MUSICIANS love getting out an obscure instrument that no one actually likes to prove how multi-talented they are. Here are some bands that went too far.
The quintessential flute-toting nonsense band. Ian Anderson wielded the thing like the f**ing Pied Piper, but to accompany their twee, folky gibberish rather than doing something useful like drowning rats. The flute is probably best left to orchestras and Die Zauberflöte, unless you think you’re better than Mozart, probably actually a common rock star delusion.
The psychedelic period of the Fab Four may be their best, for potheads at least. Like a grown-up gap year bellend, George Harrison ‘found himself’ while learning the sitar. Whether Ravi Shankar got bored of listening to the Beatles droning on is unclear, but their spiritual awakening has inspired generations of musicians, mostly to get off their tits.
Damon Albarn has a definite penchant for pretentious instruments. An on-stage harp is bad, but the melodica is too much. Featured again and again on Albarn’s hits as Gorillaz or solo, this musical monstrosity is basically a nose flute for the mouth with piano keys. It looks like a kids’ toy and sounds like a goose that’s fallen into an industrial press.
After trying to play the guitar with a violin bow, Jimmy Page next decided the classic Gallows Pole needed a session musician with a hurdy gurdy, a wooden box with a crank that, appropriately, looks like a portable electric generator favoured by torturers. Slavic folk musicians probably liked it, but a Zep fan has yet to utter the words: ‘I wish they did more hurdy gurdy solos.’
Bagpipes were a good choice as this reviled instrument couldn’t make irritating nu-metal much worse. Vocalist Jonathan Davis was apparently inspired by Scotty playing bagpipes at Spock’s funeral in Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan, which just makes this strange choice more confusing. Seeking new musical atrocities, Davis later performed scat on their most successful song.
Pity the listener who endured a half-hour Yes live jam session without LSD. Yes took keyboards to dismally pretentious new heights with multi-levelled pianos, keytars, and extended improvisations on the church organ. Rick Wakeman was a god to prog rock fans, but then they’d probably sit and stroke their beards sagely to an hour-long solo on a kazoo.