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5/28/17

The story I heard about Pacific Vibrations goes something like this. John Severson wanted to make one last magnum opus surf movie, then tap out. Sell SURFER, train his replacement, pack his boards and family, and move to Maui. That’s exactly how it happened. Incredible career, as profitable as it was creative, not overly long, capped off by flawless exit.

Except for Pacific Vibrations. Now, I love the movie, always have, grim and heavy-handed as it may be. But John evidently was crushed by it. From conception all the way through final edit, Severson had it fixed in his head that Beatles music would feature on the soundtrack. There may have even been some early communication with Apple Records (the Beatles’ company), and the auguries were all good.

The final cut was done. John was exhausted but ecstatic. The Beatles songs were laid into the mix all snug and tight, harmonizing perfectly with Severson’s sublime camerawork and editing.

Then word came down from the Beatles camp. No go. The music was all snatched off the table. Either that, or the price was so high that it didn’t matter. John scrambled, and the soundtrack ended up pretty righteous. CSNY, Steve Miller, Ry Cooder, Leo Kottke, even Cream. But no Beatles.

John was devastated. I believe that he kind of lost interest in the whole project. Moved to Hawaii a year or so later and smoothly, artistically got on with his life. But my sense is that Pacific Vibrations is the one that got away.

And thus . . .  my humble but fully-Beatled-out tribute to our Sun King.

  • Anna Severson

    Great Father’s Day tribute. Love you dad — you are still living here.
    I hadn’t seen some of the early footage of him surfing – he surfed with that unique style his whole life.

    • Matt Warshaw

      John was so well know for all the other things, the magazine, the paintings, the films . . . I think he got a little ripped off in terms of not being reconigzed as an excellent surfer. It was good to highlight that part of his life in the video.

      • Samuel Ortegón Pepke

        So true, full-on hotdogger with great style. Also, someone once said or somewhere I read, a lot of artists paint their own hands when painting figures, I can clearly see John’s own surfing style in his paintings, totally love it! So glad it was him who started this whole surf media thing.

        • Matt Warshaw

          I liked the early stuff the best; the little cartoon figures in the first SURFER, and the paintings from the ’50s. Surf meets jazz.

          • Samuel Ortegón Pepke

            Totally! And his Typography, people still rip that off.

  • Jenna Severson

    Dear Matt, It’s Father’s Day and I just watched this for the first time. You made me cry, but it’s ok! It is a great tribute to my Dad. Thank you. Abbey Road was the soundtrack to our Ke Nui Road North Shore winter of ’69. That was the year huge surf caused a night time evacuation to the Girl Scout Camp at the top of the hill. I was pretty young but I remember the sirens, and being told to leave by policemen knocking at the door. Dad was on Maui MIA at Honolua and Mom was concerned that some Surfer Mag guys weren’t getting out of the house very fast. I also remember the Motor Skill bus painting session with Rick Griffin et al. My sister and I would paint at little kid level on the bus but soon most of it would get painted over, and we were bummed. Later for my birthday my dad decided we would go around San Clemente in Motor Skill and pick up my friends on the way to my party. I recall a few hesitant mothers on their doorsteps but I didn’t care one bit when people looked at us funny. I knew it was cool and I loved our lifestyle. Dad taught us to question the status quo and the family all happily followed. What a beautiful life.

    • Anna Severson

      Love the motorskill sequence. Yes the soundtrack to our lives…

    • Matt Warshaw

      I’ve never made a video clip longer than 3 minutes. The one for your Dad, it was like, once I got started in with Abby Road there was no turning back. I’m so glad you guys like it. John and I only talked on the phone and by email, but he was a really influential to my life as a surfer, and of course to my career. I worked at SURFER for six years, in the mid- and late-’80s, and workwise that set up everything that followed. Surfing was so lucky to have him. We all were.

  • Louise severson

    Dear Matt, Such an amazing tribute….to my amazing husband. Can’t thank you enough. Aloha, Louise

    • Matt Warshaw

      Thank you Louise. The marriage, in the end, was maybe John’s greatest accomplishment. My best to you and the girls.

  • DrewKamp

    Man, Matt, the choice of HERE COMES THE SUN for your music here is so moving, thanks! A wonderful, compact & emotional honoring. Thank you!
    drew

    • Matt Warshaw

      Thanks Drew. Coming from you, that means everything.

  • steve soderberg

    Really NICE tribute Matt, to someone that truly deserves it. How much of an impression on so many peoples lives did he make? Just astounding. I became immersed in his STOKE and impressed with his style and life. From everything that I saw John Severson was one cool rightous cat. RIP Mr. Surfer and THANK YOU for EVERYTHING!

  • John C Nippolt

    damn it, can’t stop these water beads from rolling down my cheeks, Deep thanks Matt…he will always be there igniting the stoke…once there was a Wave to get back home again

  • freerider

    Thanks Matt–pretty moving. He will be missed…..

  • SBRules

    just a wonderful tribute Matt!

  • Dave Woody Wood

    Well done. Thank you. Aloha John may your ride never end. Peace ✌?.