyway.
London's A Lonely Town by Dave Edmunds is far and away the highlight of the CD. A 1976 remake of the Tradewinds classic New York's A Lonely Town, featuring members of California Music (including Bruce And Terry, Gary Usher and Curt Boettcher, but not, contrary to what the liner notes of the CD suggest, Brian WIlson), this had no legitimate release before this CD. Wittily altering the lyrics of the song with lines like 'From Malibu to Picadilly's such a long way/The cars all keep coming up the street the wrong way', this is a great Spectoresque performance that deserves to be much better known.
The Fun We Had by The Ragamuffins is a rather nondescript Gary Zekley track.
Move Out Little Mustang by The Rally Packs is a track by P.F. Sloan (writer of Eve Of Destruction) and Steve Barri, a duo who also recorded as The Grass Roots and The Fantastic Baggys. With a few vocals replaced by Jan Berry this track also appeared on a Jan And Dean album, and is one of Sloan & Barri's better excursions into hot rod music, with some of the same feel as J&D's Ride The Wild Surf.
Big T by The Reveres is a Beach Boys/Jan And Dean knockoff about which little is known. It's not especially interesting musically either.
Shortenin' Bread by The Readymen is one of the best tracks on the CD. Even better than the Beach Boys' 70s version of the standard, this is done in a very simillar style to Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow or Surfin' Bird and is every bit as much an insane classic as those tracks.
Wine, Wine, Wine by The Bleach Boys is a paen to alcoholism by a band who are deservedly obscure, having nothing more going for them than that they ripped off the name of a far better band.
Flashin' Red by The Esquires is a surf music instrumental recorded at PAL Studios, the first independent studio on the West Coast of the USA, which later became Frank Zappa's Studio Z. The Esquires are probably better known as the core of Laughing Gravy, who released a version of Vegetables in 1967 allegedly produced by Brian Wilson and featuring Dean Torrence and The Honeys (that track is available on The Legendary Masked Surfers' CD Jan And Dean's Golden Summer Days).
Ram Charger by The Del-Vettes is an absolutely bog-standard surf instrumental with no distinguishing characteristics whatsoever.
LSD-25 by The Gamblers is simillarly undistinguished musically, but is noteworthy for two things. Firstly the title, which was probably the first reference to acid in music (the track is from 1961), and secondly the line-up of the band itself, which features Bruce Johnston (later of the Beach Boys and Bruce And Terry, Larry Taylor (later of Canned Heat), Elliot Ingber (later of the Mothers Of Invention, Fraternity Of Man and Captain beefheart's Magic Band), Sandy Nelson, the world famous drummer, and Kim Fowley (of Dinner With Drac and The Trip fame). While the track is not very good, it's worth having just because how often are you going to hear the man who wrote I Write The Songs jamming on a surf instrumental with Winged Eel Fingerling (Ingber) ?
The Big Surfer by Brian Lord & The Midnighters is an odd little track in which local DJ Lord impersonates John F. Kennedy giving out the awards at a surf/dance competition, with a backing band featuring Frank Zappa, Ray Collins (later of the Mothers Of Invention), Paul Buff (owner of PAL) and someone called Dave Aeni. These are the musicians who recorded most of the early works of Zappa like El Grunion Run (a number one in Mexico), The World's Greatest Sinner and How's Your Bird?. While the track is a quick novelty knock-off, it's interesting in retrospect as an early example of Zappa's work.
Overall the CD is interesting more to the collector than the casual listener, but contains many tracks which throw light on the early work of those who later became much better-known, and is worth having for that alone, as well as for the three or four genuinely good tracks on it.