Tuesday, July 11, 2006

King of the Surf Guitar Dick Dale at the Santa Monica Pier, Thursday 7/13, 7:30 - updated

Free, typical beach parking. Link

Click here for sample music clips (Amazon).

I once heard that Ravel's Bolero was inspired by factory machinery, not by the Spanish dance, and the only reason people hear a Spanish influence is because of the title of the song. In the same way, if Dick Dale had positioned himself a little differently, and used his given name - Mansour - he probably could have become known as the King of Middle-Eastern Guitar. Because when he riffs those exotic scales in Misirlou, I don't see Corky Carrol shooting the curl, I see a belly dancer in harem pants. With lots and lots of reverb.

There's no doubt of Dale's influence. But when you listen to live recordings of Hendrix or Van Halen, or Clapton, or Stevie Ray, the audience cheers and whoops the most when they slow down and hold a single note for several beats. It's the slow stuff that sets off the fast stuff. Dale never seems to slow down, and we tend to applaud him more for the degree of difficulty than for the music that results.

Update: After writing the above, I checked NPR and they corrected my misimpression. It turns out Misirlou is derived mostly from klezmer. It's traced back to its Greek and Turkish roots here.