Tragic news has tremored through the rock world over the weekend. Dick Dale, the man who single-handedly invented the surf rock guitar sound, has died aged 81.
Dale, real name Richard Anthony Monsour passed away on Saturday (16 March) evening. The guitarist's live bassist, Sam Bolle, confirmed the news to the Guardian. The cause of death is not yet known.
We can take comfort at this sad time, however, in knowing that Dale truly lived his life to the full. He was truly an innovator - Dale's particular back story goes beyond mere speculation of being original, which is often praise that's automated to endow people with honour; it is a concrete fact he was a genius with sound.
On one hand, his style can be attributed to his upbringing. Born on 4 May, 1937 in Boston to a Lebanese father, and Polish-Belarussian mother, the guitarist incorporated traditional Middle Eastern and Eastern European melodies in to his electric guitar playing. These are tastes and techniques that would filter through by osmosis and in education from other older relatives, too. You can imagine then that picking up tracks such the traditional Greek song 'Misirlou' - which formed the basis of his 1962 hit of the same name, and would later score Pulp Fiction - would be natural for him. His first Western influnces are known to have come from country player Hank Williams.
But his diverse upbring and natural desire to mesh sounds wasn't his only trick. Dale was ahead of his time in anticipating the latest trends that would come with emreging technology. He amped his guitar in powerful ways that were seldom achieved at the time.
Quite particular to his sound is the reverbed "wet" sound, which would add a certain character to the traditional scales he was playing with such dexterity. These were sounds, designed by Dale, and said to reflect ths sounds he had in his head whilst surfing.
Perhaps his early nailing of such sonics, and the powerful way they were delivered, was down to a close friendship with Leo Fender, founder of the legendary guitar manufacturing company. In pop, technology has always gone hand in hand with shaping the art, and there's a friendship here, which feels like it was very much right place right time for both the artist to break through, and for the company to ensure it could achieve making equipment to cope with extreme playing.
Dale was quizzed about this friendship by The New York Time in 2011. Of it, he said: "Everything that came out of Leo Fender’s head, I was his test pilot. He used to say: ‘When it can withstand the barrage of punishment from Dick Dale, then it is fit for the human consumption.’ So I blew up over 50 amplifiers. And that’s why they call me the Father of Heavy Metal.”
Whilst that's an impressive friendship, to count the Beach Boys and The Ventures as one-time students of his work is another specatacular achievement of Dale's lifetime.
The tracks he made were solely instrumental but other bands such as The Ventures and The Beach Boys were inspired to make vocal versions of what he did. The Ventures are credited with writing the first piece of music that Eddie Van Halen learned. And pop music without the Beach Boys doesn't bear imagining.
It's tragic to hear the loss of another great pioneer. His body may have left us but Dick Dale's presence shall never fade. RIP.