History Lesson: Surf Rock

One of the hallmarks of summer for me is listening to surf rock. I wasn’t exposed much to the genre as a child, unless you count the Beach Boys. Full disclosure: although they are often classified that way, I don’t entirely think of the Beach Boys as surf rock because their sound tends to be softer and veer into the pop realm.

I want to dive into (heh) surf rock today with an abbreviated history lesson. It’s straight out of the culture of Southern California. That’s why you’ll often hear lyrics about surfing and sunny days, beach babes and boardwalks. Surf rock is also very heavy on the reverb. Think “Miserlou” by Dick Dale or “Wipe Out” by The Surfaris. That’s why, even though surf rock does still linger today, the genre feels very vintage to me. Reverb guitar was huge in the ’60s, which was when surf rock hit its peak.

Surf rock’s musical descendants include another California creation known as pop-punk. Like surf rock, pop-punk is enmeshed in a culture. This time, its origins overlap with California’s skateboarding scene. (More details about pop-punk and the wild vocals that live there can be found here.)

Grab your sunglasses and listen to some of my favorite surf rock songs below:

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