1001 Songs Challenge #148: Surfin’ Bird (1963)
On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…
The Trashmen – Surfin’ Bird (1963)
We’re carrying on in the US for now, folks, and today we’re taking in a spot of the old surf rock with a band from Minneapolis in the state of Minnesota. The origins of this one are quite intricate so bear with me. In 1963 a doo-wop group, The Rivingtons, had two similar sounding hits with the names Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow and The Bird’s the Word. An up and coming group named The Trashmen, our guests today, heard another group performing The Bird’s the Word and added it to their set list. They also threw in the chorus from Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow without realising both were songs by The Rivingtons. They also added a lyric of their own and thus was born today’s featured song: Surfin’ Bird.
Fans of Family Guy may have seen their ears prick up at the mention of The Bird’s the Word. Yes, it is that one, the repetitive one which either entertains or annoys the listener. The Trashmen spend the first half of the song telling us that the bird is the word before the middle section briefly makes reference to the Surfin’ Bird of the title but the word “bird” sounds more like “bllrr”. The second half of the song is the Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow sung repeatedly before switching back to that “bird’s the word” accompaniment. A sort of rinse and repeat song really. What’s it all about? Other than the bird is the word, I am not sure.
Surfin’ Bird made me smile by evoking memories of Family Guy and Peter Griffin’s rendition. I did personally witness this being both a source of amusement but also derision for people I knew at this time. Surfin’ Bird was a big hit for The Trashmen but they clearly did not do their homework as it was credited to their vocalist, Steve Wahrer, until The Rivingtons stepped in and mentioned lawsuits and court cases. After that, the credit – correctly – went to them so chart success belonged to The Trashmen but the money went to The Rivingtons. This is a fun and catchy song but not one that troubles my Top 10 list thus far. Before I go, just in case you haven’t heard? The bird’s the word!
Favourite songs so far:
Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode (1958)
Ritchie Valens – La Bamba (1958)
Eddie Cochran – Summertime Blues (1958)
Peggy Lee – Fever (1958)
The Everly Brothers – All I Have to Do Is Dream (1958)
The Shirelles – Will You Love Me Tomorrow (1960)
Edith Piaf – Non, je ne regrette rien (1960)
Ben E. King – Stand By Me (1961)
Roy Orbison – In Dreams (1963)
The Ronettes – Be My Baby (1963)