Mar 182011

The topic for this post came to me today when I ran across this documentary (or is it a long-form ad?) about the Cry Baby Wah Wah pedal. I remembered George Harrison‘s song “Wah-Wah” from All Things Must Pass.

Wah-wah/You’ve given me a wah-wah

Now, I’ve read that George was using the term “wah-wah” to refer to a headache, which recording Let It Be with Paul in the director’s chair apparently gave him, literally or metaphorically enough to quit. But still, I like to think of the song as an ode to that piece of gear.

Are there other good songs about beloved musical equipment or instruments? Generic instrument references like The Beatles‘ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and Talking Heads‘ “Electric Guitar” (great lyrics, by the way!) are plentiful, but what about more particular instruments, like B.B. King‘s guitar “Lucille,” or specific items, like a Vox Amp or a Gretsch guitar, in songs?


  23 Responses to “Gearhead Songs”

  1. Doesn’t Pete Townshend pay homage to his Hi-Watt amp in at least one Who song? Not being a gearhead, I’d bet his Hi-Watt reference – in whatever song (“Long Live Rock”?) – did as much to spark awareness of that brand of amp than any advertising the company bought.

  2. “My old transistor’s sounding just as twangy as a Fender”
    Drinkin’ in My Sunday Dress – Maria McKee

  3. Also:

    “Sure I like country music
    I like mandolins
    But right now I need a Telecaster
    Through a Vibro-Lux turned up to ten”

    Memphis in the Meantime – John Hiatt

    And I’m not sure if there was a specific song but Mudhoney had an album that referred to Big Muff Overdrive pedals.

  4. tonyola

    Squeeze had a song called Farfisa Beat in 1980.
    The group 808 State took their name from the Roland TR-808 rhythm machine.
    Pete Townshend’s Sheraton Gibson from Who Came First:
    “I’m sitting’ in the Sheraton Gibson playing’ my Gibson
    And boy do I wanna go home”

  5. Stylophone enthusiasts Pulp have a song called “Styloroc (Nites of Suburbia).” The lyrics don’t mention the Stylophone, though.

  6. Yet another Pete Townshend gear reference would be his demo called “Collings” about his Collings guitar. I think the instrumental later became “Marty Robbins” on Endless Wire.


  7. misterioso

    Jonathan Richman has a song called “Fender Stratocaster.”

  8. Presidents Of The USA “Toob Amplifier”

  9. bostonhistorian

    Charlie Chesterman has a couple, “Sexy Rickenbacker” (and, as an aside, he has a couple of Rickenbackers which are effing awesome) and “Mustang Twang”, named for the guitar his lead guitarist uses. Sir Mix-A-Lot in “Posse On Broadway” notes that
    “We’re gettin’ good grip from the 50 series tires
    The Alpine’s bumpin’ but I need the volume higher
    Cuz the 808 kick drum makes the girlies get dumb
    We’re rollin’ Rainier and the jealous wanna get some
    Every time we do this sucka mcs wanna battle
    I’m the man they love to hate the J.R. Ewing of Seattle”

  10. Place is really jumpin’ to the hi-watt amps…

  11. I believe Harrison’s wah-wah actually refers to a headache not the pedal. At least that is what he said in an interview- referring to a headache as a wah-wah. TMI?

  12. I got a Gibson, without a case
    But I can’t get that even-tanned look on my face.

    I’m One- Quadrophenia

  13. bostonhistorian

    Ronnie Dawson’s “I’m a Sucker for a Cheap Guitar” references both Fender and Gretsch…

  14. And the joke-ass (or just terrible) band We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna Use It.

  15. ladymisskirroyale

    The Swirlies named an album after a weird tube graphic equalizer: “Blonder-Tongue Audio Baton”

  16. ladymisskirroyale

    This made me think of Zappa’s “It was a stratocaster with a whammy bar…”

  17. ladymisskirroyale

    Tremelo – the sound effect, the guitar effects bar, or one of my favorite EPs by My Bloody Valentine.

  18. ladymisskirroyale

    Oops, gear heads will note that I spelled it wrong: tremolo.

  19. cherguevara

    I love the Blonder Tongue audio baton, it looks as weird as the name sounds.

    Anyway, I’ll enter the fray with Brendan Benson’s “Good To Me”
    I got a beat up Supro amp
    I plug in and it sound like a champ
    Not a fender tweek deluxe
    It cost me 150 bucks

    And also Frank Zappa, “Crew Slut”
    “It looks just like a Telefunken U47
    You’ll love it…”

  20. Not a song, but isn’t there a band, or just one guy, called Teisco Del Rey, named after a Japanese budget guitar from the sixties?

  21. Sonic Youth, “Hyperstation”:
    “There’s burn trash in my hall
    And my place is ripped
    I totalled another amp, I’m callin’ in sick”

  22. trigmogigmo

    “Sheraton Gibson” is a nice little song. The liner notes on his “coolwalking…” best-of has some background on it. Written in some hotel room, but probably not that actual place.

  23. trigmogigmo

    That brings to mind a good song “Tex Pawnshop & the Tremelos” by Gary Myrick, referring to a fictitious “three-man band with a bloody nose”. Their name is apparently misspelled, which I’d not noticed until now!

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