26 December 2007

Plug of the Day: Dick Dale, Guitar God

Those of you who are guitar geeks have already nodded. If you aren't, you are probably rolling your eyes. "Surf music! What a lameass musical fad. Amber has finally finished losing it." Well, you are so lucky: today you get to learn something new. When you think of "surf music", you are probably thinking about something like Chantays' hit "Pipeline" (here on the The Lawrence Welk Show, 1963): Well, here is what Dick Dale did with "Pipeline" in 1987 (with Stevie Ray Vaughan, featured in Back to the Beach): While the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Eric Clapton were turning skiffle and blues into rock, Dick Dale was turning the Middle Eastern music and non-western tunings of his childhood into shredding. He wanted to make music that conveyed the surfing experience. Surfing is not Frankie and Annette. It is fast, hard, and loud, and the surfers are a very rough crowd. Surfing is metal. In 1963, while the Chantays were practicing their snappy guitar choreography, Dale was recording Misirlou (here as seen in an otherwise best-forgotten film): That was 1963 and he was already delivering the now-standard guitar-god package: shredding, grimaces, wide guitarslinger stance, putting english on the guitar neck, all of it. (Let's pretend we never saw the rest of the band.) These filmed performances don't come close to conveying the full Dick Dale Experience, either. He was all about The Loud. I mean, as loud as you can imagine and then turn the dial up again. When he started, guitar amps went up to maybe 4. He blew out so many that Fender had to develop a custom job for him so he could crank it up to 11. And then that forced development of custom speakers, and so on. For your pure admiration and listening enjoyment, here is his 1996 version of Misirlou (when he was 60): People talk about Keith Richards surviving the nuclear apocalypse, but I'd put my money on Dick Dale. Listen to Dick Dale. Buy Dick Dale. Worship Dick Dale. I'd say that if you want to start modestly, get Tribal Thunder. If you want to take a plunge, go for Better Shred than Dead.
Dick Dale on Amazon.com

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