ARTIST: Surf Punks
From an unwieldy pile of indefensibly crap music that I shall absolutely never part with, I give you "My Beach," the title track of the 1980 album by the Surf Punks. I vividly remember buying the cassette at a long-since-closed Crazy Eddie's on Third Avenue between 83rd and 84th streets during my freshman year of high school. A couple of years earlier, I'd experienced my first taste of bona fide Punk Rock when my father sent my sister and I box of records from England. That box included the first album by The Clash and Pure Mania by the Vibrators. Around the same time, a few hip characters at my grade school (if such a concept can be imagined) further exposed me to the burgeoning genre, turning me onto bands like The Sex Pistols, Generation X, 999, The Jim Carroll Band, Adam & the Ants and, of course, The Ramones. I was quickly hooked.
After a while, I started exploring the genre on my own, picking up random singles and albums by bands I'd only heard about, or ones that simply boasted captivating cover art (records were cheap enough in those days to be able to do that). I discovered some great music that way, but it wasn't a foolproof method. Captivating album art and key phrases didn't always guarantee greatness. The Plasmatics were a great example of this. Boy, did they look great and exude promise, but oof were their records ever undercooked (though I still loved them at the time and still love'em now). This was also the case with the Surf Punks.
I remember spying the name "Surf Punks" on the spine of the cassette (fittingly -- and tellingly -- in the "bargain bin"). I grabbed it instinctively. Evidently, the mere fact that their name included the word "Punks" was enough of a reason for me to buy it (aahhh -- such discerning standards, eh?) On my way to the counter, I paused. The cover art was rife with gaudy day-glo colors and a pair of bleach-blonde Californians with ridiculous curls. They certainly didn't look like Punks. Whatever. I was curious. I bought it for about two dollars and slapped it into my Walkman.
Replete with ditties like "Beer Can Beach," "I Live for the Sun," "Can't Get a Tan," "My Wave" and, of course, "My Beach," the album can be charitably described as focussed. Topically, My Beach is exclusively dedicated to the lifestyle of the Californian surfer -- specifically residents of Malibu engaged in a venomous turf war with kids from the fabled "Valley." As a kid from New York City, I couldn't really relate to any of it. Moreover, none of these titles were especially well-written, let alone well-executed. In short, it was all rather stupid. Stupid-sounding, cheaply produced songs packed with stupid lyrics. Furthermore, the Surf Punks themselves sounded like utter morons. This was dumb music made by apparently dumb people (fun fact: one of the original Surf Punks, Dennis Dragon, is the brother of the Captain from 70s schmaltz-popsters, Captain & Tennile). Maybe it was all parody rock, but even if so -- the finished product left much to be desired.
For whatever reason, however -- I grew to kinda like it. Bear in mind, I also really liked equally moronic albums at the time like Shout at the Devil by Motley Crue, See You In Hell by Grim Reaper and Rebel Yell by Billy Idol, so I was no stranger to the low-brow. But I knew My Beach was stupid --- it was a stupid stretch even for my forgiving tastes. I never picked up their follow-up album, Locals Only, but I did buy the single, "Shark Attack," which I regularly played on my college radio program at WDUB (91.1 on your FM dial).... for no readily apparent reason.
Two decades and change later, I don't often make a point of listening to the Surf Punks. I did go to the trouble of buying the album on compact disc, but I'd be fibbing if I said it had more to do with anything other than nostalgia. A track of theirs rudely inserted itself into a random shuffle on my iPod on Saturday, and it took me right back. So here they are in all their former glory.
The photo below the MOG player, incidentally, is a shot of an original Surf Punks show flyer in NYC. Being that I would have been about thirteen years old at the time, I didn't take that picture, nor did I attend the show in question (their live performances were purportedly notorious). The picture was taken by an amazing photographer named Bruce Barone.