[I first posted this one back during the Spanish American War -- okay, actually late 2008 -- but the topic has always been one of my faves. As usual, I've rewritten some of it, and changed one of the nominees to reflect the fact that I no longer feel the need to include something by Smashing Pumpkins in every Listomania. You know, just to keep my hand in. -- S.S.]
Best/Most Inventive Use of a Non-Traditional Rock Instrument on a Post-Elvis Pop or Rock 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 is:
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 an excellent and still inexplicably underrated Canadian power pop band and can be found on their Hot Wacks, one of the very best rock albums of 1972. Buy it on CD here; you won't regret it.
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.
3. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds -- Red Right Hand
T.Rex only WISHED it had banged a gong as cool as this one.
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?