Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA Collection: Jenny McCarthy's Surfin' Safari
Picks: Miserlou, Walk, Don't Run, Tequila, Rumble, Bongo Rock, Pipeline, Let's Go Trippin', Wipe Out, Surf Rider, Hawaii Five-0
Track by Track Review
The introductory note of Miserlou is somehow bigger than life. Dick's machine gun staccato is perfect. This is Dick Dale's biggest Del-tone singles, the incredibly archetypal "Miserlou" featured so prominently in Pulp Fiction. No comprehensive Surf collection should even be conceived without this song. This IS the sound of primal surf, the source of the idea of really LOUD guitar leads. It's reported that the arrangement was developed after Dick saw Johnny Barakat do it this way.
Pre Surf (Instrumental)
This is essential. The Ventures were one of the two bands that served as the model for early surf bands, the other being the Fireballs. This was their first single, and is an absolute standard. It was based on the early fifties Chet Atkins arrangement. This is their signature tune, a solid and enduring cover of Johnny Smith's jazz classic. Rhythmic, solid as a rock, and very warm with pre-surf whammy. Only the Pink Fairies' vocal version is better than this. Great classic pre surf.
"Walk, Don't Run" and "Perfidia" were recorded a year before there was such a thing as surf music. Totally vintage and majorly important to the birth of surf, this Ventures single is still their hallmark and best effort. Every collection requires this track.
Latin R&B Rock (Instrumental)
This is their BIG HIT!. It is a sax based number that was probably the frat house standard, long before "Louie Louie" was. The spoken "Tequila" at the end of the lines has become a standard of Latin party rock. Very infectious.
Classic Dark Rock (Instrumental)
The original street gang record. This drips juvenile delinquency and chains and knives and broken bottles. It's the first evil rock instro. Very powerful after 40 years! Link Wray is the originator of lead guitar instros, of the ominous guitar sound, of the use of extreme sustain for danger, of the tribal thunder and drama under rock instros, of the gradually changing effects to impose a rising threat, as he does by increasing vibrato at the end of the track. This is a must have for any self-respecting rock instro fan, and a definite requirement to understand the foundation that was laid for the later surf bands.
Pre Surf (Instrumental)
This is a marvelous and fun classic rock 'n' roll single. The rhythm is totally infectious, and the simple melody line sticks in your memory cells despite any attempt to clear your head. This has almost nothing to do with surf music, though it was a staple among some of the bands. It predates the genre, and has no reverb at all. It is important for a couple of reasons. It was the first rock instro featuring the bongo drum as a central instrument, and it was the structure of this song that was one basis for the Surfaris' "Wipe Out."
This is it. This track defined surf. It is the archetype! Paul Johnson once told me that when first heard this tune on his car radio, he said Whoa! Wha-at is THAT?, and pulled over to the side of the road to listen. The Chantays defined the classic surf line up, 2 guitars, piano, bass, and drums. Glorious first use of glissandoes, first rhythm guitar dominance in the mix, and just plain essential.
Dick Dale's August 1961 recording of "Let's Go Trippin'" is ahead of the surf sound, more a rock 'n' roll number than what would be later identified as surf. It is nevertheless a very important key to the development of the genre.
Dick's original Del-tones were a hell of a band. This session featured a seasoned Barry Rillera on sax, who had been in his brother Ricky Rillera's band the Rhythm Rockers (no relation to the surfband of that name), with whom Richard Berry had sung for over a year at Harmony Park between 1954 and 1955. It was at Harmony Park one Saturday night in 1955 that Richard heard them do Rene Touzet's "El Loco Cha Cha" for the first time, and was inspired by it's "duh duh duh, duh-duh" intro to write "Louie Louie."
TV Surf (Instrumental)
"Wipe Out" is simply the definitive drummer's badge of courage. If he can do a decent "Wipe Out," he's hired. Simple, and written and recorded in just minutes, this is an international classic that has sold multimillions of copies, and still does every year worldwide.
This is what happens when a real surfband covers a Nokie Edwards (Ventures) tune that had no relation to surf as written. In fact, it started life as a Potato concept song called "Spudnik." This is the grand and beautiful song that runs under the ending credits of Pulp Fiction. This is the full length version, not the single edit.
TV Surf (Instrumental)
Often covered TV theme song from the chameleons of instro rock from the 1968 TV series.