Essential Listening #5: Pipeline


“Pipeline” is an iconic surf rock instrumental song originally performed by The Chantays. Here is a comprehensive look at its history, composition, impact, and legacy:

Background and Release

  1. Artists: The Chantays
  2. Release Date: December 1962
  3. Label: Downey Records, later reissued by Dot Records
  4. Genre: Surf rock, instrumental rock


  • Writers: Brian Carman and Bob Spickard, both members of The Chantays
  • Instrumentation: The song features electric guitars, bass, drums, and an organ.
  • Structure: “Pipeline” is structured around a central guitar riff that mimics the sound and rhythm of ocean waves, which is characteristic of surf music. The song has a simple yet hypnotic melody that is repeated with slight variations throughout.


  • Studio: The song was recorded at Downey Recording Studios in Downey, California.
  • Sound: The recording features a clean, reverb-heavy guitar sound typical of surf rock. The lead guitar is prominent, with rhythm guitar and bass providing a solid backdrop, complemented by the organ and dynamic drumming.

Chart Performance

  • Billboard Hot 100: “Pipeline” peaked at number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in May 1963.
  • International Success: The song also enjoyed success internationally, contributing to the global spread of the surf rock genre.

Influence and Legacy

  • Impact: “Pipeline” is one of the most famous surf rock instrumentals and has influenced numerous musicians and bands within the genre and beyond. It is considered a classic example of the surf rock sound.
  • Cover Versions: The song has been covered by many artists, including The Ventures, Dick Dale, Stevie Ray Vaughan and his brother Jimmie Vaughan, and Anthrax. Each version brings a unique interpretation to the track.
  • Cultural References: “Pipeline” has been featured in various films, TV shows, and commercials, often associated with surf culture and the 1960s.

Recognition and Honors

  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: The song was honored with inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.”
  • Rolling Stone List: “Pipeline” has appeared on several lists of greatest songs or guitar tracks, highlighting its significance in rock history.

Notable Appearances

  • Movies and TV: “Pipeline” has been used in numerous films and TV shows, often to evoke the surf culture of the 1960s. Notable appearances include the movies “Back to the Beach” and “Riding Giants.”
  • Live Performances: The Chantays and many other bands have performed “Pipeline” live, and it remains a popular choice for surf rock concerts and tribute performances.

Different Versions

  • The Ventures: The Ventures’ cover of “Pipeline” is one of the most well-known versions, staying true to the original while adding their signature sound.
  • Dick Dale and Stevie Ray Vaughan: Their collaboration on “Pipeline” is a notable rendition, blending Dale’s surf rock style with Vaughan’s blues rock influence.
  • Anthrax: The metal band’s cover adds a heavier, more aggressive interpretation to the classic surf rock tune.


“Pipeline” remains a seminal track in the surf rock genre. Its catchy, wave-like guitar riff, combined with its rhythmic drive and melodic simplicity, ensures its place as a timeless classic. The song has had a lasting influence on rock music, inspiring generations of guitarists and musicians. It continues to be celebrated for its contribution to the surf rock sound and its enduring popularity across decades.

All About Music
Friday’s Freebies