Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2010 February 08 • Monday

The ninety-ninth Soundtrack of the Week is The Endless Summer by The Sandals.

It begins with the sound of a revving engine. Then come the drums, the guitars and the bass. As they run through the up-tempo "Scrambler", the engine sound comes in and out, passing by.

The Endless Summer is a surfing documentary in which filmmaker Bruce Brown, who had already made several such features, followed a group of surfers as they went literally around the globe, catching waves in Hawaii, Africa, Japan and so on. It was summer everywhere they went, all year long, thus the title. Summer never ended that year.

I haven't seen The Endless Summer in fifteen years or so, but I remember it as a beautiful movie, innocent, joyful and poignant.

"6-Pak" begins with the band shouting out the title. Then there's the sound of beer or soda cans being opened. Another up-tempo surf rocker.

This is the greatest surf record of all time.

The third track on the A side is "Driftin'", by Hank Marvin of The Shadows. His name's spelled wrong here ("Hank Mervin"). Another fun up-tempo piece.

But it's the piece after this, the "Theme from 'The Endless Summer'", that makes the strongest statement. Whatever "'Round Midnight" is to jazz, the "Theme from 'The Endless Summer'" is to surf music. It's one of the essential compositions of the genre.

It's strange that it's buried in the middle of the A side like this. It should open or close the record, shouldn't it? Maybe it's too powerful for that. It might swamp everything else.

"Good Greeves" begins with a playful keyboard figure, a new sound that catches your attention, just as the wordless background vocals used for the first time on the "Theme from 'The Endless Summer'" did.

The first side concludes with "Decoy", an upbeat yet haunting tune that sounds like it was inspired by music for TV or film westerns, a genre that was hugely popular in the late '50s and early '60s.

The B side begins with those revving engins again, then the revving drums. The engines come back a few times. It's very similar to the opening of the A side. "Wild as the Sea" begins with the sounds of waves. The piece turns out to be a very sensitive tune, with heavy tremolo on the guitars and some other instrument, probably a clavietta, taking a lead.

The tremolo is still very much evident on "Trailing", which has a '50s feel. It's similar in structure to any number of doo-wop songs. "Jet Black" is by Jet Harris, bass player for The Shadows. No surprise, then, that the bass takes the lead. The piece shows a Spanish influence, and there's a vocal break where each member of the band says "Jet black".

"Lonely Road" is basically a reprise of the "Theme from 'The Endless Summer'". It's not as intense, but functions as a reminder of the wistfulness of the story.

The revving engines come back one more time for the last track, "TR-6", which opens with some Dick Dale-style guitar strumming. Then it's another up-tempo but lonely track. The music on this album puts The Sandals at the top of the list of great surf bands.

I got my copy at Stereo Jack's.