The music that’s been the background for my best programming runs has always been surf guitar, the type of surf music that came out of the early ’60s and was exemplified by people like Dick Dale and The Ventures, the latter of which lost a member Sunday with the death of guitarist Bob Bogle, who lived just across the river in Vancouver.
The Ventures — who only made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year — can be reasonably credited with kicking off the surf music genre with the success of their instrumental “Walk, Don’t Run.” In the last gasp of the instrumental pop hit, they had several, including covers of “Telstar” and the theme song of “Hawaii Five-O.”
Now, I don’t swim all that well, and the closest I lived to the beach growing up was about sixty miles (and that was in an era when surfing on the Oregon coast was pretty much unheard of) but given that The Ventures were formed in Tacoma, actual surfing experience seems to be a prerequisite for neither playing ort appreciating surf music.
I remember liking the songs I heard on the radio as a kid, but my real immersion into surf began in a dark period of the early ’80s in Eugene, when a long-term relationship (for that age, at least) had just broken up and I was starting to find my feet again after having been out of work for most of two years in what was then the most brutal recession this country had seen in some time.
A woman I met through my volunteer disk jockey stint at a radio station invited me to meet up with a friend of hers who (like her) was a musician. The three of us got pretty drunk on cheap wine in the Pioneer Cemetary across the street from MacArthur Court. He was the bassist for a band that played surf music, both covers and originals, and when I saw them at the next opportunity, they were incredibly good. And The Surf Trio got me started on a path that — once I got back into programming in the early ’90s — proved fruitful for some time.
The best of instrumental surf guitar surpasses silence, for me, as ideal programming music. Intricate rhythms, no lyrics to distract me, it’s like spackle filling in the cracks in my concentration and smoothing out my attention, making it easier to work for hours on end without distraction (the cats are another question). For years I was able to crank out material under the influence of surf music, but sometimes I forget the lesson and try to make do with the standard contents of my music library or radio news or podcasts, and everything just falls apart.
So I’m sorry to see Bob Bogle go. He was one of the pioneers of a form I truly appreciate. He’s left a legacy of great material. Hang ten, Bob.