Dick Dale – Miserlou

I thought I would continue with the surfing theme of the Beach Boys song yesterday.

Love the beginning to this song…the twangy guitar that Dale plays like a rubber band.  When I heard this song in the beginning of Pulp Fiction I knew I was going to enjoy the movie. Miserlou being used in the movie helped revive his career all over the world.

The song is a traditional Mediterranean song dating to the 1920s and originating in Greece.  Dick Dale then reworked and beat the song over the head to his surf rock tone and sound…and it works perfectly.

In March 2005, Q magazine placed Dale’s version at number 89 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks.

This song was released in 1962.

Dick Dale: “The sound is a Stratocaster guitar. It’s the solidity of the wood – the thicker the wood, the bigger and purer the sound. It was a Strat. Not the Jaguar, not the Jazzmaster, all these things we created later, for different reasons. Even the reverb – reverb had nothing to do with the surfing sound, and here they got ’em on the cover going ‘That’s the wet, splashy sound of reverb.’ No! We created the reverb because Dick Dale did not have a natural vibrato on his voice. I wanted to sustain my notes while singing. So we copied the Hammond organ, which had a tank in it. We took the tank out, rewired it, and had an outboard reverb! It was for the vocal. Our first album, Surfer’s Choice, sold over 88,000 albums – locally! That’s like more than 4 million today. Dick Dale was already established as King of the Surf Guitar, and that album did not have reverb on it. It wasn’t even invented!”

From Songfacts

Variations of the song have appeared in numerous movies, but when Dick Dale’s version was used to open the 1994 movie Pulp Fiction, it revived both Dale’s career and the Surf Music genre. Dale earned his first appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman a few weeks after the movie came out, and became a popular live act once again. His success in the ’60s was limited to America, but this time he was welcomed in the UK, as well as Australia and Japan, where his sound caught on and he made tour appearances for the first time. Dale’s “Miserlou” was also used in the movies Space Jam and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.

Dale included a traditional version of the song on his 1993 album Tribal Thunder as a hidden track (you can thank Nirvana for the hidden track craze of the early ’90s). Dale was showing his producer how the song was done originally, and they decided to include it with the set.

Dick Dale got his start in the late ’50s playing with his band The Del-Tones for surfers at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa, California. With authorities concerned about the mix of young people and guitars, one of the requirements at the Ballroom was that every male patron wear a tie, so the audience was often made up of barefooted guys in surfer garb wearing ties that were handed out at the door.

This was used on Friends when Ross, Chandler, and Joey squared off against Monica, Rachel, and Phoebe in a game of touch football in the 1996 Thanksgiving episode “The One With The Football.”


Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

47 thoughts on “Dick Dale – Miserlou”

  1. You just cant get past the image of the dance scene in Pulp Fiction can you? I’m no film buff, but that scene (and another Tarantino one from Reservoir Dogs, this time using Stealers Wheel soundtrack) is truly iconic. Giving music an image gives it a whole new meaning to listeners, and consequently a whole new lease of life. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know….that song does connect to that movie…Oh Steelers Wheel…that song reminds me of ears now lol. They really messed with that songs meaning!


  2. Loudest concert I ever attended. Kind of ruined the experience. There’s loud, and then there is stupid loud. DD was stupid loud. But, still glad I got to see him 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would have never guessed that. It’s almost as weird as my loudest…I don’t know what was going on but in 1986 I saw the Monkees….oh…they were ear splitting. Something had to be wrong that night.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ha! I saw the Monkees on that tour. It was like a ton of bands with them: Turtles, Herman’s Hermits, etc. They were cool when I saw them. Sorry they were ear-splitting at the show you went to. Sometimes it’s like that. Rock on!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. A true innovator. I have always admired him though I’ve never managed to listen to anything from him back to back. His sound is soooo definitive. It’s a small box that he plays in. A crystal jewelry box, perhaps, but still a box.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is a great description…He was incredibly flexible with his fingers…that rubberband sound is incredible… much harder to do than it sounds. Hope you are doing well Pam!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Right. I don’t mean to be critical of his style…it’s just so utterly Dick Dale. Very technically sound, a virtuoso with a dramatic, imaginative flair…but very locked into his tunnel vision.
    Yeah, I’m doing good. Thanks for asking. How about you?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No you were not critical…he was who he was and didn’t stray from that.
      I’m doing well…just working a lot right now. I just found out Tom T Hall passed away…it’s like a part of my childhood gone.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh man…We never listened to Country much in my household, it was always Top 40 Am radio, but my mom liked Tom T Hall. He was one of the few Country artist she enjoyed. We had his greatest hits album…Sneaky Snake. I like Beer. I Love. Those are the ones I remember.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I heard him through my parents radio…plus that name…Tom T Hall was easy for a kid to remember. I saw him when I was a kid. He came to my families guitar shop to get one made…I’m not sure if they did…I will have to ask my cousin about that.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. They made guitars for George Jones, Dolly Parton and some others. They lasted from the late 50s to the mid seventies…they are worth quite a bit now…. they just had no head for business.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Gower Guitar and Grammar Guitar….They merged with Billy Grammar in the 70s. My aunt did have a head for business but the brothers wouldn’t let her run it.
        My dad made the necks…they all had their part. I have 3 of them.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It really is…I’m going to post a couple more this weekend…surf songs…I thought what the hell. Speaking of the Pixies…I’m posting them Monday…probably one that really wasn’t a song that really represented their other work as much but I like it. I don’t think it made your list because of lack of room.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I was looking for surf bands last night and saw the Mermen…yea I need to add them and I’ll check on the Shadowy band…love that name.

      Man I was happy you remembered Laika…what a cool sound.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes going through an obsessed period…CB. I probably need therapy but I’ll work through it. I like the ties to rockabilly and rock and roll…and those surf drummers are amazing.

        Liked by 1 person

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