Pop/Rock  •  Rock & Roll/Roots


Surf Rock was one of the most popular forms of American rock & roll of the early '60s. Distinguished by reverb-drenched guitar, rolling instrumentals that were designed to sound like crashing waves, and simple, three-chord songs, the music may sound similar on the surface, but it was revolutionary music for its time, exploring sonic territories previously unheard in rock music. The first wave of surf rock was kicked off by Dick Dale and his single "Let's Go Trippin." The single was a local hit in California, but it inspired countless bands to form -- groups like the Chantays and Surfaris, who had national hits ("Pipeline" and "Wipe Out," respectively). Nearly all of these groups were one-hit wonders that struggled to produce a second hit single. The second wave of surf rock was led by the Beach Boys, who added Four Freshmen-style pop harmonies to the basic Chuck Berry rhythms of surf rock. Groups like Jan & Dean and Ronny & the Daytonas followed, but the Beach Boys remained the ultimate surf band for many listeners, simply because they put the appeal of the beach and surfing into words instead of conveying it with impressionistic music. Nevertheless, the sounds of the instrumental surf rock echoed throughout the sonic experimentations of '60s guitarists, and the genre remained popular into the '90s, thanks to the efforts of several generations of surf-rock revivalists.