The Rock N Roll Dental Assistant Meagan is a fan of Bagpipe music and we are a fan of her so this month’s topic was ready made. The Scottish Highland Bagpipes are not generally thought of as a rock and roll instrument so it at first seemed like a major challenge to come up with 25 different songs/musical acts employing an instrument some look upon with derision (indeed many consider the sound to be not unlike that made by a cat being stepped on). As it turned out, there were more than enough goodies to fill out our list and not have to resort to acts like GWAR or Mudmen (sorry fans – not our cup of tea here at old white guy central). As can be seen from the accompanying picture, the pipes being played here utilize a blowpipe which distinguishes them from the Irish instrument that uses a bellows – the Uilleann pipes. These pipes were often used hundreds of years ago to inspire Highlanders to go into battle. Their music has a Celtic influence. With the advent of synthesizers, it is possible to approximate the sound of pipes with a keyboard and songs that definitely did that have been left off (Steve Earle’s “Copperhead Road” for example). Songs using the Uilleann pipes (if known) have also been left off which eliminates fine music by Van Morrison and the Chieftains, for example. What is left is a very subjective list of your Dentist’s faves with the rule that only one song per group was going to be used (which made it pretty tough as a few acts use bagpipes on most of their songs). The first four songs were so close that it was hard to rank one ahead of the other so consider them 1.a., b., c., & d.
1.Maurice Gibb – The Bridge
The late Maurice Gibb was my fave Bee Gee as he always seemed the most musical playing bass, keys and guitars while singing lead on some great album tracks like “Suddenly” and “You Know It’s For You” (pre-disco music, kids – check ’em out). He was known as the ‘man in the middle’ (even singing a song of that name on their last LP) for trying to keep the peace between his more volatile brothers Barry & Robin. This is a very emotional song about family featuring contributions from his children Adam and Samantha that sadly isn’t widely known as it is only found on the four CD compilation box Mythology. It finally came out in 2010 over seven years after his untimely passing at age 53. In light of his fate, the lyrics almost take on a spiritual meaning as well when he gently says “walk across the bridge, come to me” – gives you a catch in the throat. It is hard to tell if the pipe sound is from a keyboard, but the tune is very Celtic so it stays in the list regardless.
2.Wizzard – Are You Ready to Rock
Roy Wood is a musical genius that has had huge success in the U.K. and zero success in the U.S. In the Move, he was responsible for great songs like “Flowers In The Rain” and “Brontosaurus” then founded the group The Electric Light Orchestra with his band-mate Jeff Lynne only to leave before their success to start his own band Wizzard. That crazy glam band had a string of U.K. hits that again did nothing here. Cool folks know Wood’s music (check out Flash Cadillac’s “See My Baby Jive” and Cheap Trick’s “California Man”) which of course includes your R ‘N’ R Dentist blogster. Back in 1974 with this single hitting #8 in Jolly Ole England, yours truly had a custom t-shirt made with this title on the front – still have it in the closet.
3.AC/DC – It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll)
This is the kind of moronic stuff that makes rock and roll music great. Three chords, pounding drums, crunchy guitars and a bagpipe solo! With apologies to Brian Johnson who did yeoman’s work leading AC/DC for years, the late Bon Scott was a cool singer in a cool band – too bad he died so young (age 33 in 1980). This was the lead track in late 1975 to their second Australian-only LP T.N.T. then in ’76 was released worldwide on High Voltage. The story goes that producer (and older brother to Angus and Malcolm) George Young suggested the bagpipes on this song since he know that Scott had played in a pipe band when younger. What he didn’t know was that Bon had played the drums, but no matter as Scott was equal to the task helping fashion a nifty call and response betwixt his pipes and Angus’ guitar. In a 2001 list of the best Aussie music of the previous 75 years, the Australasian Performing Right Association voted this song at #9 (#1 was “Friday On My Mind” by George Young’s band The Easybeats).
4.Paul McCartney & Wings – Mull Of Kintyre
What an illustration of the difference between musical charts of the U.K. and those of the U.S. On the eastern side of the Atlantic, this was for many years the biggest selling single of all-time (knocking off Paul’s Beatles hit “She Loves You”) while in the new world it was only a single B-side to the minor hit (#33) “Girls’ School”. It topped the charts over Christmas-time 1977 (nine weeks at #1) and was the first single to sell over two million copies in the U.K. It has gone on to be a pipe band standard. On the original record the pipes and drums are performed by The Campbeltown Pipe Band.
5.The Cambridge Strings & Singers – Theme from Tunes Of Glory
Tunes Of Glory is a 1960 British movie starring Alec Guiness and taking place after WW II. The film music harkens to the Scottish Highlands location of the regiment. The London records single was released in America in February of 1961 peaking at #66. Musical arrangement was reportedly by U.K. Decca Records producer Dick Rowe who would later reject the Beatles telling their manager Brian Epstein that “guitar groups are on their way out” which earned him a place in history. He didn’t repeat that mistake when presented with The Rolling Stones, however.
6.Wolfstone – Cleveland Park
Wolfstone was the hardest act to pick just one song by since they have put out seven fine studio records over their career. This song is a jaunty fiddle-driven jig that gets a punch up the backside when the pipes chime in at 2:09. This instrumental was from their first proper album, 1991’s Unleashed. On this record the piper was Allan Wilson. This Scottish Celtic band are still going with two original members in Duncan Chisolm (fiddle) and Stuart Eaglesham (vocals, acoustic guitar).
7.Rod Stewart – Rhythm Of My Heart
Released as a single in March of 1991, this Celtic sounding song hit #5 in the U.S. and belies Stewart’s half Scottish roots (though written by Marc Jordan and John Capek). Reportedly Eric Rigler of the band Bad Haggis performed the Great Highland Bagpipes used on the recording. His playing has appeared in countless movies including Braveheart, Titanic, Robots, etc. The song appeared on Rod’s Vagabond Heart album. Rod also sang on the Jeff Beck Group version of “Morning Dew” from the classic 1968 album Truth that had some barely heard bagpipes at the beginning and end. They really weren’t a major part of the song so it was left off the list.
8.Eric Burdon & The Animals – Sky Pilot
Singer Eric Burdon morphed The Animals from a gritty R&B rock British Invasion outfit to a more socially conscious psychedelic act while replacing all the performers. This #14 anti-war single from the summer of 1969 was broken into parts 1 and 2 to accomodate the track’s nearly seven and a half minutes (the hit side was part 1 though cool FM stations played the whole thing). Producer Tom Wilson gave the song the phased ‘whooshing’ sound plus threw in all kinds of sound affects in the middle battle section including The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards playing “All The Blue Bonnets Are Over the Border” (from about 3:56 – 5:04). The composition is by the whole band: Eric Burdon, Vic Briggs, Barry Jenkins, Danny McCulloch and John Weider.
9.Skerryvore – Trip To Modera
The studio version from 2018’s album Evo isn’t on youtube, so instead we have here a live cut that illustrates how musically talented they are. Once again it was tough to choose just one song from this record. Evo alternates vocal tracks with juiced up jigs (of which this song is the latter). Named for a lighthouse near an island (Tiree) off the coast of Scotland from whence the band formed, Skerryvore will be 15 in 2020.
10.John Farnham – You’re The Voice
In 1986, a year after his three year stint in The Little River Band ended, Aussie singer Farnham released this his biggest single that peaked at #1 in several countries (though it didn’t chart in the U.S.). Heart and The Alan Parson Project (with co-writer Chris Thompson on vocals) did amazing versions as well, but it is Farnham’s record that used the sound of pipes. Authorship is claimed by Andy Qunta, Keith Reid, Maggie Ryder and Thompson. The lyrics encourage the listener to take a stand and not sit back and be silent about important issues. To some degree it is also anti-war. The single is fine, but I decided to include a live video as the pipes are more obvious.
11.Flag – I Am
Sadly this isn’t on the internet so you will just have to trust your rock n roll Dentist that this is a fine song from 1985 on the Scotti Brothers label by Flag from their self-titled album. Augmented by session players, Flag was Archie Brown on vocals and bagpipes plus Dave Cairns on guitar. Brown’s voice had a a bit of a Bryan Ferry quaver which gave this record a distinctive sound.
12.The Pipes & Drums & The Military Band Of The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards – Amazing Grace
In 1972 this, one of the most iconic of tunes, braved the U.S. charts and topped out at an amazing #11. The Christian hymn started life as a poem in the late 1700’s written by John Newton. Several tunes were used with the words over the years till American William Walker joined it with “New Britain” in his tunebook Southern Harmony (1847). In 1970, Judy Collins took an a cappella version from her outstanding Whales & Nightingales album to #15. Two years later, this instrumental version of the hymn pretty much followed her arrangement.
13.Right Said Fred – You’re My Mate
In the U.S., these guys are pretty much a one-hit novelty act with “I’m Too Sexy”, a #1 hit in 1991. In other parts of the world, however, the brothers Fred and Richard Fairbrass have had a long career charting singles as recently as 2010. “You’re My Mate” hit #17 in the U.K. in 2001 and reportedly became the official song of the South Africa national rugby union team . The pipes may or may not be keyboard derived, but since the video shows three lovely ladies carrying actual bagpipes it has to make the list.
14.Brother – Romp & Circumstance
Yet another band hard to pick just one song by, this video is the live version of the song (however I prefer the studio take on their third CD Exit From Screechville). While now only containing one brother, this Aussie act was started by the Richardson’s – Hamish, Angus and Fergus. All three play bagpipes and Hamish added didgeridoo. This song was on their own label Rhubarb in 1994.
15.Glen Campbell – Bonaparte’s Retreat
Having started his career as a studio musician, the late Glen Campbell was a man of many talents. Campbell had a #3 country chart hit in 1974 with this old Pee Wee King song on which Glen played many instruments including the bagpipes. He also played the pipes on “Mull Of Kintyre” in concert at times. This single was from his album Houston (I’m Comin’ to See You).
16.The Cryan’ Shames – The Sailing Ship
Illinois band The Cryan’ Shames were never as big nationally as they were in the Chicago area, but they put out some excellent British Invasion tinged music. Their biggest success was with “Sugar & Spice” by The Searchers in the U.K. This Jim Fairs and Lenny Kerley original was from their Dec. 1967 album A Scratch In The Sky and could very easily fit as an LP track from the first Bee Gees album. This was also the flip side to their fifth single – “Up On The Roof”. Fairs supplied the bagpipes.
17.Me First & The Gimme Gimmes – I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
For the Rock N Roll Dental Assistant, Meagan, we have this punk pastiche of the old Hank Williams song from their 2006 album Love Their Country. The punky pipes are played by Brendan Allen. Controversy exists on who actually wrote the lyrics, by the way. It has been asserted that they were written by Herbert Paul Gilley then sold to Williams (a practice he supposedly did on many other country hits). As Gilley drowned in 1957, the story can’t be proved.
18.Prydein – Horny-pipes
The Vermont Celtic band Prydein has released four albums making it difficult to choose just one song, but this instrumental moves along at an agreeable jaunt. The song is from their 2010 album Heads Up. Several pipers have played in the band including original member Iain Mac Harg. The sound is Celtic with electric guitars.
19.Dropkick Murphys – Cadence To Arms (Scotland The Brave)
This Massachusetts Celtic punk band have been around since 1996. This reworking of the traditional song “Scotland The Brave” was the lead track from their debut album Do Or Die (1998). This 100+ year old melody is considered one of the unofficial Scottish national anthems (“Flower Of Scotland” is also in the running). Their instrumental recording of “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” was used as the theme to the TV show Rizzoli & Isles. Pipes were blown here by Joe Delaney. To these old ears, their music is better without the screaming vocals.
20.Mike Oldfield – Tattoo
1973’s debut Mike Oldfield album Tubular Bells was his biggest success so he returned to that theme with the 1992 LP Tubular Bells II which was also a #1 chart success in the U.K. The instrumental “Tattoo” was edited from side two and became a #33 hit in the U.K. (it was also available on the Live at Edinburgh Castle EP). A tattoo in this context refers to a musical military performance that is said to have originated as a signal to tell innkeepers near military post to stop serving alcohol and to alert soldiers to return from leave.
21.The Moody Blues – Highway
How often are the B-sides of singles and CD bonus tracks some of the best songs (not) on albums? This is rhetorical of course, but this song is yet another in a series of songs like that; seemingly better than many of the songs actually on the released album. “Highway” was recorded for the relatively unsuccessful 1991 album Keys To The Kingdom. The rejected song was released at the time only on the 12″ single “Say It With Love”. Two compilations finally rescued the song from obscurity – the 1994 boxset Time Traveller and the 1998 two CD set Anthology. It is a Justin Hayward/John Lodge composition. The track starts with bagpipes then shifts to a classic Moodies acoustic guitar-driven vocal harmony section before it turns into a jaunty pop song that finally ends with more pipes.
22.Nino Tempo & April Stevens – I Love How You Love Me
Antonino LoTempio came out of the Phil Spector stable of session musicians and with his sister Carol they formed a popular ’60s duo under the stage names Nino Tempo & April Stevens. Their biggest hit (#1 in 1963) was “Deep Purple”, a reworking of a ’30s popular tune. The song “I Love How You Love Me” was a Spector produced ballad in the hands of the Paris Sisters in 1961 that hit #5 in the U.S. Nino & April punched up the tempo and added an insistent bagpipe riff to the background for their 1965 non-chart single. In the U.K. Paul & Barry Ryan ‘borrowed’ that arrangement and had a #21 hit in 1966. We will not reward copycats, however, so Nino & April get our nod. By the way, for completeness sake, Bobby Vinton also has a hit with this song in late 1968 (#9).
23.Scorpions – Wild Child
Aside from the pipes, this sounds pretty much like all the other music by the German band formed by Rudolf Schenker – loud and metallic. The Pure Instinct album was released in 1996 and was their thirteenth studio LP.
24.Parliament – The Silent Boatman
If you only know George Clinton’s band from funk like “Flash Light” and “Tear the Roof off the Sucker (Give Up the Funk)”, this tune from the 1970 album Osmium will come as a shock. Psychedelic soul is how this their first album is described (they had recorded previously as The Parliaments and Funkadelic). The English born composer and vocalist Ruth Copeland says that the song (her first) was a protest song about how death levels everything.
25.Peter Gabriel – Come Talk To Me
Your blogger was far fonder of Mr. Gabriel as a prog rock singer in Genesis, but then had he stayed on we might never have heard Phil Collins except as their drummer (so guess it all worked out for the best). The instrumental intro features bagpipes on this the lead track from his 1992 album Us which peaked on the LP charts at #2. Vocals are shared on this world music track with Sinéad O’Connor.