Fifty-one years ago today, Oct. 6, Dick Dale played the Ed Sullivan Show. Dale looked pretty damn punk rock, with his greased-up hair, wearing a black T-shirt—every other rock act at the time, most famously The Beatles, wore suits and ties for the Sullivan show—and as soon as the camera hits him, Dale rears back on one foot and shimmies and cuts loose with a devilish little chuckle. For half a minute, he plays “Surfin’ and A-Swingin’,” an upbeat throwaway B-side single that got a bit of radio play that summer. Then with a growl he speed-shifts into a minor key and we get two full guitar-shredding minutes of “Misirlou,” thank God.
But wait, let’s not be so hard on “Surfin’ and A-Swinging,” because it gets us to a great YouTube clip of Dale lip-synching the song in “Beach Party,” the original Frankie and Annette beach flick, and here we find a small gold mine of on-screen delights. So much drinking and smoking! Beatnik chicks! And yes, that’s Johnny Fain (powder blue shirt, no jacket) and Mickey Dora (red shirt, gray jacket) on the dance floor and holding their own against the West Coast Watusi A-team, including Candy Johnson and her deadly machine-gun hips.
Sure, the song really isn’t worthy of his attention, but here again Dick Dale shows off both his guitar and sartorial chops. Somebody please explain to me why the man wasn’t ten-times the star he ended up being.