Jul 212008

I joked in a previous thread that the flute has no place in music. Well kinda joked. With the exception of “Moondance”, I can’t think of an instance of the Rock Flute that didn’t make me reach for the dial.

I invite you, individually and/or collectively, to offer up 10 great rock songs that feature a flute. I’ll be the judge and jury.

Here are the rules:

Not including Moondance.

  • The flute must be relatively prominent and integral. Don’t split hairs, you know what I’m sayin’.
  • I flippantly said “music,” but for this challenge I’m limiting you to rock songs.
  • No more than 2 songs by a given artist. I confess that there might be other Van Morrison songs that I’m unaware of. (BTW: Van Morrison is the exception to another one of my rock laws. Stay tuned.)
  • Mellotrons, and other devices, that sound like flutes don’t count.

Tip: Don’t even try any Tull. DOA


  42 Responses to “Melt the Flutes and Never More Desire Them”

  1. Mr. Moderator

    The Pretty Things’ “Private Sorrow”

  2. “How She Threw It All Away” by the Style Council. You heard me. Fuck ALL y’all!

    “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” by the Beatles.

    “Windy” by the Association.

    “(Don’t Worry) If There’s A Hell Below, We’re All Going To Go” by Curtis Mayfield.

    “California Dreaming” by the Mamas and the Papas.

    “Undun” by the Guess Who.

    And there’s a song on the first Mogwai album that has a great flute solo, but I’m reloading my iPod right now so I can’t hit iTunes to remember which one it is.

  3. Mr. Moderator

    The Great 48’s got a few good ones. “Windy” reminds me of one: what’s that instrument in “Hitching a Ride”? That’s a fine song!

    Here’s another great one featuring flute: “The Mighty Quinn”. You’re goin’ down, Sammy!

  4. saturnismine

    In the fade of “If 6 was 9” there’s some wonderful flute flourishes.

  5. “No New Tale to Tell” by Love and Rockets from the Earth, Sun Moon album.
    killer psychadelic flute solo.

  6. “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys. Is it prominent enough when it follows the bass line on that little break?

  7. Mr. Moderator

    Let’s see what these flute fans might have to say about your thoughts, Sammy:


  8. Generally, I agree with the sentiment of this thread – isn’t there a bootleg of someone like Paul Anka saying, “there’s no SOUND in flutes”.

    Anyway… the song “Dream In Blue” by Los Lobos comes to mind.

  9. alexmagic

    “Goin’ Up To The Country” – Canned Heat

    “Boredom” – Procol Harum

    “John Barleycorn” – Traffic

    “Feel Flows” – Beach Boys

    And my yeah, you heard me pick: “There Is A Mountain” – Donovan

  10. BigSteve

    This is funny, sammy. I was going to start a thread very similar to this after reading your comment the other day, but I didn’t get it together to do it yesterday. We often seem to disagree, but here’s one where we reach.

    I hate the flute. I don’t like the trumpet either, unless it’s played by Miles Davis, preferably through a wah-wah pedal, but don’t get me started or we’ll be here all day. I like the wooden recorder fine, but that pure sine tone that the modern metal flute produces seems soulless to me, and the way you play it by holding it to the side is just too … well it ain’t what I call rock and roll.

    California Dreamin’ and was one of the few counterexamples I could come up with, but that’s some kind of alto flute isn’t it? Two examples of the superiority of the recorder over the flute (obverse as opposed to transverse) are The Mighty Quinn and solo in the middle of the Troggs’ Wild Thing.

  11. “Undun” would have been my choice but I’ll add “Can’t You see” – Marshall Tucker Band (or someone like that)

  12. dbuskirk

    I think Sammy might just be traumatized by that wretched solo on “Color My World”.

    I don’t find myself considering rock flutes too much (although that first Kraftwerk record has a fantastic flute-driven tune on it) but I’m all about the jazz flute. Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Yusef Lateef, Byard Lancaster, Don Cherry, Lloyd McNeill, Herbie Mann, Adele Sebastien, Bobby Humrphreys……….I guess its a long list, but I dig all these flautists. Is this a gut instinct against the whole woodwinds section? Rock oboe? Rock clarinet?

    I’m kind of excited when anything other than the bass/guitar/drums crops up in an arrangement. I’m particularly drawn to vibes, violin and accordion, all instruments that seem to piss people off.

    There is a wonderful recording on John Coltrane playing flute, with Pharoah Sanders on piccolo titled “To Be” from the album EXPRESSION.

  13. sammymaudlin

    Shit man, I didn’t count on having to do any homework on this. There are a number of songs here that I don’t recognize by name (I’m bad with song titles…and lyrics) but I’ll try and hunt them down.

    “Private Sorrow” gets a thumbs up. I don’t particularly like the flute in this song but the way that its used and the greatness that surrounds and follows it keeps me from reaching for the dial.

    A Style Council song?! You got balls. I did track it down though. Ya know, to give it a fair shake. And, ummm….NO.

    “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away”, Of course. I will add however that the flute-less version on Anthology doesn’t feel to lack anything without flute.

    “Windy”, My oldest had to learn percussion for an orchestral performance. So I’m EXTREMELY familiar with the metronome-version of this song. Irregardless, I’m not a Windy fan.

    Curtis Mayfield song. Maybe. I don’t really know it. Judgement suspended until further notice.

    “California Dreaming”- Got me on this one.

    “Undone”- Hmmmm. I’m going to have to sit with this one as I’m not sure if my appreciation for this song is a kitschy one. It’s so like, Feliciano… I’ll get back to you.

    “Mighty Quinn”- OK, I guess, barely.

    “If 6 Was 9”- Disqualified due to lack of flute prominence and the thought that Yoko Ono could easily have been substituted for it.

    “No New Tale To Tell”- I like this song enough kilroy and kudos for thinking of it but I gotta disqualify it due to it’s lack of “great”ness.

    “God Only Knows”- Love this song, of course but is the flute prominent and integral? Verdict: No.

    There is no “great” Los Lobos song. Sad but true. A reminder that the Judge’s verdict is final.

    “Goin’ Up to the Country”- Supports my hypothesis to the hilt. Ooof.

    “Boredom”- Ditto.

    “John Barleycorn”- Isn’t that a “traditional” and hence not rock song? Counselor?

    “Feel Flows”- Good one. Mr. Mod should appreciate Almost Famous if only for the use of Feel Flows during the credits.

    “There Is A Mountain”- You heard me, I dig this song. Good one. But don’t bother trying “Jennifer Juniper”

    “Can’t You See”- I don’t know this and that it might be a Marshal Tucker Band song does little to make me want to track it down.

    TIME OUT: Before we go any further Townsman BigSteve has brought it to the courts attention that the so called “flute” in Mighty Quinn is actually a recorder. Based on the last rule of the contest, Mighty Quinn must be rejected. If the attorney representing has any proof that this is indeed a flute he may approach the bench.

    Verdict to date: 5 have made the cut.

  14. BigSteve

    My point is that the recorder is the real flute, and the technological innovation of the transverse flute does not change that any more than the Steinberger replaces the Telecaster.

    And here’s proof that you can’t make the flute cool, no matter what you try:


  15. “Down Under” Men at Work? It hit my iTunes shuffle just now and it sounds like flute to me.

    And because you asked so nicely from the start, I won’t split hairs with God Only Knows more then to say: Prominent? no. Integral? yes.

    In regards to the recorder being a better version of the flute. What difference does it make what sort of tube the sound is coming from if the sounds are similar? Am I surrounded by bitter bottom lipless musicians? Or is it the fact that most flute players are pretentious and obnoxious (on that count I would whole heartedly agree.)?

    I think there is enough difference in the sound of the two instruments for them to be used in different circumstances, and that if you replace one with the other, there will be slightly different mood in the song.

    And Herbie holding a recorder in that picture would have made him look cooler? I think what the picture really proves is that no instrument on earth could make a de-shirted Herbie Mann look cool.

  16. BigSteve

    The sounds are similar but not the same. Wood makes a different sound than metal.

  17. Mr. Moderator

    I like what BigSteve had to say in defense of hating the flute. In fact, the “side-saddle” position of the instrument is a major detriment. If the flute is a modification of a recorder, what was the issue, not enough spacing in the orchestra rows? “Let’s turn the recorder sideways so we can all fit in this tight space!”

    Sammy, your open-mindedness is to be commended. You may lose the battle but win the war.

  18. Ummmm, “God Only Knows”? Nah, but how about “Caroline, No”?


  19. PinceNez on BigSteve: “Wild Thing” is an ocarina, not a recorder.

  20. While speaking of Pet Sounds, the two flutes features at the beginning of “Sloop John B”?

    “Don’t move, don’t move…right there…”


  21. But that’s my point about the flute, their sound is different than a recorder’s. If the instruments have different sounds, then one cannot fully replace the other. They both have their place. Otherwise, as pointed out by Mr. Moderator, you would see an orchestra full of recorders, and no one would have invented the flute.

    I played saxophone up through college. It is a modified reed instrument made to have similar qualities to share the qualities of a brass instrument. Can a clarinet replace it in some instances? yes. But a saxophone has a sound all its own.

    And a saxophone is a great example of an instrument that can work well with a rock group (Morphine) or completely ruin a song (countless songs with Kenny G style soprano sax solos).

    As to the “look” issue. Is side saddle really that much worse then the BJ position?

  22. Mr. Moderator

    Fair question regarding the side-saddle vs BJ positions, but the answer is Yes. Flute players look much sillier.

    By the way, Sammy, that Curtis Mayfield song that The Great 48 suggested is terrible. I think even fellow Mayfield lover HVB may agree with me on that one.

  23. hrrundivbakshi

    That Mayfield song isn’t a total turd. I give it a C+. Which, I suppose, makes it pretty turdly for Mayfield. Much better, from the same era, is the awesome “Kung Fu.”

  24. BigSteve

    I thought an ocarina was just a plastic or ceramic recorder, like the one they use for grade school music classes. A little googling reveals that it has two rows of holes. Hmmmm. And that there’s a dreaded transverse ocarina. Noooo!

    This also gives me a chance to quote the great lyric from Beefheart’s I Wanna Find Me a Woman That’ll Hold My Big Toe Till I Have to Go:

    I wanna find me a woman who’ll hold my big toe till I have to go
    I wanna find a blue swirl plastic ocarina about five miles long
    And play with them sweet potatoes all night long
    ’cause them yams have all them eyes that yawn ‘n ‘yearn

    No way sammy will call bullshit on that poetry.

  25. sammymaudlin

    “Caroline No”- This is a tough call. Are the flutes prominent before the end? I guess since I have to ask the answer is “no”. Also, thinking that the flutes sounded awfully low I looked it up on Wikipedia which says they are “bass flutes.” Frankly, I didn’t even know that there was such a thing. I’m going to disqualify this song but might be willing to accept an appeal if it comes down to a game changer.

    “Sloop John B”- I could argue that the flute here doesn’t even come close to prominence but I don’t have to as this song too is a “traditional” and as such is not eligible.

    BigSteve- Dude. I was so ready to give you a great big bear hug over this flute thing and then you had to go and splatter the bowl with that loose Beefheart stool.

  26. Well, I know it’s my suggestion, but I would argue that it’s a solo played during the outro.


  27. Nights in White Satin by The Moody Blues

  28. Mr. Moderator

    Suzanne, welcome aboard! Way to go on the Moody Blues flute citation. That’s a song in which the flute plays a prominent and significant role, whether we love it or not. What say you, Sammy?

  29. sammymaudlin

    Here’s the deal the Nights in White Satin. I recuse myself for ruling on this song due to childhood trauma.

    I spent a chunk of my elementary school years in a bedroom that I believed to be haunted. I would wake up in the wee hours of the morning convinced that someone was in the room with me. Sometimes so frightened that I would scream out for my parents.

    My dad got me hooked on sleeping with the radio on which improved the situation greatly. I would listen to KDKB and their overnight DJ would play whatever he wanted. On a few occasions that I woke with a sense of being watched I remember Nights in White Satin being on the radio which intensified the fear.

    To this day any Moody Blues gives me the willies.

    However, there was song that the overnight guy would play that had the opposite effect. Only A Northern Song would completely put me at ease and send me off with pleasant dreams.

    Shortly before we moved out of this house we learned that the teen who had lived in that room prior had committed suicide after an argument with his father. He killed himself in my bedroom.


  30. Mr. Moderator

    Sammy, I know Hollywood has stolen a lot of your finest ideas, but you never told me they stole Monsters, Inc. from you:)

    Yikes, that’s a freaky story. One that I can imagine only you and another more mystically attuned friend could have experienced.

    The Moody Blues fascinate me.

  31. BigSteve

    Using a flute in a song gets you inducted into the Rock Hall of Shame. Having a full-time flute player in the band is a Rock Crime.

  32. But having a full-time recorder player wouldn’t be a rock crime?

    Rocking out on a recorder is really that much cooler looking?


    Maybe its the trauma of 6th grade or maybe its because I live in New England and everyone is trying to get in touch with the 1/20 Irish in them, but I’m not interested in rock shows turning into renaissance fairs. I don’t want to be anywhere where there is a chance of a D&D game spontaneously breaking out.

    Alternate instrumentation is fine for an album or if you’re playing in a really good sounding concert hall, but its wasted sound in most small clubs and unnecessary. I can’t think of any reason a rock band would need a full-time flutist or recorder player other then maybe Polyphonic Spree where orchestration is your schtick.

    But flutes and beat boxing? That’s another story:


  33. hrrundivbakshi

    Yeah, BigSteve — I never figured you for a Bon Scott fan.


  34. BigSteve

    I love the Amish Bon Scott in his bassoon phase.

    No band needs a full time recorder player. But for those who doubt that the recorder can have a place in a great rock record, I have one word for you — Ruby Tuesday.

  35. Mr. Moderator

    That’s Bon Scott? No wonder the guy was driven to drink.

  36. diskojoe

    How about “Flute Thing” by the Blues Project? There’s a clip of a live performance of it at the Monterey Pop Festival that’s on the outtakes disc of the Criterion version of Monterey Pop.

  37. The flute is second only to the steel drum for most annoying instrument. All of those songs that would be made better by 86ing the flute except John Barleycorn which was disallowed. Oddly enough, I think it sounds appropriate in Tull songs.

  38. Have The Beastie Boys cornered the market on the usage of the Flute sample?

  39. sammymaudlin

    diskojoe: I don’t think I know that song. Do you have a link?

  40. I would like to see flutes used as drumsticks. I think that would kick ass (and break a lot of drum heads).

  41. Mr. Moderator

    I heard one of my all-time favorite songs from childhood tonight, “Spill the Wine”. I forgot that that song uses flute to good effect.

  42. diskojoe

    The oldies station in Bosstown replays the 70s edition of American Top 40 w/Casey Kasem late on Saturday nights & last weekend they played a show from June 1970.I heard “Spill the Wine” at no. 14, just ahead of Elvis’ “The Wonder of You.”

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