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Any Major Whistle Vol. 1

Here I am recycling a mix on whistling in pop I posted in 2009. As a vigorous (and in-tune!) whistler, I appreciate the art of musical blowing of air. I presume that most of the whistling was perpetrated by the performers themselves, but there have been moments when an act has made use of session whistlers. For example, the fade out whistling on Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay (not featured here) is not Otis Redding’s lipwork; in fact, he berated the session whistler for being out of tune in the first take.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on to a standard CD-R.

1. Elvis Presley – A Whistling Tune (1962)
The perfect opener: it’s got the right title, it starts with a whistle, it’s Elvis (though I don’t know if it is him whistling). Elvis doesn’t strike me as the whistling type). Whistle-tastic moment: 0:01 Whistling right off the bat.

2. Roger Miller – England Swings (1965)
London was swinging, as TIME magazine established, so country singer Roger Miller imagined its swingingness. Oh yeah, the Bobby is on a leisurely beat. It’ll take Plod two years to work out that Mick and Keef are smoking naughty stuff in the privacy of their own home. Whistle-tastic moment: 0:01 From the top and returning throughout.

3. Johnnie Ray – Just Walking In The Rain (1956)
Poor old Johnnie Ray. Sounded sad upon the radio. He moved a million hearts in mono. Here he is crying, believe it or not. And, happily, whistling a catchy blow-air riff. Whistle-tastic moment: 0:01 Johnnie lets blow from the start before singing, just like our fathers.

4. Pat Boone – Love Letters In The Sand (1957)
Pat Boone was never very cool. But I can forgive him his reactionary pop posing for his whistle solo in Love Letters In The Sand, proudly wearing his Bing Crosbyness on his lips.  Whistle-tastic moment: 1:27  And all the girls play air whistle.

5. The Mamas & The Papas – Dream A Little Dream Of Me (1968)
If by 1968 anybody had a doubt who the star of the Mamas And the Papas was, here’s the proof: Cass gets a special intro. Glorious. Whistle-tastic moment: 2:58  Enough of the ad-libbing da-da-da-ing; give a little whistle.

6. Rilo Kiley – Ripchord (2004)
If there had been Indie rock in 1928, Ripchord (from the excellent More Adventurous album) would have been the hit. Whistle-tastic moment: 1:44  The whistling is not very good, and yet entirely charming.

7. Badly Drawn Boy – You Were Right (2002)
Why do some people not like Badly Drawn Boy? This is perhaps the wolly-hatted one’s best song, with great lyrics. I like his obliviousness to the deaths of stars, and his rejection of Madonna’s possible romantic designs on him.  Whistle-tastic moment: 4:03  The boy can whistle as well as Roger Whitaker (sorry, apartheid-boycott-busting fans; he won’t feature): a great 23 second solo.

bogartbacall

You know how to whistle, don’t you? You just put your lips together, and blow.

8. Andrew Bird – Masterfade (2005)
It’s obvious a singer named Bird should make the whistle a regular element of his music. Happily, the whistling does not define Bird’s kicked-back indie sounds  Whistle-tastic moment: 1:39  Vibrato whistling!

9. Loose Fur – The Ruling Class (2006)
I’ve been told that the recurring whistling here is committed by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, for whom Loose Fur was a side-project and takes the vocals on this track. It’s a good riff.   Whistle-tastic moment: 0:09   Take care; the whistle riff might become a constant earworm.

10. The Lemonheads – If I Could Talk I’d Tell You (1996)
It took me a while to decide whether to use this version or Evan Dando’s solo live cut  (I love this song in either incarnation). Dando live is amusingly off-key on the first note of the whistle solo, an error I’ve tried hard to replicate. If I could talk I’d tell you why I went with the Lemonheads’ take (OK, put away your waterboard: it’s a question of sound quality).   Whistle-tastic moment: 1:53   One of the birds flying around Snow White’s head must have had some of the evil queen’s bad apples and turned up totally goofed at the Lemonheads’ recording studio.

11. Tenpole Tudor – Wünderbar (1981)
The indiscriminate use of the umlaut notwithstanding, this is still a great song – I’d have thought that 28 years on it would be vaguely embarrassing. Not so, I’m jiving to it as I write.  Whistle-tastic moment: 1:38   An extended group whistle solo. Wonderful.

12. XTC – Generals And Majors (1980)
Post-punk new wave was not a fertile soil for the art of whistling. Except if you were XTC, who rocked the whistle more than once. Whistle-tastic moment: 0:41  The whistle interlude sets the scene for tempo change (listening closely, is it the synth whistling?).

13. Dexys Midnight Runners – Until I Believe In My Soul (7:01)
I held this one over from the flute series. If I was planning a series of fake laughing in pop – and I am not – or one about irritated mumbling interludes in music (ditto), this would be a contender too. Whistle-tastic moment: 5:05 After lots of emotional build-up, the song goes silent for a second; then Rowland whistles reassuringly to introduce the fiddle-backed mumblinations that precede the repeated YESes.

14. Eels – I Like Birds (live) (2006)
E insists that the song is about his appreciation of our feathered friends. The feeder for you to perch on is…for birds?  Whistle-tastic moment: 0:37  The whistle represents a bird.

15. Jens Lekman – A Man Walks Into A Bar (2005)
Oh Jens, you’re so ironic. The memories of a childhood amateur comedienne makes you sad, years after. Just beautiful.  Whistle-tastic moment: 0:54  The whistle interlude allows us to reflect on Lekman’s irony and wallow in his melancholy. And he repeats the trick. And gives us a harmonica solo to boot.

16. Josh Rouse – Quiet Town (2007)
Josh Rouse left Nashville, found love and settled in a quiet town in Spain which sounds like a relaxing place, with much leisure and contentment. And what do you do when you’re leisurely contented? Why, you whistle, contentedly.  Whistle-tastic moment: 1:13  Josh is leisurely contented.

17. John Lennon – Nobody Loves You When You’re Down (1975)
It may seem impossible to imagine, but John Lennon had moments of self-pity. Oh yes, but he did. Rarely in his solo career did the self-pity serve him better than on this bitter song, extracting from Lennon fine, understated vocals.  Whistle-tastic moment: 4:27  John goes into resigned  “oh fuck it” whistling mode, repeating his party trick from Jealous Guy..

18. Shawn Phillips – Steel Eyes (1971)
Phillips is an unjustly ignored long-hair folk merchant now living in South Africa. Steel Eyes comes from the wonderful Second Contribution album (worth looking up just for the title of the opening track).  Whistle-tastic moment:2:12   You think the song is over; then, after a three-second silence, Phillips gives it a whistle interlude. Forty seconds later, it ends. But it doesn’t; he starts again. Oh how you tease, Shawn.

19. Sun City Girls – The Shining Path (1990)
And today’s prize question: Which famous melody are the unfeminine Sun City Girls ripping off here? And what on earth are they singing?  Whistle-tastic moment: 0:01  Unlike your average spaghetti western, Sun City Girls don’t let you wait long for whistle action.

20. The Beach Boys – Disney Girls (1957) (1971)
The moment the Beach Boys, led here by Bruce Johnstone, turned into Paul McCartney. It has whistling and flute. Gorgeous.  Whistle-tastic moment: 3:47   The whistling comes in randomly at the end.

21. Paul Simon – Me & Julio Down By The Schoolyard (1971)
Paul Simon once said he didn’t really know what Mama saw. Still, it seems obvious that an act of a sexual nature was observed. But let’s put to rest the idea that Rosie was the leading administrator of favours to matters phallic because she was the queen of something sharing the name with a cigar – Corona is a New York neighbourhood. Whistle-tastic moment: 1:12   Simon lets blow. Good job. Bad pun.

22. Danyel Gérard – Butterfly (French version) (1971)
I’ve posted the German version of this before, and I shall do so again. The German, English and French versions all have the whistling interlude. The song? Yeah, it is cheesy. And quite wonderful.  Whistle-tastic moment: 3:17   After establishing a sing-along party atmosphere, our floppy-hatted friend wistfully (look, Ma, no puns) whistles the song out.

23. Richard Cheese – Creep (2006)
It’s so mother-fucking special.  Whistle-tastic moment: 1:07  Cheese announces it: WHISTLE SOLO!.

Bonus: Mrs Miller – Downtown (1966)
You have to love Mrs Miller: she was deadly serious about her singing, yet she knew that to everyone else it was amusing. Hear Mrs Miller fluff her line, get flustered, and then gamely catches herself to take us to perhaps the most disturbing whistle solos in the history of popular music — after which she fluffs the lyrics some more.  Whistle-tastic moment: 1:07  Mrs Miller is so stoked about her whistling chops that she gives us an encore.

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  1. June 26th, 2009 at 11:39 | #1

    No Undertones?

    Gone for a lie down . . .

  2. June 26th, 2009 at 12:08 | #2

    Yeah!
    What the world needs now is more Whistlers!
    That and musical saw players. eh, what?

  3. June 26th, 2009 at 22:10 | #3

    When you get up, nominate song number 66 on my shortlist.

  4. June 27th, 2009 at 03:07 | #4

    Even Shawn himself evidently got tired of the real title of the opener to “Second Contribution.” On his 2007 live album titled “Living Contribution: Two Sides,” the song in question is called simply “Woman.” Which is what most folks have called it over the years, anyway. (And it remains one of the best opening tracks to an album, ever!)

  5. opus
    June 27th, 2009 at 22:25 | #5

    i was just out mowing the lawn and listening to tunes when i ran across “two of us” off “let it be”. lennon let’s at it in the outro, as if strolling down the lane. made me think of this post immediately. cheers

  6. June 27th, 2009 at 22:38 | #6

    Oh yes, I love that whistle flourish right at the end.

  7. John
    June 28th, 2009 at 18:49 | #7

    Once again, and always, a most excellent post.

  8. dickvandyke
    June 28th, 2009 at 21:36 | #8

    ‘.. And always let your conscience be your guide’.
    Well, it’s got me in some right scrapes I can tell thee.

    Wondrous post. Inspiration must be your middle name.

  9. June 29th, 2009 at 19:24 | #9

    Great mix as always. Why is it so underused? I look forward to more of the same.

  10. Airoe
    June 29th, 2009 at 23:00 | #10

    oh my God !
    no Harry Nillson !

    See You Later

    Airoe

  11. Paul Turner
    June 30th, 2009 at 11:56 | #11

    I’d been waiting for Mrs Miller to get a look in! Love ya work.

  12. vimj
    July 1st, 2009 at 16:18 | #12

    I guess “I was kaiser Bill’s batman” -Whistling Jack Smith is too obvious.

  13. ben
    August 24th, 2009 at 07:21 | #13

    DO you know a song that was a french pop song from the 80’s, it had a guy singing smoothly , with the sound of fingrs snapping trumpets, jazzy, and he whistled in it, really catchy it sounded a little chet-“bakery” , you know what that might be?

  14. Andy
    July 17th, 2017 at 14:52 | #14

    Seriously, no Whistling Jack Smith? ;)

  15. JohnnyDiego
    July 17th, 2017 at 15:24 | #15

    This looks cool. In 1979 or 1980 a kid at the MIT college radio station in Cambridge, Mass did an hour of New Wave songs that included whistling. At the time I had no idea that punks were using that instrument as often as they did in the underground record scene of the time. Then, looking over your list, I suddenly realized that I’ve heard many of these songs and never really realized how extensive the use of whistling is.
    And then there’s: “Big Noise from Winnetka” a jazz song co-written by composer and bass player Bob Haggart and drummer Ray Bauduc with lyrics by Gil Rodin and Bob Crosby, who were members of a sub-group of the Bob Crosby Orchestra called “The Bobcats”. They also were the first to record it, in 1938. That recording is remarkable for its unusual duet feature: Haggart whistles the melody and plays the bass, while only Bauduc accompanies him on the drums. Halfway through the solo, Bauduc starts drumming on the strings of the double bass, while Haggart continues to play with his left hand, creating a percussive bass solo. The original version was just bass and drums but many other arrangements have been performed including one by the Bob Crosby big band with the band’s vocal group. — Wikipedia

  16. Hey-Its Mike
    July 18th, 2017 at 16:23 | #16

    This looks to be a lot of fun to listen to. If you ever do a second collection, consider Otis Redding’s ‘Dock of the Bay”, “Golden Years” by Bowie, and “Angel in the Centerfold” by the J. Geils Band.

  17. halfhearteddude
    July 19th, 2017 at 07:33 | #17

    There is a second mix already from 2009 which will be recycled later. It features Bowie and Redding. The J. Geils Banbd’s Centrefold has been sitting in that dusty shortlist for a third mix.

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