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THE SECOND WAVE : 'Battle of the Surf Bands' Hoping to Avoid Repeat of Last Year's Real Rock and Roll

June 10, 1993|MIKE BOEHM | Mike Boehm covers pop music for The Times Orange County Edition.

Surf City, here they come again--a lineup of surf-rockers and garage bands from the '60s who hope that this time there won't be a whole lotta shakin' going on until after they've had a chance to plug in.

Last June 28, the day of the inaugural "Battle of the Surf Bands" in Huntington Beach, brought a real rumble. But it happened hours before the first note had been struck.

A 7.1-magnitude earth quake hit the desert town of Yucca Valley early on the morning of the show and gave the rest of Southern California a real rocking, said Bill Hollingshead, the Santa Ana-based rock oldies promoter behind last year's surf-rock extravaganza and this weekend's return.

"Every single radio station in the world said, 'Stay home, stay off the freeway,' " which did wonders for the event's walk-up sale, he said.

One of those who didn't heed the warnings was the bass player of the Surfaris, who lived in a trailer near the quake's epicenter.

"His motor home was rocking and rolling, and he went through a door," Hollingshead said. Nevertheless, "he showed up (to play) with eight stitches in his forehead."

Unless Mother Nature has something serious against surf rock in Huntington Beach, Hollingshead figures that all the ground shaking when this year's event gets underway on Sunday will come from highly taxed amplifiers.

Back from last year's show are Jan & Dean, with their breezy, Beach Boys sound-alike harmonies and a catalogue of hits that includes "Surf City" and "The Little Old Lady (From Pasadena)," Dick Dale & the Deltones and the Chantays. Also on hand are the Kingsmen (in a lineup featuring one member, lead guitarist Mike Mitchell, from the original "Louie Louie" session) and the Tornadoes, a '60s surf band that got its start in the land-locked Inland Empire.

The bill has a strong Orange County connection.

Dale inaugurated the surf-rock sound here in coastal ballrooms during the late '50s and early '60s. He's back raging stronger than ever at age 56 on "Tribal Thunder," a marvelous new album of modernized but still-raucous surf-rock that fully lives up to its title.

The Chantays, who hailed from Santa Ana, are responsible for "Pipeline," which vies with the Surfaris' "Wipe Out" for honors as the greatest of all surf-rock instrumentals.

The five band members had been playing their instruments only eight months when they came up with "Pipeline." They started out as novices, Santa Ana High School students who decided to emulate a band of school alumni called the Rhythm Rockers that had been playing local teen dances for fun and profit.

"We were in essence self-taught musicians, and just got lucky," said Bob Spickard, who wrote "Pipeline" with band-mate Brian Carman. "I came up with the melody, and Brian and I elaborated on it."

They worked up the tune in Spickard's bedroom and dubbed it "44 Magnum," then "Liberty's Whip," after the outlaw played by Lee Marvin in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance." The title changed after Spickard and Chantays' bassist Warren Waters saw a surfing film that included scenes of the Pipeline run on Oahu.

On their recording of "Pipeline," Spickard and Carman used the guitars they had been learning with: a Montgomery Ward Airline model for Carman, and a Barth guitar, made by an Orange County instrument maker, that had been Spickard's 15th birthday present. It wasn't until after "Pipeline" shot up the charts (eventually hitting No. 4 on the Billboard chart) that they could afford Fender Stratocasters, the favored ax of the surf-rocker.

The Chantays still average about four gigs per month, Spickard said. Three of the original members will be on hand Sunday: Spickard, Carman (who now plays bass), and drummer Bob Welch (the two other original Chantays, bassist Waters and piano player Bob Marshall, now make their living as schoolteachers). Two relative newcomers are guitarists Ricky Lewis, who joined in the '70s, and Gil Orr, a Chantay since 1967.

Spickard said the Chantays have plans for a new album that would include a redone "Pipeline."

"In the United States, there's nothing out right now," in terms of compact disc reissues of the band's original albums, he said. "With Dick (Dale) releasing his new album, the timing could be right to release a surf album of our up-to-date stuff."

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