The Songs of Summer #21: ‘Surfing Drums’ by Dick Dale and His Del-Tones
They call Dick Dale ‘The King of the Surf Guitar’ for a reason. His guitar style, heavy on reverb and inspired by eastern musical scales, is THE sound of surf music. Loud, twangy, reverb-y guitars are the hallmark of any, and all, great surf songs.
Almost any of Dick Dale’s songs could qualify as a Song of Summer, but if I’ve got to pick one (I don’t have to, but I’m going to), it’s ‘Surfing Drums.’ Other Dick Dale songs are more famous; ‘Let’s Go Trippin” is even considered the very first surf song. And you all know ‘Misirlou’ from Pulp Fiction, or maybe even (gasp) Black Eyed Peas’ ‘Pump It.’ (And if the BEPs are your only reference to Dick Dale, shame on you.)
Quoting from Wikipedia, Dick Dale “pushed the limits of electric amplification technology, helping to develop new equipment that was capable of producing distorted, ‘thick, clearly defined tones’ at ‘previously undreamed-of volumes.’ ” Almost nowhere is that guitar sound on better display than this tune right here.
I know, I know, it’s called Surfing Drums, not Surfing Guitar. And the drums are there, laying down an insistent Bo Diddley beat, even a nice little drum solo. But that guitar… Just listen to that guitar. Dick Dale doesn’t play it so much as he commands sound out of it. It’s almost menacing in its ferocity. Listen, and you’ll hear the groundwork for future rock guitarists to build from, from Hendrix to Van Halen.
Summer Songs means Surfin’ Songs, and nobody does Surfin’ Songs better than the Originator, Dick Dale & His Del-Tones. With ‘Surfing Drums,’ you get the guitar. You get the honking sax. You get the drums. Hell, you even get Dick Dale himself, singing. And with lyrics like “Hey little mama now don’t you cry, Mama’s goin’ downtown now to die,” you know you’re in for a treat. Dick Dale takes his surf music damn seriously. And so should you.
Seminal surf sounds from 1962. Twang On.