LIBERTY’S WHIP

Liberty’s Whip may not sound like an apt title for a classic surf music instrumental but for a short time it actually was. According to an article I recently read online, the surf music craze of the early 1960’s included the monster hit “Pipeline” by The Chantays which reached #4 on the Billboard pop charts. According to a quote in the L.A.Times by The Chantays’ Bob Spickard:
“When we wrote it after school, just plugging our guitars in and doodling, we originally called it ‘Liberty’s Whip’ because we were big Liberty Valance fans,…Then we went to a surf movie at high school–I’m sure it was one of Bruce Brown’s–and they had a big shot of the Pipeline (one of Hawaii’s best but most dangerous surf breaks), and we went, ‘Wow, far out!'” 

Lee Marvin as Liberty Valance & Edmond O'Brien as Dutton Peabody.

Lee Marvin brandishes his quirt, a.k.a. Liberty’s whip, as Shinbone Star editor Dutton Peabody (Edmond O’Brien) dramatically awaits Valance’s next move.


  Not earth-shaking news, but just a little tidbit I never knew and recently discovered. I still think the title “Liberty’s Whip” sounds pretty cool and might even make a great name for a rock band. 
 As to the more famous musical incarnation of the film, as most fans of the film know, Gene Pitney’s song was never used in the film and no one is quite sure why. Rumor has it the film’s director, John Ford, heard it and hated it. Kind of a shame I think as I feel it fits pretty well, especially since the music by Burt Bacharach has a western tweak and the lyrics by Hal David does an impressive job of dramatically setting up the climax of the film without giving away the twist. Oh well. I know fans of the film who agree with Ford’s assessment which is why there’s no mention of it in Lee Marvin Point Blank. There is, however, several great anecdotes about the film, such as the hilarious one Christopher Marvin told me about the time his father introduced him to John Wayne. It’s a personal favorite. 
In the mean time, posted below is the lyrics to Gene Pitney’s hit song, followed by a YouTube music that DOES give away the twist ending so don’t click it if you haven’t seen The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance….

When Liberty Valance rode to town,
the women folk would hide, they’d hide.
When Liberty Valance walked around,
the men would step aside.

Because the point of a gun
was the only law that Liberty understood.
When it came to shooting straight and fast,
he was mighty good.

From out of the east a stranger came,
a law book in his hand, a man. 
The kind of man the west would need
to tame a troubled land.

‘Cause the point of a gun was the only law that Liberty understood.
When it came to shooting straight and fast,
he was mighty good.

Many a man would face his gun
and many a man would fall.
The man who shot Liberty Valance,
he shot Liberty Valance,
he was the bravest of them all.

Now the love of a woman can make a man stay on when he should go, stay on.
just trying to build a peaceful life where love is free to go.

But the point of a gun was the only law that Liberty understood.
When the final showdown came at last,
a law book was no good.

But the point of a gun was the only law that Liberty understood.
When it came to shooting straight and fast, he was mighty good.

Alone and afraid she prayed that he’d return that fateful night, that night.
when nothing she said could keep her man from going out to fight.
From the moment a girl gets to be full grown 
the very first things she learns
when two men go out to face each other
only one returns

Everyone heard two shots ring out,
one shot made Liberty fall.
The man who shot Liberty Valance,
he shot Liberty Valance
he was the bravest of them all.

What the hell, just for the heck of it, here’s Bob Spickard and friends performing Pipeline, aka Liberty’s Whip. Great little ditty, ain’t it?

– Dwayne Epstein

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4 thoughts on “LIBERTY’S WHIP

  1. Hi Dwayne,
    This is going a little off-topic, but do you have any idea what the little tassel is that’s hanging from the ‘pocket’ (?) on Liberty’s vest’s right side? It looks a bit like a bottle cap opener. I’ve painted this costume twice, along with this accessory, and didn’t know what I was painting. My guess is that Lee added it, and not Western Costume Co. where the vest came from.

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