Cover of the 1963 American single
|Single by The Trashmen|
|from the album Surfin' Bird|
|B-side||"King of the Surf"|
|Released||November 13, 1963|
|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".
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
- "Surfin' Bird" (Al Frazier / Sonny Harris / Carl White / Turner Wilson) - 2:23
- "King of the Surf" (Larry LaPole) - 2:30
- "Henrietta" (2:35)
- "Miserlou" (Milton Leeds / Nicholas Roubanis / Bob Russell / Fred Wise) - 2:08
- "Malagueña" (Ernesto Lecuona) - 2:35
- "It's So Easy" (Buddy Holly / Norman Petty) - 2:06
- "Tube City" (Steve Wahrer) - 3:23
- "My Woodie" (Larry LaPole) -1:55
- "Bird Bath" (Dan Darnold / Dal Winslow) - 2:37
- "Kuk" (Bob Demmon / Rich Fifield / Jim Gallagher / Dennis Lindsey) - 2:05
- "Money (That's What I Want)" (Janie Bradford / Berry Gordy, Jr.) - 3:12
- "Sleeper" (Larry LaPole) - 2:33
Bonus tracks (CD)
- "Surfin' Bird [Demo Version]"
- "Bird Dance Beat [Demo Version]"
- "Walkin' My Baby" (L Mathis / M Mathis)
- "Dancin' with Santa" (L LaPole)
Weekly singles charts
- "Surfin' Bird" was covered by the Cramps as 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. The Cramps often end their concerts with the song.
- Paul Reubens (as Pee-wee Herman) covered the song on the soundtrack of the film Back to the Beach.
- "Surfin' Bird" was covered by the Charly Lownoise & Mental Theo on the maxi single "The Bird" in 1993.
- Orbital sampled heavily from the original version on "Tension" from their 2001 album The Altogether.
- "Surfin' Bird" was covered by The Ramones on their Rocket To Russia album, released November 4, 1977.
- "Surfin' Bird" was covered by Sodom on their 2001 album M-16.
- "Surfin Bird" was covered by Phil Streva in 1989. Release on the EP Catahoula in 2010.
Full Metal Jacket
In the second half of 1987 Stanley Kubrick movie 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.
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 non stop for the rest of the episode. It has since become a running gag on the show.
The Big Year
-  Archived August 27, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.
- "A whole new generation is 'hearing the word'". Herald-journal.com. Retrieved 2014-08-08.
- "ChartArchive - The Chart Archive". Chartstats.com. Retrieved 2014-08-08.
- "Archive Chart: 2010-12-25" UK Singles Chart.
- Porter, Dick (January 12, 2015). Journey to the Centre Of The Cramps. Music Sales Limited. p. 141. ISBN 9781783233885.