Friday, November 28, 2008

Weekend Listomania (Special Zounds, What Sounds! Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my new Oriental temptress housegirl Fah Lo Suee and I are off to fabulous Dayton, Ohio (France) for the annual Running of the Brie festival. As a result, posting by moi will necessarily be somewhat fitful for a few days, or at least until we find the perfect cheese to go with post-Thanksgiving Alaskan non-pardoned turkey leftovers.

But until then, as always, here's a fun project for you all to contemplate:

Best/Most Inventive Use of a Non-Traditional Rock Instrument on a Post-Elvis Record!!!

Arbitrary rule: By "non-traditional," we mostly mean any instrument outside the original 50s rock instrumental template -- guitars, bass, drums, piano, organ, and sax. Other non-trad keyboards (mellotron, anybody?) will be vetted at my discretion, but don't try to pull any of that 70s/80s synth shit. Other than that, I think this is wide open.

Okay, that said, my totally top of my head Top Six would be:

6. The Beatles -- Norwegian Wood



George on sitar, natch, and the first and still probably best use of the instrument on a pop song.

5. The Wackers -- Oh My Love



A Japanese koto, appropriately enough, on a gorgeous version of the John Lennon ode to Yoko that first appeared on Imagine. In fact, this sounded so much like a Beatles track that it was widely bootlegged as a John demo; in reality, of course, it's by the excellent Canadian power pop band the Wackers and can be found on their unjustly overlooked Hot Wacks, one of the very best pop albums of 1972. Buy it on CD here; it's actually quite breathtaking in un-scratchy high-fidelity stereo. Or you could just go to iTunes; to my surprise, the entire Wackers catalogue is available there.

4. The Association -- Pandora's Golden Heebie Jeebies



More koto (Gary Alexander, the guy who wrote and sang this, was of mixed Japanese-American heritage, I belive) on an absolutely fabulous and unjustly forgotten slice of LA psychedelia. Holy crap -- this is on iTunes too!

3. Smashing Pumpkins -- Pomp and Circumstances



Gong and xylophone, proving once again that there is no Listomania topic that can't be used to shoehorn in Billy Corgan's pretentious cueball noggin.

2. The Blues Project -- Flute Thing



The late great Andy Kulberg, first electric flautist of note. A lot of awful hippie shit (not to mention Jethro Tull) followed in the wake of this, but if you ever saw them do it live, the effect was quite mesmerizing, believe you me. According to Kooper, it's based on a riff on an old Kenny Burrell jazz record, BTW.

Okay, and the coolest use of a non-trad instrument (at least on a rock record), there's no question about it so just cut me some slack already about this, obviously is --

1. The Rolling Stones -- You Can't Always Get What You Want



Al Kooper's French horn intro really has no precedent on anything by the Stones. Flawlessly played, too, and it's hardly even his main instrument. The Beatles had the world's greatest living classical horn player -- Alan Civil -- on "For No One," but this is every bit as good.

Awrighty then -- what would your choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Weekend Cinema Listomania (theme: Great Doggie Films!) is now up over at Box Office. If you could go over there and leave a comment, it would definitely get me in good with management. Thanks!]

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Paint it, Black" - Sitar
Violent Femmes' "Gone Daddy Gone" - Xylophone

Who Am Us Anyway? said...

I'll double down on Kinks Kazoos with She's Bought a Hat Like Princess Marina

And then I'll triple down on the slide whistle with Highway 61 Revisited

And then i'll crash. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

TJWood said...

One use of mellotron that should pass your discretion is the intro to "Strawberry Fields Forever" (John Lennon)

Three quick others:

Mandolin: R.E.M., "Losing My Religion" and "Hairshirt" (Peter Buck definitely on the former, but I think Bill Berry on the latter)

Ocarina: From the Troggs' "Wild Thing". Wikipedia tells me that it was played by musical director Colin Fretcher (listed as a former member in the Troggs' entry on Wikipedia)

Shehnai: An Indian double reed instrument used on the Rolling Stones' "Street Fighting Man" and played by Traffic's Dave Mason

Anonymous said...

Springsteen Born to Run era - glockenspiel baby!

Beatles Fool on the Hill - Recorder

Who - baba O'reilly - 'cello

Anonymous said...

whoops - I guess baba is a VIOLIN - sorry. Still qualifies right?

steve simels said...

TJWood said...
Shehnai: An Indian double reed instrument used on the Rolling Stones' "Street Fighting Man" and played by Traffic's Dave Mason


If memory serves there's a whole bunch of that on the Beatles "Baby You're a Rich Man"

cthulhu said...

OK, OK, I know you said "no '70s/'80s synths, but...hard to see how you can leave out Pete Townshend's synth work on Who's Next, especially "Baba O'Riley" and "Won't Get Fooled Again". Those two were unlike anything anybody had ever put in a rock record before. And the sad part is that nobody's been able to top them in the 37+ years since!

And while we're talking about the Who, there's the banjo on the studio version of "Squeeze Box"; Townshend's original demo of the song, on the Scoop collection, has a nifty accordion too.

This one is live, not studio, but at a Richard Thompson Band show in 2003, during "Shoot Out the Lights", sideman Pete Zorn played what I can only describe as a heavy-metal mandolin solo.

And finally there's the machine gun (probably simulated, alas) in Tonio K.'s "H.A.T.R.E.D" and "The Night Fast Rodney Went Crazy".

Anonymous said...

AC/DC - "It's A Long Way To The Top" - Bagpipes! - (Does anyone remember Rufus Harley, the world's greatest jazz bagpipes player? No? Eh, I got nuthin'.)

Paint it black, you devils...

(And I'm PROUD to have been a neighbor of Mr. Kooper in the last decade - there is no greater "Zelig" in rock...
- bill buckner

steve simels said...

cthulhu:

No argument from me on Townshend's synth stuff on Who's Next.

Speaking of which, isn't there some story about the burbling stuff at the beginning of Baba O'Reilly being programmed from some kind of Pete's vital stats? Like height and weight or some such?

I could google it, but I'm lazy. Maybe I imagined it..

Nora Charles said...

Did I somehow miss the Beach Boys' theremin on "Good Vibrations"?

This list is lovely; reminds me of why I first fell in lurve with Simels.

Nora Charles said...

Re thermin -- oops, suppose that "synth shit." My regrets.

cthulhu said...

Steve: I think that Dave Marsh's 1983 Who bio Before I Get Old said something about Pete using some "personal data" to program the ARP used on Baba O'Riley, but I've never heard an independent confirmation.

And for Nora Charles: I wouldn't class a theremin as a synth; without getting into details, the two instruments differ greatly in how they create their tones. And I don't know how we all forgot "Good Vibrations" either!

Brooklyn Girl said...

The string quartets on "Yesterday" and "Walking on Broken Glass" ...

Garth Hudson played the clavinet (!) on "Up on Cripple Creek" ...

But in my book it's the use of tableware on this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXiTnsSn9wU&feature=related

Brooklyn Girl said...

Okay, I'll make it a live link, for your listening and dining pleasure.

steve simels said...

Now that I think of it, I'd like to give a big shout out (as Sarah Palin and the kids say) to the big glissando on the harp (the harp -- not a harmonica, but the big string thing) at the beginning of the Beach Boys "In My Room."

I'm convinced Brian put it on because there was a harp in the Hawthorne High School music room he could use....

dSmith said...

Roxy Music "Editions of You" Andy Mackay plays a mean oboe.
Yardbirds "For Your Love" Harpsichord

steve simels said...

Just for the historical record, the harpsichord on "For Your Love" was played by Brian Auger.

TJWood said...

TJWood said...
Shehnai: An Indian double reed instrument used on the Rolling Stones' "Street Fighting Man" and played by Traffic's Dave Mason

If memory serves there's a whole bunch of that on the Beatles "Baby You're a Rich Man"


I checked the entry for "Baby You're a Rich Man" at the Beatles Bible website. (Very informative site, btw). That's actually a clavioline, a monophonic keyboard instrument played by John Lennon and speeded up to give an oboe-like effect. Obviously another non-trad instrument, as is the vibraphone reportedly played on the song by engineer Eddie Kramer (better known for his work with Jimi Hendrix).

dave™© said...

Speaking of the Wackers, although they are, technically, a Canadian band, frontman Bob Segarini actually hailed from Stockton, CA, where his father had a grocery store called, oddly enough, "Segarini's". Because of this local connection, the local AM rocker played a few of the Wackers' early singles, including "Oh My Love", on the air occassionally. Sadly, they never gained traction, and so we never got to hear the Dudes on the air...

Polar said...

Ruth Underwood's xylophone, marimba, and glockenspiel on Frank Zappa's "Inca Roads" and "St. Alfonso's Pancake Breakfast?"

dave™© said...

Did I somehow miss the Beach Boys' theremin on "Good Vibrations"?

Not to mention Brian's use of a Sparkletts water jug on "Pet Sounds" - specifically, "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times" and "Caroline No". (The theremin also figured in "Times".)

steve simels said...

TJWood:

Re: the clavioline on "Baby Your a Rich Man," (which I did not know) that may be the same gizmo that Al Kooper used in the Blues Project on "No Time Like the Right Time."

MBowen said...

I went to see the Decemberists in New Jersey a couple of weeks ago and I saw something I've never seen before. The opening band, Loch Lomond, not only used a xylophone in most of their songs, but on two or three numbers the guy actually played it with a bow - rubbing the bow against the edge of the key for an odd sustained effect. Unfortunately, because the sound was muddy I couldn't really hear it, but the little glimpses I could hear sounded neat.

The outro on "When I Get To The Border" by Richard & Linda Thompson features alternating two-bar solos featuring, in order, accordion, mandolin, crumhorn (a medieval reed instrument), electric guitar, fiddle and mandolin, electric guitar, fiddle and mandolin, electric guitar, pennywhistle and mandolin, electric guitar, fiddle and mandolin and fade. There just aren't enough crumhorn solos these days.

Speaking of outros, there's that Bonzo Dog Band record that has J. Arthur Rank on gong, and (looking very relaxed) Adolf Hitler on vibes.

Brooklyn Girl said...

steve simels said...
Just for the historical record, the harpsichord on "For Your Love" was played by Brian Auger.


No shit!

I think the Yardbirds used a small triangle (or something similar ... not finger cymbals, though) on "Still I'm Sad" and an Australian instrument that I can't spell on "Hot House of Omagararshid."

TJWood said...

TJWood:

Re: the clavioline on "Baby Your a Rich Man," (which I did not know) that may be the same gizmo that Al Kooper used in the Blues Project on "No Time Like the Right Time."


Chances are that's the ondioline, a keyboard instrument that Kooper was known for using on tracks from Super Session and the first Blood, Sweat & Tears album. From what I've been able to gather by online research, both instruments are similar, but the ondioline had a higher octave range, was capable of producing a wider variety of sounds, and could produce a natural vibrato if the player moves the (apparently movable) keyboard from side to side with his/her playing hand.

steve simels said...

TJWood said...
Shehnai: An Indian double reed instrument used on the Rolling Stones' "Street Fighting Man" and played by Traffic's Dave Mason


I just realized that I didn't mean the shehnai was used on "Baby You're a Rich Man."

It's actually used on George's "The Inner Light," probably the most obscure Beatles b-side of them all. And I think almost all the instrumentation there is Indian...

Noam Sane said...

Ahh, the Coral Electric Sitar. I'm especially fond of its use on BJ Thomas's "Hooked on a Feeling" (Reggie Young plays a knockout solo there). Also heard on "Band of Gold," "Green Tambourine," "Cry Like a Baby," "Games People Play," Burdon's "Monterey," etc. The Stylistics used it for a few tunes in the 70s.

I want one, but it's down a bit on the guitar-purchase list... probably won't ever get there. You can see a picture of Young's sitar here, about 3/4 of the way down the page, thanks to Scotty Moore.

steve simels said...

I'm shocked -- SHOCKED!!! -- that nobody mentioned Rolf Harris deathless digeridoo on "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport."

TMink said...

Speaking of shocked, there is the tape violin that Laurie Anderson invented and used on the Mr. Heartbreak album. Basically, she too a tape of William Burroughs saying "Listen To My Heartbeat" and put that on the bow, then runs it across a tape head on the violin. By changing the speed, she changes the pitch.

Brilliant.

Trey

Brooklyn Girl said...

Sleigh bells on Steely Dan's "Charlie Freak" ...

When's the next bus to Oswego? said...

pj harvey - dress (ferocious cello)

lou reed - street hassle (violin that sounds like a very warm cello)

smokey and the miracles - tears of a clown (bassoon? sounds like a calliope organ)

big star - the india song (recorders?)

PS to steve: belated thanks for posting that chuck berry video a while back. blew me away, and induced me to put on 'the great 28' and appreciate the master's sonic greatness as never before.

Dr. Sitter said...

"the first and still probably best use of the instrument on a pop song"

Norwegian Wood might be the first, but "Love You To" is miles better.

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