Ah the humble human voice, that most basic of instruments that (almost) all of us own but never really give a thought to. That such beautiful noise can be made using it is no revelation, we've all heard Pavarotti take it to the stars or witnessed Johnny Rotten terrify a society with those humble vocal chords.
While few of us claim to be singers all of us enjoy a good whistle, it's the opera of the proletariat innit! It's appearances in popular music are few and far between but when those lips are pursed we all feel the need to join in. Today Clash hails those classic songs without which we'd all be, well, whistling Dixie.
Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay – Otis Redding
Ah Mrs Redding, how well your son sings! But as an added treat Otis appends this classic with some prime whistling. As one of the most laidback songs this side of 'Chilled Out Hits Vol. 3' fades, Otis kicks back and lets his lips do the talking. Added Value Pop Trivia – the whistling was sampled by De La Soul on their 'Eye Know' track.
How Soon Is Now – The Smiths
Not an obvious one but listen and it's there. Yes, even the lyrical genius that is Steven Patrick Morrissey enjoys a dalliance with the milkman's preferred form of expression, here giving our poor ears a breather from his word heavy moaning (not that we don't enjoy his word heavy moaning like).
Don't Worry Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin
The novelty song. The natural home of the whistle, or it's close cousin the yodel (but that's another top ten). Not sure if Bobby used the whistle in any other of his material because, like everyone, I only know this one thanks to it's video featuring Robin Williams. Added Value Pop Trivia – McFerrin also performed the theme to The Cosby Show.
Walk Like An Egyptian – The Bangles
The Bangles. The realisation of that long sought after concept, the credible all female rock band? Wait, those other three were women? Yes, Susanna Hoffs and friends (whatever their gender at birth) let loose with the whistling in their 1986 hit apparently inspired by seeing people trying to keep their balance on a ferry (thank you Wikipedia). Added Value Pop Trivia – The 'whistling' could well be a synth disqualifying this entry.
White Christmas – Bing Crosby
Years before his career peak (performing 'Two Little Boys' with David Bowie) Bing recorded this classic that's been tormenting us at Christmas even since. The Guinness Book of Records (created so people could argue over trivia whilst down the pub) report it as selling more than 100 million copies, earning writer Irving Berlin enough money to buy a half share in a down-on-it's-luck town in post war Germany and return it to prosperity (although that garden wall was just showing off).
Jealous Guy – John Lennon
Originally written as 'Child Of Nature' during the Beatles trip to Butlin's India camp, Lennon tried shoehorning it onto each successive Beatles album until they split (which may have been the cause, conspiracy theorists). Rewritten as 'Jealous Guy' it keeps up Lennon's nasty shit persona, equally apologising to Yoko for his jealousy while absolving himself of any guilt because “that's just the way i am”. Yeah, cheers speccy.
Young Folks – Peter, Bjorn & John
Damn you it's in my head, get it out! Yep, it's another ridiculously catchy whistle, this time from Swedish trio Peter, Bjorn & John. Reinforcing our stereotype of Swedes as healthy, happy blondes who stroll the Fjords looking good while whistling something upbeat. Added Value Pop Trivia – alt.folk/country newcomer Dawn Landes does a mean bluegrass version of the song but slips up by replacing the whistling part with fiddles.
Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life – Eric Idle
From Monty Python's classic 'Life Of Brian', composed, sung and whistled by Eric Idle at the film's end as the mistaken messiah Brian is crucified. A simple and, taken in isolation, quite innocent song it's worth remembering the movie it came from, a film accused of blasphemy by Christians and banned in the Republic of Ireland for eight years. Just remember the words of the late, great comedian Bill Hicks ,“You're a Christian? So forgive me”.
Step On – Happy Mondays
A classic of another time next, those Madchester drug loonies the Happy Mondays step up with their classic 'Step On' (yes, I know it's a cover). Whether Shaun is whistling cause he forgot the words, i don't know, but his mealy mouthed tooting adds a certain innocent charm to their otherwise thuggy, druggy demeanour.
Wind Of Change – The Scorpions
Yes, a terrible, terrible song by a terrible band but hey, this song ended the Cold War (or was that The Hoff performing on the Berlin wall?). Once you hear the whistling that kicks of this over earnest effort it'll be stuck in your head for the rest of the day...Enjoy!