Domenic Priore

Written By: Stomp

My first introduction to The Beach Boys came right around the time when I was first introduced to Rock ‘n’ Roll itself, as a two-year-old kid that my 14-year-old sister brought me to one of those great American “Malt Shops” as seen in movies like Alan Freed’s “Rock, Rock, Rock,” or where Dwayne Hickman

and Bob Denver would to go meet Tuesday Weld in the television series “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.” Our local one in Monterey Park, California was called Currie’s, it was a chain of about six, there was one in Beverly Hills too. Anyway the place had one of those big jukeboxes loaded with ’50s and early ’60s hits, most of it was R&B Vocal Group records but there were a lot of the then-brand-new Surf hits on there such as “Let’s Go Trippin'” by Dick Dale & his Del-Tones, “Mr. Moto” by The Belairs, “Boss” by The Rumblers and “Surfin'” by The Beach Boys. So for me The Beach Boys came in with a bunch of groups like that. We would hear all of those as part of this larger movement that was becoming popular as a style identifier, as the phrase “Surfer” in Los Angeles was akin to what being a “Mod” was in London during the same time. As one would gravitate to all the Mod records in England, so we would rally around Surf music.

Now outside of Currie’s, my sister was buying each new release by Dick Dale & his Del-Tones and The Beach Boys… “Let’s Go Trippin’,” “Surfin’ Safari,” “Surf Beat,” “Ten Little Indians,” “Miserlou” and so on. We never got the “Surfin’ Safari” album, but a neighbour had it so we heard “Moon Dawg” on there and I always wished, then, that we could have the cool “Moon Dawg” around the house. Then in early 1963 my sister brought home the “Surfin’ U.S.A.” album, and that was a big thrill. In fact, a lot of Americans outside of California brought home the “Surfin’ U.S.A.” album, and it became one of the fastest-selling LP’s of the early ’60s as it turns out. The album got a lot of play in our house, so much so that there needed to be more. Out went my sister and back home came “Surf Rider” by The Lively Ones, “Wipe Out” by The Impacts, “Surfing’s Greatest Hits” on Capitol, “Surfer Girl” by The Beach Boys and most importantly “Surfer’s Choice” by Dick Dale & his Del-Tones… all in the same year. “Surf Rider” was the top-selling album on the in-store charts at the Wallich’s Music City record store on Sunset and Vine that summer of 1963, and that LP got as much play in our house as “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” but “Surfer’s Choice” took the cake. That album had four local Los Angeles Top Ten hits on it: “Let’s Go Trippin’,” “Surf Beat,” “Mr. Peppermint Man” and an extended version of “Miserlou” (which The Beach Boys had also covered on “Surfin U.S.A.”). The effect of Dick Dale & his Del-Tones in Los Angeles was akin to him being this Elvis Presley persona, but with the same kind of popularity in Los Angeles during 1963 as The Beatles were just beginning to have in England that year. Musically, though, the overall effect of listening to Dick Dale in Los Angles in 1963 was more aligned to what listening to Jimi Hendrix was like during the second half of the decade. Dick Dale brought that much power to his approach on guitar, and all the Surf bands including The Beach Boys were deeply influenced by that power at the time.

The ultimate epiphany of course was when Dick Dale & his Del-Tones came to my home town of Monterey Park as part of his endless local touring, as depicted in his song “King of the Surf Guitar” where The Blossoms sang “Balboa to Anaheim, San Bernardino to Riverside, all the kids in Ol’ L.A. love to hear Dick Dale play.” He played the auditorium at what would later be my High School (and where my sister was attending at that time) Mark Keppel High, and then came down and played at the Community Center of the park right across the street from my house, Barnes Park (Monterey Park, California). Ultimately this was just a big basketball gym with a small wooden stage at the end of the hall, looking much like where Duane Eddy plays in the 1960 film “Because They’re Young”… that is exactly what it looked like in there when, I was brought to the ticket window that day and shuffled in to the show… for free… I was only three years old (but had a year of playing records at home under my belt). The opening act for Dick Dale & his Del-Tones at the show was The Beach Boys, who did not really have the same kind of Elvis Presley persona, that kind of “Grand King Poo Bah” vibe that Dick Dale had. Instead, they projected an image like they were normal kids, just like you and me and everyone in that basketball gym, same age as you and me (well, not me, but my sister’s age, then 15, probably the same age as Carl Wilson in ’63 and older than David Marks). The girls were all wearing Cardigan sweaters and Capri pants, cute little brightly-colored square-toed shoes with bow designs, much like the bows or hair bands in their heads, holding together teased-up hair with big curls and bangs. The guys mostly wore J.C. Penny Towncraft collar shirts, many of them with the Madras design, white Levis and nice dress shoes or beach-style loafers. There were guys in lettermen’s jackets and also guys wearing dress pants, V-neck sweaters and skinny ties. The Beach Boys were in their Pendelton phase and sounded good if reedy compared to the big, big sound of the headliner, Dick Dale & his Del-Tones, who came on in such an animated manner the only way I can compare it to anything I saw later was, all that kind of guitar-slinging stuff that you see Bruce Springsteen do when he’s jumpin’ around all over the place. Dick didn’t go that overboard of course, he was able to rely more on his guitar playing talent and sound to carry the audience into Surf fever and madness on the dance floor.

align=”justify”>So that’s it, that was my first impression of The Beach Boys. To this day, I can’t separate the group in my head from being a part of this interactive combination of Surf music that included both instrumental sounds and vocal numbers. To me it is impossible to separate the two. I see them equally important and that carried over to later records, because there always remained a certain kind of strength and power underlying their music that I know came from Surf music, even “Pet Sounds” had the same kind of ominous feel that came with Surf music, sort of this deep respect for oceanic magnitude and the sea, it seemed to be at the base of songs like “Pet Sounds,” “Let’s Go Away For A While,” “Diamond Head,” the tracks on the whole second side of “Beach Boys Today!”… even the backing track of things like “That’s Not Me” had that underlying feel of a swell, as do the booming bass lines of “Cabinessence”. There was definitely a Soul in Surf music, in fact much of the base of Surf music came from R&B, the deep churning saxophone being the great motivator, and also, you’d hear that in, say, Steve Douglas’ sax riff of Duane Eddy’s “Peter Gunn,” which as most of you know, Steve Douglas played on a great deal of The Beach Boys greatest recordings. But take it all back to the very first Rock Instrumental hit, which The Beach Boys covered on “Surfin’ U.S.A.” very well, “Honky Tonk” by Bill Doggett. If you listen to the bass and the saxophone of the original 1956 hit, therein lies the spirit of R&B that is a major undertone of The Beach Boys, in the same way that The Beach Boys rendition of “Why Do Fools Fall In Love” seems to lose no vitality from the original 1955 hit by Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers.

Which brings it all back to how I first heard The Beach Boys… at Currie’s… blasting out of a jukebox… fuelled primarily by ’50s R&B Vocal Group records. The Beach Boys and Surf music in general could carry that kind of weight during Rock ‘n’ Roll’s first era, when the phrases “Rock ‘n’ Roll” and “Rhythm and Blues” were interchangeable terms.

Domenic Priore

Filmography: “King of the Stomp” featuring Dick Dale & his Del-Tones live at Harmony Park Ballroom, Anaheim, 1963

“One Man’s Challenge” featuring The Beach Boys and The Raindrops at A Teen Canteen, Azusa, 1962

Link to an interview with Domenic


riot on sunset strip