Surf Music Analysis

Education commentator John Taylor Gatto has asserted that “Close reading of tough-minded writing is still the best, cheapest, and quickest method known for learning to think for yourself.” It is with such a premise in mind that we want you to complete this final Blogpost of the semester. The topic of your Blogpost will be a specific piece of surf music (in other words, a song – probably one chosen from our class material from last Thursday). Critical thinking is varied thinking, and in that spirit we want you to conduct a three-part analysis of your chosen song, which will require you to practice and apply separate, but equally important, intellectual skills.

Part One – Summary: Listen to your chosen song several times, and take a look at the lyrics online. Then, summarize it by briefly telling its surf-related story. What, in general, is the song about? The answer to that question should not be an interpretation, but a short explanation of the contents of the song. To help write this summary, you could possibly consider working with/using the 5Ws and H idea made famous by journalists (who, what, where, when, why, how).

Part Two – Synthesis:  To synthesize means to combine or connect, and in this section we want you to synthesize the contents of your piece of surf music with key ideas and premises that we have covered so far this semester.  Put another way, we want you to draw specific connections between your chosen song and specific social, historical, scientific, commercial, or political topics that we have covered in class this spring.  How does your song relate to our coursework, and what do these connections highlight or reveal to us as “consumers” of surf culture?

Part Three – Interpretation: We usually think of music in terms of its entertainment value, but the fact is that music – especially music with lyrics – is deeply meaningful, much like literature. And in this section, we want you to analyze and interpret the meaning of your chosen song. To do so, you must break down the song’s lyrics and focus on specific details that might have deeper significance. Therefore, you might take
into consideration such things as: the “theme” of the song; the historical, cultural, and technological context of the music; the songwriter’s background and experience; the genre of the music and its importance; the implications of key images, words, metaphors, or other minute details found in the lyrics. Reflecting on these details, what does your song “mean,” and/or what does it say about surfing and its place(s) in society?

18 thoughts on “Surf Music Analysis

  1. Part One – Surfin’ USA is the song that I chose by the Beach Boys because it is one of my favorite songs by them. The song is about going surfing throughout America. Overall, the song basically names a bunch of good surfing locations within the USA. Surfing was a very popular at the time of the release of this song, especially with the teenagers who bought their records. The surfing subculture gave the Beach Boys an opportunity to write this song which is about adventure and fun at new beaches. While the majority of Americans didn’t surf, this song represented the state of California, which was considered a surfing hot spot. Surfing, and California by extension, became more about a state of mind through this song as well.

    Part Two – Throughout class we have learned about different states including Hawaii and California and how surf cultures have changed over time. This song is directly related to California and what we have learned in class about the surf culture evolving to what it has now. Surfin’ USA is a song that is still popular to this day and recollects ideas the Beach Boys had stating how California is a state known for surfing. We have talked about different surfing locations and how people have fought for them in class as well. This song covers some of these locations. Within the song, the spots that are mentioned include Del Mar, Santa Cruz, Trestles, Doheny, Manhattan, Haggerty’s, Pacific Palisades, Sunset Beach, Redondo Beach, La Jolla, and Waimea Bay. This song reveals that consumers of surf culture have enjoyed this upbeat music since the release of this song til today. This song as well as other songs released by the Beach Boys are still popular and many look at their group as one of the original surf bands.

    Part Three – The meaning of the song Surfin’ USA is a representation of a collection of different surfing spots across America that are mainly in Hawaii and California. This song was part of a new kind of music from the West coast that was being heard across the U.S and featured the California surfing and beach scene. This song is part of music that is happy and free which displays a certain type of lifestyle that appealed to those who listened to it. The Beach Boys popularized this sound and used the description of surf spots and surfers in the song to start the trend of surfing music. The background of the song is based on Chuck Berry’s 1958 hit “Sweet Little Sixteen”. The Beach Boys wrote the song as a tribute to Berry but didn’t get his permission first. When Berry threatened to sue, The Beach Boys agreed to give him most of the royalties and list him as the song’s composer. The Beach boys are credited with inventing “California rock” and “sunshine pop” which are the genres that this song falls into. This song has a positive outlook on surfing and displays it as a sport that can be done across America, making it more popular than it was before. The places listed in the song are all highlighted as good surfing spots and this song brought attention to all of them, making people want to visit them too.

  2. The story in the literal sense of the lyrics is that a surfer is fighting against the tide and when he cant fight back he holds onto the reef. When he gets too weak to keep fighting he starts asking other people to help him off of the reef. He has a connection to an object that he calls a big blue whale that could be used to symbolize his end goal after getting past the line up that’s beating him back.

    The connections to surfing is obvious with legends like Andy Irons being notable substance abusers. This song draws a connection to surfers and the hard drugs that plagued the community. This song is potentially using the symbolism to show the difference of the surfers you see in the line up and the ones who are sneaking out at night to score to make the night last longer

    The story behind Sublime’s Badfish is one of substance abuse as the coined term “Badfish” is someone who exposes another to heroin for the first time. The surf imagery is used to describe the experience with various substance and the weakness that he found when trying to get off of drugs. The obvious symbolism is the reef being a connection to marijuana to help him get through withdrawal symptoms from heroin and his addiction that he can’t overcome. There are also references where he claims he’s a parasite who creeps out night, which can be connected to him sneaking out at night to score.

  3. Part One: In general, Living in the Moment by Jason Maraz is about living a carefree life. Also, the song is there to spread peace around the world, In the chorus Maraz, “Peace in my heart.” By saying this he is making a statement that we should just live our lives worry free. Obviously from the title the song is about living in the moment as well. Maraz talks about how he lives his life in the moment and it is easy and breezy. Maraz probably wrote this song after he realized he was worried about things that were not going to happen to him, so he decided to turn his life into a more relaxed lifestyle.

    Part Two: This song connects to the soul surfing side of the surf culture. The more laid back, and hobby filled lifestyle is emphasized compared to the commercialism of surfing as a sport. This song would probably be listened to more by the ancient Hawaiians, compared to the competitive Australians. This could compare to present political issues of spreading peace throughout the world. This song relates to the consumers of the surf culture because many surfers live their life in the moment. From the many documentaires watched in class, every surfer lived a life where they travelled and did not know how long they were staying or where they were going next.

    Part 3: The true meaning beyond this song to me is beyond surfing. I think in today;s world people live in a life that is too complicated and worry about what is going to happen to them. Maraz is trying to sell the relaxed lifestyle to the listeners. The relaxed lifestyle he lives in emphasized when he says everywhere he is going is his home. By saying this he treats everything like home, no matter where he is at. By talking about the peace he has in his soul, he is making a statement that he believes in world peace. Jason Maraz named his song Living in the Moment to promote a laid back lifestyle along with peace for the entire world.

  4. Surfer Girl by the Beach Boys
    Part One – It is about a narrator asking a surfing girl if she loves him after he has watched her on the shore, and if so he would make her world better and do everything for her, and taking her everywhere in his Woody.
    Part Two – Historically the song is in the first wave of surf music, and has a laid back and love song tone. Moreso, the song does not portray the women as a sex symbol or anything negative, instead it focuses on his love for her as he has watched her surf. Commercially it offers points like the Woody car, which was a prime car for surfers back then. Overall, does not have too much scientific or commercial aspects because it is mainly a love song between surfers. Therefore, highlights that surfing is more than just drugs, or big waves, or surf trips, that surfing can create love and families. Surfing is truly a culture.
    Part Three – I believe this song’s main theme is love. The Beach Boys show a spot of vulnerability, and show the person in love is willing to grow the love and surf together since it’s a commonality. Moreso, the Beach Boys make it a song about true love, not just lust. Historically this song sets itself apart because it does not objectify women, instead it focuses on the love a man has for her, and how he wants to do everything he can for her. Overall, I believe this song shows a softer side to surfing because usually the stereotypes of surfers were men who devoted to surfing and traveling to surf, not men who fall in love and want to devote their lives to doing everything with a woman. The biggest achievement for this song is recognizing women as surfers and about love, not sexually objectifying women in a time where that frequently happened.

  5. 1. “Surfing USA” by the Beach Boys is an all time classic surf song. It was made in the time that surfing was growing rapidly. The premise of the song is that everybody loves surfing. the song gives off really good and happy vibes, and shows that they really have a love for surfing. “If everybody had an ocean-Across the u.s.a.-Then everybody’d be surfin’-Like californi-a” These are lyrics from the song and they suggest that everybody should be out there on the water surfing. In the song they also suggest that they are excited for the warm weather and to get out there on there boards to surf.

    2. I think that this song connects with many different topics that we have learned about during class time, but the biggest one is that it connects to a soul surfer. I think this because you can really hear the excitement and love for surfing through the singing. The lyrics are also all about just surfing all the time. They do it for the love and stoke of the sport rather than to make money. The song helps represent surfing in a good way because it shows the excitement that surfers should be feeling.

    3. “Surfing USA” is pretty straightforward, but like most songs there are a few lines with a deeper meaning to them. For example, “You’d seem ’em wearing their baggies-Huarachi sandals too-A bushy bushy blonde hairdo” This goes deeper into then just a catchy few lines. This was the style in California back in the day. This is what surfers would rock out on the beach. In general the song means that everybody should get out and try surfing. It is a very simplistic song that is catchy and got a lot of hits, but the main point of the song was to express the love for surfing.

  6. 4/21/20

    The song I chose is Surfin USA by the Beach Boys which was released in 1963. I chose this song because it is one of the more famous surf songs we talked about in class. This song is about teenagers in the 1960’s trying to surf all over the USA. The song makes several references to some famous USA surf spots like Santa Cruz and Santa Barba which are in California. However, it also refers to surfing outside the USA when they shout out Australia Narrabeen beach. It is also clear the song is talking about young adults or teenagers with a line like “ Tell the teacher were Surfinnnn”, and other lines talking about waiting for summer like they were stuck in school.
    This song is a great representation of the California surf culture in the 1960s. The song mentions many of California’s famous surf spots at the time. In the first couple of seconds of the song, they bring Huarache Sandles which were popular beach shoes around this time.
    This song is showing a teenage dream in the 1960s of surfing all over the USA. We know we are talking about teenagers when they bring up a teacher and the line “can’t wait for June” which would be when students usually get out of school. This shows how big surfing was in the 1960s in California by displaying it as a teenager’s dream to surf all over the USA.

  7. Part one: My chosen song is Surfin USA by The Beach Boys. This song is about getting all your stuff together to go surfing all summer along all the coasts of the United States from California to New York. This song seems to be about teenage kids because they say to “tell the teacher we’re surfin”.
    Part Two: The title of this song is “Surfin USA” so they mention many places in the United States that people surf such as beaches along California such as Ventura and Santa Cruz but they also mention Australia. Although they probably just chose this because it fit well there, this can coincide with the line when they mention “a bushy bushy blonde hairdo” making this song very specifically only for young, white, males. This fits in with what we have covered in class because although surfing began in Hawaii, Americans took this sport as its own and California was the hotspot for surfing, as well as the fact that it was and still is a white male dominated subject.
    Part Three: The Beach Boys were an iconic surf rock band in the 1960s and 1970s and the majority of their songs relate to young white people in general but mostly to men and sexualizing women. I feel like this as a whole goes to show how white people have taken surfing, the Hawaiian culture, and ‘exotic’ aspect of the Hawaiian islands, all while excluding the Hawaiian people. In this song specifically though, they sing, “We’ll all be gone for the summer / We’re on surfari to stay” which relates to how many surfers were travelling across the world in search for the perfect wave and called these excursions ‘surfaris’.

  8. Part One – Summary: The story of the song is literally right in the lyrics “There is no place I’d rather be, then on my surfboard out at sea…..I’d surf till the sun sets beyond the horizon.” In general the song is about having fun out on the water. It is about keeping those chill vibes, it even says “No worry, no fear, ain’t no biggie braddah..” It’s about keeping sanity and having fun. The song is for all ages, you can listen to it and surf anywhere, and it was made for the pure enjoyment of staying stoked.
    Part Two – Synthesis: My song connects with the historical side. For me, I see this song as a connection to The Duke. He surfed all day, loved what he was doing, and just had fun. Became the first surfer and what better way to have a Polynesian surfer do it. As a consumer of surf culture, it highlights the fun aspect of surfing. The song says “hang ten and hang loose and even says shake a shaka”, the song is about what real surfers enjoy.
    Part Three – Interpretation: Hawaiian Rollercoaster Ride has a lot of meaning in the songs, one thing the lyrics say is “Lingering in the ocean blue”, I interpret it as your out in the crystal clear blue water enjoying the sea life and the people around you. It also give you the pleasure of imagining you are at the beach with the lyrics “On the golden sand is where I lay”. The theme of the song is definitely having those chill vibes with a little bit of rhythm. It was first produced in 2002 by Mark Kealiʻi Ho’omalu and Kamehameha Schools Children’s Chorus. The genre was probably kids pop because it came from a kids tv series Lilo and Stitch. Reflecting on the details my song says about surfing and its place in society as surfing being a good time, and nothing standing in the way of surfers having fun.

  9. Part one: My chosen song is Surfin USA by the Beach Boys. This song is about people packing up from their regular life and living the sweet life of surfing all summer long. The Beach Boys sing about many of the popular surf spots across the USA and how surfing as a whole has become so popular that most of America is now into dedicating most of their summer to it. They give scenarios of different people from different walks of life all to show how appealing surfing is to the mass majority and how diverse the community could be.

    Part two: This song connects to our coursework because it shows exactly how America mainstreamed surfing by taking the culture of others during colonialism while also forcing are own upon them. It shows just how blindly bliss we are when it comes to surfing and how we don’t care about its backstory because too many Americans we are the owners of surf when that is just not the case. It also depicts surfing as an activity for the soul and is marketed as such and might lend a hand in why this song has become so popular.

    Part Three: This song appeals to white America more specifically young white teens. In this song they sing “Tell the teacher we’re surfin'” which appeals to the rebellious youth and I believe it is put in the song as marketing because the whole song is tailored to appeal to this notion of freedom and living life to the fullest. Most of the youth have nothing but time on their hands and can relate to such music.

  10. The song I chose was Surfin’ USA by The Beach Boys which covers a very interesting thought that I had not yet considered. The Beach Boys talk about how if everyone had access to the beach everybody would be surfing. Surfing is already a huge sport in America meanwhile most of the country is not within a close distance to the beach. Many people who live in middle America would have to make a trip to the beach and there is a small percentage of people that could travel enough to really fall in love with surfing.
    2. I believe this connects to what we have learned because as popular as surfing is, it of course has never been as popular as regular sports like baseball or football. As this song is saying, if everyone lived on the coast there would be a much greater percentage of kids who started surfing at a young age and fell in love with it over traditional sports
    3. The main purpose of the song seemed to be that they think if everybody lived near the coast they’d be walking around in sandals with blonde hair and bathing suits like surfers that live on the coast do.

  11. Part One: I chose to do the song “Kokomo” by the Beach Boys. This song is one of the catchiest songs every written. The song is about a guy telling his girl all of the places he wants to take her. The locations in the song are all places that are known for having perfect beaches, and clear water. They got there fast and then they took it slow.
    Part 2: The song goes back to when we talked about gender roles earlier in the semester. The guy in the song is trying so hard to pick up this girl by telling her all of the cool places they can go. The song talks about bodies in the sand, and a tropical drink in your hand.
    Part 3: The song is just a giant pick up line. He tells his girl all of the places that they can go. He describes what they are going to do once they get there. The song has a very care free and tropical vibe to it. The song highlights everything that people love about being on an island.

  12. 1) The song I chose is “Beach Rats”, by The Growlers. This song is about a group of friends who grew up by the beach and would spend all their time at the beach surfing and just enjoying life. They would rather be locked on a beach then anywhere else in life.

    2) The song talks about many of the social norms that surfers are considered to have. One of the lines in the songs is “Beach rats, reckless days, foul-mouthed salty kids. All day healed by the sun and wrapped up in the ocean’s lips”. This line is specifically talking about how surfers are foul mouthed kids who are only happy when in the ocean playing in the waves.

    3) The theme of this song is to show how life is like when your a surfer. People consider you a beach rat when you are a person who is covered in sand and also smells like the salt water. These beach rats also are foul mouthed individuals who aren’t worried about life they just care about riding tasty waves and being by the ocean.

  13. Part One –
    Breakdown by Jack Johnson is about wanting to slow down life and enjoy in the moment. He talks about trying to gain control and making your wishes realistic. This can be surf-related because surf culture can be about living in the moment and not being caught up in the hustle & bustle of life.

    Part Two – Synthesis:
    Jack Johnson wanting people to connect to themselves and live in the moment can be connected socially and politically to the surfing world. In the song breakdown, he is trying to encourage people to live in the moment and chase after their dreams. This is everything surfing has ever been. Surfers live in the moment and encourage others to do the same. Political wise, living in the moment can be seen as going against the “American Dream” This is a dream that surfers are often seen rebelling against and making their own social norms.

    Part Three – Interpretation:
    In the song breakdown, Jack Johnson sings about the troubles of our modern world and the population’s constant need to keep busy. He tries to explain that you shouldn’t get caught up in moving so fast and instead take life one moment at a time and appreciate what it has to offer. He uses many metaphors such as “Time is just a melody” meaning time will keep on going and you can either race until it is over or enjoy it while it’s happening. He also repeatedly says “I need this old train to breakdown” which I believe could be him referring to his need for life to come to a stop because it is moving too fast. The train being his life and the breakdown is his need for it to stop.

  14. 1. The song I chose for this assignment was Upside Down by Jack Johnson. Watching the music video we see curious George so we know the song is based on the cartoon character. The lyrics, “As my mind begins to spread its wings there’s no stopping curiosity” and “Who’s to say I can’t try everything, While I can try”, show that this song is about curious George learning new things by exploring it and going adventuring. In the music video we see both Jack Johnson and an animated curious George in the Jungle and in the ocean swimming. Lastly, the line in the song “I want to turn the whole thing upside down”, shows why curious George is exploring things.
    2.The song is connected to the modern surfing community that is very environmentally conscious and we can see this through the lyrics, “We’ll sing and dance to mother nature’s songs”. Jack Johnson is celebrating the environment with these lyrics.
    3. This song is really all about living freely, exploring the world, discovering new things, and taking life one day at a time. The lyrics, “I want to turn the whole thing upside down could mean turning life or society upside down and going your own path in life. The lyrics, “I’ll find things they say just can’t be found”, correlate to living free and exploring the world on your own and finding new things. The lyrics, “This world keeps spinning and with each new day I can feel a change in everything”, is similar to how life is going to cause things to happen but you have to believe that every day is a new day and you make what you want of it. Lastly, this song is about having a positive outlook on life and spreading happiness and love everywhere you go and we see this with the lyrics, “I’ll share this love I find with everyone”.

  15. Part One- The song I chose was Surfers Blues by The Journeymen. The song is mainly an instrumental with very few lyrics which makes telling a story about it difficult. I feel if I chose another song I would be lying about my favorite surf music. The song starts off with an intense rock vibe in essence to get the listeners “pumped up” then it becomes more relaxed and maintains a single flow for a period. With no lyrics, I still feel the song was made for a certain reason which would be for surfers to listen to when they are going to surf. I have a tendency to like more simple creations with a true purpose behind it and this song falls into that category.
    Part Two- If I had to make a connection from my song to class material I would say the song relates to the intensity aspect as well as the calm inspiring aspects of surfing. We have learned that surfing has much more than just hopping on a board in the water behind it, with that being the case we learned how intense the sport really is. With the song starting intense it can relate to that aspect. Once the instrumental continues it reaches a more settled or come point. We have learned in class that many use the sport of surfing to relax and pass time so the song in a sense can represent that aspect of surfing as well.
    Part Three- With the creators of the song named The Journeymen, I learned they were a trio that made music during the sixties and after hearing Surfers Blues it made me think as if I were in their shoes. It made me interpret how they may have viewed surfing during that time period and how different the sport was viewed during that time period. I feel the song being the way it is was made in that particular way because it is how they felt a surf song would represent surfing during the sixties.

  16. Kokomo by The Beach Boys
    Part I: Kokomo is more about the surfing aesthetic more than surfing itself. It’s basically about a guy telling a girl all the places he wants to take her and they all are tropical places like Aruba, Jamaica, and Bermuda just to name a few… because there’s a lot. He goes over all the things you can do in these tropical places like drinking cocktails on moonlit nights.
    Part II: If you look into the lyrics I guess you can see a bit of sexism at work. This guy is trying to woo this girl solely by telling her all the tropical places he would bring her. The connections the song makes is that not only that this girl is impressed by the places that the guy would bring her but also how these are all places I would assume we would all want to go to.
    Part III: The song is basically just a guy trying to impress a girl by telling her all the places he would want to bring her and all the fun, tropical things that they could do there. The song does not really have any underlying theme other than trying to seduce this girl with a tropical vacation with cocktails included. On top of the lyrics the song itself sounds like it would be playing at a beach bar at any of the various named locations and how just about anyone would take up this guy in this vacation.

  17. Part one- Summary
    Banana Pancakes by Jack Johnson is about Jack and his girlfriend who have been really busy and he misses her so he convinces her to stay home and not answer the phone and he will make her banana pancakes like he would do on the weekend to make the day feel like it really is a weekend. This can be surf related because it represents peace, love, happiness, and relaxing.
    Part 2- Synthesis
    Jack Johnson wants people to relax and take time to themselves. Also, it can be about not taking the little things for granted and to appreciate the simpler things. This song is about not getting out of bed and sleeping in and not answering the phone or the alarm clock. It’s about him lying around with the girl he loves, being lazy, baking banana pancakes. Surfing is about connecting with nature and appreciating the beauty around you. Also, the simplicity of it- Just the surfer and the ocean. That’s all one needs to make them happy. Surfing is supposed to be relaxing and an escape from the world.
    Part 3- Interpretation
    In the song breakdown, Jack Johnson sings about having to leave the person you can’t live without for work every morning is part of the world, like rain, but what life should be is as easy as staying in and making banana pancakes. What I interpreted is that sometimes we need to take a step back and just relax. The world can be chaotic and we get so caught up in our everyday lives but sometimes it’s okay to just take a deep breath and focus on yourself and do what you want for a day. Also, I took away from this song that it’s important to make the time to spend with the one you love because especially today, it’s difficult to find the time.

  18. Part One:
    “Surfin’ USA” is the song I decided to pick, because it is so original and well known. The lyrics and what the song is about are also pretty straightforward. It talks about going surfing all the time, and talks about all the sandal wearing blonde haired people heading to the beach in california at first to surf. Then going all over California, New York and even Australia is mentioned in the song early on. It is basically a song about traveling, relaxing and waiting for that perfect time of the year to surf.

    Part Two:
    This song directly relates to some of our main ideas in class. It basically encapsulates the carefree surfer that loves to travel and hit the beach. It can also be related to the soul surfer ideal, in which people will travel all around to surf the best waves and truly enjoy themselves while doing it. Also it points out some common beach stereotypes, like the messy blonde haired surfer and people wearing baggies and Huarachi sandals.

    Part Three:
    The meaning of this song can be interpreted in a few different ways. The first interpretation I got from it being: if everyone had an ocean nearby, then everyone would surf because it is such a fun activity that people wouldn’t be able to pass up. This is a pretty strong statement if you think about it. Saying that surfing would basically be the center of attention in the world at that point. The other interpretation I got from it being: This is basically the anthem for soul surfers, it talks about all the ideals a soul surfer would have, like traveling to all the amazing surf spots (or as the songs says it: “Surfaris”) that are mentioned in the song, and waiting for that perfect time to surf. Also the lyric “ tell the teacher we’re surfin’” I interpreted as surfers disregarding school so that they can go and surf the world. Overall, the Beach boys were a hugely popular band that popularized surf music in the 60’s and 70’s. They are one of the faces of surf music even still, and this song pretty much helped kick off the surfing ideals to the greater population. Surfin’ USA is still remembered and played even decades later and that’s a very hard thing to do and an even greater accomplishment. The song basically solidified surfing as a key part of beach culture, and encourages everyone to get out and just surf the world.

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