"Miserlou" (sometimes rendered "Misirlou") is a traditional Mediterranean song dating to the 1920s and originating in Greece. It was la The word roughly translates to "Arab Land." Dick Dale reworked the song using his trademark Surf Rock sound, and this became the version of the song that caught on in America. It was released as a single on the Del-Tone label in 1962, and later that year as "Miserlou Twist" on his first album Surfers' Choice. As Surf Rock caught on, the song was recorded by The Beach Boys, The Ventures, The Surfaris, The Bobby Fuller Four and just about anyone looking for the young California sound.
Variations of the song have appeared in numerous movies, but when Dick Dale's version was used to open the 1994 movie Pulp Fiction, it revived both Dale's career and the Surf Music genre. Dale earned his first appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman a few weeks after the movie came out, and became a popular live act once again. His success in the '60s was limited to America, but this time he was welcomed in the UK, as well as Australia and Japan, where his sound caught on and he made tour appearances for the first time. Dale's "Miserlou" was also used in the movies Space Jam and Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle.
Dale included a traditional version of the song on his 1993 album Tribal Thunder
as a hidden track (you can thank Nirvana for the hidden track craze
of the early '90s). Dale was showing his producer how the song was done originally, and they decided to include it with the set.
Dick Dale got his start in the late '50s playing with his band The Del-Tones for surfers at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa, California. With authorities concerned about the mix of young people and guitars, one of the requirements at the Ballroom was that every male patron wear a tie, so the audience was often made up of barefooted guys in surfer garb wearing ties that were handed out at the door.
There has been a lot of misinformation about the "Surf Sound" that Dale created. In a 1995 interview with Planet magazine, he explained: "The sound is a Stratocaster guitar. It's the solidity of the wood - the thicker the wood, the bigger and purer the sound. It was a Strat. Not the Jaguar, not the Jazzmaster, all these things we created later, for different reasons. Even the reverb - reverb had nothing to do with the surfing sound, and here they got 'em on the cover going 'That's the wet, splashy sound of reverb.' No! We created the reverb because Dick Dale did not have a natural vibrato on his voice. I wanted to sustain my notes while singing. So we copied the Hammond organ, which had a tank in it. We took the tank out, rewired it, and had an outboard reverb! It was for the vocal. Our first album, Surfer's Choice, sold over 88,000 albums - locally! That's like more than 4 million today. Dick Dale was already established as King of the Surf Guitar, and that album did not have reverb on it. It wasn't even invented!"
This was used on Friends when Ross, Chandler, and Joey squared off against Monica, Rachel, and Phoebe in a game of touch football in the 1996 Thanksgiving episode "The One With The Football."