Surf Punk MusicMusic Surf Punk
The history of Italian surfing from the 60s until today
Writing a complete and comprehensive history of surf music in Italy is not an easy task. Especially because there would be little to say if we removed what is not necessarily surfing, while inserting everything that refers to surfing that is influenced by it or even superficially mentions its stylistic features, these lines would not be enough.
Especially in the last decades many groups were close to surfing, but only a few who surf exclusively. Among the first I would certainly include my Ray Daytona and Googoobombos, who have learned a lot from the genre and are helping to spread the word along with other groups. I don't mean surfing as static, monolithic music, but as "re-reading", perhaps even in the prehistoric sense, I think I have designed a somewhat personal retrospective, not always objective, because it is also interwoven with autobiographical data.
It is possible, for example, that some groups that did not meet in this way were forgotten or that others were not sufficiently taken into account. Beginning of the 60's: Surf music explodes in California. Although it is intended for a few years, it is - after the rock'n'roll of the fifties and the doo-wop - a real revolution in consumer music.
But with the big exception of the Beach Boys, not many of these songs arrive immediately in Italy, where more than surfboards, beach parties and beautiful cars, the fun and fantasies of the children of the economic booming still evolve around the jukebox and perhaps fluctuate to the rhythm of a turn.
At that time the instrumental music market in Italy was almost exclusively dominated by the English shadows. More melodic and more "drinkable" than the Californian groups, they published a large number of singles in Italy, many of them from "Apache" (1960) to "Geronimo" (1963), who were to take the top of the charts.
In this context, groups in Italy are beginning to devote themselves to a certain type of instrumental music. The rebels, a leading group of the Celentano clan, play "La Cavalcata", a 1962 single that also gave them a television appearance. Ricky Gianco's satellites in her debut album of 63 combine the quando la lluna mutore with the instrumental piece Mercurius.
Other groups that play instrumentally are the planets, the 4 satellites and the Ergastolane, authors of a Rusten pipeline covering. On the sung side, on the other hand, the term surf appears several times in song titles that do not actually refer to the musical genre, but to a new kind of youth dance:
the beautiful ly designed "surf army" von Catherine Spaak, "newspaper surfing" von Presti Pino, "Alleluja surf" von King's Star, "Tremarella" von Edoardo Vianello ("I tremble while dancing to surf"), finally "Il surf delle matonelle" by Cricca, a track shamelessly copied from "If I had a Hammer" (Trini Lopez version), but with respectable guitar parts, thanks to the work of Enrico Ciacci.
The LP "I terridi fansno il surf!" is also released with songs by Nico Fidenco, Jimmy Fontana, Latins, Flippers. The cover shows a girl on a surfboard; nothing, or almost nothing, inside shows the sounds of the Californian school. With the rise of the Italian beats between 65 and 66 years the word surf goes out of fashion.
Within a few years, Ennio Morricone created a series of soundtracks for Sergio Leone that were to make a name for themselves. The Italian Westerner (1965), "Il buoono, il uutto and il cattivo" (1966) and "Cera une pasta il West" (1968), the Italian Westerner became popular all over the world, but with it, in the indissolubility between film and music, Morricone's themes changed the imagination of at least one generation.
It will be impossible for thousands of Italians and non-Americans to get rid of their guitars and whistle Alessandro Alessandroni, a trusted Maestro Morricone collaborator in creating these unchanging soundtracks. It is important to add that all this will strongly influence all instrumental music (including surfing) in the following decades.
Since the late sixties and in the seventies, with Italy in full "progressive hangover and songwriter", there is little to remember, if not the lean activity of dance groups that include instrumental music in their repertoire. Among these groups, like Zampironi of Lucca, about whom I know nothing.
Among the specialists for the printing press, Aldo Pedron is one of the few who writes about surfing with the necessary expertise. Around the turn of the century between the seventies and eighties, surfing reappeared in the movies, with "Un mécoledì da leoni" (Big Wednesday, 1978) by John Milius and a second wave of music with Californians Jon and the Nachtreiter as the main group.
In Italy, however, one must be satisfied with Johnson Righeira, who released the single "Bianca Surf" in 1980, and Skiantos from the album "Ti spanmo la crema" in 1984, where the theme beach and sun includes the covers of "Barbara Ann" and "Surfin' Bird".
But a hedonistic desire arises, a longing that consists in living the superficiality of postmodernism, in accepting a media and consumer-oriented system that is becoming more and more portable and fluid, as well as the water on which the athlete acts with his own table. Almost like in a philosophical act, as told by Magazzini Criminali in her play "Collallo nervoso" (1980), where above sound collages of different origins echo in loops, like a postatomares mantras, the lines "I love surfing / it's all right / nothing is true, everything is allowed / take the wave / I'm on the crest of the wave / stay on the crest of the wave".
See from minute 31:30 o'clock: and from minute 52:55 o'clock: So far, however, little surf music comes to life, in recent years a new phenomenon than in the past. While in the sixties surfing and the associated (more or less distorted) imaginary concerned a successful genre, which had also come into fashion, in the eighties with the emergence of punk-near subcultures - Neo-Rockabilly, Garage-Punk, Neo-Psychodelia, New Age - some musical genres emerged, which have been forgotten for years.
The glue between punk and surf is perhaps more than any other - at least in the perception we had in Italy - the Ramones, with their original songs, but especially with their versions of "California Sun" and "Surfin' Bird". Then there are other, less famous examples, but which - for those like me who went to concerts or bought records in those years - were of fundamental importance to connect the punk sphere with a much broader fantasy (B-movies, comics, dark rock'n'roll).
For me, all this is connected with a passion for Marvel comics (Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Silver Surfer, who is travelling in space with his board), Coppola's vision of "Apocalypse Now", with the unforgettable sequences with Robert Duvall's line "Charle don't surf" and the Marine surfing an attack on the Vietcong.
I think that all this was brought together more than others in Italy by Not Moving from Piacenza, who recorded "Wipe Out" for their 1982 Electric Eye released E.P. "Strange Dolls" (of which I heard this piece for the first time) and played the "Pipeline" live, probably influenced by Johnny Thunders.
Crashmen operate in Milan and play surf classics in their liveset, while in Trieste they already play an embryonic formation of those who will be the wet tones. In Bologna, from a rib of Sciacalli, the Centurions release a single with "Misirlou" (1993) for Destination X, while the others in Rome add some surf songs to their garages punk.
The groups of the Ramonesian derivation Senzabenza, chromosomes and mange are also influenced by surfing. Genuine surfing revitalization is made possible by the release of the popular "Pulp Fiction" (1994), whose soundtrack exhumes classics by Dick Dale, Tornados, Centurians, and Revels. Surfing, Link Wray, but also - bit by bit - exotic music, "Incredibly Strange Music", up to the new edition of old Italian soundtracks.
It' a mixed awakening, even in punk garages, and the records of Mummies, Phantom Surfers, Trashwomen, Untamed Youth come from the USA. In the course of the American experience, several groups were formed in Italy dedicated to surf music. A good debut single for her in'95, with "The Wedge" by Dick Dale; a second single with "Sea Storm", and then two albums: "Just Surf" (1998) and "Bikini Angel" (2003) to crown a America touring.
The Royal Broodmares and the Scriteriati also play in Rome. Moonsters ", with "The curse of the Petrifieds", where you seem to hear the first missfits while surfing. Bradipos IV was born in 1994 in Caserta: superfine sounds and techniques, a passion for surfing, the soundtracks of Henry Mancini, Morricone and the melodic tradition of Campania (see Sergio).
In these years we can speak of a real scene of surfing groups that is gaining space and interest in a much wider circle of fans of garages punk, lo-fi, blue punk, neo-beat, etc.. Several independent labels dedicate themselves to the press of surf groups, magazines and fanzines and devote much space to the genre (the names of the titles are emblematic: Low Fidelity, Jamboree, Misty Lane, Mondo Capellone, Bob Rock, Arseniko) and multiply the small festivals where you can see many of these bands perform there.
On the threshold of the year 2000, the groups from Piedmont to Sicily continued to flourish: Faronen, Kosmogringe, Braccobaldos, Link Pretara & The Rudimentals, Phantomatici, Leguane, Bavadoodo, Menomati, Urania. Among these Fantomatici released the album "Giustizia sommaria" in 2005, followed by the album "Spaghetti Surf" in 2007. While in 2002 the piottas "La grand onda" (The Great Wave) rage, exactly reproducing the chorus of "L'esercito del surf" (The Army of Surfing) with a videotape that pays homage to the surfers of "Point Break" (1991), the subsurface surf music scene seems to be alive and kicking.
This vitality will reach its peak in the summer of 2003 with the first edition of the Surfer Joe Summer Festival, where all Italian groups dedicated to the genre (including the Livorno Pipelines, known for years for their repertoire based on Beach Boys) will perform on the beach together with foreign guests.
With these two publications, surfing has arrived in the major retail chains for the first time. But in the same year many groups disbanded, like the cosmonauts; others relaxed record production and reduced the number of concerts. As a physiological act, a change of guard takes place between the groups. One of the most interesting news is undoubtedly Hangee V, which comes from the ashes of Unfinished and is dedicated to a mixture of surfing and punk in the garages.
Some singles and three albums are available on vinyl: the eponymous debut 2005, "Unpasantly Yours" 2009 and "Underwater Serenades" 2016. Even if they take a few breaks from the concerts, Bradipos IV resist, and they will now be the most long-lived Italian surf group.
After an appearance in Matteo Garrone's movie "L'imbalsamatore" (2002), the Caserta-based group releases "Surf Session" (2005), starts several American tours, and after several years of public silence, "The Partheno-Phonic Sound of" (2016). With fewer groups than in the early 2000s, Italian surf music has actively experienced the Diabolico Coupé of Piacenza (one of its ribs were born Operation Octopus), Cantù's wave, Turin's Surfonians, Alexandria's Docteur Legume, TopDrop of Lodi in the last ten years,
All in all, the genre proves to be healthy, even considering the good response of the Surf Monks, who propose the styles of the genre in a key to skirt with a glance from the American straitjackets and thus open themselves up to the taste of a wider audience. I refer to Lorenzo Valdambrini, from Livorno, since 2003 organizer of the Surfer Joe Summer Festival (which over the years has become the best international review of surfing groups thanks to its beautiful position by the sea), owner of the surfer Joe Diner, where in a beautiful Tiki room you can attend excellent concerts even in winter.
But not only that, Valdambrini is mainly a musician and has released several albums under the pseudonym Surfer Joe after various experiences in surf groups. With concerts in Italy and all over the world, from Japan to California, he has not mistakenly registered with the title International Surf Music Ambassador. Without him there could be no Italian surf music today, or at least it would definitely have a different meaning.