Monday 27 August 2012

AAA Songs Featuring Whistling (News, Views and Music Issue 159)

There are many dying arts in our modern world: incorruptible politicians, faith that things are going to get better and the ability to make decent music among them. We can’t do a lot about changing that – well not without paying off a hitman to prevent the spice girls reuniting permanently anyway – but we can solve another great lost art in the modern world: whistling. These days people don’t need to remember their favourite songs the way they used to – they can carry them around with them in their pockets and inside their ears – which might explain why modern music is so terribly forgettable. But back before I-pods and portable radios the only way you could remember, say, the Beatles’ latest was to fork out money for the single (which your parents only let you play when they were out the house anyway) or whistle it to keep the melody inside your head. Whistling even appeared on a few AAA records – hence this week’s little list and a guide so comprehensive even Whistler’s Mother could love:

Otis Redding “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” (Single, 1968)

We fans mourn Otis’ passing so much, not just because he was the greatest most charismatic soul performer that ever lived, but because he died (at the age of 27 in a plane crash) at the very peak of his powers. Slowly moving away from his trademark sound, Otis really found his ‘voice’ on his final recording, a big hit when released posthumously. This sad but truly lovely song harks back to Otis’ ‘Mr Pitiful’ character, wasting time at the docks because he’s got nowhere to go and no one to go with. The sadness in this song is extraordinary and the subtlety shows a new side of Otis, especially his heartbreaking vocal. What’s most memorable about this ‘goodbye’ song, though, is that emotive slightly-off key whistling with which Otis rounds off the song. Never has a narrator sounded more human, never has heartbreak sounded more real, as Otis ‘wastes his time’ whistling and contemplating things that never quite turned out right. What on earth would our hero have gone on to do next after a song as perfect as this one?

The Beach Boys “Whistle In” (‘Smiley Smile’, 1967)

‘Remember the day (day), remember the night (night), all day long’. What were we saying about whistling and memory? The Beach Boys beat us to it with this unusual, simple (unusually simple or simply unusual?) fragment of a song that sounds like it should have been a part of the legendary ‘Smile’ (actually its a Brian Wilson piece from marginally later, post-breakdown, not that Brian plays on this track). The kind of mirror of ‘Our Prayer’s invocation to prayer opening, its a short goodbye in a much more upbeat frame of mind, although it doesn’t really develop as a song, in keeping with the rather minimalist surrealism of the rest of ‘Smiley Smile’. Nice whistling from the band, though!

Paul and Linda McCartney “Ram On” (‘Ram’, 1971)

The other entries on this list use whistling as a kind of joyous expression of release, but the two Beatles go somewhat darker than that. ‘Ram On’ is simply one of the best songs Macca ever wrote, the narrator beaten and scarred but determined to follow-through what he’s doing anyway (to put it in context he’s just ruined his public image by sueing the other Beatles to escape the clutches of manager Allen Klein – time will show Macca to be in the right after Klien goes to prison but it didn’t seem that way at the time). A sad, slow melody ‘Ram’ reeks of quiet despair and that’s perfectly summed up by the whistling interlude that really brings out the feeling of loneliness and isolation in the song, as if Macca really is alone with just himself and his ukulele for support.

John Lennon “Jealous Guy” (‘Imagine’, 1971)

Lennon didn’t take kindly to being sued, especially when he knew his partner was right, and his ‘Imagine’ album – long heralded as the zenith of hippiedom thanks to the title track – is actually quite a nasty, sniping record when you study it closely. No one is safe on ‘Imagine’ from the author on down, but the biggest arguments seem to be with McCartney (John even handles a pig in a spoof of Paul handling a ram for his album cover). But the two Beatles had way more in common than they knew – hence the fact that the one truly honest song on the album sounds so similar to ‘Ram’, written approximately at the same time. Admitting his frailties and faults, Lennon owns up to his infidelity away from Yoko and adds ‘I didn’t mean to hurt you’. Despite being played to a much louder, Phil Spector sponsored booming arrangement Lennon too sounds isolated and alone on this track, using his whistling solo to make his narrator sound ever more wistful and alone.

Paul Simon “Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard” (‘Paul Simon’, 1972)

Paul Simon’s second single post-Garfunkel, this is another slightly confusing song that fans have spent the best of 40 years trying to decipher. The narrator and his friend Julio have clearly got up to something naughty, but what? Even the author claims he doesn’t know, claiming that he never bothered to ‘follow through on the song to find out because the song was already there’. Just as the boys are getting into trouble and about to be ‘taken away’ the narrator suddenly starts whistling in lieu of a guitar solo – a wonderfully nonchalant not-caring shrug of the shoulders that’s a complete delight because it’s so unexpected (when was the last time you heard whistling as a solo? And no the above entries don’t count!)

Cat Stevens “Whistlestar” (‘Numbers’, 1975)

The final entry on our list is the only instrumental, the bouncy and simplistic opening track to what must be one of the most complicated albums in my collection (subtitled ‘A Pyhtageron Theory Tale’, its the story of the numbers 1 to 9 who all live together and struggle to cope with the changes mr 0 brings to the city and the ‘higher’ numbers he leads them on to, making mr 1 mr 10 and so on). Like Paul Simon, Cat uses whistling as a sign of carefree joy, summing up the happy ignorant lives the kingdom of numbers lead before they realise that they should be aspiring to something ‘higher’. You have to say, though, the land sounds a much happier and nicer place before wandering minstrel Jzero comes along – and even by the end of the record, when they realise what they’ve been missing the album ends uncomfortably on a moving paean for home, despite the exciting journeys experienced along the way.

Well that’s it for another week. If you want any more to read, don’t just whistle – take a look round at our other issues instead! Bye for now!

A NOW COMPLETE List Of Top Five/Top Ten/TOP TWENTY  Entries 2008-2019
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2) Songs For The Face Of Bo

3) Credit Crunch Songs

4) Songs For The Autumn

5) National Wombat Week

6) AAA Box Sets

7) Virus Songs

8) Worst AAA-Related DVDs

9) Self-Punctuating Superstar Classics

10) Ways To Know You Have Turned Into A Collector

11) Political Songs

12) Totally Bonkers Concept Albums

13) Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

14) Still Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

15) AAA Existential Questions

16) Releases Of The Year 2008

17) Top AAA Xmas Songs

18) Notable AAA Gigs

19) All things '20' related for our 20th issue

20) Romantic odes for Valentine's Day

21) Hollies B sides

22) 'Other' BBC Session Albums

23) Beach Boys Rarities Still Not Available On CD

24) Songs John, Paul and George wrote for Ringo's solo albums

25) 5 of the Best Rock 'n' Roll Tracks From The Pre-Beatles Era

26) AAA Autobiographies

27) Rolling Stones B-sides

28) Beatles B-Sides

29) The lllloooonnngggeesssttt AAA songs of all time

30) Kinks B-Sides

31) Abandoned CSNY projects 'wasted on the way'

32) Best AAA Rarities and Outtakes Sets

33) News We've Missed While We've Been Away

34) Birthday Songs for our 1st Anniversary

35) Brightest Album Covers

36) Biggest Recorded Arguments

37) Songs About Superheroes

38) AAA TV Networks That Should Exist

39) AAA Woodtsock Moments

40) Top Moments Of The Past Year As Voted For By Readers

41) Music Segues

42) AAA Foreign Language Songs

43) 'Other' Groups In Need Of Re-Mastering

44) The Kinks Preservation Rock Opera - Was It Really About The Forthcoming UK General Election?

45) Mono and Stereo Mixes - Biggest Differences

46) Weirdest Things To Do When A Band Member Leaves

47) Video Clips Exclusive To Youtube (#1)

48) Top AAA Releases Of 2009

49) Songs About Trains

50) Songs about Winter

51) Songs about astrology plus horoscopes for selected AAA members

52) The Worst Five Groups Ever!

53) The Most Over-Rated AAA Albums

54) Top AAA Rarities Exclusive To EPs

55) Random Recent Purchases (#1)

56) AAA Party Political Slogans

57) Songs To Celebrate 'Rock Sunday'

58) Strange But True (?) AAA Ghost Stories

59) AAA Artists In Song

60) Songs About Dogs

61) Sunshiney Songs

62) The AAA Staff Play Their Own Version Of Monoploy/Mornington Crescent!

63) What 'Other' British Invasion DVDs We'd Like To See

64) What We Want To Place In Our AAA Time Capsule

65) AAA Conspiracy Theroies

66) Weirdest Things To Do Before - And After - Becoming A Star

67) Songs To Tweet To

68) Greatest Ever AAA Solos

69) John Lennon Musical Tributes

70) Songs For Halloween

71) Earliest Examples Of Psychedelia

72) Purely Instrumental Albums

73) AAA Utopias

74) AAA Imaginary Bands

75) Unexpected AAA Cover Versions

76) Top Releases of 2010

77) Songs About Snow

78) Predictions For 2011

79) AAA Fugitives

80) AAA Home Towns

81) The Biggest Non-Musical Influences On The 1960s

82) AAA Groups Covering Other AAA Groups

83) Strange Censorship Decisions

84) AAA Albums Still Unreleased on CD

85) Random Recent Purchases (#2)

86) Top AAA Music Videos

87) 30 Day Facebook Music Challenge

88) AAA Documentaries

89) Unfinished and 'Lost' AAA Albums

90) Strangest AAA Album Covers

91) AAA Performers Live From Mars (!)

92) Songs Including The Number '100' for our 100th Issue

93) Most Songs Recorded In A Single Day

94) Most Revealing AAA Interviews

95) Top 10 Pre-Fame Recordings

96) The Shortest And Longest AAA Albums

97) The AAA Allstars Ultimate Band Line-Up

98) Top Songs About Sports

99) AAA Conversations With God

100) AAA Managers: The Good, The Bad and the Financially Ugly

101) Unexpected AAA Cameos

102) AAA Words You can Type Into A Caluclator

103) AAA Court Cases

104) Postmodern Songs About Songwriting

105) Biggest Stylistic Leaps Between Albums

106) 20 Reasons Why Cameron Should Go!

107) The AAA Pun-Filled Cookbook

108) Classic Debut Releases

109) Five Uses Of Bird Sound Effects

110) AAA Classic Youtube Clips Part #1

111) Part #2

112) Part #3

113) AAA Facts You Might Not Know

114) The 20 Rarest AAA Records

115) AAA Instrumental Songs

116) Musical Tarot

117) Christmas Carols

118) Top AAA Releases Of 2011

119) AAA Bands In The Beano/The Dandy

120) Top 20 Guitarists #1

121) #2

122) 'Shorty' Nomination Award Questionairre

123) Top Best-Selling AAA Albums

124) AAA Songs Featuring Bagpipes

125) A (Hopefully) Complete List Of AAA Musicians On Twitter

126) Beatles Albums That Might Have Been 1970-74 and 1980

127) DVD/Computer Games We've Just Invented

128) The AAA Albums With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

129) The AAA Singles With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

130) Lyric Competition (Questions)

131) Top Crooning Classics

132) Funeral Songs

133) AAA Songs For When Your Phone Is On Hold

134) Random Recent Purchases (#3)

135) Lyric Competition (Answers)

136) Bee Gees Songs/AAA Goes Disco!

137) The Best AAA Sleevenotes (And Worst)

138) A Short Precise Of The Years 1962-70

139) More Wacky AAA-Related Films And Their Soundtracks

140) AAA Appearances On Desert Island Discs

141) Songs Exclusive To Live Albums

142) More AAA Songs About Armageddon

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160) The Greatest AAA Drum Solos (Or Near Solos!)

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162) AAA Re-Recordings Of Past Songs

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247) AAA Review Of The Year 2015

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249) The Revised AAA Crossword!

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