A Critical Analysis of “Surf Music”

Education commentator John Taylor Gatto contends 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 I want you to complete this final Blogpost of the semester, which should (I hope) be both fun and thought-provoking. You are completing this assignment during our pop culture unit, and in some ways we have been gearing you up for this assignment all semester via our classic “Thursday Tunes.” For this Blogpost you will select a specific piece of “surf music” to examine and analyze — in other words, a surf-related song (and one that you will likely choose from our class material on 4/15). To mix it up a little bit and variously practice/apply your critical thinking skills, you will conduct a three-part analysis of your chosen song, as outlined below.

Part One – Summary: Listen to your chosen song several times, and take a look at the lyrics online (assuming there are lyrics). 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, basic 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 I 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, I 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: Most of us tend to think of music in terms of its entertainment value, but the fact is that music – especially music with lyrics – is emotionally riveting and deeply meaningful, much like literature. Hence, in this section, I 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?

15 thoughts on “A Critical Analysis of “Surf Music”

  1. “Sunsets for Somebody else” -Jack Johnson
    Part One-
    This song to me is about selling out and how some times you sell your soul to chase your dreams. Although this can be lost in the peaceful guitar chords and Johnson’s soothing sound, the true meaning can be found in listening closely to the lyrics. It is a story of working as hard as you can your whole life chasing your success and wealth, for it to all feel useless as you never stopped and enjoyed life. “You try to turn Away, but you know you’ve already lost,” to me really emphasizes that story. By saying you can try to change , but you can’t regain your youth, time, or energy. Therefore the knowledge you know posses is useless. He also starts and ends with “I know I’ve seen your face somewhere.” This is clear to say that this is a reality that you can observe in many people lives.

    Part Two-
    To me this song and what it is about directly relates to the opinion of the WSL sucking the soul out of the sport. The WSL is obviously chasing goals of putting surfing in a position to be a nationally recognized professional sport. Not that it isn’t already just not to the degree of a mainstream sport like football, basketball, or soccer. Though to look at this goal through the premise of Jack Johnsons song, what if you reach this goal but now your and old person who could have just spent your time surfing with your friends. As opposed to working yourself tirelessly for years just to make that goal a reality, in doing so wasting time spent seeing the world and enjoying yourself.

    Part Three-
    The name of the song in itself is a look into the message as in the song Johnson says “I know I’ve seen your face somewhere, Selling something, some big idea; I know I’ve seen that vacant stare, Selling sunsets for somebody else.” The way I interpret that is to say you keep working for other peoples joy, without out ever stopping and enjoying the sunset. Johnson also makes a continued reference to the prototypical dream sheep, like the counting type. In his metaphor the sheep turn against you and want more than before. The sheep “grow out their teeth,” are “biting at your thoughts,” and “need a little something more, than this?” This can be seen as dreams and ambitions, turned to greed and self-doubt. Eventually by the end of the song Johnson is asking what is keeping you here, “cause things can never stay the same,” now that you feel trapped in this unfortunate reality you created.

  2. 1. My song is called Runaway by Matt Kearney and I have known this song for a very long time. It is a song that is in the Soul Surfer soundtrack. Basically the song is about freedom. All the lyrics point towards the imagery of being on the road and living freely as there are phrases with the word “free” in them.

    2. This song relates to what we learned in class because the song represents freedom just how we learned that surfing is a form of freedom to people. The song has a relaxing feel to it and almost makes you think about the beach. The reason it makes you think about the beach is because of past surf music. It has similarities to original surf music by Dick Dale and others. Since many people view surfers as freelance people that are always on the road and always feel free, this song perfectly depicts those stereotypes.

    3. I chose this song not just for the great sound it gives off. The lyrics of the song fit very well with a surfing song. It states, “She wants to be free, like a runaway, ay ay ay; Trying to believe, gonna find a way, ay ay ay ay; We got just one life, tonight we’re running all the lights; Trying to break free, like a runaway ay ay ay ay ay; The road below our wheels, all that we fought to heal; You close your eyes and cry, dying for the right to feel; I hear it coming down, oh the sweetest sound” This shows the freedom of surfer always being on the road searching for the best waves.

  3. The song I chose to analyze is “My Waikiki Girl-by the Morgan Sisters”. This song demonstrates the classic and lovable Hawaiian tune. In the song the Morgan Sisters sing about the amazing attributes of a Waikiki girl, and the things that “they” do. In the first verse they describe the Waikiki girl out catching breakers in a storm. In the second verse they explain her doing the hula in the moonlight. At the end of each verse it has a repeating phrase “with a hibiscus in her hair”, relating to Hawaii’s origin. The song describes the beautiful things Waikiki girls bring to Hawaii. The Morgan sisters seem to tell this story from a boys eyes, ending the song on a significant verse swell as the repeating chorus. The final verse explains that “they” are getting married to the Waikiki girl and “she will be mine forever” “they ” say. The chorus is “My Waikiki girl, my Waikiki girl, I’ll always love you”, insisting Waikiki girls make you feel in love or some kind of emotional connection. This ties in with some of the key features of Hawaii that we talked about in the beginning of the year when talking about Honolulu. Such as the beautiful waves and paradise lifestyle of Hawaii. With this song being released in 1953, the rise of surfing and surf music, is has a very origin Hawaiian Jam to it. The song is dominated by the ukulele using a simple but catchy tempo. The song itself makes you feel as if you were in Hawaii when listening to it. Its soothing and relaxing just like the Hawaiian islands. This song gave me a really good idea of what its like being a Waikiki girl and I recommend it to anyone.

  4. 1. The song I chose for this was Surfin’ USA by the Beach Boys. This song is about if the entire country was one big ocean, we’d all be surfing everyday. It talks about all the different places across the country that would popular surf spots. It also talks about what the surfers would look like and act like if everyone was a surfer. We’d all be excited for June, we’d all have blonde wavy hair, and we’d all be waxing our boards up for surfing.
    2. This song relates to a topic we have covered in that the song talks about what kinds of people surfers are. It backs up the stereotype that surfers are just dumb blonde guys who love the ocean. The one line of telling the teachers we’d all be surfing backs this idea up. It implies that surfers don’t care about school, all they care about is the sport of surfing. It also talks about how these people are soul surfers essentially, as all they love to do is surf.
    3. I think this song means that if we all had access to the ocean, we’d all basically be soul surfers. Surfing wouldn’t be exclusive to just some people who live in certain areas, but instead it would be open to everyone. I think that’s what the song is basically about, bringing everyone together for the sport of surfing.

  5. 1. The song i chose was “stoked” by the beach boys. Their song really doesn’t hold any lyrical value. Instead, their song has an emphasis on the musical values of surfing. The song truly embraces surfing as a musical component. The song does shout “stoke” a few times which is in direct correlation to surfing. “Stoke” is probably one of the most empowering terms you will hear in surf culture. Their song is aimed at describing surfing as a mellow, groovy kind of feeling and their music is a sure sign of that.

    2. To connect what we’ve learned in class to my chosen song, I can simply say that the overall description of surfing through the centuries is truly shown thorough this song. When Hawaii was being advertised worldwide, the chosen theme for it was surfing and the “stoke.” People advertised Hawaii as a tropical paradise that is shown through hours spent on the beach and in the waves. My chosen song gives us a feeling of tropical paradise with the beat and the music.

    3. This section in particular is going to be super hard with the song I chose. The song I chose focuses more on a musical theme than a lyrical theme. However, the artists yelling “stoke” throughout the song does show us that they did want to take the theme of surfing and add it to their song. The “stoke” is the pure adrenaline that surfers feel when they hit the waves. Musically speaking, I think the goal for my song is to riddle listeners with the way surfing should make you feel. The beach boys are already named based on a surfing theme, it’s only right if the music to their songs match their title and the way the artists act

  6. The song I chose is “Surfer Girl” by The Beach Boys. The song basically tells the story about a guy falling in love with a surfer girl who he often saw at the beach. The song uses a classic surf music sounding guitar and tempo. Brian Wilson originally wrote the song in 1963 at a time where the famous TV series, Gidget was airing and very popular. The lyrics are very closely aligned to the TV show about a young surfer girl who the singer falls in love with. In class we learned about Gidget and other popular surf shows/movies that would grow the popularity of surfing massively. The song is so closely aligned to the show Gidget that many people still do not know whether the writer made it based off the show, or his girlfriend at the time (who didn’t surf at all). The song was released at a time when surfing and Hollywood were so closely intertwined that even music stars such as Elvis would feature in the surf shows and produce surf music. In class, we learned how the Beach Boys, who debuted the song, were one of the key musical groups that helped to spread the popularity of surfing and the surf culture in the US in the 1960’s. They capitalized the popularity of surfing in Hollywood at the time and made music that was similar to what people were watching and dreaming of becoming. Many guys were dreaming of finding the young surfer girl to fall for and the song I chose plays into that. The usage of the lyrics “Little surfer girl” caused listeners at the time to think of Gidget and how the boys woo’ed over her. Also, one lyric states, “In my Woody I would take you everywhere I go” which refers to the wood paneled van which is famous among surfers for carrying boards to the beach. The wood paneled van was one of the most famous cars among surfers at the time the song was released.

  7. The Beach Boys – “Surfin’ U.S.A.”
    Part One: This song written by The Beach Boys is about how there’s lots of people that love to surf, and would be an even greater number if there were more oceans in the world. In the song, it lists a lot of good places all over the United States that are perfect for riding the waves and try to convince other people to join in the fun as well, especially during the summer.

    Part Two: In class, we covered lots of locations that people loved to surf at for a variety of reasons whether it’s the localism in your area, best stoke experience, challenging waves, and so much more. The song mentions a few places in California, New York, Hawaii, and more which we had learned to be some of the top areas people travel far to surf at. It seems like they also had wanted to search all over for the perfect waves, which is also similar to the idea of the pop culture movie, The Endless Summer.

    Part Three: This song is so upbeat and fun that it almost feels required to get up and go to the beach and surf whether you know how to or not. It brings the trend of surf music along every coast and shows how carefree this lifestyle can be. However, I recently found out that that it’s credited to Chuck Berry from his song “Sweet Little Sixteen” that I just listened to for the first time and realized how similar the two of them are. The Beach Boys eventually gave Berry credit for the song but didn’t get his permission in the beginning which almost led to a lawsuit. The Beach Boys have a plethora of songs that show how great and fun the beach and surfing can be with lots of music that I recommend listening to with a lot from the 1950s era. You can even visit some of the great surf locations that are listed throughout the song as well.

  8. 1) The song that I chose for the surf music blog post is Surfin by The Beach Boys. This song is about surfing is the only thing for them, it’s about their way of life from California. Check the waves frequently throughout the day to see if you should surf. No matter when, day or night, surfing is the right time to catch a wave.

    2) Some connections between surfing and its music discuss the sport of surfing. Getting that stoke of when they are surfing the wave. Although the “Beach Boys” did not surf, their music content fully reflects this. Many artists at the time produced surf music but the artist themselves never surfed. The music created was supposed to make the surfer get that feeling of stoke as if they were on the wave. This sound of relaxation will help the surfing economy when it comes to building and purchasing surfboards. Many people wanted to try out for themselves and to get that feeling of being stoked while surfing. The surf films also helped with the boost of surf music. At the time many surf movies were out such as the popular Endless Summer, Blue Hawaii, and Beach Blanket Bingo. Though only one of these movies was really focused on surfing the Endless Summer truly showed the beauty of surfing in its purest form.

    3) Similar to the first paragraph. Since they are from California surfing is something that is more than just a hobby, it’s a lifestyle. Every day, they go and check on the waves and when the time is right, they grab their board and go surfing. At the end of the night when it’s time to go it’s okay because the next day they are going to surf the following day. In this song their keys, words that they repeat are the action of surfing telling those who are listening to the song to go out and surf with them. This is also ironic because The Beach Boys did not surf. Their song likely previously mentioned brings that feeling of stoke when surfing and the idea of getting to surf each and every day.

  9. Part 1 When I heard about this assignment I knew right away that I would be looking at the band Sublime for song to pick. After quickly going through their music I knew the song “Paddle Out” would be perfect for this assignment. Sublime as whole is a very surf culture related band as they came out of Long Beach California with a new reggae- punk rock type of songs. Their song “Paddle Out” is no exception to this either. The song is fast paced that talks about Bradley being in his band and being able to go around the country to sing while being at the best surf spots. He talks about spots like Big Steamer Lane and how when the waves are pumping not many people can handle it. He also talks about how he is a surfer boy and loves the enjoyment of it

    Part Two This song and what lyrics talk about connect to the arguement about soul surfer vs competition surfing. Bradley is clearly a soul surfer as he is going around just surfing the best spots that are at disposal and is doing it for the pure enjoyment of it. He embodies the surf culture in his laid back manner and isn’t into surfing for the money or anything else. Sublime music as a whole is apart of surf culture as people who surf and are by the beach love their music including myself. There are many times where you can be walking around the beach and hear them playing over a speaker.

    Part Three Bradley admits that he isn’t the best surfer at the start when he says that “he’s not trying to boast or anything” followed by “just trying to show you my favorite spots”. This goes along with the soul surfer theme that sublime follows in this song. He then says his favorite spots like Stockton Ave, Swift Street, John Street, Mitchell’s cove, or Steamer Lane. Overall this song is different and interesting how Bradley was able to make a punk rock song about something relaxing and fun like surfing and the fun part of trying to find the best spots you can.

  10. 1.) The song I choose was Surfin’ U.S.A by The Beach Boys. This song was huge in the 60s and its still relevant in todays society. When you think about surfing music you instantly think of The Beach Boys. In the song The Beach Boys are suggesting that if everyone lived on the beachfront, they would defiantly have the notion to go surfing in their backyard. They go on to name huge surfing spots of the time like Ventura County Line, Santa Cruz, and Trestles to name a few. They also go on and talk about the excitement of planing out a surfing trip inside and outside of the USA.
    2.) This song really relates greatly with a lot of what we talked about in class this semester. The song gives you an idea of what goes on in a surfers mind and backs up the typical surfer stereotype. In the song they list many great surf spots that are still surfed by some of the best pros today. The line “Tell the teacher we’re surfin'” helps that stereotype of your average surfer or grom. They just don’t care about much besides surfing. The ecitement they talk about is still in the sport today and its crazy to see nothing has really changed much.
    3.) Surfin’ U.S.A’s meaning is to show how exciting surfing truly is and that if everyone took part in it they would truly appreciate it. Its a very fun and uplifting song that makes you want to be on a beach surfing. “If everybody had an ocean Across the U.S.A Then everybody’d be surfin'” is a huge lyric from the song because the group is trying to say everyone should get to experience the art of surfing. I really think this song was made to show the groups love for surfing.

  11. Song- “Surfin USA” The Beach Boys
    Part One- This song represents how people that visit the shore often or happen to live there have a connection to the beach. The opening line represents this by saying “If everybody had an ocean across the USA, then everybody would be surfing like Californi-A” It really represents their love for the beach and growing up along the beach and surfing throughout the summer.
    Part Two- To connect this to what we have learned in class this song and the Beach Boys represented surfing becoming more mainstream and popular. Especially in California during the 60s.
    Part Three- I wouldn’t say that this song has too much underlying meaning, the title sums up the overall message. I believe that the creation of this song meant to represent the feeling you get when your out surfing and enjoying the beach. When you listen to this song you don’t care about your 9-5 or all the homework you have to do, you just worry about finding and catching the next wave.

  12. 1. The song I chose is Surfin’ U.S.A. by The Beach Boys. This song is about getting away from school and work and everyone in the country anticipating summer and surfing. The song talks about if everyone had an ocean then everyone would be surfing all the time. It also talks about some of the most famous surfing spots like Waimea Bay and spots in LA.
    2. This song sounds like it is based around the stoke of surfing that many people today talk about. This connects all the way back to ancient Hawaiin stokes. It also captures many of the most famous beaches for surfing across the US which have been historically amazing spots where some of the best surfers have surfed. The song implies that everyone would be looking forward to surfing and summer as much as they do if everyone had beaches.
    3. The meaning of this song is to go out and surf on the beaches. Leave everyday stress behind like school and work and enjoy some surfing in many of the best surfing spots. It also idolizes surf culture and how the surfers look and act. It shows that surfing is fun, relaxing, and the thing that mostly everyone would want to do.

  13. The song I chose to analyze is Surfer girl by the Beach Boys.
    Part 1- This song seems to have lyrics repeated multiple times and constantly repeats the phrase, “do you love me, surfer girl”. After analyzing the lyrics I believe it’s about a boyfriend sitting on the beach watching his girlfriend or date surf and he’s hoping she loves him back. After hearing the lyrics, ‘we could hit the surf together, he’s hoping for him and her to have more of a relationship.
    Part 2- Connecting this song to what we’ve discussed in class, I think it does have connections to history. This song hints at the idea that only specific people hit the surf and one surfer girl is a sight to see and every guy would be after her. The beach boys aimed at the teen girls of the time not really much to the surfers.
    Part 3- I think this song has a significant place in time as it was written during the 90s when things were becoming more modern. I think the song represents how popular surfing was at the time. The beach boys got popular by making songs for teen girls who like surfers. I do believe that the beach boys may have inspired others to take up surfing, in order to attract the girls like they did. This song doesn’t seem to have a deeper meaning besides the fact that it’s about a ‘surfer girl’ that the songwriter is interested in and wants her to be his.

  14. Part 1
    The song I chose to write about is Surfin’ U.S.A. by the Beach boys. The song is about literally surfing in the USA and names plenty of beaches in California and Hawaii, and even added Manhattan in the lyrics as well. They add the basic characteristics of a surfer with ” Huarachi sandals too, A bushy bushy blond hairdo.
    ” which provides an image of what a lot of surfers looked like or wore in the US.
    Part 2
    We had talked a lot about what young surfers did in order to go out and surf to catch the best waves, and the song does in fact include an example of what kids would do, skip class. “Tell the teacher we’re surfin’,” means that the kids would leave class to surf so tell my teacher that I wont be there. We had also talked about the surf music’s relaxing and preppy vibes, and this song definitely fits that characteristic.
    Part 3
    I think the song I chose strongly represents how much surfing has grown in the US. Although it was mainly all of California, its a reminder that surfing has always been most popular on the west coast and Hawaii. The songs meaning is more about just having a blast and leaving all your stress behind to go surf with your friends on the most popular beaches.

  15. 1.) I picked Surfin’ U.S.A by The Beach Boys. This song had a huge impact many years ago and is still relative in society. Personally when I think of beach music I think of the Beach Boys. During there song The Beach Boys are suggesting that living by the beach and that lifestyle is what people look for and enjoy. They are able to bring us vivid details of that life.
    2.) This song deffenitley relates to class because it is reflecting on surfing and society. It talks about the effect surfing has on the youth and depicts what surfing is like for them. I enjoy the song because it depicts a relaxed and chill vibe and shows us why the surfer lifestyle is so diszeriable.
    3. The song Surfin’ U.S.A by The Beach Boys is all about meaning that the most important thing is having fun and trying to leaving all your stress in the past and to gust go surfing with your friends because you are teens and should be living your life to the full affect while you are still young.

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