In the late 1960s the legendary surfer and inventor of the body board Tom Morey wrote an article for ‘Surfer Magazine’ in which he opined that, “writing about surfing is drawing the sun with one colour”. In the late 1970s, Frank Zappa was quoted in the ‘Chicago Tribune’ as saying that, “rock journalism is people who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, for people who can't read”. Somewhere between those two quotes lies the secret heart of this new column for Cluas.
Surfing is unique among sporting pursuits in its ability to not only to be artful but to also inspire art. You couldn’t imagine Apocalypse Now’s Colonel Kilgore raiding a Vietnamese village just so his boys could have a game of rugby now could you? And it’s highly doubtful that the Beach Boys would have become so iconic in American pop culture if they had decided to draw inspiration for their songs from the game of golf instead. Nope, there is just something about surfing that brings out the artist and art fan in everyone and right at the top of the list of art forms beloved by surfers is music. At present, all the major surfing magazines have regular music review sections and ‘Transworld Surf’ even has a regular feature where they ask pro surfers like Otto Flores and Zach Hartley what they are listening to on their iPods. It makes sense in way, all that time spent in cars searching the coastline for rideable waves, you have to listen to something from time to time other than your buddies discussing what exactly is the meaning of ‘epic’. And that’s not even getting into the huge amount of music used in the plethora of surf DVDs that are released every year; my favourite being the inclusion of U2s ‘Beautiful Day’ in the recent Aussie body board flick ‘The Road’.
Of course, we haven’t even begun to discuss the many famous musicians who surf such as Metallica’s Kurt Hammett, Pearl Jam's Eddie Veder and Westlife’s Kian Egan; nor the former pro surfers such as Jack Johnson, Donavon Frankenreiter and Jim White who have become famous musicians in their own right.
As for surfing’s continuing ability to inspire musicians who are not themselves surfers I point to Arcade Fire’s ‘Black Wave/Bad Vibrations’ from the recently released ‘Neon Bible’ album and Neosupervital’s single ‘Rachel’; both of which owe a debt to Brian Wilson, referencing as they do ‘Good Vibrations’ and ‘Surfer Girl’ respectively.
All of which is to say that in the columns that follow I will be exploring music, surfing and their interrelationship with each other. After all, they are both art forms which rely on waveforms to exist.
1999 - 'The eMusic Market', written by Gordon McConnell it focuses on how the internet could change the music industry. Boy was he on the money, years before any of us had heard of an iPod or of Napster.