Surfbeat: Dick Dale

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Surfbeat: Dick Dale

Twenty years ago this month, I was sitting in the foyer of the Prince Of Wales Hotel in St Kilda interviewing Dick Dale. Later that night I went and saw his gig… two hours of driving guitars that threatened to strip paint off the walls… and this from a guy in his fifties. It was a great gig performed by one of the world’s great guitarists.

It has often been written that Dick Dale created the surf guitar sound that captured the imaginations of a generation of young Californians in the early sixties.

Apart from family, Dale has three great loves in his life: music, his pet lions and the ocean: “Water I love it. I used to get up at five in the morning and sit in the ocean, throw the water up and say, ‘Lord thank you for letting me sit here.’ I’ve surfed waves and porpoises come right up next to me and looked me in the eye and we’d surf together. I’ve been in Hawaii with the sharks and the helicopters in Pearl Harbor who go over us and yell out, ‘SHARK, SHARK, GET OUT OF THE WATER, SHARK, SHARK’ and I’d put my feet up and paddle in. I’d see sharks underneath and it would scare the shit out of me. I’ve had sharks chase me while diving.

So all of a sudden I catch this bug in Hawaii then I catch it in Jamaica then I caught it in Tahiti and then I come home I had it again and I had these lines gong up my arms and legs and the pain was unbelievable and I rushed to the doctor. I would have had my leg amputated within 13 hours at the hip from this poison in the ocean that I caught in the very place where I used to heal. I never went back in again.

So what happened is I all of a sudden got cured and I go to Hawaii which is my other home and I work with the Duke Kahanamoku until he died. I was on the Board of Directors of the Surfing Classic for so many years. So the whole thing was to be with the people of the different races, different up bringing where my music stems from and attitude stems from. That’s why I write for a magazine called MUSIC CONFIDENTIAL which started in February 1996 and its in every country in the world and I write a two page column called PISSED ON/PISSED OFF by Dick Dale and it talks about the shit which is being hidden by the powers in control from the grass roots people.”

Dale’s experiences with polluted water led him to become an environmental activist in the eighties. “The track The Long Ride (from the album Tribal Thunder) was written is about how ‘as I paddle my board out on that beautiful glassy wave and I must ride that wave forever because the on-coming waves are toxic.’ That’s my statement.

The powers in control have no respect for what they are doing. They couldn’t give a shit less and that is one of the reasons my music is an attitude.”

Dick Dale is 80 years old… and still performing regularly in the USA using the same prototype Marshall amp built in the sixties. He is possibly the only person on the planet who has surfed with Duke Kahanamoku and played guitar with Elvis!

By John Foss