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  • Writer's picturejim lenz


Well, the world is melting and burning all around us, but we have to dress warmly when we go outside, because in our little corner of the world, autumn is upon us--cool, beautiful autumn.


For several years I lived in New Hampshire and I gotta tell you, their autumns kick ass. Don’t get me wrong--ours are nice, but theirs are amazing. Everywhere you turn is another perfect postcard print, except it’s all real.


But all of that said, Illinois’s autumns are still cool and beautiful in their own way.


And . . . yes, damp. But pull on your big girl--or big boy, as the case may be—pants and just deal with it. The killing heat of summer is over, at least for us. This is autumn. This is the season that prepares the world for renewal and new life. This is











I just got back from the opening night on the Ellnora Guitar Festival. Some great stuff, and I liked everything I heard. Malina Moy performed the National Anthem on electric guitar in the tradition of Jimmy Hendrix. Roosevelt Collier played high-energy dance beat music with a great funk groove in some of the tunes. Stephane Wrembel is terrific, provided you like gypsy guitar in the Django Reinhart tradition (and if you don’t, you might be listening to the wrong station). Finally, the all-female Canadian surf revival band, the Surfrajettes, entertained a packed outdoor crowd with I guess what I’d call electronic surf music. They reminded me a lot of the classic instrumental surfer band, the Ventures, but with a lot more attention to the sustained beat of modern high energy dance music.


I liked the Sufrajettes, but I was reminded of the original music that inspired the current international revival of surf music. So, we’re going to listen to some of that tonight, and why not start at the beginning? I commented to listener Linda Coleman at the Ellnora concert, during the first song the Surfrajettes played, how much they sounded like the Ventures. The Ventures were the seminal surf band. Jan and Dean and then the Beach Boys followed their lead, although the other two bands were built around vocals, while the Ventures were always an instrumental-only band (also like the Surfrajettes).


Here is the Ventures' breakout hit single from 1960, the song that catapulted them to international attention, and which is also considered one of the best rock guitar numbers ever. Please enjoys the Ventures performing “Walk, Don’t Run.”









Then along came Jan and Dean, known for their surf music as well as their hotrod songs (like “Deadman’s Curve”)—thematically different from the surf songs but musically very similar.


When talking about Jan and Dean and then the Beach Boys, it’s really hard to say who influenced whom more. Actual record release dates don’t tell the whole story, because Dean Torrence (of Jan and Dean) and Brian Wilson (of the Beach Boys) were writing songs together throughout this formative period. I’ve heard claims both ways as to who borrowed more from whom, and I honestly can’t sort it out to my satisfaction. But just listening to them, you can tell how much they had in common creatively.


This next song is by Jan and Dean, and was their first number one hit. It was also one of the songs Terrence and Wilson wrote together. Make of that what you will. From 1963, please enjoy Jan and Dean singing “Surf City.”




And of course, now we come to the Beach Boys, the quintessential surfer band. They had their first paying gig ($300.00) on New Year’s Eve, 1961, and within a few months were signed by Capital Records. In June of 1962 their first single was released: “Surfin’ Safari,” with the hotrod song “409” as its flipside. (I always loved that stupid song “409.”) In December they released their first Capital album, “Surfin’ Safari,” but the album was recorded after the single.


The Beach Boys would have bigger surfing hits later, but this one launched them, so I’m going to go with it. Also, the video I’m using has great footage of surfers, including some spectacular female surfers.


So please enjoy “Surfin’ Safari” by the Beach Boys.






And now we turn to our featured artist of the month, the British rock band Dire Straits, and you will be relieved to know they never recorded a surfing song. (I imagine you’re about maxed out on those by now.) But although they didn’t record a surf song, they still lionized the music from that time. This song is about a singer named Johnny, busking in the subway (“down in the tunnels, trying to make it pay”) and singing songs from the 50s and 60s (I Got a Woman”, “Be-Bop-A-Lula”, “What'd I Say”, “My Sweet Lovin' Woman”, and “Mack the Knife” are all mentioned).


So, like, it all relates, you know?


This song is from their 1985 album, Brothers in Arms. Please enjoy them performing “Walk of Life.”





That song always makes me move while I’m listening. And it always leaves me smiling.


So, that’s about it for this week. If you can get over to the Ellnora Festival, well good on ya. But either way, enjoy our lovely autumn weather and I’ll see you next week.


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