Tales of Rock – SPECIAL REPORT – Dick Dale, Surf Guitar Legend, Dead At 81

Dick Dale, the surf rock pioneer who took reverb to new levels, died on Saturday night. He was 81. The guitarist’s health had declined over the past 20 years due to a number of illnesses, including diabetes, kidney disease and rectal cancer. The news was confirmed to NPR by Dusty Watson, a drummer who worked and toured with Dale between 1995 and 2006, who says he spoke with Dale’s wife, Lana Dale. No cause was given.

Dale, born Richard Anthony Monsour in 1937, changed the sound of rock and roll in the early 1960s when he upped the reverb on his guitar and applied the Arabic scales of his father’s native Lebanon. Born and originally raised in Massachusetts, he found his aesthetic when his family moved to Orange County, California in 1954 — where he took up surfing.

His high-energy interpretation of an old song from Asia Minor, “Misirlou” (Egyptian Girl), became the most famous song of surf rock: He had learned the tune from his Lebanese uncles, who played it on the oud.

“I started playing it,” Dale, who had started out as a drummer, told NPR in a 2010 interview, “and I said, ‘Oh no, that’s too slow.’ And I thought of Gene Krupa’s drumming, his staccato drumming… When we went to California, I got my first guitar, but I was using this rocket-attack, Gene Krupa rhythm on the guitar.”

And that wildfire-tempo song became his signature: Dale self-released “Misirlou” as a single on Deltone Records in 1962, which led in part to a deal with Capitol Records to distribute his first album, 1962’s Surfer’s Choice. Dale’s first album for Capitol was 1963’s King of the Surf Guitar; he said that fans at an early show came up with the honorary moniker.

Dale’s collaborations with guitar inventor Leo Fender also made sonic history. “I met a man called Leo Fender,” he told NPR, “who is the Einstein of the guitar and the amplifiers. He says, ‘Here, I just made a guitar, it’s a Stratocaster. You just beat it to death and tell me what you think. So when I started playing on that thing, I wanted to get it to be as loud as I could, like Gene Krupa drums. And as I was surfing, when the waves picked me up and took me through the tubes, I would get that rumble sound.”

Fender and Dale also worked together on amplifiers, Dale told Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross in 1993. “I wanted to get a fat, thick, deep sound,” Dale remarked.

Fender kept trying options, but Dale still wasn’t satisfied. “We kept on making all these adjustments with output transformers, with speakers,” Dale told Fresh Air, “and that’s how I blew up over 48 speakers and amplifiers. They’d catch on fire, the speakers would freeze, the speakers would tear from the coils … So he went back to the drawing board came up and invented the Dick Dale Showman amplifier, and the dual Showman amplifier with the 15 inch Lansing speaker. That was the end result … along with the creations that we did on the Stratocaster guitar, making it a real thick body because the thicker the wood, the purer the sound.”

Three decades after he first released his most famous tune, Dale and “Misirlou” had a wave of resurgence after the song was featured in the opening credits of Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 film Pulp Fiction. The movie’s soundtrack sold more than 3 million copies and helped put surf rock — and Dale himself — in front of a new generation of music fans. New compilations were issued and he was even booked on the 1996 Warped Tour.

Over the decades that followed, he released two more albums and kept playing in front of live audiences. “I make my guitar scream with pain or pleasure or sensuality,” he told NPR. “It makes people move their feet and shake their bodies. That’s what music does.”

Rest in peace, Mr. Dale. You will be missed, but your unique sound lives forever.

 

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Wildwood Daze – Winter of 1979 – Tools of the Trade

I think because I was doing well in school and they had failed me as parents in my obvious musical upbringing and had handed over their money to Mr. Buckwalter to teach my sister Janice piano lessons so she could please my dad and not be able to play a fucking note they had no choice.

I started to think about buying a real guitar. I was excited about the notion of getting a REAL guitar. Obviously this rock and roll thing was sticking and I needed a proper instrument. Jim had a Fender Stratocaster and it was a good guitar but it was brown and sensible. A Gibson Les Paul was simply too heavy and way too expensive.

I wanted something that would define me as a rock star. I wanted something else. Everybody played Fender, Gibson, Yamaha, Guild, and whatever boring guitars were out there. A Gibson Explorer crossed my mind but looked too bulky. A Dean looked too much like everything else.

One day I was reading Creem or Circus magazine, (Other than Rolling Stone, they were the two leading music mags of the time) I saw Paul Stanley from the band Kiss playing and interesting looking axe. The way it looked really touched something in me.

Yes. That was the guitar for a future rock star.

I had to have that.

A 1979 Black Ibanez Iceman. Double humbucker pickups. Rosewood neck, and a sexy young body. Just like the girls I liked. That hook. That stinger. Yes!

I had to have that guitar.

Jim had introduced me to a guy that gave guitar lessons in town. He was an older dude who’s father owned a storefront down on Pacific avenue when that meant something. It was a radio and TV repair store. A dusty old place that felt like it’s time had come and gone.

I was surprised how many people Jim knew at his tender age, but he was a seeker and was always thirsty for knowledge. He somehow found Charlie Billaris the son who was this great guitar player back in the day.

He introduces me to Charlie and he’s a really nice older guy. (Now when I say older, I mean back then, late twenties because we were so young) He had been teaching Jim some songs and I thought he was cool.

We would sit in this old store full of old TV’s and radios and just jam. It was beautiful and primitive. He had taught Jim and I wanted some of that. I think I would give him ten bucks and he would teach me songs by Led Zeppelin and basic blues runs.

Charlie was a great guitar player. He had once played in a band called 12 Gauge years ago but they never made it and now he worked in his dad’s shop. I wondered how a guy that was this good had never gone forward to pursue music full-time. But he was married now with a baby and had already been burned out from the circuit. I assured that would never happen to me. I was going to be a rock star like Joe Perry and become a great songwriter.

“Charlie.”

“Yea, man.”

“How can Keith Richards be such drug addict and still perform and make great records with the Stones?”

“When you got it… you got it.”

That was his only answer. He was right. Simple and complete. He was older. He knew stuff.

He taught me so much. I got better. I started to really understand my little Silvertone guitar so much better. Under Charlie I wrote better more melodic songs and was really coming along as a guitar player. I wanted it so bad it was coming on fast. My mind was starving for rock and I just breathed it all in. I would go home and learn the songs and keep writing and playing non stop in my room.

One day Jim and I were at Charlie’s house just hanging out and jamming. Jim starts talking about how I was thinking about getting a REAL guitar.

I tell Charlie the guitar I’m dreaming about.

“I can get you that. But I have to go to New York to get that baby. She’s rare.”

I had to clear that whole transaction with my parents because it would be my entire savings from working as a busboy all summer at the Dolphin restaurant for this guitar.

I think because I was doing well in school and they had failed me as parents in my obvious musical upbringing and had handed over their money to Mr. Buckwalter to teach my sister Janice piano lessons so she could please my dad and not be able to play a fucking note they had no choice.

It was money I had earned being a busboy so they technically couldn’t say shit. I’m doing my homework. I’m excelling as a student. I’m not getting into trouble. I’ve somehow adjusted to this nightmare I’ve been dropped off into so let me do what I want with my money.

I gave Charlie $250 to go get the guitar of my dreams in New York City. That seemed like a world away back then.

A week later I get a call from him and he says he’s back and he has her.

I call Jim. We have to go together to collect my dream!

We walk out to Charlies house and I’m excited and apprehensive. This is the biggest purchase of my life and it’s tied to my greatest love of all time. MUSIC!

We knock on his door and his wife answers. (Lisa was a hot little blonde. Just saying….musicians pull sweet tail)

We go in and Charlie comes out. We’re nervous and excited because we both are anticipating what’s supposed to happen. We sit down and he offers us both a beer. We’re teenage boys so of course we’re going to respect and accept but we’re not really drinkers. (Yet… Me. Not Jim)

We’re nursing out beers trying to be cool during this watershed moment in my young life. Then he brings out this black rectangle flight case and lays it on the sofa like a coffin. My mind can’t comprehend what’s inside of that box.

“Go ahead. Open the case.” Charlie’s wife is smiling.

I set my beer down and go to the flight case. I unsnap the buckles and locks on the case. I slowly raise the lid.

Tears fill my eyes.

There she is!

That’s my new axe! That’s my girl! That’s going to be what will carry me forth in rock and heavy metal in my future. I already feel that I am going to go beyond Wildwood and everything in my worthless anxiety filled life with her!

On the little box inside the case where you keep your picks, slide and other cool goodies I decorated it with twin skulls, a little scarab and a miniature Iceman pin!

This IS Rock and Roll. I have arrived on life’s stage as a musician. A worthless nothing with depression and anxiety has taken a step to strap on an elegant guitar to make great music for the world and be a star!

I remember my eyes not being able to accept the instrument before me. The possibilities with Jim. The songs we would write. The incredible jams. The songs we would play together on stage. Everything was coming together for me. My dreams were coming true!

I told Charlie I had the other half of the money in my account. (That guitar cost $500 in 1979. That’s a shitload of cash for a busboy back then. That’s basically all I made that summer) He is hesitant to let her go, but his wife intercedes.

“They’re good boys. Let him take it.” (Is she into me?)

I promise to bring Charlie the difference tomorrow, and they let Jim and I leave with my brand new battle-axe.

I had to stop two times on the way home and open up the case and just look at her again because she was so beautiful. She was the most beautiful guitar I had ever seen and I couldn’t believe she was mine. Having this guitar and looking upon her was like taking little Terri to Star Wars and kissing her for the first time and feeling what love was.

It was just an amazing time stopping moment to stand under the street light at 22nd and Central with my best friend and favorite guitarist and open that case and look at that guitar.

It reminded me of when I was there when my mom first saw the shore house completely remodeled by my dad.

“Oh Hoss… this is too nice for us.” my mother said.

This was too nice for us. But I’m an overachiever and this is the perfect guitar for me.

I have arrived.  I just hope Jim and I can make the band work out.

Here’s an amusing footnote: The Ibanez Iceman that brought me years of joy upon acquiring it cost me a whopping $500 in 1979. An incredible instrument!

A friend of mine recently sent me this….

Nice investment that I’d like to be buried with.

Oh, and still rocking out today…

Here’s a song I used to love to listen to at the beach in the summer of 79. Great pop song and solo.

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Renegade – 1978 to 1979 – Chapter 5 – The Sears Silvertone

Jerry arrives the next day with the Sears Silvertone and the amplifier that came with it. It’s a cheap red and black small solid body guitar that is cheaply made with its solid state transistor amp with the little 8 inch speaker in the amp.

I absolutely love it.

I strap it on and Jerry proceeds to show me the three note thing I need to do during his solo on the song Draw the Line.

I am ecstatic.

He’s such a great guitar player and I’m nothing but a teenager that got the chance to sing with these real musicians and have a band, I’m just so happy. Things are really progressing. We’re building our repertoire and now I’m learning guitar.

He teaches me how to hold my fingers and do the notes to carry the rhythm. The guitar feels so good in my hands. A slender light electric starter guitar I can handle. It’s full of mystery and promise. This is what I’ve wanted my entire life. Why couldn’t my parents see this? Why did they waste two years of piano lessons on my sister Janice when I was the child who loved and craved music?

Maybe I needed to go hunt it down like the Keith Richards, Jimmy Pages, and the Paul McCartney’s before me. I want to walk in their footsteps. I’ll find my way like they did.  Rock and roll isn’t born from sitting day after day taking piano lessons to please your father. Rock and roll is a little bastard sprung from anger and frustration and the blues. The blues rose out of slavery, rape, kidnapping, murder, hatred, oppression and a people who had rhythm in their souls long before there were white people. We just took it and made it our own.  The Rolling Stones, Elvis, The Beatles, all listened to black artists that really lived and breathed music and got it.

I was a weak, anxiety ridden mess that was always a victim. Picked on at school, and at home. Just a pimple faced, braces wearing, greasy haired loser that couldn’t throw a ball or even do well in school. School bored my creative mind. I hated it. School was a place I had to go by law that was nothing but torture for my mind in my formative years.

But music… Oh my love. You always please me. You sound like my soul. You know me. I feel your fury. I will learn how to harness this instrument and feel better. I want this guitar so bad. When I hold her she’s like a sweet extension of myself. I can for the first time express myself with sound. I love music. I’ve drawn pictures, I’ve sculpted things out of clay.

But now I may have a chance to have a voice. A voice I’ve never had in this life. A weak frightened loser. I don’t fit into school or the neighborhood. I have few friends, and sadly they all look like me with our sad faces. Broken by our teachers, bullies and worst of all our fathers.

But now I have this lovely instrument in my hand.  She has finally come to me. I will learn how to caress her and love her, and I know I won’t be the fastest gun in the West like Jerry, or Page, or Hendrix, or Eddie Van Halen. I just want to learn how to make her sing in my arms.

I just want to dance with her.

Most of all I want to write songs with her. That’s my 2nd goal. Learn how to play a bit, then create. That’s it. That’s my mission.

 

When we play Draw the Line, I love to put her on and do my part. It’s feels better than a black and white milkshake on a hot day to just riff with the band. To be a guitarist in a band. It’s so little but it’s so big to me to play with this band. This is me emerging from a pit of shit was my life in puberty. I’m coming out. There is a solution. Things can get better. Your life isn’t just a series of fear and failure.

“Hey, Chaz, you like the guitar?”

“I love it Jerry. I’ve been listening to my records and I got my sisters piano books and I’m studying chords and I think I’m coming along.”

“I see that, and that’s good. But here’s the thing.”

“Oh fuck. What?”

“I have to buy a Valentine’s present for my girlfriend and I don’t have any money.”

“Go on…”

“You can have the Silvertone if you give me $15 so I can get Rachel something.”

“Can you throw in the amp?”

“Yea. No problem the guitar and the amp are yours. I have to get her something and I don’t need that piece of shit anymore.”

I didn’t even check with my mom, I just went up to my room and go the money from my little safe stash. I worked as a busboy at the shore so I had a little bit of cash lying around and also in my savings account.

“Thank you! Rachel will be happy, thanks to you.”

“Thanks Jerry. This guitar IS my Valentine this year.”

“Well it’s yours now.”

 

This little Sears Silvertone would be my axe for the next year as I practiced relentlessly to learn how to play guitar. My friends would want me to come out of the house to hang and I would stay alone in my room, practicing the guitar and listening to my records, learning songs and getting better.

I even went to a little music store down on Rising Sun Avenue and bought a better amplifier. It was badass little amp that had a 10″ speaker in it and it had some cool effects on it like tremelo and reverb. It was made by a company called Marlboro. I look back on it now and I’m sure it was a shit amp but it was only $100 bucks back then (A fortune for a teenage boy in 1978) but it did the job. I even bought a pre-am box for it to make it louder and more distorted. (Love it!)

I even eventually bought a Univox superfuzz pedal just like Jerry’s. I wanted that heavy distorted sound he had. I didn’t know it at the time but I was writing songs and shaping a sound that would later be adapted by bands like Metallica. But I missed that boat… (More about that later when I go to L.A.)

This was a watershed moment in my life and would shape who I was in the years to come in Jersey and L.A.

 

We used to play this song from Aerosmith’s second record and I loved it so much. I liked it because it was by my favorite hard rock band, but it was sad and gentle.

Just like me.

 

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Tales of Rock – The Creator of Fender Guitars Couldn’t Play Guitar and Didn’t Like Rock Music

If the name Leo Fender doesn’t ring a bell for you, here are some others that might: Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Holly, Stevie Ray Vaughn, David Gilmour, Pete Townshend, Guitar-Playing Dude from the Chili Peppers. The one thing these men have in common, besides certain venereal diseases, is that they all favored Leo Fender’s guitars.

Fender’s influence on rock music is second only to that of cocaine: He didn’t invent the electric guitar, but most agree that he perfected it. And since the man lived until 1991, he got to hear all the awesome music his instruments helped create during the golden era of rock.

What He Was Really Like:

Leo Fender not only never learned to play the electric guitar, but wasn’t even a fan of rock ‘n’ roll. When he created his first electric guitars, he made them with country music stars in mind, because that kind of instrument was a staple in country music. The entire reason he went into the business was that he wanted to provide better instruments for the cowboy songs he loved so much.

Despite the fact that his entire business revolved around manufacturing and constantly improving guitars and amps, Fender never actually got around to learning how to play them and didn’t have any interest in doing so. He relied on actual musicians to help him with the design of the guitars, since he probably didn’t even know which way to pick them up. When Fender was testing an amp with a guitar, other people in the shop had to go in and tune the instrument when they couldn’t take the noise anymore. To Fender, it didn’t make much of a difference.

All of this makes Fender’s accomplishments even more impressive. His guitars aren’t preferred by so many famous rockers simply because they look cooler, but because they objectively are — his biggest achievement, the Fender Stratocaster, was noted for its clean sound and durability. According to songwriter Jonathan Richman, it was “everything your parents hated about rock ‘n’ roll.”

We should all learn something from Leo Fender. So you can’t drive? Try to invent a new car! You aren’t a licensed doctor? Come up with a new method of open heart surgery! Maybe you’ll get arrested … or maybe your name will become synonymous with the craft. It’s happened before.

Here’s a dude who knows to do with a Strat.

RIP, Stevie Ray.

 

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Tales of Rock – Metallic K.O.

“Listen, asshole, you heckle me one more time and I’m gonna come down there and kick your ass.”

Iggy Pop is one of the most flamboyant performers in the history of music. He has an incredible stage presence and has given credit to Jim Morrison for introducing him to a free attitude and wild stage antics. Iggy Pop is credited with being the first performer to do a stage-dive. Some of his more descriptive exploits include rolling around in broken glass, exposing himself to the crowd, and vomiting on stage. He has been known to spark riots and has the ability to whip the crowd into frenzy.

On February 9, 1974 The Stooges performed at Detroit’s Michigan Palace. It was the band’s last show together before they broke up for three decades. Before the 1974 concert, Pop gave a radio interview in which he challenged a Detroit motorbike gang (the Scorpions) to a fight. He called them all a bunch of cats. In response, the gang attended the show and pelted the band with broken glass, beer jugs, urine, eggs, ice, jelly beans, and shovels. Despite the hostility, Iggy continued to taunt the crowd and said: “You pricks can throw everything in the world… your girlfriend will still love me.”

The Stooges fed off the crowd’s anger and continued to perform. During the show Iggy finally told the bikers: “All right you assholes, want to hear Louie, Louie, we’ll give it to you.” The Stooges continued to play a forty-five-minute version of Louie Louie, which included improvised lyrics by Pop. During the song he continued to yell and verbally assault the gang.

The concert finally ended after Iggy Pop focused his attention on one particular heckler and said: “Listen, asshole, you heckle me one more time and I’m gonna come down there and kick your ass.” The biker told Pop to come over, so Iggy jumped off the stage and confronted him. The biker continued to beat the crap out of Iggy, which ended the event. Luckily, the concert was captured on a reel-to-reel tape machine and recorded live. In 1976, The Stooges released the recording in an album titled Metallic K.O. It is the only rock album where you can hear beer bottles breaking against guitar strings. The album remains a favorite among Iggy Pop fans.

 

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Tales of Rock – Courtney Love is Crazy

Did she kill her husband?

I have a difficult time including Courtney Love in the presence of these rock stars, but I don’t have a problem calling her crazy. Courtney Love is a musician that gained notoriety in the late 1980s with her band Hole. She was married to Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain until he passed away in 1994. Love is known for extreme and erratic behavior. She has been implemented by a private investigator named Tom Grant in the possible murder of Cobain.

In the weeks prior to Kurt Cobain’s suicide Love hired Tom Grant to find her husband. After Kurt was discovered dead, Green said that he found strange activity on Cobain’s credit card. He believed that Kurt’s suicide note was actually a note written that was announcing his desire to end his marriage to Courtney Love. Green also cited Cobain’s unusual bloodstream heroin levels and the fact that no fingerprints were found on the trigger of the shotgun he used to kill himself as clues of foul play.

In 2009, the daughter of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, Frances Bean Cobain was granted a restraining order against her mother who was harassing her. Frances claimed that Courtney was a violent drug addict and compulsive hoarder. She was freighted for her safety and hoped to have her mother removed from her life.

In April of 2012, Courtney Love took to Twitter and provided a rant of crazy remarks. She attacked her daughter and Dave Grohl, the Foo Fighters frontman and former Nirvana bandmate. Love implied that Grohl had intended to have a sexual relationship with Frances and called him “sexually obsessed” with Kurt Cobain. She even voiced her opinion about the upcoming U.S. presidential election and attacked Mitt Romney with some unprovoked and strange accusations.

Courtney threatened to shoot and kill Grohl on two separate occasions. The rant was unprovoked and completely false. Frances is currently engaged to a man named Isaiah Silva. After the comments, Frances responded and said that the social networking website should ban her mother. Grohl said: “Unfortunately Courtney is on another hateful Twitter rant. These new accusations are upsetting, offensive, and absolutely untrue.”

 

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Tales of Rock – Led Zeppelin And Yes Almost Became A Supergroup Out Of Survivor’s Guilt

Will Zep and Yes form a Frankensteinian Supergroup?

I love music. I love all music. I love rock and metal especially. I have always loved the power and fury of that music as a musician and as a fan. I love talking about bands, music and trivia, and my stories with everyone I know. So I’ve decided to add a little Friday edition of a pet project I’ve been working on. I haven’t discussed it with anyone. I just want to do it. So it you show up on a Friday, you’ll get a short little twisted tale about the music industry.  I was in it a long time ago, and I welcome your likes, hates, comments and follows. I’d like to try this and keep it going with as many stories as I can remember. I will also pepper this series with people I have met in the industry. Right now I’m too busy building phicklephilly to do my personal rock and roll tales, but I assure you they will come. And they will come hard! But in the interim, please enjoy these stories as I provide them. I’ll do my very best to come up with a new tale each week!

I want to kick off your weekend with an obscure nugget that no one really knows about!

Most rock bands have a higher member turnover rate than your local McDonald’s. Sometimes they hire new members and soldier on, but other times they break up, either out of respect or because they can’t find enough warm bodies to shove into the back of a van. When both Yes and Led Zeppelin suffered this problem at about the same time, band members from both sides decided to do something radical: take the remaining members of both bands and form a new Frankensteinian supergroup.

Though a seminal band in the ’70s, Yes had fallen apart by the ’80s, mainly due to the departures of frontman Jon Anderson and keyboardist Rick Wakeman. One day, Yes bassist Chris Squire bumped into the legendary Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page at a Christmas party. Squire quickly found himself consoling a grieving Page over the death of his drummer John Bonham. Both of them missed the glory days, so he suggested that the remaining members of the two bands ought to come together and write an album. Page not only agreed, but went one step further and proposed that the collaboration would spawn a whole new band, called XYZ — which is short for Ex-Yes/Zeppelin, and a terrible name.

The band did actually get as far as writing and jamming out to a few songs, and even got a few demos under their belt, but as so frequently happens with young musicians, reality got in the way of their dream. First, Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant backed out of the collaboration because he thought the music was too “complicated.” Then, the managers of the respective groups started bickering over who should become head honcho of the new band. With that, the whole project simply petered out. Eventually, Squire did reunite with some of his former Yes bandmates (not Wakeman or Anderson, though) in a new band called Cinema, but nobody cared.

 

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