Wednesday, January 11, 2012


In the early 60s a bunch of us from the block used to gather in the living room at my parents’ house and watch the five-minute 8mm movies that Surfer magazine used to sell, little excerpts from John Severson’s surf films, classic early hotdogging from California, big surf in Hawai‘i, etc., along with whatever 8mm stuff some of us were shooting at the time. Everybody would bring their 45s, I would pull out my little portable toy record player, we’d set up a screen and a projector, one of us would play DJ, and we’d all watch in awe while our version of surf music soundtracked the proceedings: Dave Brubeck Quartet’s “Take Five” (“Blue Rondo A La Turk” was on the flip); Part I of “What’d I Say” by Ray Charles (not only a classic surf tune with that great electric piano, but also a jumping off point for dirty added-on junior high school lyrics), never mind that it was mostly a vocal, that long piano intro more than made up for it; “Walk—Don’t Run” by the Ventures was always a safe bet (and later, anything off their first three albums would also do just fine); and the toughest of them all, several instrumentals by The Fireballs, from Raton, New Mexico of all places: “Bulldog,” “Vaquero,” and “Torquay” (we thought Torquay was a Spanish word when it was really the name of an English seaside town!) were all great, “Bulldog” being the musical equivalent, for me, of the small wave hot dog maneuvers of Dewey Weber, Phil Edwards, Mickey Dora, and other top surfers of the day. There was also “Harlem Nocturne,” an old standard that was given the noir treatment by The Viscounts; it came out in 1959, hit, and then was rereleased in 1965 and hit again; a really great, spooky tune. Here, then, is the 1959 version of “Torquay.”

Fireballs • Torquay • 1959

click on song title to play

Text excerpted from The Surfer’s Journal, Vol. 20, No. 2, 2011.
Photo: Phil Edwards, Oceanside, 1965. Copyright © 2012 by Brad Barrett. All rights reserved.


  1. It must have been wonderful growing up in California in the '50s and '60s. How much fun it would have been to sit around with friends playing our favourite 45s! I would have loved that, but I was the ONLY girl I knew who was seriously interested in pop music back then so it was pretty much a solitary pursuit. Maybe that's one of the reasons I appreciate commenters so much.

    Even when I worked in a record store for a couple of years in the '80s, female collectors rarely made an appearance, but the guys were so into it and always interested in listening to and discussing the tunes.

    1. Adding a girl to a room full of 14-yr old boys would have been a tense proposition in those days. . . !