“Los Straitjackets have been good friends to our show for years and years – even from way back in New York – and they need our help!” –Conan O’Brien
Finding this song represents the end of a 15 year quest. Back in ’96 I was a big fan of Late Night with Conan when he was first starting to hit his stride. The show was known for showcasing new bands and one night, bleary-eyed in bed watching the show wrap up, I thought I heard this amazing hook coming out of my ’70s era 14″ Hitachi. Rubbing my eyes a bit to make sure I could see this band, there appeared four guys in “Lucha Libre” style wrestling masks. That easy backbeat from the drums and bass bolstering the beautiful lead guitar got stuck in my head after just one listen. Unfortunately when I woke up the next day, I couldn’t remember the band’s name or the song’s title, just that wonderful hook. These were the toddler days of the Internet, and all I had was 28.8kbps pipe to pull down my info, so looking them up there didn’t occur to me. Years later, that sound still stuck in my head I would do a search or two on a wrestling masked band but for some reason never found Los Straitjackets. But a few weeks ago, Conan twittered the tweet above about a benefit concert he and the Basic Cable Band were doing with the masked surf rockers and I finally tracked down my favorite instrumental track this side of “Let’s Go Away For a While”, “Pascifica”
Unless it’s background music for a movie, instrumentals need to hook deeper than a Rapala Skitter Prop. It’s harder to keep something in someone’s brain without lyrics to shape it. That’s why “Pascifica” is fascinating in the way that Fender Jaguar (or is it a Jazzmaster ?) just sets up shop to stay.
When I first heard the song 15 years ago, I had no idea that a genre called Surf Rock existed in the ’60s, much less the ’90s. Years later, when I discovered The Beach Boys, I figured out what an impact songs like “Wipeout”, and “Misirlou” had on the history of rock and of pop culture. The music evokes not only surf and sand, but surf and sand of the ’60s, most notably Southern California, but if you want a treat, check out the classic wave documentary film, Endless Summer that follows the surf all the way around the world. The subculture had its own lingo, “Honeys” and “Hurraches”, “Woodys” and Wahines, were all part of a unique Lexicon that stays alive today.
If you’re stuck in a cubicle, or just weary of being landlocked, any dose of the Los Straitjackets will do to get a glimpse of that carefree life of the surfer. I’m partial to my long lost and found friend “Pascifica” that I’ll be setting on repeat this summer with the sunroof open and hot summer breeze blasting in through the windows, even if I’m just cruising through an Indiana cornfield.
Note: Conan’s benefit concert was already held on June 7th for Straitjackets guitarist Danny Amis, suffering from bone marrow cancer, but you can get info on more tour dates and how to donate at the Straitjackets’ website.