Surfin' Bird

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"Surfin' Bird"
Surfin' Bird.jpg
Cover art for the 7-inch single "Surfin' Bird"
Single by The Trashmen
from the album Surfin' Bird
B-side "King of the Surf"
Released November 13, 1963 (1963-11-13)
Format 7"
Recorded 1963
Genre Proto-punk
Length 2:20
Label Garrett
Songwriter(s)
  • Al Frazier
  • Carl White, Sonny Harris
  • Turner Wilson Jr.
Producer(s) Jack Bates
The Trashmen singles chronology
"Surfin' Bird"
(1963)
"Bird Dance Beat"
(1964)
"Surfin' Bird"
(1963)
"Bird Dance Beat"
(1964)

"Surfin' Bird" is a song performed by American surf rock band The Trashmen, and it is also the name of the album that featured this hit single.

The song was released in 1963 and reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100.[1] It is a combination of two R&B hits by The Rivingtons: "Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow" and "The Bird's the Word".[2]

History[edit]

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.[2] 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.[2] 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.[2] 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.[2] 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[2] before going on to national success, reaching No. 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.[3]

Album track listing[edit]

Side 1[edit]

  1. "Surfin' Bird" (Al Frazier / Sonny Harris / Carl White / Turner Wilson) – 2:23
  2. "King of the Surf" (Larry LaPole) – 2:30
  3. "Henrietta" (Jimmy Dee / Larry Hitzfeld) – 2:35
  4. "Miserlou" (Milton Leeds / Nicholas Roubanis / Bob Russell / Fred Wise) – 2:08
  5. "Malagueña" (Ernesto Lecuona) – 2:35
  6. "It's So Easy" (Buddy Holly / Norman Petty) – 2:06

Side 2[edit]

  1. "Tube City" (Steve Wahrer) – 3:23
  2. "My Woodie" (Larry LaPole) – 1:55
  3. "Bird Bath" (Dan Darnold / Dal Winslow) – 2:37
  4. "Kuk" (Bob Demmon / Rich Fifield / Jim Gallagher / Dennis Lindsey) – 2:05
  5. "Money (That's What I Want)" (Janie Bradford / Berry Gordy, Jr.) – 3:12
  6. "Sleeper" (Larry LaPole) – 2:33

Bonus tracks (CD)[edit]

  1. "Surfin' Bird" [demo version]
  2. "Bird Dance Beat" [demo version]
  3. "Walkin' My Baby" (L Mathis / M Mathis)
  4. "Dancin' with Santa" (L LaPole)

Chart performance[edit]

Covers[edit]

Media portrayal[edit]

Pink Flamingos[edit]

A man lip-synchs his anus to the tune of this song in one scene of John Waters's 1972 exploitation comedy.

Full Metal Jacket[edit]

In the second half of 1987 Stanley Kubrick film Full Metal Jacket, when a journalist news team records and interviews the platoon sent to Phu Bai, "Surfin' Bird" can be heard playing on both the soundtrack and in the background on a radio.[11]

Family Guy[edit]

The song is also featured in the "I Dream of Jesus" Family Guy episode, in which Peter Griffin overhears the song at a diner. He proceeds to annoy his family by playing the song virtually nonstop for the rest of the episode. It has since become a running gag on the show. In a subsequent episode it is revealed that Peter served as the original inspiration for the song, having used Stewie's time machine to travel into the past where he sang it for the Trashmen.[citation needed]

The Big Year[edit]

In the movie The Big Year, Jack Black's character Brad Harris has "Surfin' Bird" as his cellphone ringtone.

Cultural appearances[edit]

Major League Baseball[edit]

The Trashmen's tune was frequently played on Detroit radio and TV stations over the summer of 1976 during segments featuring the Tigers' 21-year old rookie sensation Mark Fidrych[12]. Fidrych was nicknamed "The Bird" because of his supposed resemblance to Sesame Street's Big Bird character, and because of his cartoonish antics on the mound, which included talking to the ball between pitches. Fidrych was named American League Rookie of the Year in 1976, and finished second in the voting for the American League Cy Young Award.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b [1] Archived August 27, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "A whole new generation is ‘hearing the word’". Herald-journal.com. Retrieved 2014-08-08. 
  3. ^ "THE TRASHMEN". Retrieved 29 April 2017. 
  4. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 1/18/64". 19 July 2014. 
  5. ^ "ChartArchive - The Chart Archive". Chartstats.com. Retrieved 2014-08-08. 
  6. ^ "Archive Chart: 2010-12-25" UK Singles Chart.
  7. ^ a b "Top 100 Hits of 1964/Top 100 Songs of 1964". Musicoutfitters.com. Retrieved 2016-09-27. 
  8. ^ Porter, Dick (January 12, 2015). Journey to the Centre Of The Cramps. Music Sales Limited. p. 141. ISBN 9781783233885. 
  9. ^ Ramones (1977-11-04). "Ramones - Rocket to Russia". Store.ramones.com. Retrieved 2016-09-27. 
  10. ^ "CD Baby Artist Login | CD Baby Members Dashboard". Members.cdbaby.com. Retrieved 2016-09-27. 
  11. ^ "Full Metal Jacket - Surfin Bird Part". YouTube. 2011-01-14. Retrieved 2016-09-27. 
  12. ^ Steve Kornacki (2009-04-11). "Mark 'The Bird' Fidrych owned summer of 1976". mlive.com. 

External links[edit]