Right now I’m listening to a compilation of Dick Dale songs ranging from the 60s to the 90s from the 1997 Rhino release: Better Shred Than Dead. Just amazing … Brings back memories from childhood and all the way up to the present time. I first saw Dick Dale in the 1963 Beach Party movie, playing himself along with his Del-Tones. Those days were goofy fun & sun, and totally pop culture cool, but the raging surf of Dick's guitar just got better and better. I know; I've been watching for many years. Dick Dale [along with Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys] created the definitive California soundtrack, and I have had the pleasure of seeing Dick and his band several times, usually with the best bassist in the world: Ron Eglit, and the way out tribal assistance of Dick's own amazing son, JIMMY DALE!

In terms of Dick Dale’s newer work, I first saw him perform at a wine festival back in 1994. The previous year he had released Tribal Thunder on Hightone Records, introducing a whole new generation to the Dick Dale sound that could never previously be captured properly on a recording, his sound too powerful for vinyl. Sure, Dick recorded some great records, [and Surfer's Choice, Dick's first album, is in re-release! See review link below!] but he stopped recording, because he wanted people to hear his thunder as he intended—live and powerful. So he toured and toured and toured to a legion of loyal fans, some of them even calling themselves the “Dickheads.”

By this time Dick Dale had just released his second Hightone recording: Unknown Territory. Truly great stuff, good as any music you’ll ever get captured and recorded in a medium that can be carried around, played in your car, on a boom box, or blast the roof from your own home.

However, this particular poorly promoted show (for Unknown Territory) didn’t draw a large crowd. Most of the people that saw the concert that day did so because they had come to drink the wine. I had heard about the appearance through some punk friends but none of them could make it, so I drove up into the wine country by myself.

Dick Dale came out and looked at the small crowd, maybe twenty-five people, but more would come as soon as they heard the music. Dick shrugged his shoulders, pointed his guitar at the sun, and said: “You play for one, you play for a thousand, you play just as hard.”

And he was as good as his word.

He put on one of the best shows I’ve ever seen—like church in the real sense of what “church” should be. No walls, just out there, under the sun and feeling something real and alive move your spirit. Yeah, that might sound overly dramatic, but simply true.

Check out Dick Dale performing "Ghost Riders in the Sky" live in Berlin.

That same year Quentin Tarantino would say he felt inspired by Dick Dale’s masterpiece “Miserlou” to write the film Pulp Fiction, no doubt why the film is by far Tarantino’s best. Although, I felt a little sad that the best kept secret of “Miserlou” (the greatest song in the world) existed now in association with a film and many bandwagon fans, but a good movie nevertheless, and if it turned more people into Dickheads, all the better. Meanwhile, I kept looking for Dick Dale shows ...

Around Christmas time I fell in love with a beautiful blonde, like crazy big first time and forever love. I believe this only happens once in life. Everything else is an illusion of love. So I took her to a Dick Dale show in Sacramento, California. Now the scene felt complete. Dick Dale provided the greatest soundtrack to a world desperately in need of something pure and fine, and making out with that twenty-year-old blonde inside that soundtrack created a moment of perfection that inspired my asking her to marry me -- and she said yes.

Hey, thanks Dick.

A year and half later as Dick unloaded the back of his car for a show at Harlow’s (also in Sacramento) he noticed my wife holding my new baby daughter just outside the club and he stopped and placed his hand on her forehead and smiled, a blessing from the King of the Surf Guitar.

Thanks again, brother.

That accessibility of Dick Dale’s has always been very impressive. He takes the time to talk to his fans often before and after his performances, and when I took Lucy Hell to one of his shows he gave her a free T-shirt. Smart man! She looks like dynamite in that T, and when we at Mystery Island set about putting together a “California Anthology of Poetry” Dick Dale was kind enough to allow us to reprint his great lyrics to the song “Window” from the 1996 release: Calling Up Spirits.


Do you see the pain I’ve been seeing?
Do you see the pain that’s in my mind?
Do you know your life has lost its meaning
like the people of the plains before your time?
Gather ‘round me people
Look dead into my eyes
I see your faces smiling
It’s time you know the lies

So why do we treat your children
like the way that it happened back before
So why can’t we stop the evil doers?
If we don’t, we’ll be no more
If we don’t, we’ll be no more

Do you see the pain of truth that I’ve been seeing?
Can you see the pain of truth that’s in my mind?
You know this world of ours is dying
So why do we live so blind?
So why do we live so blind?

Gather ‘round me people
See the window with your eyes
My life and yours has lost its meaning
So now it’s time to stop those lies

Do you see the pain I’ve been seeing?
Do you see the pain that’s in my mind?
Your life has lost its meaning
like the people of the plains before your time
So don’t let them change your mind

So don’t let them change your mind
Why do we live so blind?
And don’t let them change your mind
Why do we live so blind?
Yeah so don’t let them change your mind
Like the people of the plains before your time
Like the people
of the plains
we’ve left behind.

Ironically, as nice as Dick Dale is, a few years after that I found myself in a meeting at a record company (working on a book/CD project) and the head of that music factory told me how difficult it felt to work with Dick Dale. Hell, I thought, if they’re the ones that promoted that show in the wine country, I assume Dick Dale would have good reason for hostile vibes …

They didn’t seem to get Dick Dale, didn’t seem to relate to his intense energy. I guess he gets that a lot. More recently a friend told me that Dick Dale opened for Brian Wilson and Dick said [to Brian]: “I’m gonna kick your ass Brian Wilson!”

Brian felt offended by this comment, and I get that, and I love Brian, but I don’t think Brian understands Dick Dale’s intensity either. Whereas to Brian it might sound like Dick threatened him physically, more likely the statement came from the sense of friendly challenge, a warrior of sound speaking to (and challenging) a fellow master of the art.

Well, I think I’ve said what I wanted to say. If you’re a fan of Dick Dale I’m preaching to the choir, but if you’re not familiar with his work, I cannot give him a higher recommendation. He and Brian Wilson sit at the absolute summit of music appreciated at Mystery Island.

And can you believe Dick Dale has yet to be inducted in that phony baloney “Hall of Fame”? I mean, it’s bad enough that I have to go on and on about how goddamned childish and stupid it is that the Monkees (a truly great and 100% real rock & roll band) have been blocked … but Dick fucking “King of the Surf Guitar” Dale?

Give me a goddamned break.

Dick Dale is right up there with Elvis and Chuck Berry in terms of importance. It’s also important to note that Dick Dale has put out two more A+ records since Unknown Territory: Calling Up Spirits [mentioned above] on the Beggar’s Banquet label and his latest from his own label, Dick Dale Records, an absolutely awesome album called: Spacial Disorientation. His tribute to John Lee Hooker (“Front Porch Blues”) is about as good of a song as you can possibly listen to anywhere on this planet. Yes, I’m biased, but if you have ears you will be too.

You can check out everything Dick Dale at:

"The Big Dick Dale Article" by Bradley Mason Hamlin
© 2007 Mystery Island Publications. Edited by Lucy Hell. Published November 19, 2007.
Photo of Dick Dale at the top of this article from the Mystery Island collection. All rights reserved.