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"Wipe Out" is an instrumental song written by Bob Berryhill, Pat Connolly, Jim Fuller and Ron Wilson. The tune was first performed and recorded by The Surfaris, who were elevated to international status with the release of the "Surfer Joe" and "Wipe Out" single in 1963.
The song – both the Surfaris' version as well as cover versions – has been featured in over 20 films and television series since 1964, appearing at least once a decade. First heard in Kenneth Anger's short Scorpio Rising, its most recent appearance was in Dominic Sena's 2009 thriller, Whiteout.
The term 'wipeout' refers to a fall from a surfboard, especially one that looks painful.
Bob Berryhill, Pat Connolly, Jim Fuller and Ron Wilson wrote the tune almost on the spot, as a suitable B-side was needed for the intended "Surfer Joe" single. In late 1962, while the band was in Cucamonga's Pal Recording Studio recording the single, one of the band members suggested that a gimmick sound indicating a wipe out off a surfboard be emulated. The suggestion was made that during the introduction before the music starts, a cracking sound, imitating a breaking surfboard, should be made. This followed by a manic voice babbling, "ha ha ha ha ha, wipe out." The spoken voice at the beginning of the song is the voice of the band's manager of the time, Dale Smallin.
The afterthought track spent four months on the national Billboard chart in the autumn of 1963, reaching #2 and kept out of the top slot only by Stevie Wonder's "Fingertips". The smash hit "Wipe Out" returned to the Hot 100 in 1966, reaching #16 in Billboard and #9 in Cash Box in its second national chart run, landing at #63 on the Year-end chart. This time it is said to have sold around 700,000 copies in the US to add to its original million-plus. Meanwhile, original A-side "Surfer Joe", sung by Ron Wilson, only attracted airplay in the wake of "Wipe Out"'s success, and peaked at #62 during its six-week run. Ron Wilson's energetic drum solo for "Wipe Out" (a sped-up version of his Charter Oak High School marching band's drum cadence) was beaten out on malt-shop tables all over the country, helping the song become one of the best-remembered instrumental tunes of the period. Drummer Sandy Nelson issued different versions on different LPs. "Wipe Out", in 1970, peaked at number 10 in theBubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart.
|Canadian RPM Top Singles||5|
|German Singles Chart||46|
|UK Singles Chart||5|
|US Billboard Hot 100||2|
|US Hot R&B Singles||10|
Following the 2001 death of television personality Morton Downey, Jr., news reports and obituaries incorrectly credited him as the composer of "Wipe Out." As of 2010, Downey's official website continued to make this claim but it has been changed to state he "also played major roles in the production of the hit surf music era songs Pipeline and Wipeout."
In science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer's Neanderthal Parallax series, the DNA sequence for a deadly virus is saved in a computer folder entitled "Surfaris". A character immediately recognizes this as a reference to "Wipe Out" and determines that the virus will wipe out all of the Neanderthals on a parallel universe's Earth. She then rewrites the DNA code to a non-lethal version and calls the file "Surfer Joe" in reference to the A-side of "Wipe Out".