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!