WHAT THE HELL

Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Whither the flute in rock music?

A few weeks ago I marveled at Ian Anderson’s spontaneous flue solo in a clip and wondered about the dearth of flute-work in rock music. Lo and behold, I found another sample! The Guess Who, “Undun.”

I never knew Burton Cummings was the one with woodwind chops. Check it out at 2:10…

Join me, won’t you?, in calling for more flute solos in rock and roll!

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8 comments on “Whither the flute in rock music?

  1. pinklightsabre
    June 20, 2015

    Funny, The Guess Who is a band I’ve never seen before but heard lots. So this was nice to see what they look like, and a reminder of the grainy, lovely quality in his voice. Makes me want to hear more. And the flute is very subtle and I wonder, if worth the effort for him to even carry it on stage (ha!). If I’m right, there’s a fair amount of flute on Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks – that would make sense. Skipping o’er the hills with flowing robes and scarves, a jug of brandy wine pr’haps?

    Watching The Guess Who makes me think of other bands who didn’t quite make it as far: I wonder how much their charisma/stage presence, or lack of, contributes to their success. Although I like their no BS attitude and his very thrifty hair cut.

    • Kevin Brennan
      June 20, 2015

      Yes, considering how many hits TGW had, it’s surprising they weren’t very visible, apparently. I remember Cummings with very long hair, so maybe this was a post-hippie phase. I know what he needed though: a flute holster!

      Probably right on the Van Morrison flutism. I never went for that Celtic faerie sort of thing though…

  2. 1WriteWay
    June 21, 2015

    Thanks for this. TGW was one of my fav bands back in the day. Like you, I remember Burton as having a mop of curly dark hair. Not much stage presence but I like a band that focuses on their music more than showmanship.

    • Kevin Brennan
      June 21, 2015

      They really were a big part of our soundtrack, weren’t they? I was listening to them on Spotify the other day, going, Man, these guys were on the radio constantly!

  3. islandeditions
    August 17, 2015

    I would not have recognized Cummings, except for that voice – and the checked shirt. I too did not know he played flute as well as piano for the group. I believe he was classically trained as a child, before the group was formed. Being Canadian, I was a fan from the beginning. These Eyes was a huge hit when I was in high school. TGW always got plenty of air time on Canadian radio.

    Moody Blues also used flute in some of their songs, didn’t they?

    • Kevin Brennan
      August 17, 2015

      BC is really pretty charismatic in that clip, isn’t he? The band sounds great too.

      I think you’re right about the Moodies. Doesn’t Nights In White Satin have a flute solo?

      I wonder if anyone out there has rocked the oboe? (Beatles not included. That’s an English horn in Baby You’re A Rich Man!)

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This entry was posted on June 20, 2015 by in Music and tagged , , .
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