Sunday, 10 April 2016

10 Great Songs That Feature Harmonicas

I am a negligent bastard. I am the end of a song. It's been over a month since I last posted and i'm to blame for that. There is some cool stuff coming down the pipe for me, but that doesn't mean I should stop writing these lists. The Harmonica is one of my favourite instruments. A simple soundmaker that can add pure magic to a simple track. Here are ten great songs that honk on bobo.

1. Billy Joel - "Piano Man"

It's funny that a song called "Piano Man" and one that Billy Joel became a noted ivory tickler for, uses a harmonica for it's most famous musical sting. The song itself was inspired by Joel's time working the piano in a bar called The Executive Room. The characters in the song were based on tha real bar's usual tenants. The harmonica part was inspired by Bob Dylan after Joel saw him use a harmonica holder strap and play the guitar at the same time.


2. Gin Blossoms - "Follow You Down"

One of the 90's most over-looked groups was Arizona's Gin Blossoms. They managed two very successful albums in the 90's even though their guitarist, lead songwriter and founding member Doug Hopkins was booted from the group due to alcohol abuse. His tale gets worse i'm afraid as his publishing rights to the songs he wrote were held hostage by the band for a mere $15,000 pay out. The gold record he dreamed of getting only hung on his wall for 2 weeks before he smashed it being unable to cope. In 1993 he bought a gun and committed suicide. Who knows what kind of lovely music we wouldn't have missed out if he could've gotten control of his demons.


3. Hayden - "Bad As They Seem"

Man does Hayden look young here. This is often considered his breakthrough song. The video got extensive airplay on Much Music and the album it's off Everything I Long For got rave reviews from fans and critics alike. Love the way the low string slaps off the guitar's fret board.


4. Alanis Morissette - "Head Over Feet"

This was the fifth single released from Alanis' monster album Jagged Little Pill. A sweet and simple song which was written soon after Alanis first met producer Glen Ballard. She learned to play the harmonica the same day they recorded the take that was used on the album.



5. Blues Traveler - "Run Around"

I cannot do a list on the harmonica without including Blues Traveler. Lead singer John Popper is also known for being an accomplished harmonicisto! He is known to wear a bandolier during live performances to hold 12 different harmonicas, one tuned in each different key. He also developed a microphone with switches installed to add audio effects to the harmonica's sound, much like a pedal would change the sounds on a guitar


6. Black Sabbath - "The Wizard"

Yes even the grandfathers of Heavy Metal have used the ol' French harp. "The Wizard" is a song inspired by Gandalf from Tolkein's Lord Of The Rings and used as a b-side to a later Sabbath hit "Paranoid".


7. The Watchmen - "All Uncovered"

For my money this is as good as it gets for songs written by Canadians and performed by Canadians. It's got everything. Cool lyrics, dueling vocals, a killer catchy guitar lick and of course a harmonica solo. Even the video's sepia tinge is classic. From the album In The Trees The Watchmen's "All Uncovered" is still one of my all time faves.



8. The Decemberists - "Down By The Water"

As good as The Decemberists who are they to refuse help when it's offered? This song features REM guitarist Peter Buck on 12-string guitar and singer/songwriter Gillian Welch on backing vocals. Frontman Colin Meloy played the harmonica on this tune, something he hadn't done in years. I think it adds a certain flavour to this song and it would be lacking without it.


9. The Rolling Stones - "Miss You"

I always used to think the main melody in this song belonged to the song "Harlem Shuffle", I was wrong. The Stones have always took elements from other music styles as influences in their song writing. This song takes on an almost disco vibe, but doesn't forget the blues that heavily saturated their early stuff, hence the inclusion of a harmonica.


10. Bob Dylan - "Visions Of Johanna"

Bob Dylan made harmonica cool again. So many iconic images of him cooly and calmly strumming his guitar in front of a microphone while his mouth is clenching hard down on a harmonica. Blonde on Blonde has so many great songs that feature the harmonica, "Visions Of Johanna" was the first one to jump to my mind.


Keep honkin' on bobo friends!!
I'll be around alot more often...honest and for realz

JZ


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