Issued in 1964 by Vee-Jay Records, It’s Monster Surfing Time may appear to the sophisticated modern observer as an undisguised fusing of a trend and a gimmick. While it most assuredly fits that description, its instrumental surf bedrock has proven more than just a fad and likewise, the creature feature matinée gimmick has endured across generations. The Deadly Ones offer a fun taste of legitimate surf flavor, but their album signifies a whole lot more; its vinyl reissue is out on April 8 via the Concord Music Group.
Founded in 1953, Vee-Jay Records stands as one of the great labels in 20th century popular music’s pre-corporate era. Initially successful in the fields of doo-wop (The Spaniels, The Dells), R&B (The Impressions, Dee Clark), blues (John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, Memphis Slim) and gospel (The Staple Singers, The Swan Silvertones), the company also managed a small but worthy jazz line (Wayne Shorter, Wynton Kelly, Lee Morgan, Walter Perkins) and perhaps most famously had the foresight to be the first US home of The Beatles.
It’s well documented how the Fab Four helped to metamorphose rock ‘n’ roll and youth music in general into a more serious proposition, but the change didn’t occur overnight, and there is no better proof of its gradual transformation than It’s Monster Surfing Time. The disc positively basks in a lowbrow aura prompting visions of a cigar-chomping label-boss orchestrating an unabashedly mercantile concept through colorful language and a cloud of smoke, though I’ve discovered no evidence to actually support James Bracken or his wife Vivian Carter (the Vee to James’ Jay) fitting this salty descriptor.
Surf music naturally inspires thoughts of waves, wipeouts, beach parties, and couples doing the swim, but in its unadulterated instrumental form its range isn’t especially wide; in 1963 Vee-Jay issued Come Surf with Me by Aki Aleong & the Nobles, a fine if less than earth shattering attempt to hang ten on the style’s popularity, and it would seem that by the following year it was deemed necessary to give the template a considerable shaking up.