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Merrell Fankhauser - Tiki Lounge Vol 1

  by Jamie Rowland

published: 30 / 11 / 2011

Merrell Fankhauser - Tiki Lounge Vol 1
Label: Gonzo Multimedia
Format: CD


Oddball budget-directed and appallingly-made compilation of 1950's and 1960's surf guitarist Merrell Fankhauser's American cable TV music show

Merrell Fankhauser is one of the innovators of the 1950s/60s surf guitar sound, following in the footsteps of Dick Dale (“The King of Surf Guitar”) and the Ventures. Fankhauser first made his mark, fittingly, in the Impacts, and would later go on to play in bands like Merrell and the Exiles, HMS Bounty and MU. His best known album is probably ‘Wipe Out’, which features a song of the same name (Fankhauser claims this was the basis of the hit of the same name by the Surfaris, but that is not a view held by everyone – particularly not the Surfaris) In the 1990s, Fankhauser began producing his own satellite television shows, such as ‘California Music’, which was a show about... well, guess. It apparently broadcast weekly to 15 million viewers, and included guests such as the Beach Boys, Mike Love, Ed Cassidy and Randy California of psychedelic prog rock band Spirit. The show ran from 1990 until 1994, and Merrell focused on his music and touring between then and 2001, when the TV bug bit him again. Originally broadcasting on his local San Luis Obispo, California TV station, ‘Tiki Lounge’ has since moved onto stations in Santa Barbara, Maui and Ann Arbor, Michigan, before decreasing back to just central California and Hawaii – where it can still be seen. Although now, with this new ‘Tiki Lounge’ DVD, it can also be seen in your very own home! ‘Tiki Lounge’ is obviously made on a budget; filmed on tape, the colours are smudged and uneven, the picture is blurred and the graphics look like the ones US comedy duo Tim and Eric use in their bizarre series, 'Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!' But that’s probably because this is exactly the sort of show they are parodying; cheaply made, specialist interest TV shows with a limited but dedicated audience. Fankhauser’s interviews may not always prove to be incredibly insightful (“Bob, it’s good to have you on the show...when I first met you, you lived in Pasadena, now you’re living in Utah!” “...right”) but they are probably still a step above Jools Holland's’ best efforts, and he is obviously doing the show for his own enjoyment as much as anybody else’s. And it is of course a music show above all else; so what of the musical treats on offer? Each show has its own theme, ranging from instrumental surf, fast cars and rock’n’roll, a Spirit tribute and even a whole half hour of Merrell and his band in concert (a one-camera recording of 'You’ve Been Framed' quality, which seems a lot longer than half an hour). That last one is not my favourite episode as you may be able to tell, but there are some quality nuggets to be found, including performances by Dick Dale, the Ventures, Wille Nelson, Huey Lewis and the News (80s-tastic!) and the Doobie Brothers (I actually don’t like the Doobie Brothers at all, but I’m sure someone will be pleased to see they are included. Hello, Doobie Brothers fan!). I can’t say I didn’t enjoy watching the 6 episodes included on the ‘Tiki Lounge’ (the DVD menu made me feel quite depressed, though). Here in the UK, we are not as blessed with the volume or variety of cheap cable TV shows that they enjoy in the States, and I think it’s something of a shame, as on the few times I have had the opportunity to visit the US and see them they have always been nothing but entertaining. ‘Tiki Lounge’ outplays many of these in that it actually has some quality musical interludes, although Fankhauser’s own musical interjections tend to pale a little in comparison. I feel bad to say it, because he seems like a genuinely lovely man, but his songs and continuity segments have a tendency to seem laboured, and considering how passionate he must be about the music, you would think he would inject some into his presentation (a 5-minute segment shot on a camcorder, wandering through a car park looking at old cars is a good example of these not-so interesting filler segments). This could be forgiven of Merrell I think, as he clearly cares enough about the music to make the show in the first place, and that’s what really matters, above his own presentation skills. It’s a shame, therefore, that the budgetary restraints put on the show mean that even when Fankhauser manages to get performances by the likes of Willie Nelson (or even himself!) the footage is shot from the crowd and as such is no better than millions of videos available for free on the mobile phones of teenagers sat at the back of buses. An interesting oddity of a show - and I applaud Merrel Fankhauser for bothering to make it, as he clearly has a good time – but if you want to see some well-captured musical performances, I would suggest looking elsewhere for higher quality collections.

Track Listing:-
1 Instrumental Surf Show
2 Merrell Fankhauser And Friends, Featuring Nicky Hopkins
3 Fast Cars And Rock And Roll
4 In Concert With Willie Nelson And Friends
5 Show With Stars From The 50's And 60's
6 Spirit Tribute
7 Tiki Lounge
8 We Love Tikis
9 Island Life
10 Excited
11 Race Night
12 Stolen Guitar Blues
13 Since I Don't Have You
14 Magic Chorus Line
15 Lucille
16 Don't Give Up The Rock

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