Classic Rock And Pop Music Blog

Month: June 2023

Squeeze Box – Pop & Rock Songs Featuring Accordion

June is national accordion awareness month. So before the month’s end, following my past reviews singling out instruments from harmonica, flute, base, piano, and keyboard, I thought I’d give accordion it’s due. The accordion, also called the “concertina,” is primarily used to accompany traditional polka music but has been featured in many classical and modern musical works, from jazz and zydeco to folk, gospel, blues, and even rock and pop.

The oldest name for the accordion is derived from the Greek word ‘harmonikos’, which means ‘harmonic’ or ‘musical’. The handaoline, believed to be the earliest form of the accordion, was patented by Christian Friedrich Ludwig Buschmann in Berlin in 1822.

My older brother, being the dutiful grandson to my Polish grandmother, took accordion lessons back in the 70s, playing many a polka. He gave it up due to disinterest as he grew more interested in pop and rock music. Had he known that, as Bruce Hornsby once declared when I saw him live in the late 80’s, playing accordion was cool, he might have stuck with it!

While the playlist gets its title from the classic Who song “Squeeze Box,” a common slang term for the instrument, the song barely contains any accordion instrumentation. Listen closely from approximately 1:30 to 2:00 into the song. To the Who’s credit, their chorus with nasally toned vocals of “in and out and in and out…” sounds very much like a squeeze box. Perhaps if they made the video they had initially intended for their 1974 television special, with the members of the band surrounded by 100 topless women playing accordions, it might have had a bit more accordion accompaniment to their vocals 😭. I guess the some filled with sexual double entendres was enough, precluding the need for such visual imagery 😉.

Some top songs featuring accordion include several songs by John Mellencamp, Billy Joel, Bruce Hornsby, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Counting Crows, Jethro Tull, Mark Knopfler, Los Lobos, and the Beach Boys, as well as individual songs by artists including Bruce Springsteen, the Talking Heads, Elton John, Styx, Aerosmith, R.E.M., The Band, The The, Roger Waters, even Paul McCartney. An interesting fact given The Band and The The appear in this playlist: The The chose their name to try to come up with what they felt was a more ridiculous, less creative, less descriptive name than The Band, choosing The The 🤣.

The playlist starts with two memorable Disney movie songs featuring accordion – “Be Our Guest” from Beauty & The Beast and “Bella Note” from Lady & The Tramp.  Other standout songs include “Cherry Bomb,” “This Is The Day,” “Piano Man,” “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word,” “Road To Nowhere,” and “Kokomo” among others.

The playlist progresses to a little foray into international accordion songs of note, including Mexican, Zydeco, Russian, and then in tribute to my heritage, Italian and Polish. And what would an an accordion playlist be without the inclusion of Weird Al Yankovic. Interestingly, Frankie Yankovic, Slovenian accordion great, widely known for his hit “Beer Barrel Polka,” is not related to Weird Al, though they share a surname and common cultural heritage. His parents reportedly enrolled a young Weird Al in accordion lessons rather than guitar so there would be at least one other accordion playing Yankovic 🤪.

Like Weird Al’s songs, most of this “semi-autobiographical” movie is made up. His affair with Madonna will likely inspire his next parody of Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams” 😝.

“4th of July Asbury Park” – Bruce Springsteen

“Cherry Bomb” – John Mellencamp

“This is the Day” – The The, with a song perhaps better known more recently for its feature in an M&M commercial.

“Boat on the River” – Styx, with a very young mustachio Dennis DeYoung on accordion and Tommy Shaw on mandolin.

“Fifty Dollar Love Affair” – Joe Jackson

The Downeaster Alexa – Billy Joel

When I Paint My Masterpiece – The Band

“Hopeless Wanderer” – Mumford & Sons

“Come With Me Now” – Kongos. Is it me, or does the accordion intro to this song sound very similar to the intro of Paul Simon’s “The Boy In The Bubble?”

“Mother” – Roger Waters in his recreation of the Pink Floyd classic The Wall at the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.

“Another Round” – Foo Fighters, featuring a very young Dave Grohl.

“Omaha” – Counting Crows

“A Night In Summer Long Ago” – Mark Knopfler, again one of my guitar faves.

“If I Die Young” – The Band Perry

“Objection (Tango)” – Shakira

“La Luna” – Belinda Carlisle

“Anselma” – Los Lobos

“El Fronterizo” – Los Cadetes De Linares

“That’s Amore” – Dean Martin, with an iconic Italian offering.

Tarantella Napoletana, a staple at Italian weddings.

The Shmenges Brothers – John Candy and Eugene Levy. Little did people know that John Candy, beloved comedian extraordinaire, actually played the clarinet, and Gene, though most known for “American Pie” and “Schitt’s Creek,” was a very accomplished accordion player.

“Another One Rides The Bus” – Weird Al Yankovic, a legend in his own mind, though I’ve heard from several of his fans that he is quite the entertainer.

And now onto over 6 hours of glorious accordion bliss:

I hope that this music and my blog truly serve as a “revival: a new presentation of something old,” a springboard to return to the music of your youth, or perhaps to find artists you want to discover anew.  Rediscover the passion of music in your life.

Live in the moment.

Enjoy the moment.

Love the moment.

Listen to the MUSIC!

Fingertips – Pop/Rock Songs Featuring Harmonica

June 22, 1963, little Stevie Wonder first entered the US singles chart. His song, also featuring a young Marvin Gaye on drums, was not only the first live non-studio musical recording to reach No.1 , it also made him the youngest solo performer to ever reach No.1, actually only 12 years old when the song was recorded.

His song provides the theme for today’s blog and playlist, songs that feature the harmonica. Harmonica, also known as the French harp or mouth organ, is a free reed wind instrument used prominently in folk music, jazz, country, classical music, and rock.  The most common type of harmonica is the diatonic, though the chromatic is used as well, made most famous by none other than Stevie Wonder.  The instrument is played using the mouth, lips, and tongue.  Frontiersmen Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid played the instrument.

Songs 1-6 Stevie, including the blog title song “Fingertips” which still holds the record for the youngest solo performer at the age of 13 to have a No. 1 single, 7-18 and 162-182 Stevie guest musician, collaborating with the likes of Chaka Khan, Eurythmics, Paula Abdul, Dion Warwick, Elton John, Sting, Paul McCartney, James Taylor, Snoop Dogg, Jason Derulo, Johnny Mathis, Peter Frampton, John Denver, Carley Simon, Barbra Streisand, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson, The Supremes, The Four Tops, Rod Stewart, Ella Fitzgerald, Gladys Knight, and Frank Sinatra.

Stevie Wonder “Isn’t She Lovely”

Dionne Warwick “That’s What Friends Are For”

Eurythmics “There Must Be An Angel”

Artists with several songs on the list include: The Beatles with “Love Me Do,” “From Me To You,” “Should Have Known Better,” and “Rocky Racoon;” Led Zeppelin with “When the Levee Breaks,” “Bring It On Home,” and “Nobody’s Fault But Mine;” Bruce Springsteen with “Thunder Road,” “The River,” “The Promised Land,” “Spare Parts,” as well as the Yardbirds, Creedence Clearwater Revival, J. Geils Band, and Elton John with several songs on the list, and Billy Joel with “Ballad of Billy the Kid,” “Piano Man,” and “Leave a Tender Moment Alone.”

Billy leads us to another prolific artist well versed in the use of harmonica. Billy Joel was my very first concert as a teen. The second time I was him was at his Evening of Questions & Answers Tour in 1996. He referenced the first time he ever saw Bob Dylan perform live. Seeing Bob wearing his neck rack to hold his harmonica a young Billy thought “what’s wrong with his neck?” 😭

Billy has recorded a few of Bob’s songs, including “The Times They Are A-Changin’” and “Make You Feel My Love,” featuring a bit of harmonica as well.

Another landmark date in harmonica and music history is April 24, 1961, the day Bob Dylan participated in his first professional recording session, playing harmonica on the song “Midnight Special,” with folk singer Harry Belafonte. Bob obviously went on to record many folk and blues songs featuring the harmonica as well using the diatonic harp as his instrument of choice. More than a handful of his songs appear in the playlist, including perhaps my favorite Bob Dylan song “Baby Let Me Follow You Down.” Here is Bob playing “Hey Mr. Tambourine Man,” neck rack and all. It doesn’t look like there’s too much wrong with his neck. 🤣

Other notable popular songs featuring harmonica include Supertramp’s “Take The Long Way Home,” Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold,” The Hollies’ “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,” The Young Rascals’ “Groovin’,” The Carpenters’ “Rainy Days & Mondays,” U2’s “Trip Through Your Wires,” Romantics’ “What I Like About You,” Culture Club’s “Karma Cameleon,” Blues Traveler’s “Run Around,” The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues,” Doobie Brothers’ “Long Train Runnin’,” Sting’s “Shape of My Heart,” and Canned Heat’s “On The Road Again.” Grunge and alternative music bands Alice in Chains, Temple Of The Dog, Pearl Jam, Motorhead, Foo Fighters, and Dave Matthews Band as well as metal greats Guns ‘N Roses, Poison, Motley Crue, Great White, and Black Sabbath even made the list.

I can’t recall the recent TV show I was watching, but one of the lines in it was something along the line of “who listens to Supertramp these days?” Well I still do, lol 🤣. Here is a classic Supertramp great from their blockbuster 1979 release Breakfast in America with an unforgettable harmonic intro, “Take The Long Way Home”

Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road,” a classic harmonic intro, and perhaps one of my favorite Boss songs.

Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” is perhaps one of the more recognizable harmonic songs in pop music of the 70’s. His version is not available on Spotify, as her removed it during COVID as a form of boycott of the Joe Rogan misinformation podcasts.

I loved the Carpenters back in the 70’s. Here with yet another great harmonica intro from the 70’s, “Rainy Days and Mondays”

Flash forward to the 80s with the Pretenders “Middle of the Road”

Huey Lewis offers some Americana harmonica with “Heart of Rock & Roll”

Motley Crue entertains us with a little harmonica amist their metal with their cover of “Smokin’ In The Boys Room”

And what an interesting decade the 80’s were, check out INXS “Suicide Blonde”

Then moving to the 90’s perhaps no one epitomized harmonica in pop music at the end of the 20th Century as Blues Traveler, here with their classic “Run Around”

And perhaps one of the most beautiful songs with significant, haunting harmonica presence is Sting with “Shape of My Heart”

Also featured in the blog is the harmonica great Larry Adler, who started his career as a penniless urchin on Vaudeville, starting his professional career at 14.  Included is much of his exceptional Gershwin tribute album “The Glory of Gershwin,” featuring songs by Sting, Elton John, Cher, Kate Bush, Meat Loaf, and Peter Gabriel, among others. Selections from this album round out the playlist. Here the he accompanies Kate Bush on “The Man I Love.”

On to the playlist:

I hope that this music and my blog truly serve as a “revival: a new presentation of something old,” a springboard to return to the music of your youth, or perhaps to find artists you want to discover anew.  Rediscover the passion of music in your life.

Live in the moment.

Enjoy the moment.

Love the moment.

Listen to the MUSIC!

GO Now – “Go” Songs

On June 2, 1984, Wham! Had their first UK No.1 with “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go.” George Michael received inspiration for the song from a scribbled note by his bandmate Andrew Ridgeley which read “wake me up before you you go.” Playing off the erroneous inclusion of “you” twice in the note, George included “go” twice in the lyrics. The song, a homage to the upbeat music of the 50’s and 60’s, made Wham! an overnight sensation.

George’s Go serves as springboard for today’s playlists “GO Now.” Artists often suggest where or how to go.  The Cars simply appealed “Lets Go,” Prince “Lets Go Crazy,” and the Raspberries “Lets Go All The Way.” Both the Del Vikings and Expose implored “Come Go With Me.” While The Moody Blues urged “Go Now” and Fleetwood Mac furthered “Go Your Own Way,” instead KC & The Sunshine Band begged “Please Don’t Go,” and Van Morrison in agreement pleaded “Baby Please Don’t Go.” And given I went to Rockville High School, I always laughed at the advice of REM “Don’t Go Back To Rockville” (and waste another year…) 🤣 Yet Eddie Money insisted “I Wanna Go Back.” But Chuck Berry felt he had “No Particular Place To Go” and Meat Loaf was “All Revved Up With No Place To Go,” And hearts and love often are in the crosshairs – Elton John “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” Bread with “Let Your Love Go,” The Supremes “Where Did Our Love Go,” Celine Dion “My Heart Will Go On,” and Alan Jackson “I’ll Go On Loving You.”

In 1984, Purple Rain, one of the greatest musical films, with the album Prince’s first No.1 on the charts, spawning two No.1 hits “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy.” Interestingly the title track, “Purple Rain” stalled out at No.2 on the charts, kept off by none other than Wham!’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go.”

What an interesting decade the 80’s was. Check out Rick Ocasek and the Cars with “Touch and Go.”

Super early REM’s their career, this relatively unplugged version of “Don’t Go Back To Rockville” is a gem. So different from their later highly polished pop work:

Early in her career, Mariah Carey with “Can’t Let Go.” Is it me, or does Mariah sound a lot like Whitney here?

And one of the most beautiful country songs ever recorded, Alan Jackson’s “I’ll Go On Loving You.”

If you’ve watched Live from Daryl’s House, give it a look. But beware, it can be a rabbit hole you don’t want to go down, as it can be a huge time suck, though so worth the time spent. Here Cee Lo Green performing the Hall & Oates classic “I Can’t Go For That”

While a mega hit for Paul Young in 1985, Daryl wrote and first recorded “Every Time You Go Away” in 1980 with his bandmate John Oates. Here he performs it live on his show:

And another flashback to the 80’s, Expose’s “Come Go With Me.” I saw them 30 years or so later at Mohegan Sun performing this along with their other hits “Point of No Return,” “Let Me Be The One,” and “Seasons Change.”

And how could I not include Whitesnake’s iconic video “Here I Go Again” with their vixen Tawny Kitaen, who also appears in their videos “Still of the Night” and “Is This Love?” as well as the movie “Bachelor Party.”

And one of the most fun feel good songs ever in a musical “We Go Together.” How young John and Olivia were!

So in terms of the playlist, in the words of *NYSNC and Bowling For Soup, “Here We GO”! – Enjoy!

I hope that this music and my blog truly serve as a “revival: a new presentation of something old,” a springboard to return to the music of your youth, or perhaps to find artists you want to discover anew.  Rediscover the passion of music in your life.

Live in the moment.

Enjoy the moment.

Love the moment.

Listen to the MUSIC!

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