We at the Weekly we saddened last week to hear of the passing of guitarist Brian Carman of The Chantays at age 69. With surf music capturing some of the most innovative guitar playing of its era, Carman's work on the iconic single "Pipeline" remains one of the most instantly identifiable works in the genre. Formed in high school, The Chantays' work always carried that galvanizing youthful energy that not only made surf rock such a hyperkinetic movement of pre-British Invasion rock music, but perfectly preserved the group's style, immortalizing the pulse-pounding and irresistibly emotive elements of their music as they continued to play together through today. In honor, here are five essential recordings of "Pipeline" that further cement why it's such an iconic record.
The Chantays – "Pipeline" (1963)
The original release of "Pipeline" stood out for it's distinct mixing, which became the standard for the surf rock genre. Referred to as being "upside down," the electric guitar, bass and piano were made the most audible while the lead guitar and drums were buried in the back of the mix.
The Chantays – "Pipeline" on The Lawrence Welk Show (1963)
One of the very few, if only, rock group chosen to play The Lawrence Welk Show, The Chantays' performance is also one of the most memorable. From the charming introductions to the perfect mix of high school awkwardness and gleeful teenage excitement makes for just a wonderful moment of televised music. Welk reportedly continued to send the boys Christmas cards for the next five years.
The Ventures – "Pipeline" (1965)
This cover of "Pipeline" from The Ventures' live album was recording in Japan, and you can feel the already lightning fast song cracked to an even higher velocity when debuting in front of a raucous crowd. With the live element giving a different mix to the song, the haunting elements are less brooding and more ballistic. Hearing this this and the Chantays' versions back-to-back really show the range that different arrangements in the surf rock genre can have.
The Incredible Bongo Band – "Pipeline" (1974)
Here's a unique arrangement of "Pipeline," proving it's a song so strong that it's infectious even when heard in the exact opposite way of how it was intended. The Incredible Bongo Band's cover of the track 11 years after its original release is downright soothing. While the surf rock standard's largely about capturing that fun and excitement of being in a "Pipeline," Incredible Bongo Band's take makes for a different, but still pleasant, day at the beach.
Johnny Thunders – "Pipeline" (1978)
Perhaps the most famous cover of "Pipeline," Johnny Thunders had the benefit of 15 years of rock and roll evolution to play with the distortion and genuine guitar heaviness for his version. The recording had a brief resurgence in 2006 after playing over the credits of The Sopranos' episode "The Ride."