My aim is to create thoughtful, interesting, high minded and unique music criticism here. And so, in that spirit, here’s my top four songs with guitars that sound like bagpipes!
We can see that there is quite a spike in guitars that sound like bagpipes in 1983. “In a Big Country” is the best of the bunch, imo. Great pop song but I note that it owes a debt to its Hibernian cousin recorded ten years before. It seems we just accepted what was put before us in music videos in the early days. Were we just not picky about plot and continuity? I can’t for the life of me puzzle out what’s going on here.
Ach, the skirling! My real name is comically Scottish and I actually took bagpipe lessons around the time I took up the guitar. There are a loads of crazy grace notes you have to learn in order to play traditional Highland pipes. I remember one of the graces was called the “Bubbly D.” And that’s about all I remember. Had things turned out a little differently…I’m pretty sure I still would have stuck with the guitar.
I’m quite busy this afternoon cleaning the house from top to bottom because we are hosting a phone banking party. For whom, I am unsure. There’s a lot of campaigns swirling around our little group right now. Do you want to help a campaign? Well, you’ve come to the right thermometer because this here one is for the fund that’s split between all eventual Democratic nominees in House districts currently held by Republicans.
Hey! I know the lyric reference! Not quite a first for me, but pretty close. Although I immediately thought of the Metallica version.
No Drought No More
A guy parks his car on a street, leaving his accordion in the back seat. Returning to the car later, he sees that a rear window has been shattered and broken wide open. He rushes to see what has been stolen, but to his surprise sees only a second accordion laying next to his own…
@No Drought No More:
Actual bumper sticker: “Use an accordian, go to jail”
Boy that was a flashback! I thought it was pretty neat to make the guitars sound like bagpipes. My guess for how it works is that the bagpipes are tuned to a different scale than 12-tone equal so it’s probably a matter of pitchbending to that scale.
edit: that video plot was fairly off even by the standards of the time. IIRC there were mostly fairly obvious plots or visual montages that obviously weren’t really supposed to have a plot. This wasn’t the only one that tried to have a plot and failed, though.
I first heard Thin Lizzy’s Whiskey in a Jar on the soundtrack of the British TV show Life on Mars (which I highly recommend – the American version not so much except it does have Harvey Keitel)
Here tis: https://youtu.be/wyQ-tScuzwM
kmeyer the lurker
I believe the tone produced in “In a Big Country” was achieved using an Ebow. I honestly thought it was bagpipes for years.
If you included actual bagpipes you could throw in “It’s A Long Way To the Top” by AC/DC.
@Fair Economist: If I remember this correctly, the bagpipe chanter is tuned to one diatonic scale (do re mi etc). So if you want to change keys you must play modally. That means one of your scale degrees will be flat or sharp. That works out just fine since so much folk music is modal.
True story: the piper on the Normandy beaches, Bill Millin – was able to talk to German prisoners to find out why nobody shot him when he was walking around on a battlefield in full view of everyone. The Germans all said they didn’t want to shoot him because they’d thought he’d gone mad.
Comically Scottish? You’re a Maccabee?
@No Drought No More: I recruited an accordion player into my last band. He was great! I didn’t get him up to Pogues speed, but if he hadn’t moved to Minneapolis to join an anarchist collective we might have gotten there. These things happen.
@PaulWartenberg: Great story.
@The Lodger: I once heard that the Scots pronounced the name of the composer of the wedding march MenDELssohn
@Jewish Steel: The great thing about punk scenes is willingness to experiment. You can go to any town in the US and somebody is going to remember there being a band who had a friend who played clarinet in the high school marching band and they threw it in for at least one song. Or maybe it was grandma’s lap harp. That band usually didn’t become the biggest draw in their town, but everybody knew them and thought they were fun to hang with,
@Mike J: For sure. Back when we fancied ourselves a punk band we did “The Grey Funnel Line” with a Moog, a bowed guitar and two classical singers. People definitely remembered that show.
Isn’t the bagpipe sound in Copperhead Road by Steve Earle a distorted guitar? I couldn’t verify it, but saw an interesting video on how to do it.
@Jewish Steel: The article I linked claims that the “bagpipe scale” is an idiosyncratic one with ratios like 9:5, plus it uses a perfect 7th harmonic, which isn’t in the diatonic scale, either equal or just. So it’s unique, which is why it’s distinctive. It also says there’s not just one scale and there are variations in how it’s tuned, which sounds right to me.
@Fair Economist: Very interesting! I remember Richard Thompson saying that the seventh scale degree, sharp or flat, is a matter of personal taste in Celtic music. This must have been what he was talking about.
@xjmuellerlurks: Is it the uilleann pipes?
Sinead Lohan – Whatever It Takes (1998): https://youtu.be/SZ9myGMhF5M
Also, I prefer “Fields of FIre” to “In a Big Country”…https://youtu.be/2uWjuconWM0
When I think of the accordion in rock, I think of two guys: Weird Al Yankovic and the late great Danny Federici.
I don’t have much to add here, except I think “Under the Milky Way” is the best song you listed up there by far.
@PaulWartenberg: The Ladies From Hell?
@Cap’n Phealy: Fields of Fire is great too.
@Suzanne: The “bagpipe” solo is the best of the lot. On that I could agree. I wanted to hear more great songs from The Church. I bought this album. I remember being disappointed.
@PaulWartenberg: And the intro to the Jeff Beck Group’s cover of Morning Dew
I could modestly point yez to my website:
@John Fremont: I saw them live in Chicago Beck, Nikki Hopkins, Rod Stewart and Ron Wood (I think)
My spousal unit plays this over and over at his 14-hour long St. Patrick’s Day gig. March is coming quick!
@John Revolta: Hold up, dog. Is that you? I love it! Is this band still together?
@BluegirlFromWyo: 14 hours! Have mercy!
Cool sound! I’ve never heard that before. I have an 89 Stratocaster and am saving up to get a Les Paul. Ahh it haunts my dreams…
Can one make a (sharp, twangy single-pickup) Strat sound like a (warm, humbucking) Les Paul? If so, how?
Sorry, I’m not familiar with any of these songs. Still stuck on the blues and classic rock of the good ole days…
My friends and I really beat “Under The Milky Way” to death on road trip that spring/summer. First year of college. Copperhead Road the next year in our first apartment. Good times.
@EveryDayIHaveTheBlues: Yes, you can get close! Pedals. Get yourself a nice, transparent overdrive ( a soulfood is cheap and a klon is expensive but totally worth it) and a fuzz. Bob’s yer uncle
@khead: Sorry, I hate bullshit ass songs where the dude poses as a Nam vet.
That’s the old MXR Pitch Transposer sound. I think the Edge used one around the same time.
@Jewish Steel: Yeah, that’s meself. Don’t tell efgoldman- he hates the pipes!
I took a couple years off to attend to family stuff and I’m rebuilding the band as we speak (or, type). In fact I’m glad this came up because I just rebuilt the website and I’ve been wanting the jackals here to give it a once-over and offer suggestions.
I have a pile of Big Country albums and miss Stuart dearly. Right behind The Crossing I’d put The Seer, e-bow bagpipe sound or not.
Now I’ll have to listen to the other items listed. If anyone wants to know where BC came from, check out The Skids.
I can’t think of songs with guitars sounding like bagpipes, but, this is my favorite bagpipe tune…
What Have The Romans Ever Done for Us?
@Amir Khalid: Tom Waits used a lot of accordion circa Rain Dogs to creepy and brilliant effect.
What Have The Romans Ever Done for Us?
@Jewish Steel: I get all of this, but only because I’m a diatonic harmonica player – nothing serious just purely recreational. Thankfully they are cheap so buying 12 so you can play in any key is till not a lot of cash, and frankly you don’t need every key anyway – only 4-5 get most of the use. My dad bought a nice recorder – (the wind instrument, not a recording device, and also a diatonic instrument) – which was not cheap – and was disappointed after the fact that he couldn’t play to any song that wasn’t in the key he bought it in.
@What Have The Romans Ever Done for Us?: How are harmonicas tuned? Just, equal, or something else?
In my old Folk Singers songbook, the song is called “Gilgarra Mountain” and it starts
As I was goin’
over Gilgarra Mountain,
I spied Colonel Farrel
and his money he was countin’.
First I drew me pistol.
then I drew me rapier,
Sayin’, stand and deliver
for I am your bold deceiver!
Musha a ringa duram daw,
Wac fo the dairy-oo,
Wac fo the dairy-oo, there’s whiskey in the jar.
Well, he counted out his money,
and it made a pretty penny.
I put it in me pocket,
to take home to darlin’ Jenny.
Who sighed and swore she loved me,
and never would deceive me.
but the devil take the women
for they always lie so easy.
That’s circa 1960 or so. It sounds like more recent covers have changed the wording. I like the original better, but what do I know?
Steve in the ATL
@Jewish Steel: “reptile” was great (less so when covered by my college band), but Starfish was not their best album.
“Just for you” and “into my hands” are great earlier songs (again, less so when covered by my college band).
Steve in the ATL
@raven: I get your point, but it’s a story song. Steve Earle is not Toby Keith.
Nothing I’ve been able to find about the tune references uilleane pipes. The bagpipe sound is apparently a synth. It does sound sorta keyboardy. I checked liner notes and there were no citations for any kind of wind instrument other than a tin whistle.
@PaulWartenberg: Dropkick Murphys? Mighty Mighty Bosstones? Kenne Highland (Jonny & the Jumper Cables anong others) Helloooo?? Not many Bosstown rockers around these parts. Bagpipe is to a certain strain of Bosstown rock as green puke is to St Patrick’s Day.
I always thought it was obvious the Big Country pipes were guitars, but never realized that was true for Under the Milky Way.
@Raven: Saw them at the Eagle’s Auditorium in Seattle in, I guess, ’69. Opened for Chicago Transit Authority (later Chicago). And you’re right, that was the lineup, per the Wiki.
@MJS: Which Metallica’s version is so close to Thin Lizzy’s that it sounds like karaoke to me. Love ’em both, but Thin Lizzy’s was the original.
@Jewish Steel: Uh…that would be very weird indeed.
What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us?
@Fair Economist: Diatonic harmonicas are tuned to the 8 note Diatonic scale rather than the full 12 note chromatic scale. Basically they only have whole notes, no sharps or flats, and they only have two and change octaves. Certain notes can be “bent” which allows the player to lower the pitch a half note to get some sharps and flats. Bent notes are used frequently in blues and rock.
Each harmonica is in a key, each key plays the Diatonic scale in that key. Basically that means the doe rae me scale. C is technically the only doe rae me scale with no sharps or flats. So on a C harmonica if you start on A and play each note sequentially the half notes (B to C and E to F are half notes) fall in the wrong places on the scale. This is called Aeolian mode. D to D is Dorian. They’re known as minor keys and have a plaintive quality. E.g. Greensleeves/What child is this is either Aeolian or Dorian, I can’t remember which.
@ThresherK: I do, too. I loved Big Country with Stuart as head man. They opened for Roger Daltry in Boston way long ago. I bought a scalped ticket, rocked out to Big Country. Was amused that they called “Chance” a love song. Left when Daltry came on stage. Part of it was the guy sitting next to me, bragging about his exterminator business (a subtle come on). But I just didn’t want Roger Daltry to mess with my Big Country buzz.
Also, I listened to an interview with the producer for the Big Country album, The Crossing – Steve Lillywhite. He was being interviewed by Jay Mohr, and Mohr was trying to get Lillywhite to talk about his more popular/famous bands that he worked with. And Lillywhite said the album that he worked on that he’s most proud of was… The Crossing. I was high fiving my ipod. Mohr sounded as if he were let down. Big Country, really?
@Jewish Steel: Thanks a million! I’ll test it out… was thinking of acquiring a Boss OD pedal. Haven’t decided on a Fuzz yet.