Cover of the 1995 re-issue of the album that featured the single
|Single by The Trashmen|
|from the album Surfin' Bird|
|B-side||"King of the Surf"|
|Released||November 13, 1963 (US)
February 20, 1964 (Canada)
|Genre||Surf rock, garage rock, protopunk|
|Label||Garrett (distributed by Soma), Apex (Canada)|
Turner Wilson Jr.
|The Trashmen singles chronology|
"Surfin' Bird" is a song performed by the American surf rock band The Trashmen, and it is also the name of the album that featured this hit single. It was released in 1963 and reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. It is a combination of two R&B hits by The Rivingtons: "Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow" and "The Bird's the Word", which was influenced by Red Prysock's "What's the word? Thunderbird!"
The Rivingtons followed up their 1962 Billboard Hot 100 hit "Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow" with the similar "The Bird's the Word" in 1963. The Trashmen had not heard this version but saw a band called The Sorensen Brothers playing it. They decided to play the song that night at their own gig. During this first performance, drummer and vocalist Steve Wahrer stopped playing and ad-libbed the "Surfin' Bird" middle section. Despite not knowing "The Bird's the Word" was a Rivingtons song, the similarity to "Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow" was obvious and The Trashmen added the chorus to the end of their new track.
A local disc jockey, Bill Diehl, was at the gig and convinced the band to record the track. It was recorded at Kay Bank Studios in Minneapolis. Diehl entered it into a local battle of the bands competition and it won. It was then sent to a battle of the bands competition in Chicago where it also won. This led to the group being signed to Garrett Records with the single being quickly released. It reportedly sold 30,000 copies in its first weekend before going on to national success, reaching #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Wahrer was originally credited as the song's writer, but that was changed to the Rivingtons (Al Frazier, Carl White, Sonny Harris, and Turner Wilson Jr.) after the group successfully sued The Trashmen for plagiarism. There is apparently no truth to the urban legend which circulated in the late 1960s that the song had been written by Leonard Bernstein to show his disdain for rock'n'roll by proving that any song could become a hit.
Album track listing
- "Tube City"
- "My Woodie"
- "Bird Bath"
- "Money (That's What I Want)"
Bonus tracks (CD)
- "Surfin' Bird [Demo Version]"
- "Bird Dance Beat [Demo Version]"
- "Walkin' My Baby"
- "Dancin' with Santa"
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100||4|
|UK Singles Chart||50|
|UK Singles (Official Charts Company)||3|
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (December 2014)|
- "Surfin' Bird" was instrumentally covered by The Centurions on their 1963 album Surfers' Pajama Party.
- "Surfin' Bird" was covered by the Ramones on their 1977 album Rocket to Russia.
- "Surfin' Bird" was covered by The Queers on their 1994 cover album of Ramones' album Rocket to Russia.
- "Surfin' Bird" was covered by Los Shain's Peruvian Band.
- "Surfin' Bird" was also covered by The Cramps on their 1978 debut single on Vengeance Records; it also appeared on their 1979 album Gravest Hits and on their 1983 compilation album Off the Bone.
- "Surfin' Bird" was covered by the Charly Lownoise & Mental Theo on the maxi single "The Bird" in 1993.
- Sodom covered the song on their 2001 album M-16.
- Paul Reubens (as Pee-wee Herman) covered the song on the soundtrack of the film Back to the Beach.
- Silverchair covered the song on their 1997 single The Door.
- Orbital sampled heavily from the original version on "Tension" from their 2001 album The Altogether.