Vol. 1, Issue #21 Nov. 10th - Nov. 23rd, 2006

Tiger Beat From Hell
By: Wilhelm Murg

Gods of the Wild Guitar -- Wray, Dale, & Allen

In the history of rock’n’roll, there’s almost a pure line you can see from Elvis, through rockabilly, classical rock’n’roll, frat music, garage punk, surf, psychedelic, early metal and punk. The unifying sound of these different styles of the blues is the guitar. From Check Berry’s brilliant, succinct solos through Bryan Gregory’s screeching atonal waves of jarring dissonance in the early years of The Cramps, the sound is frantic, hard, scrapping, and pushes the instrument’s tonal boundaries to new limits.

One tradition that has virtually disappeared is the instrumental guitar record. Sundazed has just released three note worthy CDs by three of the masters of the boss instrumental guitar sound; Link Wray’s “White Lightning: Lost Cadence Sessions ‘58,” an expanded edition of Dick Dale and The De-Tones’ classic “Surfer’s Choice,” and a new collection of Davie Allan & The Arrows; “Cycle Breed.” Taken as a whole, it’s fascinating to listen to the three discs together and realize how influential each one was to the guitar sound of their days.

The late Link Wray’s “Rumble,” recorded in 1958, is simply one of the greatest recordings ever made. It’s the only instrumental song I know of to be banned on radio. Concerned parents and school officials worried that the ultra-cool-evil, motorcycle-revving sound of Link’s power chords would set off gang warfare in the street. The ironic thing is that historically, it more of less did; Pete Townshend wrote that he never would have picked up the guitar if it had not been for Link Wray. Punk and metal both have their roots in Wray poking holes in his amp speaker to distort the sound. Wray’s guitar sound became the touchstone of every rock guitarist with a bad attitude.

After “Rumble” hit, Wray went back in the studio and recorded a whole album for the label, Cadence, but due to the controversy they shelved it and Wray left and went into his classic period for the Swan label. “White Lightning” is the master tape from those lost sessions, and while it doesn’t feature a lot of the heavy, fuzzed-out guitar, it’s still brilliant. “Pancho Villa” is a premonition of things to come; it has Wray getting gritty in a minor key. “Comanche,” done Wray-style, has a fierce intensity, complete with Indian war-whoops (Wray was part Shawnee, so he was allowed to do that kind of stuff). He also out twangs Duane Eddy on a cover of “Rebel Rouser.” I really like the song “The Freeze,” which sounds like it was probably a stupid dance, but Wray’s rockin’ guitar pushes the dissonance envelope in three or four different keys. While not as essential as a greatest hits collection, it’s a great second buy for a Wray collector.

Wray was often criticized for being more style than substance, because many of his classics were relatively simple to play, but they just sounded cool in the way Wray played them. The same couldn’t be said for The King of Surf Guitar, Dick Dale. Dale was and still is one of the technical masters of the instrument. Best know for “Misirlou,” which was used in the title sequence of “Pulp Fiction,” Dale defined instrumental surf music with the LP “Surfer’s Choice.” The new reissue of the album includes the six uncollected tracks from the same period, 1961-1963, including “Misirlou.”

The main thing about Dale was the speed of his fingering, informed by the frantic adrenaline rush of surfing. He claims he didn’t use any reverb in these sessions; the big splashy sound was all a matter of the echo he had in the recording studio.

Dale’s heritage was Lebanese and Polish, and he knew the folk music from both sides of his family. While his breakneck solos obviously used scales from both cultures. I’ve always heard a slight tinge of mariachi and Hawaiian slack key guitar also blended into the mix. While the album includes a few frat rock influenced songs, like “Fanny Mae” and his hit “Peppermint Man,” the hard and heavy stuff makes up the bulk; “Surf Beat,” “Misirlou Twist,” “Take it Off,” “Let’s Go Trippin’,” “Surfin’ Drums,” “Shake N’Stomp,” and “Death of Gremmie,” not to mention the singles “Jungle Fever” and “A Run for Life.”

Many fine surf groups followed Dale, but the vast majority were one hit wonders. It’s amazing to see how many classics are on this album alone, but this doesn’t even touch his hot rod period. If you want to know about Dick Dale, this is a great place to start.

Taking the guitar album concept and running it into the psychedelic era, we get David Allan & The Arrows. Allan is best known for his biker movie themes, especially “Blue’s Theme” from the Roger Corman epic “Wild Angels.” The song reached the top 40 when it was released in 1966, and the album was so popular that a second volume of music was released from the soundtrack. This lead to soundtracks for “The Devil’s Angels,” “The Hellcats,” “The Glory Stompers,” “The Angry Breed,” “Born Losers” and even a few non-biker movies, like the surf documentary “The Golden Breed,” the hippiefest “Mary Jane,” and the satirical “Wild in The Streets.”

Just as Dale’s music evokes the sensation of riding a wave, and Wray’s music makes you feel bulletproof, Allan’ solos make you feel like you are on the open road. This CD is a great collection of tracks from soundtracks that haven’t been available for decades, along with some never-before-released tracks, mostly from “The Angry Breed,” which was never released as a soundtrack. My favorite picks include the unfortunately titled “Rape,” which is music from a rape scene, where Allan lays down one of the wildest psychedelic guitar solos of the era. The sitar duet on the theme from “Wild in The Streets” is pretty damn cool too.

It’s too bad “Blue’s Theme” isn’t on this album; if it were, I would recommend that you steal from your loved ones if you have to and go out and buy this CD. Allan is simply one of the coolest guitarists of all-time, and the thing about all three of these guitarists is that they all got better as time went on. While the biker soundtracks are cool, Allan’s “”Live Run” from 2000 is still one of the greatest live albums I’ve ever heard.

It’s a shame we still don’t have guitar gods putting out solo albums; all three of these masters literally lead the pack in their days.

For more information: Sundazed.com.

©2006 NONCO Media, L.L.C.