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WHEN KAZOOS (AND OTHER UNUSUAL INSTRUMENTS) RULED RADIO
I loved last week's question about unusual sounds and/or musical instruments in pop hits.
I immediately thought of Deee-Lite's 1990 No. 4-peaking smash "Groove Is in the Heart." One of the all-time greatest dance anthems, it prominently features a slide whistle, which you just don't hear enough of on the radio. (The song may also be the only Hot 100 hit to feature the word "succotash" in its lyrics, one more reason to love it).
By the way, if Lady Gaga and Katy Perry can start a kazoo revival, I will love their music even more than I already do.
New York, New York
Hi there Gary,
This is a fun topic. For tunes with whistling, I'd add Barry Manilow's "Can't Smile Without You."
As for other odd sounds in pop hits, my vote for the oddest is the only major hit that I know to feature a typewriter. The song? Dolly Parton's "9 to 5."
Thanks for posting the question about Hot 100 hits with uncommon instruments. Three come to mind:
Melodica, or the "blow-organ," the "key-flute," or as the nickname that the Hooters gave themselves, the "hooter":
The Philadelphia band enjoyed a few hits that used the melodica, such as "And We Danced" (No. 21, 1985) and "Where Do the Children Go," with Scandal's Patty Smyth (No. 38, 1986). The melodica also appears in Cyndi Lauper's "Money Changes Everything" (No. 27, 1984), which featured members of the Hooters.
Supertramp's "The Logical Song" (No. 6, 1979) and Paul and Linda McCartney's "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey") (No. 1, 1971) both employed the quirky instrument, among other sound effects. Weird Al Yankovic's "Smells Like Nirvana" (No. 35, 1992), his parody of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," also sports the kazoo (... along with numerous animal sounds).
When you think of '80s pop songs, you don't normally think of the bassoon. But, General Public's "Tenderness" (No. 27, 1984) uses it prominently. In a 2009 interview I conducted with the band's Dave Wakeling (also of the English Beat), he told me of his first meeting with late filmmaker John Hughes: "He walked straight in with his hand stretched out to me and said, 'Anybody who's got the b*lls enough to put a bassoon in a pop song and get away with it is a man I need to meet'."
I couldn't have said it better myself.
Ron Raymond, Jr.
Host/producer, "Stuck in the 80's"
WMPG-FM, Portland, Maine