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You're Playing It Wrong: The Surfari's "Wipe Out"

January 30, 2014
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THINK I’M JOKING? AS LONG AS WE’RE having some frivolous summer fun, I’d like to point out one detail in this surf guitar classic (and fledgling drummer’s rite-of-passage) that almost always gets overlooked. In fact, it’s easy to differentiate those who learned to play “Wipe Out” by listening to the Surfaris’ original 1963 recording from those who copped it via hand-me-down oral tradition by the way they play Jim Fuller’s single-note guitar figure from the moment it enters. The latter bunch will tend to play a constant stream of eighth-notes right from the get-go, but go back and have a listen to the original version and you’ll find that the first two bars feature Fuller playing quarter-notes on both downbeats. It’s as if Fuller was getting his bearings (or perhaps making a control knob adjustment?) before revving up into full gear. To set the record straight, Ex. 1 portrays this slight hesitation and the ensuing barrage of eighth-notes that Fuller plays throughout the rest of the song. Nitpicky? Sure it is, but that’s what we’re here for. Cowabunga!

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