The Songs of Summer Day Seven: The Marketts ‘Out of Limits’
I could go into a detailed explanation of what ‘surf music’ is, but I think you all know what I’m talking about. What I don’t think any of us in 2015 can understand is just how the whole surf culture of Southern California took over the hearts and minds of young people in the early 1960’s. From 1961 until about 1965 or ’66, instrumental surf music served as a bit of a placekeeper in pop music…the early Rock n’ Roll revolution had faded away, with Elvis in the army, Buddy Holly dead, Little Richard finding God, Jerry Lee Lewis marrying his 14-year-old cousin, and Chuck Berry in jail, and the world was biding its time until The Beatles and the British Invasion would arrive to our shores and take everything over. In the early ’60s, all the kids wanted to hit the beach, and the guitar-based sounds of surf rock supplied the soundtrack.
Pioneered by surf icons like Dick Dale, The Challengers and The Ventures, the surf sound “was dominated by electric guitars played through spring reverb and using the vibrato arm on their guitar to bend the pitch of notes downward. Surf music was one of the early adopters of the electric bass. Surf music often used an electric organ or an electric piano featured as backing harmony.” –Wikipedia
‘Out of Limits’ is a 1963 single by a group calling themselves The Marketts, which in reality was nothing but a bunch of studio musicians put together by a producer to record surf music. Since most surf music was instrumental, many record labels and producers simply recorded songs with studio musicians rather than an actual band, then slapped a cool sounding name on it and a surf-themed album cover and title, then watched as the money rolled in. No matter who plays on this song, it’s one of my favorite surf songs. I first heard it back in the 1980’s as a teenager, and I can’t remember where I heard it. Back then I started collecting 60’s garage and surf songs and compiling them on a constantly-evolving cassette mixtape (remember those?) I called Beach Tunes, to play around the pool or at the beach. Quite a few of my Songs of Summer originate from those early cassette mixes, like ‘Out of Limits.’
Anyway, ‘Out of Limits’ was originally called ‘Outer Limits.’ It’s a surfin’ version of the theme song from Rod Serling’s TV show The Outer Limits. The song also features a familiar four-notes from the theme to Rod Serling’s other hit show The Twilight Zone, which found the band being sued by Mr. Serling. The name of the song was changed to ‘Out of Limits,’ which, while it doesn’t roll off the tongue like ‘Outer Limits,’ and doesn’t even really make a lot of sense, was enough to call off the lawsuit.
Quentin Tarantino introduced ‘Out of Limits’ to a new generation of surf music fans when he used it in his 1994 masterpiece Pulp Fiction, which also featured several other classic-era surf tunes.
Even to people hundreds of miles away from the nearest large body of water who have never been near a real surfboard, surf music is perfect at evoking a day at the beach: the sun, the surf, the girls (and boys), the perfect summer day.
Written by Michael Z. Gordon, performed by The Marketts, peaking at #3 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart in February, 1964, here is Out of Limits: