In today's edition of Monday Music I would like to share a musician I discovered some years back, and has been a re-returning favorite of mine ever since. When I first heard his music I recognized the style immediately, bringing to mind hot-rods and lowriders, but also daring surfers tackling monumental waves. Apparently I wasn't the only one making these associations, as the sub-genre to categorize this style became known as Surf Rock. And the artist in question is no one less than the creator of this musical style, Dick Dale.
A Rich Cultural Mix and Far Out Experimentation
Being from a musically inclined family of Lebanese and Eastern European background, Dick Dale combined the musical traditions of these cultures with the Country-Western, and Mexican styles, popular in Southern California, as well as Rock'n Roll, the most characteristic genre of his generation, growing up in the 50's and 60's. More than just adopting these musical styles, Dale started expanding on them very early on. Experimenting with different ways to pick the guitar, he came up with a rapid, single-tone staccato technique which he called "pulsation". This technique became widely popular, known as "tremolo picking" and has since become a staple of heavy metal. He also made generous use of the reverberation, giving surf rock its characteristic sound.
Don't Know Dick Dale? But You Surely Know Misirlou
When I mention Dick Dale's name I tend to get nothing but blank stares. Also, when I explain Surf Rock from the early 60's, most people can't place it anywhere. Even mentioning Dale's most famous trademark hit Misirlou, doesn't do the trick. However, upon hearing only the intro to this song, everyone suddenly slaps their forehead, exclaiming Of course! That track from Pulp Fiction!!! Thank you, Quentin Tarantino, for imprinting this tune in our collective subconscious.
But there's much more like that where Misirlou came from (and no, don't try to find them on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack). They all have the same characteristics: fast paced, rhythmic, insane picking, while somehow capturing the powerful force of the ocean, or the speed of a heavy vehicle going at top velocity. Not surprisingly, his music is often associated with surfing, as well as racing motor vehicles. This can be seen not only in his album and song titles, but the numerous movies (dealing with cars and/or surfing) his music had been used in. No wonder I was thinking of hot-rods and ocean waves when I first heard it.
Short Lived Popularity But Long Lasting Legacy
After the conception of surf rock in 1961 it became highly popular among young people in Southern California, whether they were into surfing themselves, or not. This was mostly due to incredible popularity of the so called stomps at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa. Incidentally, Tom Wolf described these events in his book The Kandy Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamline Baby, and reading about them they felt like they must have been mind-blowing shows, especially back in the early 60's.
With the advent of the British Invasion in 1964, surf rock was pushed into a niche, where it has remained ever since. Dick Dale, however continued performing, and expanding on his music, which in turn kept influencing other artists. Today, he is said to have been a n influence of Jimi Hendrix, Van Halen, as well as other groups performing surf music, such as The Beach Boys or The Trashmen. I almost wrote how Dick Dale is still around, and still touring, but that was literally the last time I checked. However, in 2019 he passed away at the age of 81. His musical contributions will stay with us forever, in one form or another, particularly his famous style of surf rock.
Take a Look at the Previous Posts in my Monday Music Series:
The Sound of the Hungarian Zither
Obligatory Line-Dance at Mexican Parties - El Payaso del Rodeo
Floating Into the Night by Julee Cruise
Classic Canadiana - Stan Rogers
Party Like There's No Tomorrow, Cry Like Everything Is Lost - Hungarian Gypsy Music
The Harder Sound of the Middle Ages - Corvus Corax
The First Hip-Hop I Actually Liked - Things Fall Apart by The Roots
No Prophets in Their Own Land - Rodrigo y Gabriela
Beyond the Boundries of Styles and Genres - King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
Accordion-Rock You May Not Know (But Really Should) - Los Tabascos
Songs of the Mexican Revolution - La Adelita
Memorable Weirdness - What Do You Want A Japanese To Do Again?
Gloomy Sunday - The Hungarian Suicide Song
Party Tunes from the Wild East - The "Russendisko" Experience
Folk Songs from Your Home Village - Hungarian Regional Sound Archives
Polynesian Salt Water Music
Images Conjured up by Tom Waits' Music
In Country: Folks Songs of Americans in the Vietnam War
Somebody Tell Me - Translating a Hungarian Song Into [EN] and [SP]
Somebody Tell Me - first trial & live performance [HU] [SP] [EN]
Horst Wessel in Mexico
Playing for Change - Old Favorites Played Around the World
Soothing Tunes and Gentle Rhythms of Mali Music
What Is It About Music? [Ecotrain's Question of the Week]
Halász Judit, Memories from my Childhood
The New Generation of Banda
Horrible Music From Hungary: Dáridó or Wedding Rock
[ENG - ESP] 3 Songs From My Youth / 3 Canciones De Mi Adolescencia