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Sunday, February 10, 2013

GEP Best of...: Bring Me The Head of the Surfing Bird

One of the things I love doing on Giant Electric Penguin is shitting on stuff people love, and on August 23, 2011, I came down pretty hard on The Trashmen's "Surfin' Bird."  Over five-hundred people read (i.e. accidentally stumbled upon) the post, but nobody commented, which leads me to believe that I changed, at least, five-hundred minds that warm August day.  I've re-read the post.  I stand by every single word.  --matt.

On Sunday, I published the third installment of GEP's special summer feature Summer Jam...Or Is It?, in which we present three or four songs and decide based on subject matter and, often, location of music video shoot, whether or not said song is appropriate for summer time listening. The songs deemed worthy of the coveted "Summer Jam" status have been approved by our crack squad of musicologists (or probably just me, Matt) to be played at maximum volume at beach parties, backyard barbecues, and on road trips all summer long. It is understood that at the conclusion of Summer, these songs are to be packed away and forgotten about for the next eight months until summer rears it's sweaty, sunscreen-coated head again next year. That is understood, right?

Sunday's installment feature a collection of surfing-themed songs. The decision to make The Beach Boys' "Surfin' USA" a GEP-approved summer jam was a no brainer, as were our decisions to induct both Weezer and The Drums into our growing summer canon. The final song on our list however, The Trashmen's stunningly inept, mind-numbingly insipid Rivingtons'
mash-up "Surfin' Bird" was not granted summer jam status, in fact, I came down on it pretty hard, going as far to question whether or not it actually counted as music at all.

I wasn't content to merely air my disgust on this blog. I took my hatred of "Surfin' Bird" to my personal Facebook page. Friends, family, people I've met exactly once, people I haven't seen in years and don't care to see ever again, people I don't particularly like, etc. needed to know how I felt about the song. And so I made this simple missive my status update: "'Surfin' Bird' by the Trashmen is probably the worst song ever written, provided it was actually written down at all." "Take that, you dumb surfing bird," I thought.

It did not take long for my peers to respond. "I am now going to de-friend you. BLASPHEMY!" wrote one young man. "Dislike!" another wayward soul commented. Surprised, I posted a follow-up question: "Honest question: Who is this song for? My assumption is people who hate music. I'm thinking though, based on your reaction, that you both like music and enjoy this particularly song. So, please, tell me why."

Rather than a straightforward answer, I received this:

I can only assume that this means that certain people enjoy "Surfin' Bird" because it was prominently featured in a Family Guy bit. But is it "Surfin' Bird" they enjoy or is it Family Guy? And look at the clip again, I mean, if you really need to, it is painfully unfunny. Family Guy isn't celebrating The Trashmen's one and only hit, but rather pointing out how incessantly irritating it is. Stewie doesn't throw up his hands and sing along. He shoves a fucking revolver in his mouth. So not even your friends over at Family Guy Inc. like "Surfin' Bird." They just thought it would be funny to make Peter Griffin sing it. It isn't, but there you go.

Then again, I'm not sure this is the real reason people like "Surfin' Bird." That would be illogical. Why would you like something just because something else you like referenced it? If you like something, it would stand to reason that there is something likable about said something. As far as I can tell there isn't one likable thing about "Surfin' Bird." Here's the song if you haven't yet experienced it:

I ask again, what is good about this? The vocals? The lyrics? It sounds like a mental patient smoked a carton of cigarettes, skipped his night time meds, and recorded himself screaming about birds while a shitty garage surf band played along. It's catchy, sure, but it's catchy like AIDS is catchy.

Perhaps it is a nostalgia thing. I remember very clearly my dad playing this song for me on his old record player when I was a little kid. It was the weirdest thing I'd ever heard. I couldn't believe songs like it actually existed. It was strange and funny, and I thought it was great. Then he played "Stairway to Heaven" for me. Then he introduced me to The Beatles, The Mamas and The Papas, and Chet Atkins. After that, how could I ever take "Surfin' Bird" seriously again? These guys were making real, honest-to-goodness music. The Trashmen were blabbering nonsense words.

Another FB friend attempted to change my mind on "Surfin' Bird" by provided a link to Pee Wee Herman performing the song in some movie, and while it did make me giggle, it didn't change the fact that the song "Surfin' Bird" is utter crap.

Can any of you so-called "Surfin' Bird" fans explain to me why I'm wrong? Honestly, no one has answered my initial question. And the answer, "It's fun," doesn't count, because "Surfin' Bird" isn't fun. It's grating and it's awful.

But, hey, what do I know? I like this "song."

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