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?