25 March 2014

Remembering The Trashmen

I've been helping several classmates as we prepare for a 50th-year high-school reunion.  As we discussed music, The Trashmen came up, because they were a local Minneapolis band that gained national prominence, largely because of their "Surfin' Bird" in 1963.

It's interesting that after the American Bandstand performance above, Steve Wahrer's initial comment to Dick Clark was "we - the four of us in the group - DID write the song."  That's a most unusual comment to utter after a performance, and likely reflects tensions that were already building because this song was quite blatantly a mashup of two songs by The Rivingtons - Papa Oom Mow Mow and The Bird's The Word ("following a threat from The Rivingtons' legal counsel, that group was subsequently credited as composers.")

Frankly, I never did like the song, but it had more energy than most of the crooning 45s of the era, and thus was popular for dances and parties.

Video via Boing Boing.


  1. Surfin' Bird was possibly the most Dadaist top ten hit of all time. Up until a few years ago they were still playing concerts, I saw them perform in 2002 and they absolutely tore it up—an all ages audience loved them.

  2. Obvious plagiarism is obvious...

  3. Another track of theirs which I recommend highly is 'Malaguena', which as I understand, was originally written for a Spanish opera around the turn of the century and subsequently ended up re-recorded in pop styles. It's a great piece of classic surf-rock and stands in stark contrast to the silliness of 'Surfin' Bird'.


  4. Heheh, there's an entire Family Guy episode about Peter's obsession with this song. It's a theme that pops up again in at least one other episode. This has made the song a joke punchline even among Millennials.

    1. "It has been used in filmmaking and television productions including, most notably, Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket; Vince Vaughn's "Fred Claus"; John Waters' Pink Flamingos; Lyndall Hobbs' Back to the Beach (where Pee-Wee Herman sang it); and the soundtrack to the video game Battlefield Vietnam.

      More recently, the song was the subject of the Family Guy episode I Dream of Jesus, launching the song to No. 8 on the iTunes Top 10 Rock songs chart and No. 50 on the UK Singles Chart in 2009." (Wikipedia)


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