Surf Beat (book review)

Surf Beat – Rock n’ Roll’s Forgotten Revolution by Kent Crowley (Backbeat Books) book review by Nick Kizirnis

As a long-time surf music fan I am excited to see Kent Crowley’s in-depth account of the genre’s history in “Surf Beat”. Sub-titled “Rock’n”Roll’s Lost Revolution”, Crowley takes the reader on an intimate chord-by-chord account of the formation of the first surf music, the rise of surf music starts like Dick Dale and behind the scenes with Leo Fender as he evolved his famous guitars and amplifiers … even Jimi Hendrix and Frank Zappa are tied to surf music’s legacy.

What is amazing in “Surf Beat” is how Crowley provides such detailed accounts – not just of the evolution of surf and music gear but what it felt like to really be there when surf music started (young teenage surfers who formed bands that would last a year) to its rise in popularity and confusion and contradiction (Jan and Dean, the Beach Boys, and actually anything with vocals), from its leaner years to its resurgence. Crowley makes the reader feel as if they were in the crowd, in the band, and part of the entire history.

For many of us who did arrive a little late to the scene, movies like “La Bamba” and of course “Pulp Fiction” provided the keys to where this mysterious, moody yet fun and rocking music came from. But surf music has never gotten its due until now. Crowley’s “Surf Beat” is a gift to the youngsters and a tribute to those that were there at the start.

Many years ago my boss made me a set of surf records and compilations. I played those cassettes over and over again and listened in amazement and wondered what it would have been like to be around decades ago when this amazing music started. Now I know. Time to break out the cassettes again. Time to turn the reverb up just a little bit more …!  –Nick Kizirnis