Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Various Artists - Pebbles, Vol. 4 : Various Hodads - Surf n Tunes, Original Rare '60s Surf/Rod Classics 1992

Various Artists - Pebbles, Vol. 4
Subtitled: Various Hodads - Surf n Tunes, Original Rare '60s Surf/Rod Classics
1992 Archive International Productions (AIP)
CD cat. #: AIP CD 5021

Pebbles, Volume 4 is a compilation album in the Pebbles series that has been issued in both LP and CD formats. Unlike other volumes in the series – which compile obscure garage rock and psychedelic rock music – Volume 4 collects rare examples of surf rock. The LP is subtitled Summer Means Fun, while the CD is subtitled Surf N Tunes. Another Pebbles, Volume 4 was issued on CD a few years earlier by ESD Records and has completely different tracks.

Release data

This album was released on BFD Records in 1979. AIP Records kept the LP in print for many years.
AIP Records issued this volume in CD format in 1992.
Although having a different cover, the two formats are largely the same album and even have similar catalogue numbers.
Although two box sets that purport to be the first five volumes of the Pebbles series have been released – the Pebbles Box on LP (in 1987) and the Trash Box on CD (in 2004) – none of the tracks on Pebbles, Volume 4 are included on either box set.

Omitted Tracks on the CD

When AIP Records issued the early volumes of CDs, they omitted some tracks from the corresponding LP for the stated reason that they were already widely available on other anthologies. In this case, only about half of the tracks on the LP were included on the CD; even the opening cut on the LP from which the subtitle is taken – "Summer Means Fun" by Bruce & Terry – was left off. The numerous bonus tracks on the CD include the corresponding "School is a Drag" by Superstocks to go with the curious pro-school song by The Wheel Men.

 Notes on the tracks

As on the first two volumes, an odd track from a well-known artist – Jan & Dean in this instance, performing on a commercial for Coca-Cola – is included on the album. Lloyd Thaxton had a widely syndicated pop music television program in the 1960s, The Lloyd Thaxton Show. Dave Edmunds – the only artist represented who is not American – had numerous hit songs in the late 1970s and early 1980s, including 1970's international success, "I Hear You Knocking." The Trashmen are renowned for their 1963 hit "Surfin' Bird" and are a prolific enough band that a 4-CD box set was released several years ago on Sundazed.


01. California Suns : Masked Grandma - 02:28
02. The Dantes : Top Down Time - 02:05
03. The Pyramids : Custom Caravan - 01:58
04. The Rivieras : California Sun '65 - 02:36
05. The Knights : Hot Rod High - 02:06
06. The Wheel Men : School Is A Gas - 02:19
07. The Superstocks : School Is A Drag - 02:14
08. Lloyd Thaxton : Image Of A Surfer - 02:02
09. The City Surfers : Beach Ball - 01:56
10. Dave Edmunds : London's A Lonely Town - 02:28
11. The Ragamuffins : The Fun We Had - 02:08
12. The Rally Packs : Move Out Little Mustang - 01:53
13. The Reveres : Big ''T'' - 02:20
14. The Readymen : Shortnin' Bread - 02:46
15. The Bleach Boys : Wine, Wine, Wine - 02:29
16. The Esquires : Flashin' Red - 02:20
17. The Del-Vettes : Ram Charger - 02:29
18. The Gamblers : LSD-25 - 02:17
19. Brian Lord : The Big Surfer - 02:32

Playing time...43:25

[This cd is atypical, as far as the first five in this series goes. I'd heard of compilations like "Nuggets" first, I think, and after discovering that recentlyish, I'd stumble upon similar "Pebbles"and then "Back from the grave". From my point of view, the first Nuggets box set is the best of these. It has the best sound quality and the best songs. Some of those songs on Nuggets became instant classics for me (I've reviewed that title here). Once you start getting to Pebbles and Nuggets though, the sound quality deteriorated markedly. They can have a very scratchy/cassettey kind of sound. As for the Pebbles cds I bought, it was with a company which gave 'freebie' cds if you bought five from surprise cd was the first volume of English Freakbeat, I think it was called. That had a few good nuggets on it too. Anyway, with Pebbles, I was often surprised at how often the same songs which appeared on the first Nuggets box-set would appear on four of the five Pebbles cds I ordered. Not sure, but maybe some of that 'identical' material may have been versions of the same song by a  different band...but if similarity in songs is an issue for you, I'd choose Nuggets over Pebbles.

Anyway, back to Pebbles might actually have superior sound quality to the rest that I've heard. It's been a while since I've listened to this cd and my notes aren't as specific as they usually are. Maybe I'd give this album 4/5...but I'm not certain...just my impression that this album is the best of the first five, so long as you like Beach Boy type songs about surfing and hot-rod cars.

The best song:


Dave Edmunds - "London's a lonely town". A lovely, retro/neo surf song by the  Brit who had the classic "Girls talk". Great melody and harmonies. Has a Christmas vibe to it. Tried finding a You Tube of this song but could only find "New York's a lonely town".  Prefer the Pebbles version. Difference may be due to legal issues or something.



Readymen -  "Shortnin' Bread". Has an amusing vibe, as far as the vocals go. Candidate for my list of the best US songs of all time...might find a place for it on the tail end of my list. 

The Ragamuffins - "The Fun We Had". Vocal style similar to that in Wheatus' recentish cool pop song "Teenage dirtbag".

Of interest:

Brian Lord - "The Big Surfer". Amusing song. Got a John F.Kennedy conceit going for it. Has an ending with a political twist too, which was very surprising to me. 
California Suns - "Masked Grandma". References the song "The little old lady from Pasadena". Sounds like it also uses one of those comb know, where you put that cheap and nasty toilet paper onto a comb and blow on it? Hope that last sentence is clear...hmm. 
The Wheel Men - "School Is a Gas” AND Superstocks - "School is a Drag". Same song but with different takes...looks like they are trying to appeal to different demographs! Also lumped in The Knights' "Hot Rod High" with "School is a drag" but the connection is obscure to me now after this time interval.]

Pebbles on the beach!

As its title implies, the fourth Pebbles disc is a bit of a departure from other volumes in the series. It serves up 19 tracks of ultra obscure surf rock from the 60s (except for Dave Edmunds' "London's A Lonely Town," which was recorded in 1973). The songs are mostly from the poppier end of the spectrum, with vocal harmonies, symplistic lyrics, and peppy instrumentation that shows a clear Beach Boys/Jan & Dean influence.

Severeal of these songs are really good- The Dantes' "Top Down Time" is an infectious rush, and the Knights' "Hot Rod High" offers the kind of simplistic joy that its title promises. The Wheel Men and The Super Stocks provide two excellent versions of the same song (with slighty different titles, however. The former group calls their tune "School Is A Gas," while the latter provides "School Is A Drag"). Lloyd Thaxton's "Image Of A Surfer" can almost be described as the surf-pop counterpart to Kim Fowley's "The Trip." The Bleach Boys (bLeach, not beach) turn in a wicked cool version of "Wine Wine Wine."

There are also a few less poppy gems: The Readymen's unbelievably awesome "Shortnin' Bread" is a beer-blasted slab of midwestern surf-punk insanity a la the Trashmen, and the Gamblers' "LSD 25" is a way-cool instrumentl strutter. Brian Lord's "The Big Surfer" is a totally inexplicable song which featuyres- okay, I don't want tio give it away, but it rules. Sadly, there are a few subpar tunes that keep this from being a five-star buy: "Custom Caravan" and "Big 'T'" are ultra-generic tunes that really aren't all that fun or interesting, and a few other tunes on this disc are similarly unenjoyable. But meh, who cares? The best music here is Pebble-riffic summertime greatness.

The Pebbles CD series, released by AIP Records in the years 1992-2007

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