Throughout history, there have been several instruments implemented in music that may deem a little out of place, like the washboard and the jug. At one point, the synthesizer was probably written off as unusual, as well. Even the most off-kilter of instruments have created magic in a tune, especially regarding the kazoo.
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Here are eight classic songs that feature the kazoo and prove simple buzz can make a big impact.
1. “When I Get to Heaven” – John Prine
The charming, plucky John Prine tune, “When I Get to Heaven,” wouldn’t be complete without the quirky buzz of a kazoo. During the recording of “When I Get to Heaven,” Prine reportedly turned the session into a party where friends and family convened to add a sweet atmosphere to the lovable tune. Chatter and laughter can be heard in the background, and one guest, Brandi Carlile, can be heard among the participants taking up the kazoo on the recording.
2. “San Francisco Bay Blues (Live Acoustic)” – Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton pulled out the kazoo for a live acoustic performance of “San Francisco Bay Blues,” which appeared on his Unplugged album. The song is a classic composition written for a one-man band with a solo specifically for a kazoo to zing up the already rollicking arrangement.
3. “Cool, Calm And Collected” – The Rolling Stones
For the Rolling Stones’ 1967 album Between the Buttons, founding member Brian Jones flexed his multi-instrumentalist chops on much of the record, trading in his guitar for rather unorthodox rock instruments, such as the organ, marimba, vibraphone, and kazoo. Jones, especially, toots his own kazoo with an impressive solo found on the track “Cool, Calm And Collected.”
4. “Skinned” – Blind Melon
Kicking off with the kazoo’s hum, “Skinned” from alt-rock outfit Blind Melon has a unique texture thanks to the tiny instrument played by frontman Shannon Hoon. The sound offers a cheeriness to the tune, nearly covering up the song’s darker meaning about murderer Ed Gein.
5. “You’re Sixteen” – Ringo Starr
The kazoo solo that can be heard on Ringo Starr’s “You’re Sixteen (You’re Beautiful And You’re Mine)” is a little deceptive. Starr recruited former Beatles bandmate Paul McCartney to add a little flair to the song, and he did, impressively so.
“The solo on ‘You’re Sixteen,’ which sounds like a kazoo or something, was Paul singing very spontaneously as we played that track back, so he’s singing the solo on that,” the song’s producer Richard Perry revealed when the song rocketed up the charts.
6. “Corporal Clegg” – Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd’s A Saucerful of Secrets features two songs with kazoo flourishes, the first being “Corporal Clegg.” Guitarist David Gilmour is credited with playing the small buzzing flute, a bright respite against the song’s ominous psychedelia.
7. “Jugband Blues” – Pink Floyd
“Jugband Blues” was the other kazoo-filled Saucerful of Secrets track. Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason traded off kazoo duties for the spacey rock tune. Alongside rattling castanets and intrusive horns all played erratically, the tiny instrument manages to squeak through the madness.
8. “Crosstown Traffic” – Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix’s “Crosstown Traffic” is a classic example of a kazoo used in rock music. Throughout the tune, buzzes and hums can be heard along with the lead guitar, making a sound that has become just as iconic as the rock standard itself. The kazoo used, however, was not a kazoo at all. It was instead a makeshift version of the instrument, fashioned from a comb and some tissue paper.
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