SH Spotlight "Cecilia Ann" by the Pixies, yes, I wrote & recorded the song as The Surftones with my buddy Frosty

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Steve Hoffman, Dec 31, 2011.

  1. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    People have asked me about the famous Surf Song CECILIA ANN and if I indeed wrote it..

    Yes, it is true.

    I wrote this song in 1989 with Charles "Frosty" Horton and Frosty and I played and recorded it as The Surftones on record. Then the Pixies heard it and asked if they could cover it as the opening song for their Bossanova record. (They sampled me kicking the Fender Twin amp at the start which amused me).

    The Story of CECILIA ANN:

    When I worked at DCC Compact Classics, Marshall Blonstein ("The Boss") gave me one compilation CD a year to dream up and run with that had good music but wouldn’t sell worth a darn. In other words, I got to license and release an album of obscure music on CD that we knew would lose money but was still neat anyway (Marshall was good that way, still is.) Sort of a Loss Leader.

    One year he let me do Chris Montez Greatest Hits from both A&M Records and Monogram Records (which actually made money). So in 1989 he let me do a Surf Music compilation mainly because I discovered and was crazy about an old surf type song that was recorded at (Downey Records) Wenzel's Music Town called "Inertia" by the Hustlers. We licensed it from Wenzel on my urging and first used it on the "BEACH CLASSICS" CD comp. But I wanted to build a compilation album around it and other local instrumental Surf Songs, licensed from obscure labels. Marshall named this new compilation "Surf Legends (And Rumors)."

    Now our sales manager, the late Lou Verzola, HATED this type of teenage music, hated my idea, hated me. But, Marshall let me do it anyway. What I mean is, he ok'd a budget for licensing of the songs, artwork creation, mastering, manufacturing, etc. He knew it wouldn't sell but he liked the music as well. Sort of a guilty pleasure as it were.

    So, I compiled the disk of vintage obscure Surf Music but I was feeling that we needed a good kick off (truly, and I kicked my amp) song. I couldn't find one, so, I decided to just create one, make it seem like a long lost song, gave a fake band name, old record label, etc. and just put in as the starting song on SURF LEGENDS (And Rumors). To make the album stronger, and, well, because I could.

    Charles "Frosty" Horton, the new age music guru was in the next office and we were talking about how to do this. We decided to write a new Surf instrumental song, Frosty could play a convincing Surf lead and we could use my Sony TC-788 four channel tape deck to do it. I only had two microphones and that was all that was needed. So we overdubbed. We eventually recorded the thing at 15 ips on 1/4" four-channel.

    "Cecilia Ann" is based on (and named after) Sicilienne for cello & piano, Op. 78, by Gabriel Fauré. This is how it happened, on the spot!

    At any rate, one night at my apartment on Riverside Drive and Longridge Avenue in Sherman Oaks CA, Frosty came over after work at DCC Compact Classics and we started in, without an idea in our heads.

    Now, I had a sweet deal with my landlord, my oldies band could practice in my apartment every Tuesday night for two hours, FULL BLAST and the neighbors couldn't complain (it was actually in their lease agreement that we were doing this). The trade off was that I was the acting landlord when the real one went on vacation (which was often.)

    So, on a Tuesday night, I got my MCA Records buddy Jeff Traintime's Fender black face Twin (with JBL speakers), Frosty brought over his Fender bass and I pulled out my G&L beater strat-like guitar and we started in, without a clue in the world what to write.

    My drums were already set up in the living room, I put a mic on one of our micstands near the snare, the other mic on the Fender amp plugged right into the Sony tape recorder and Frosty and I sat on the couch and tried to write an old style surf song. Wasn't working.

    Frosty's girlfriend brought us over pizza and tried to cheer us up. So after our second slice, Frosty had a brainstorm. He thought of a little melody fragment by the classical composer Gabriel Fauré' that he liked and he played it for me. It was good so we changed the notes around slightly and progressed. I took a yellow legal pad and knocked out the chords as I heard them in my head (I still have the yellow page in the tape box) as Frosty played his new melody. We liked it. We called it CECILIA ANN, a joke; a rough translation of Faure's little ditty from French to English.

    So, around 9 pm, I turned on the tape recorder, got on the drums, Frosty on the bass and we both stared at the yellow paper and I counted it off. We knocked out the basic track (drums/bass guitar only each on a separate channel of the four-track machine) in one take! That was the easy part. The rest of the night we overdubbed Frosty's lead line. At midnight we stopped, he did an OK take, a few flubs (even better, we sounded like teenagers) and left it.

    In the morning, instead of going to work, I recorded the rhythm guitar part by myself on my 1965 Fender Strat, mindful not to overpower Frosty’s lead line. Then, I rough mixed it, OLD SCHOOL stereo vintage style, no music in the middle. Twin-track, like those old small studio Surf songs. Frosty heard it at work that afternoon. He liked it, thought it made a worthy Surf Song..

    So, I decided to slip it on the “Surf Legends ( And Rumours) disk as the opening track. The next night I figured out an extra intro opening for the song to punch it up a bit. What I did was turn on the Sony recorder, kicking the reverb chamber of the Fender Twin amp and strumming a minor chord using the wang bar, spliced it on the four channel tape right at the start, remixed and that was it. The opening song for SURF LEGENDS (And Rumours)! It was perfect, and the CD then went right into the second song, Inertia by the Hustlers which was ALSO twin track, same mixing style. Excellent.

    Now, let's be clear here. Frosty and I didn't charge DCC Compact Classics any money to license the song, we just gave it to them for free. Because of this, we never even published the song, we never charged royalties, we never even put our names on it (simply written by THE SURFTONES), it was a freebie that we did for fun and for the good of the compilation album. Nothing else. I just wanted a good, strong, memorable first song to get the SURF LEGENDS (And Rumours) going with a pounding opener.

    I mastered the compilation at Location Recording Service in Burbank with Kevin Gray and we sent it off to be manufactured.

    The album was released on CD a month later and as I feared sold initially around 10 copies in the USA (as predicted by our grumpy sales manager Lou Verzola), BUT to our surprise, in England, Japan and around the world it sold a LOT more. Surf music is very popular overseas (so we discovered). Our sales manager still hated me but he eventually did order a repress and DCC Compact Classics sold at least 30,000 units, mostly imported to other countries. So the disk made money after all.

    A year passed and I was on to other projects. In that time the rock group on Elektra Records called The Pixies heard the song off the DCC disk somehow while on tour in the UK and when they got back into the studio, recorded it. Their manager found us through the address on the back of the “Surf Legends” disk and asked about publishing. So, Frosty and I put our heads together (remember, the song was unpublished) and Frosty hurried out and registered the song for us, got it published and the next thing we knew it was the opening track on the new Elektra Pixies album "Bossanova!" Holy crapola.

    That's how I became a BMI writer.

    Then, amazingly, CECILIA ANN was chosen to be the opening title credit music for a great 1995 film called "Kicking And Screaming" and not the Pixies version, OUR Surftones version, up on the big screen. So cool, and then the Pixies box set came out on Elektra, and then, and then, and then... The gift that kept on giving, quarterly.

    Now, several other songs off of SURF LEGENDS were noticed, one, by the Pastel Six was licensed for use on that show with Johnny Depp, 21 Jump Street or whatever it was called.

    And of course, The Revels COMMANCHE was pulled from SURF LEGENDS and featured in PULP FICTION in the Gimp scenes.

    So, that's the story, forgive the length of it, but I thought you'd find it interesting..

    Frosty and I were delighted, of course. Thing is only today we discovered that the song has gone deep into YouTube, inspiring musicians of all types to give it a try. It's quite flattering. The first link is our original, then the Pixies and then a bunch of intense strangers trying it. Gotta love 'em. Feels weird that a song we wrote as a lark is now so ingrained in the pop culture and judging by the size of our royalty checks, this is happening all over the world. Bitchin'.

    On our original Surftones version that's Frosty on guitar and bass and me on guitar and drums as first heard on the "SURF LEGENDS (And Rumors)" compact disk from 1989..

    THE SURFTONES ORIGINAL (Steve & Frosty, recorded in my apartment in Sherman Oaks, 1989)and released on the Garland "Surf Legends (And Rumors" compact disc:

    THE PIXIES from "Bossanova" 1990: Pixies "Cecilia Ann" »


    Cohen - Cecilia Ann »
    Los Daytonas - Cecilia ann »
    The Pixies - Cecilia Ann/Allison »
    Razorblades - Cecilia Ann - 2011-08-10 »
    Cecilia Ann - The Mermen - 19 Broadway - June 19, 2009 »
    SURFZILLA - Cecilia Anne - Outback Lodge - 2009-04-17 »
    Cecilia- Ann (Cover) by Smash Your Radio »
    Cecilia Ann by Dave Purslow.wmv »
    CECILIA ANN (cover by BLUE(S)PILLS) »
    YouTube »
    Kazan Vs Surftones & Pixies : Cecilia Ann + Out of wonderland »
    Hi, Donna Here... - Cecilia Ann (Live at WHRW 2011) »

    I'm sure there are more but this handful is enough. If you find any more good ones can you post?
    UCLASNYD, ropiyas, Kyhl and 104 others like this.
  2. Synthfreek

    Synthfreek I’m a ray of sunshine & bastion of positivity

    YES! Pixies have been one of my favorite acts of all-time for a very long time.
    youngchoulin and VinylRob like this.
  3. :wave:Very cool to know that you're also a published songwriter, Steve...gotta find that Pixies cover version of your song!!!
  4. hodgo

    hodgo Tea Making Gort (Yorkshire Branch) Staff

    East Yorkshire
    Well Done Steve, not only are you a top mastering engineer now you're a bonafied rock star too. :righton:
  5. John54

    John54 Senior Member

    Burlington, ON
    Have you ever thought of returning the favour?

    Like, by covering Wave of Mutilation on your next release? :D
    pablorkcz likes this.
  6. Adam9

    Adam9 Русский военный корабль, иди на хуй.

    Toronto, Canada
    :righton: Boss sounds, Steve!
  7. 1970

    1970 Forum Resident

    Oregon USA
    I had no idea. I've loved this tune for years. Very cool, Mr. H.

    Actually... beyond cool.

    UCLASNYD and lightbulb like this.
  8. warren

    warren Forum Resident

    Phoenix, AZ
    UCLASNYD likes this.
  9. westcott

    westcott Member

    This track is also on the It Came From the Beach compilation on Ace, 2008. The liner notes say:

    "Mystery surrounds the Surftones. 'Cecilia Ann' first saw release on a late-80s CD, where it was erroneously noted as having been released in 1964 on an independent label. The year of recording is almost certainly correct, although it is most likely to have been previously unissued. There was a Dave Myers & the Surftones who recorded 'Church Key' for Impact in 1962, the only cover of the tune released on the same label as the original."

    To make things murkier, Google search lists several bands called the Surftones. Was this with/for the original Dave Myers group on hoary old Del-Fi? Actually recorded in 1964? And never released until the late 1980's? If so, what happened?
    Dodoz likes this.
  10. Coldacre

    Coldacre Well-Known Member

    always loved Dave Lovering's drumming and he absolutely drives this song
    youngchoulin and BDC like this.
  11. UncleHalsey

    UncleHalsey Forum Resident

    Seattle, WA, USA
    Steve, how about giving the Pixies the AF remaster treatment? I have the MOFI vinyl, but would love to add AF gold CDs...

    Would love to hear what you would do with Surfer Rosa.
  12. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    UCLASNYD likes this.
  13. westcott

    westcott Member



  14. Khojem

    Khojem Forum Resident

    Irvine, CA, USA
    Wasn't the ACE set a digital clone compilation of Surf Legends (and Rumors) and More Surf Legends (and Rumors)? Looks like it from my track listening comparison.
    UCLASNYD likes this.
  15. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Of course it was. They probably just pulled it off our CD. There is no other version.

    That's OK, ACE didn't license it from anyone or if they did, they paid the license fee to the wrong person.

    We didn't charge DCC anything to license the song, we just gave it to them for free.

    It wasn't about the money, it was about finding a good lead song for the SURF LEGENDS CD. The Hustlers "INERTIA" came right after it on the disk and it was perfect.
  16. ampmods

    ampmods Forum Resident

    Boston, MA, USA
    Cecilia Ann.

    Great tune!

    Bossanova is my favorite Pixies album (and "Velouria" is my favorite Pixies song).
  17. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Weird how these old threads suddenly start getting some action..
    2141 likes this.
  18. MikeyVan

    MikeyVan MoFaux Fraudelity Scam Labs Digi-Vinyl fan

    The Woodlands, TX

    I had no idea. I'm a huge (instrumental) surf fan. Love that Surftones version!
    UCLASNYD likes this.
  19. Gilliam

    Gilliam Well-Known Member

    Not too long ago I saw Dick Dale play live in a small club and he blew the roof off the place!!
    UCLASNYD likes this.
  20. Jose Jones

    Jose Jones Outstanding Forum Member

    Detroit, Michigan
    UCLASNYD likes this.
  21. 1970

    1970 Forum Resident

    Oregon USA

    And #5.

    UCLASNYD likes this.
  22. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Ah, I see, thanks!!
  23. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Glad to hear it!
    UCLASNYD likes this.
  24. jh901

    jh901 Forum Resident

    I've recently been listening to Big Star, The Replacements and Pixies (and now The Breeders). Anyhow, I came across this thread so I just have to bump it for those who missed it.
    Steve Carras likes this.
  25. paulisdead

    paulisdead fast and bulbous

    While we're on the subject of Mr. Hoffman's song writing credits, I was wondering if our host could solve this mystery:,_Secret_Chimp#The_Evolution_Revolution

    The Evolution Revolution
    This all-chimp band, dressed in colorful hippie-style wigs and wardrobe, featured Lancelot Link (played by Tongo) on guitar and Mata Hairi (played by Debbie) on tambourine, with Blackie as "Bananas Marmoset"[3] on the drums. "SweetWater Gibbons" (in fringed vest and granny glasses) was credited for playing Farfisa organ, although the organ usually pictured in the clips was a Vox Continental organ.

    In episode "The Evolution Revolution", it was established that the band's music was used to communicate coded messages for APE agents.

    The songs were usually co-written and performed by Steve Hoffman, in the
    Bubblegum pop style then in vogue; Hoffman received "voices" credit along with the various character actors. A Lancelot Link record album was released on ABC/Dunhill, as well as a single titled "Sha-La Love You", a song originally intended for The Grass Roots; the music shared some of its style with the music of The Grass Roots, who used the same recording facilities and studio musicians. Some songs contained heavy guitar riffs, reflecting the growth of hard rock.

    An Evolution Revolution song, "Wild Dreams, Jelly Beans", was later covered by the Spanish alternative rock band Hello Lilliput.


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