I’m a huge fan of surf instrumentals. But there are many great instrumental songs that inaccurately get lumped into the surf category either due to the prominence of the electric guitar or the artist who recorded the song is considered a surf band. But rock n’ roll instrumentals predated surf music by several years. Case in point – The Ventures song “The Fourth Dimension”, a tasty gem tucked away on side two of the original Dolton record label release of The Ventures in Space album. (“The Fourth Dimension” was criminally omitted from the 1978 Pickwick label re-release of the album). Released in January 1964, almost four years after The Ventures originally charted with their signature hit “Walk Don’t Run”, The Ventures in Space album is considered by many fans to be their best album. Aided by pedal steel session play Red Rhodes (who also lent his talents to recordings by The Monkees, The Byrds and The Beach Boys), The Ventures in Space used experimental sci-fi arrangements and early psychedelic sounds that pushed the band beyond its traditional surf style.
After The Fourth Dimension grabbed my attention as one of the stand out tracks, a quick YouTube search revealed that “The Fourth Dimension” was actually a song called “Werewolf” that was recorded by Seattle’s The Frantics in 1959. Formed in 1957, The Frantics were a clean cut teen instrumental band that included a saxophone and organ player. The Frantics released several singles on Seattle’s Dotlon record label but never released a full album. “Werewolf” was originally released with a spoken word introduction about a werewolf and included screams and howling sounds. Within weeks of its release, the radio industry payola scandal erupted and “Werewolf” was pulled from the shelves; stripped of the spoken word intro, howls and screams; and re-released as “No Werewolf.” It hit number 83 on the Billboard charts in February 1960. Aside from handing The Ventures a great tune to record, The Frantics sealed their fate in music history by providing the musical backing tracks to Bobby Darin’s hit “Dream Lover.”
So the next time you come across a great song, take a peek behind the curtain – it may have a history of its own. “The Fourth Dimension” was “Werewolf” before it became “No Werewolf”, and “Werewolf” was great instro before it was called surf. Here are both versions of the song; dig in.