The Songs of Summer #66: ‘The Lonely Surfer’ by Jack Nitzsche
Jack Nitzsche…with a name like that, he’s gotta be good. And he was. Jack’s claim to fame was being the arranger, producer, scapegoat, and all-around right hand man to producer wunderkind Phil Spector. Spector’s patented ‘Wall of Sound‘ production style owes a great deal to the talents of Jack Nitzschke (among several others.) Today’s Song of Summer: Nitzsche’s classic surf instro, ‘The Lonely Surfer.’
Jack was born and raised on a farm near Newaygo, Michigan before heading out west to L.A. to become a musician. Meeting up with a cat named Sonny Bono, they wrote the pop classic ‘Needles and Pins’ before going to work for Phil Spector.
In 1963, Nitzsche recorded his own solo album from which this title track is taken, cashing in on the then-happening nationwide surf craze. Unlike the typical pounding, super-charged surf tunes, The Lonely Surfer is laid back, mellow, almost contemplative, as the lonely surfer rides out to catch his (or her) wave; the song builds and crescendos towards the end as our lonely surfer grabs that wave and rides it back to the shore. In short, it’s a perfect summer track. Nitzsche’s mastery of the Wall of Sound is in full effect on ‘The Lonely Surfer’ single as well as the entire album.
BONUS!! R.E.M.’s Peter Buck wrote a tribute to Jack Nitzsche the week that Jack died in 2000. The instrumental recording, sounding very much like a Nitzsche production, would become the b-side ‘2JN.’ (To Jack Nitzsche)
DOUBLE BONUS!!! A more aggressive Nitzsche track, ‘The Last Race,’ was used very very effectively during the opening credits of Quentin Tarantino’s underrated grindhouse flick ‘Death Proof.’ I couldn’t resist including it here.
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