Surf Rock Legend Dick Dale Plays the 'Comba
By: Sam Houghton, July 16, 2012
Dick Dale—known to music geeks as the surf guitar king of LA and to the wider public as that dude who plays that ripping opening number on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack—will be playing the Wellfleet Beachcomber on Wednesday, July 18.
Anyone with an inclination for fine rock n’ roll should be at that show. It’s not often that we have legends of such caliber in our midst here on Cape Cod, so to spoil such an opportunity would be sacrilegious to even the casual rock fan.
OK, I might be biased. I do have a signed poster of Dale in a black, half cowboy/half Native American suit hanging in my basement, playing his guitar with a sinister and majestic sneer on his face, standing alone in the middle of the desert.
Performing Wednesday, July 18 at 10 PM
Tickets: $25, 21+Wellfleet Beachcomber 1120 Cahoon Hollow Rd. Wellfleet
But I am not the only one: David Fricke of Rolling Stone ranked Dale as Number 31 in a list of the greatest guitarists of all time. In Pitchfork Media’s Top 200 songs of the 1960s, “Misirlou,” of Pulp Fiction fame, was ranked Number 69.
Strumming with the surf bums
Dale’s rise to legendary status began in Balboa, California in the ‘50s, where as a surfer, he yearned to capture the deep roar of the waves through his guitar.
Eventually, Dale fell in with Leo Fender, who supplied the budding musician with amps that boosted his signature sound with some serious wattage. Dale would blow through amps on a regular basis while performing for thick crowds of surf bums: pure instrumental madness and volume cracking out of his six strings that rivaled the big surf.
I managed to catch Dale live last year in New Jersey – a good crowd packed ear to ear in the cozy Maxwell’s on the outskirts of Hoboken. I heard rumors, soon confirmed, that Dale was 75 and that he had battled cancer a few years back. My confidence for a good show was dim.
But I squeezed to the front and stood in the looming shadow of Dale’s big-ass amps taking up the majority of the stage. It was four walls of high-voltage wattage, bass, treble and reverb: the spooky and sexy echo that makes Dale’s guitar speak magic.
And boom: Dale came out ripping with “Mr. Eliminator,” “Lets go Tripping,” “Misirlou” and countless other classics. My ears are still recovering, but the music was excellent. The man still has it.
Dick Dale is the man
What really struck me about the show was Dale’s stage presence. He was a warm-hearted preacher on stage, a humble self-help guru who seemed to strike a chord with everyone in the crowd. There was laughter and cheers throughout—and an occasional tear. After the show ended, the line to get an autograph and shake Dale’s hand wrapped around the entire club and outside.
I generally do not endorse old musicians trying to make a couple more bucks off of their glory days, destroying whatever integrity they once had. But for Dick Dale I make an exception. He has built a character of himself, a slice of Americana. Unlike an over-achieving Paul McCartney or a conceited Bono, Dale continues to play his unique style of surf rock in small clubs across the country.
Traveling in an old Winnebago, he keeps surf rock alive, playing songs that he knows and plays well. And he loves it.