Tuesday, December 03, 2013

"Anesthesia" by the Nation Rocking Shadows and "Baja" by the Astronauts

It's December so, of course, it's time to think about surf guitar music. In this instance, surf guitar music from places far from Southern California, although the first one is from another O.C. What started me thinking about this was that a movie called Anesthesia was filming in my neighborhood. This brought to my mind "Anesthesia" by the Nation Rocking Shadows, which I heard once in the spring of 1967 in a friend's dorm room at the University of South Florida, but which stuck in my mind over many years, as did "Believe Me" by the Royal Teens and Uska Dara by Eartha Kitt. My friend who had the record said the band was from Orlando, that he had seen them live, and that they had tons of electronic equipment onstage.

Cut to about twenty years later, at the bar of the Lion's Head, where I heard a man reciting to a woman "Anesthesia's" peculiar spoken bridge: "Scalpel, scalpel, scalpel, scalpel, sponge, sponge, sponge, sponge, suture, suture, suture, suture...." He omitted the scream at the end, or he would have gotten some unfriendly attention from the bartender. I said I didn't know anyone outside of Florida (besides, of course, me) had ever heard of this odd piece of music. He assured me there were those like him who had.

I didn't actually listen to "Anesthesia" for a second time until a few days ago, when seeing the movie title made me curious enough to do a web search that led me to the YouTube clip embedded above. The music begins with an ominous "drip drip drip" on bass, some alarming guitar riffs and an organ build, then it resolves into a main theme that seems a variation on the Chantays' "Pipeline". This is broken by the spoken bridge quoted above, which ends with a scream. The main theme then returns, but shortly after gives way to riffs like those near the beginning, and ends in cacophony.

Thinking of the Nation Rocking Shadows, from Florida, made me think of another surf guitar band, this one coming from far from any ocean. The Astronauts called themselves the "mile high surf band," having originated in Boulder, Colorado. "Baja," which you can hear in the clip above, is one of my favorite surf numbers. The staccato high notes on the guitar foreshadow a style that is frequent in contemporary pop, as in "Night," by Dolly Trolly. The suggestions of similar music YouTube gives to the right of the "Baja" video includes a piece that seems akin to surf music, though also originating a long distance from California: "Wild Weekend" by Buffalo's Rockin' Rebels.