The Songs of Summer #43: ‘Big Noise from Waimea’ by The Ebb Tides
Time for more righteous surf sounds! There’s never a bad time for more surf tunes. In fact, I often turn to classic surf instrumentals on days when I’m just not feelin’ it, when my mojo’s up and left the building. There’s something about those twangin’ guitars, those jungle drums, those honkin’ saxophones that gets into my ears and alters my brain chemistry. And this surf tune is one of my faves; I wanted to share it before I ran out of Songs of Summer. There’s so many classic surf tracks out there, but let me let you in on a dirty little secret: A lot of them sound kind of the same. A surf instrumental is built around a rather simplistic formula, which is one of the reasons they all sound so damn cool. But it’s also why, when you really boil it all down, they are all very similar sounding.
That’s why I love ‘Big Noise from Waimea.’ It just sounds a bit different. And it’s not a classic surf song you hear very much. Or at all. It was recorded by The Ebb Tides way back in 1963, but was unreleased until the amazing Sundazed label put it on volume 1 of their outstanding ‘Lost Legends of Surf Guitar‘ compilation series in 2003. (Hell, they not only released it for the very first time, they named Vol. 1 after it!)
It’s easy to see why this track wasn’t released back in the day; it’s a kind of sloppy take with a bit of an under-rehearsed feel to it. The rhythm nearly gets away from the drummer on several occasions (especially those pesky cymbals). But I think that just adds to the mystique of the recording. The liner notes to Vol. 1 describe the song better than I ever could, so I’ll just cop their text here:
” ‘Big Noise from Waimea‘ takes on the awesome power of being crunched beneath the 25-foot monsters of Oahu’s North Shore. Its deep, throbbing Polynesian drumbeat is complemented by the sashaying rhythm of shakers, bringing in an element of beachside hula. The deep twang of guitar tone is swathed in ominous reverb, with the band hollering at unforeseen waves, as if they were involved in a primitive, sabbatical rite.”
The key word is ominous. Surfing gigantic waves has got to be a sometimes horrifying experience, and this song feels like exactly that. It’s such a cool sounding track! On a side note: The liner notes to these Sundazed comps, like all of their releases, are more thorough than you could possibly imagine, and extremely entertaining and educational. They also include lots of rare photos. This is the kind of stuff you can only find with physical releases like vinyl and CDs; digital is nice, and it’s convenient, but it often lacks in the historical details of these older recordings.
I know little about The Ebb Tides, only that they recorded this track, like I said, in 1963, in Santa Barbara California. I don’t want to know anything else; I feel the lack of background knowledge only adds to that ominous, mysterious feel to this track. Do you agree? Do you even care?
The Surf Sound abounds with this one.