“You got an organ goin’ there, no wonder the sound has so much body”, says an authoritative voice at the beginning of DJ Shadow’s Organ Donor. And it’s true. Organs have been colouring and beefing up music for over fifty years. And so have electric pianos. They deserve a playlist of their own. Now they got one!
This list is all about Wurlitzers and Fender Rhodes pianos, Hammond B3 organs and their inseparable rotating Leslie speakers. I guess we should thank the jazz guys for making these instruments cool as a cucumber.
People like Jimmy Smith and Larry Young behind their Hammonds. And Miles Davis, who forced Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock to play electrically on milestone albums like ‘In a Silent Way’ (1969) and ‘Bitches Brew’ (1970).
“You want me to play that toy?” was Hancock’s immediate reaction. After that, it seems as if his and Corea’s hands were glued to their Fenders, resulting in masterpieces of their own: the Brazilion fusion of ‘Light as a Feather’ (1972) and the pioneering funkjazz of ‘Headhunters’ (1973).
Common pieces of machinery
Sprinkling sparse notes, weaving gentle tapestries or cementing mighty improvisations, organs and electric pianos have become common pieces of studio machinery. Just to cite a few:
- hitmakers 10cc (I’m Not In Love), Queen (You’re My Best Friend), Sam Brown (Stop), Tears For Fears (Sowing The Seeds Of Love), Squeeze (Tempted)
- yacht rock captains Bobby Caldwell (What You Won’t Do For Love), Player (Baby Come Back), Michael McDonald (Keep Forgettin)
- jazz crusaders Miles Davis (Shhh / Peaceful), Squarepusher (Male Pill Part 13), The Cannonball Adderley Quintet (Mercy, Mercy, Mercy), Brad Mehldau (Luxe), Marc Cary Focus (Spectrum)
- prog rock giants Van Der Graaf Generator (Nutter Alert), Wigwam (Losing Hold), Focus (Round Goes the Gossip), The Alan Parsons Project (I Robot)
- funk and disco kings and queens George Duke (Brazilian Love Affair), Young-Holt Unlimited (Where Is the Love?), The Firebolts (Everybody Dance)
- indie rock outfits Grizzly Bear (Two Weeks), Comets On Fire (Sour Smoke), Girls (Jamie Marie), Toro Y Moi (Still Sound), Radiohead (Subterranean Homesick Alien)
- sound architects Brian Eno (Julie With)
And now have a listen: brace yourself for a reverberating 16 hours, and do send me your favourites!