I Answer Your Music Questions: PULP FICTION
Q: The best surf instrumental ever is the one that plays at the beginning of the movie "Pulp Fiction," MISIRLOU by Dick Dale & The Del-Tones. But it has driven me crazy for years, wondering what that word means.
A: MISIRLOU is indeed one of the all-time greatest (if not THE greatest) surf instrumentals of all time! It gained a whole new popularity when it was featured during the opening credits of the film “Pulp Fiction.” The word “Misirlou" is of Greek origin, meaning 'Egyptian girl.' The tune began as a Greek folk song in 1927 based on Middle Eastern music. The tune spread through Middle Eastern countries, where people began recording their own versions. The earliest known version is by Tetos Demetriades, recorded in 1927. Michalis Patrinos recorded the song twice (1930 & 1931) as a Greek dance and gave it the title "Misirlou." In 1941, Nick Roubanis recorded MISIRLOU as a jazz tune and listed himself as composer! Since nobody has stepped up to claim songwriting rights, he is still credited today, except in Greece where it's still argued who the composer actually was. Various lyrics to MISIRLOU have been written but seldom heard. Then came the version by Dick Dale; some punk bet Dick that he couldn't play one whole song on just one guitar string. Dick remembered this tune called “Misirlou” that he saw his uncle play on one string and proceeded to win the bet! Dick's version was released in 1962 (didn't chart) and was covered by many surf bands of the day including The Beach Boys, whose version is found on their “Surfin' USA“ album. To this day Dick Dale's version is the most popular among rock fans and the slower, original version remains a traditional melody at many places where Greek dances are performed.