Acoustic Cred

 Posted by
Aug 142012

Is it me, or does it seem that when a rock band puts an acoustic song on its album that it’s merely a stab at trying to sound “respectable?” Like “yeah we rock, but we have a serious side, too.”

I’m thinking Green Day here … and I think Oasis did something similar. Even the odd hair metal band would have a song now and then that showed their maturity because the guitarist laid it down with an acoustic guitar.

Even The Minutemen have an acoustic instrumental on Double Nickles on the Dime—and damn if it doesn’t seem to work at some level.

The only example I can think of that really does this well for me is The Jam‘s “That’s Entertainment.” It’s acoustic in all the right ways and works well with Weller’s high la, la las … so it doesn’t feel forced.

So, keeping folks like Neil Young and Dylan out of it, because they were so often acoustic—are there any other uncharacteristically acoustic rock bands that have successfully pulled off the acoustic song and not made it seem like a crass bid for “seriousness?”



  28 Responses to “Acoustic Cred”

  1. cherguevara

    Don’t know why such a left-field tune came to might right away, but the Wonder Stuff had a tune on their album called “Hup” called “Piece of Sky” which seemed to work for me. I think because stylistically it matches the rest of the album, just with brushes on the drums and acoustic guitar. Perhaps more of a production decision than an outright attempt to make a serious “acoustic” statement.

    I’m not much of a Jane’s Addition fan, but there’s always “Jane Says,” which, to me, never seemed any more “serious” than the rest of that album.

  2. Early on I think the Rolling Stones were maybe the first harder rocking band of its time to effectively weave in a serious (and often seriously effective) acoustic song, culminating in maybe the best of the bunch, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” There were plenty of earlier attempts, however, that fit well while also changing pace.

  3. I think The Replacements’ “Unsatisfied” off Let It Be and “Swingin’ Party” and “Here Comes a Regular” off Tim are good examples of songwriting evolution vs. a crass grap for respect.

    “Bring your own lampshade, somewhere’s there’s a party . . .’

    (Two Replacements references for me today. Guess I know what I’ll go home and listen to tonight.)

  4. ladymisskirroyale

    For a long time, I had thought that “Saudade” on Love and Rocket’s “Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven” was sort of an outlier: last song, instrumental, Portuguese title. But learning that “Saudade” means sort of a sentimental yearning, which fits the tone of the album, and noting more of the acoustic guitar in the mix of the other songs, I have made my peace with it (and it’s one of Mr. Royale’s favorite songs).

  5. There’s a song on the Doobie Brothers “Minute by Minute” I always liked but I can’t remember the name. “Little Martha” from “Eat a Peach” is good. I loved the whole unplugged fad a few years back and have always thought the best songs were the ones that could be played and sung by a single person. Bring is Spector’s wall of sound after that but, to me, it all starts acoustically.

  6. cliff sovinsanity

    I always thought Within Your Reach was Westerberg’s first stab at seriousness considering all the silliness on Hootenanny.

  7. cliff sovinsanity

    I’m probably going to be derided for this, but Never Talking To You is a very fine all-acoustic song off of Hüsker Dü’s noisy mess Zen Arcarde.
    Although this is a Grant Hart song, Bob Mould would later add acoustic songs without sounding out of place.

  8. In a way, Westerberg was doing it from the start, with the flip side of the first single being, “If Only You Were Lonely”. It’s kind of a mix of jokey drinking references and earnest longing.

  9. Townshend at “The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball.” Upon hitting Jr High Pete’s music resonated quickly with me and the powerful antics of The Who took over my life. Then I heard the “Won’t Get Fooled Again” performance from “TSPOB” and immediately set my sights on acquiring a steel-string acoustic, and have admired his acoustic sets since – my fave combo of electric rage and acoustic touch.

    I don’t play as much as I used to, but when I can get “on it” it will produce a splatter of blood on the Ovation’s blonde body and holes near the base of my right index- and middle-fingernails. It will also produce a self-satisfied smirk when horrified folks query, “What happened there?!?”

    Here’s “Drowned” from that gig


  10. This is my favorite version of “Drowned”, bar none.

  11. H. Munster

    “Sittin’ on a Fence” comes to mind.

  12. H. Munster

    Can’t Find My Way Home

  13. H. Munster

    John Barleycorn

  14. jeangray

    There is nothing respectable about an acoustic guitar.

  15. Green Day having an “Eleanor Rigby” moment on “Time of Your Life (Good Riddance)” and then back to top volume before deciding that “legitimacy” would not be achieved by acoustics but by building a rock opera. Wrong on both counts guys.


  16. alexmagic

    I think the ultimate example is Bon Jovi putting all of its chips into “inventing unplugged” and the “meaningful” acoustic version of Livin’ On a Prayer in their bid for artistic credibility.

  17. jeangray

    Y’all have missed the point entirely. It’s not about respectability, credibility or seriousness or any of that bull-jive. It’s all about breaking out the acoustics so the ladies thank you have a serious side & therefore will have sex with you. Jeez!

    Thread fail.

  18. jeangray

    Sorry, that should read sensitive side not serious side.

  19. mockcarr

    As Tears Go By.

  20. mockcarr

    That’s a good one.

  21. mockcarr

    Sunrise on The Who Sell Out is one of my favorites in this regard.

  22. alexmagic

    Ultimate example of doing it crassly/shamelessly, I want to (but hopefuly don’t have to) clarify.

  23. Serious can get you laid too, you know, just not as frequently.

  24. cherguevara

    If I were going for “ultimate” I’d put my chips on Clapton’s “unplugged” Layla, which is made extra-lame by changing it to a shuffle.

  25. cherguevara

    As a public service to all young guys out there who see music as a vehicle to get laid, I’d like to say one word: Salsa.


  26. My choice is Coldplay. “Til Kingdom Come” Its such a pretty tune. The lyrics are very moving to me. They move me on a deep emotional, personal level. Song kind reminds me of Bob Dylan. Dylan is one of most favorite singer-songwriters. “Til Kingdom Come” to me sounds beautiful and not at all gimmicky or overly serious. Just my opinion.

  27. jeangray

    And it makes you wanna have sex with Coldplay. Mission accomplished!

  28. No, that’s why you need a classical guitar. Ask Stephen Bishop!


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