Sep 302013

Over the weekend one of my favorite oddball songs from The White Album came up on my iPod, “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill.” For the first time ever I wondered, Who played the Spanish guitar opening of that song?

It seemed too complex for George Harrison to pull off. It lacked the added sentimentality that the more skilled Paul McCartney would have injected into it.

It turns out I had learned about the opening of this song many moons ago, when I used to pour through Mark Lewisohn‘s The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions. The part was dubbed in from a standard Mellotron Mark II instrument sample. The Mellotron was an entire instrument build around sampled sounds, but I didn’t know if had built-in instrumental passages that could be used, like a loop in Garageband. I should have known better.

This fact did get me thinking about the role of samples in pop music. Rock snobs, like me, turned their nose up at the use of samples in the dawn of the hip-hop era, but prerecorded sounds, beyond standard sound effects (eg, revving car engines) had been in use before the Sugarhill Gang came along. I’m thinking, for instance, of the role that the random BBC radio broadcasts play in the fade of “I Am the Walrus.”

Are there earlier uses of essentially sampled music in popular songs? What other essential pre-1980s uses of prerecorded and found sounds come to mind for you?


  14 Responses to “The Spanish Guitar Opening of “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill” and Other Early Samples in Rock”

  1. Are there no other significant sampled musical bits in rock songs prior to the age of hip-hop? I was wondering if the opera singer on ELO’s “Rockaria” was taken from another record, but I read they actually hired an opera singer to do that part on record.

  2. I always considered the calliope sounds in “Mr. Kite” to be proto-sampling.

    How about the collages of dialog from the movie Head that Nicholson (I think) put together for the soundtrack album?

    On the three-disc edition of Village Green Preservation Society, there is an alternate mix of “People Take Pictures of Each Other” that ends with a snippet of a brass band recording.

    For that matter, the opening of “Phenomenal Cat” is also a preset recording from a Mellotron.

  3. Off on a tangent due to Mr. Mod’s mention of Mark Lewisohn. I’ve only visited the Hall sporadically in recent months so perhaps this has been discussed. The first volume of Lewisohn’s three volume biography of the Beatles comes out this month. The standard edition is 1,000 pages and the deluxe version is 2,000 pages. And these only take the story up to December 31, 1962!

  4. The clocks in the beginning of Time by the Pink Floyd

  5. 2000 Man

    That’s too much. What’s it gonna have in it? Complete conversations at dinner including the dialogue with the waitress? In depth analysis of John Lennon’s farts? I can usually relate to the ultimate fanboy release types of things, but hasn’t Lewisohn already written several Beatles books?

  6. Also, I believe the marimba sound on Roxy Music’s “The Bogus Man” comes from somewhere else — I want to say a reggae record — proto-sampled and looped by Eno.

  7. You are delivering excellent examples.

  8. cherguevara

    I know Kraftwerk used an Orchestron, which was a souped up, “professional,” Optigan – on Radioactivity and TEE, but I’m can’t say where those sounds are.

    I’ve heard a few novelty records which consisted of comedians goofing around with snippets of rock records, in particular one called “Pain Set To Music” by Phil Cammarata, but I can’t find it online so you can hear it. You’re not missing much, though.

    I believe the first drum loop used in a song (or perhaps a hit song?) was Stayin’ Alive, but I think they recorded the drums themselves, then looped them.

  9. I’ve always assumed that the Jefferson Airplane used a stool sample on their early albums because they sound like such shit.

    I’ll see myself out….

  10. diskojoe

    Here’s something a bit different that I learned from the recent Hollies documentary. Whenever they did “Carrie Anne” live, they used a tape sample of the steel drum solo & synched it up.
    here’s an example:

    Also, the Kim Foley version of the Modern Lovers’ ‘She Cracked” used a sample of someone going through a radio dial.

  11. This is interesting to learn. Just the other day my younger son asked me when artists began lip-syncing on stage. I told him the first time I’d heard of anyone using prerecorded tapes on stage was when ELO got busted for doing so in the late ’70s, in Detroit, if memory serves. I didn’t know this practice went back as far as the Hollies.

  12. misterioso

    The Who used pre-recorded tapes, rather disastrously, apparently, when they toured in support of Quadrophenia in 1973.

  13. misterioso

    Am I remembering correctly that the version of “While My Guitar” on the 1967-70 “Blue Album” begins without the Spanish guitar?

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