No Guitar, No Bass, No Drums

My partner in crime Paul Clark has issued a challenge:

"Peter -- a challenge -- 10 Great Sounds/Riffs in Rock Not Created By Guitar, Bass, or Drums."

I could take the cheap way out--listing ten great vocals, or ten great keyboard solos--but I'll try to be more creative than that.

1) The synthesizer pulse in Wall of Voodoo's cover of "Ring of Fire"

I love this cover insanely, not just because it was one of my favorite songs to play in Wall of Doo Doo, but because it completely reimagines the song. I don't know if credit should go to Chas Gray or Bruce Moreland for devising the sound--both played keyboards for WoV at times--but my lord, what a great thing to build a song around.

2) The bouzouki at the end of Rod Stewart's "Maggie May"

As far downhill as Rod has plunged over the years, this tune is just about perfect... and when it's almost ready to come to its end, with the electric guitar stumbling to its twangy conclusion, you can just about believe that final cadence really is final. But then, seizing the moment, refusing to let the song die, the bouzouki steps forward, its plaintive little D major riff adding new energy and innocence, offering us all the promise of resurrection and new life. Hell, when I listen to this, I can almost believe Rod could put out a decent record again.

3) Jim Gordon's piano at the end of Derek & the Dominos' "Layla"

With Eric Clapton at his best and most anguished, and Duane Allman pushing him to new heights of expressiveness on guitar, this song would have been great if it had just faded out on the solos... but out of nowhere comes Gordon's haunting piano theme, anchored around a gorgeous Bb7 chord, and the thing just becomes transcendent. I'm not a huge Clapton fan, but this song deserves every accolade ever laid upon it. Stunning.

4) The digital chicken in Yello's "Let Me Cry"

An amazing song for a lot of reasons, including Dieter Meier's extraordinary vocal, but Boris Blank's decision to use a digital chicken for percussion purposes stands out as sheer genius. Alas, it appears only on the version recorded for the album Stella and is unavailable on YouTube.

5) The trumpet solo in Us3's "Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)"

That's just the shit. I mean damn.

6) The whip-crack in Mindless Self Indulgence's "Shut Me Up"

An extraordinary video, to be sure, and a song that worms its way into your consciousness like nobody's business, but man, that whip-crack effect is an absolute killer.

7) The Chapman stick in the intro of King Crimson's "Elephant Talk"

Tony Levin goes nuts. Simply not a sound I'd ever heard before, and I can't honesty say I've heard anything quite like it since.

8) The violin in Robyn Hitchcock's "Sinister but She Was Happy"

I love this song a whole bunch, an implausibly catchy tune with an implausible instrumentation on a subject never before explored in a pop song. But Deni Bonet's violin is what sells it in the end. Gorgeous. Alas, Deni's version is unavailable on YouTube. Take my word for it.

9) The scream at the end of the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again"

I don't care if CSI:Miami co-opted it. This is the best thing Roger Daltrey has ever done.

10) The kazoo in the Carolina Chocolate Drops' "Memphis Shakedown"

Man, if you can't enjoy this, you're just no fun at all.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on December 13, 2010 4:56 PM.

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