The Atlantics were the most prominent group of the surf rock genre in the country, their songwriting and musicianship were unmatched, and they comfortably rated with such international contemporaries as the Surfaris, the Chantays, the Ventures and Dick Dale and the Del-Tones.
The Sydney-based Atlantics formed in 1961 as a high school garage band strongly influenced by the Shadows and the Ventures, they were named after the Atlantic brand of petrol stations dotted around the country as they saw this as a convenient and highly cost-effective promotional strategy.
The band comprised Theo Englis (guitar), Jim Skiathitis (guitar), Bosco Bosonac (bass) and Peter Hood (drums), they invested heavily in Fender guitars and amplifiers as well as a Klempf Echolette tape-echo machine which gave the band a distinctive thundering bass sound. They became popular working the Sydney surf circuit of Bronte, Maroubra, Avalon and North Steyne, and quickly emerged as a highly competent band with a unique sound.
Their career trajectory rocketed after they hooked up with Joan King, one of the few female agent- managers in the country at the time, she encouraged the band to become professionals and arranged for them to appear on ATN-7’s New Faces TV talent quest which brought them to public notice. Sven Libaek of CBS Records invited the band to record several demos and they eventually signed a recording contract with CBS, their first single Moon Man was a Shadows-style instrumental that flopped, but the Atlantics were about to really find their groove.
In April 1963 Hood joined Skiathitis at his house on a rainy Royal Easter Show weekend, Skiathitis had written the middle segment of an unnamed song a year earlier, but hadn’t developed the intro and outro, on that day in April the two band buddies, completed the song, it was titled Bombora. The unlikely combination of two Greeks, one Yugoslav, and one Pole would then record what would become the most famous Australian surf rock song ever, and in the process virtually invent speed metal music years before anyone else.
The record features the trademark Atlantics high speed “machine gun” guitar licks, thundering rhythm section and echo sound effects, it was a #1 hit locally and top 20 in the US where the DJs thought that a group called the Atlantics must be American. Sales of over half a million for a record that charted locally for 26 weeks confirmed the universal appeal of this unique and timeless surf rock classic. The promo video was shot at Newport Beach (Syd) in the 1960’s when no one wore sunscreen or sun hats, and at 1.01 min.the legendary Hawaiian surfer Duke Kahanamoku makes an appearance beside his monstrous pine longboard, ah those were the days.
Bombora is an Aboriginal word which describes waves breaking over submerged rocks and the Atlantics and their stunning song, embedded this phrase in surfing folklore. The band followed up in November 1963 with The Crusher, another Hood/Skiathitis composition, whose title refers to a huge collapsing wave. This was an equally dynamic record which again featured the thunderous rhythms and rapid-fire guitar licks for which the band was justly famous, it charted #7 nationally. The video was an appearance on the Johnny O’Keefe Show, don’t adjust your set, the special effects just look like annoying interference.
Guitarist Theo Englis, now working under the stage name Thaao Penghlis (pictured below) would later enjoy success in Hollywood throughout the 1980’s, after he landed roles in the long-running TV series General Hospital in which he co-starred with another Aussie in Rick Springfield in 1981, and Days of Our Lives as well as the re-boot of Mission Impossible.