Accordion Rock from the Who, Jethro Tull, John Mellencamp, others: Gimme Five

Share this:

Did you hear the one about the accordion player who parked his car in a rough neighbourhood and left his instrument in the back seat? During the night, someone broke into his vehicle and left him another accordion.

At about the same time, the guitar took prominence as the defining rock ‘n’ roll musical instrument, the accordion came to encapsulate all that was the guitar’s exact opposite in the cool department. This truism of taste is so deeply ingrained in the public consciousness that there’s not even a need to pursue it any further. C’mon, just try to imagine Hendrix burning his accordion during “Wild Thing” at Monterey. The mind reels.

Sure, there’s novelty caused by simply inserting an accordion part in a recording for comic effect. And just consider the sheer number of silly YouTube accordion covers of hard rock and heavy metal takeoffs. Still, there are at least a few classic rock songs where the accordion is such a necessary instrument that the tone and timbre of the song depends on it.

Here are some favorite examples of accordion rock:

“CHERRY BOMB,” JOHN MELLENCAMP (THE LONESOME JUBILEE, 1987): Mellencamp’s teenage years probably didn’t have much to do with the accordion, but the instrument’s presence in the arrangement nevertheless benefits this slice of nostalgia.

“JOLE BLON,” GARY U.S. BONDS (DEDICATION, 1981): Once slated to be first-ever cover song on a Bruce Springsteen album (1980’s The River), this country song was rebuilt by the Boss himself and given over to Gary U.S. Bonds for the first of his two Bruce-produced comeback albums. The keyboard credit on this entry in our list of accordion rock goes to the E Street Band’s secret weapon, Danny Federici.

“IS ANYBODY GOING TO SAN ANTONE,” THE TEXAS TORNADOS (ZONE OF OUR OWN, 1991): No apologies for including this as an accordion rock song, considering Doug Sahm and Augie Meyers’ roots in the Sir Douglas Quintet and Freddy Fender’s chart-crossing success. And Flaco Jimenez has to be just about the best accordion player ever.

“GLORY ROW,” JETHRO TULL (WAR CHILD reissue, 2002): Originally an outtake that got slipped onto Repeat: The Best of Jethro Tull, Vol. II, this serves as another example of Tull’s ability to interpolate eclectic musical instruments into their unique overall sound.

“SQUEEZE BOX,” THE WHO (THE WHO BY NUMBERS, 1975): Included on our list of accordion rock for obvious reasons, and even covered by a few acts from Tenacious D to Sheryl Crow, who might be the only person who can actually pull off looking cool while playing the accordion.

Share this: