via 3RRR’s The Trip
Whistling remains one of the easiest ways to be involved in music, even if you have no musical talent. A solid whistle in a song can add something special, yet sadly few artists employ such a refrain. When preparing for a radio show two years ago I decided to do a little whistle-athon for a bit of fun. I thought I’d maybe fill half an hour and ended up with with two hours of music I was happy to play. A year later I reduced it down to an hour for a special and took a rambling journey through the musical landscape. Judging by the positive response to both whistle-athons it seems people love the whistle. Purse your lips and whistle indeed. Here are some of my favourite whistling songs old and new.
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
A good introduction to whistling songs - uplifting with a hint of bittersweet is how I’d describe this pop duet. It is a great tune and the haunting and echoing whistle ties the whole tune together. Check the Party Supplies Remix for a sped-up version that is heavier on the whistle and is great to do a bith of mouth trumpet to.
After It All
Chan Marshall’s contribution to the world of whistling is, unsurprisingly, a nice slow song that just kind of jingles along with a husky voice and a repeating high whistle throughout. Best listened to on a lazy weekend and not, say, in the middle of the night whilst doing the graveyard radio shift and you are at risk of falling asleep.
Jeffery Lewis & The Junkyard
Whistle Past The Graveyard
Unlike most whistling songs, this actually has ‘whistle’ in the title, which made it easy to find when researching the whistle-athon (if only other artists were as considerate). It’s a bonus really that it is a nice boppy tune. Jeffery’s slightly atonal singing and catchy, between-verses whistle refrain makes it a good one to sing/whistle along to. What’s more, the whistling part sounds like it was recorded in one take with thr whistler just a little out of breath - genius.
Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay
A fabulous song by a classic soul singer, a tune that is best listened to on vinyl and has one of the great whistling outros of all time. It is also a song I remember listening to over and over as a child and then by chance hearing it with my flight school instructor, who i was falling in love with… Oh no wait, that was Top Gun.
You knew the Puppets were good when Kurt asked to sing with them; that they have a whistling song just seals the deal. There is grinding guitar, poor mixing that makes the lyrics hard to hear and a great double dose of whistling with probably the best (and most rambling) whistling solo on this list.
Me & Julio Down By The Schoolyard
A boppy whistle solo over the top of a jangly acoustic guitar; a great tune by a master musician, and later used as a backing to a great go-karting scene from The Royal Tenenbaums.
Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins)
A Spoonful Of Sugar
This is a classic tune that most will know from their childhoods. What’s not to like? There’s the upbeat orchestral accompaniment, Julie Andrews’ pitch-perfect singing and the fact that an adult actually succeeds in making children clean up by making it fun (albeit with the help of Disney special effects). The whistling part is superb and was actually whistled by Julie herself. I picked up a copy of this on clear orange vinyl in a second-hand store which makes me love it more. I also like the possible communist subtext to this song: Mary Poppins, after all, did fly in on the east wind, she ha sno religion except neatness and discipline, and she revolutionizes the household through collective work.
This is a trip down memory lane with a fusion of house music and rock (take note Gen Ys, this used to be an incredibly popular style of music). The Scratchy and often low whistle works well with the old-school keyboard sounds and rock guitars.
Foster The People
Pumped Up Kicks
This features a grooving bass line, slightly distorted singing and a catchy chorus. Best of all, it has a whistling refrain about two-thirds of the way through that will stay in your head all day and annoy your co-workers as you whistle it in the office. It all sounds good for this indie hit; that is until you listen to the lyrics.
It starts with some finger clicks and is quickly joined by fuzzy bass and guitars, and of course Bowie’s distinctive voice. Unfortunately it is much too short, but Bowie gets away with this because he is Bowie.
De La Soul
This is the only hip hop entry on my list, but what an entry. A rolling drum beat forms a great platform from which a repetitive whistle is dropped in from time to time. The fact the sample is Otis Redding’s whistle from ‘… Dock Of The Bay’ makes it perfection.
By Hunter Mulcare
And now for our Cool Accidents contributions -
The Middle East
Oh damn, don’t even start me on the Middle East. Is this the greatest song ever written by an Australian? Maybe. Am I going to receive hatemail for suggesting that? Definitely. An obvious inclusion for a whistling list though. Sweet sounds underpinned by very, very sad lyrics just about sums up the Middle East’s most well known single. You may also recognize this from about a thousand films/ads.
In keeping with the theme if not the spirit of this list, we’ve got the Flo. Important to remember before reading on – There’s only one Flo. Just sayin’. Anyway, this track is one massive earworm that didn’t leave my consciousness for a solid 60 days after the first listen and that was without a subsequent listen. Imagine what multiple could do to a man. This has the benefit of having both whistle related lyrics and whistling itself. THE DOUBLE!
Every song he’s ever written (The Whistling Caruso)
This one was a shoe in because the dude is actually an acclaimed whistler (according to many websites he’s a professional whistler but that’s arguably not a profession). This particular track I’ve chosen is a pretty ridiculously good example of his whistling merits in reference to both range, speed and tone. Prepare thyself mortal. You won’t hear his [amazing] voice in this one but it doesn’t even matter. Around 0:45 things step into overdrive.
Ok, it obviously doesn’t hold a candle to the canonized classics of Redding, Simon and Bowie but it’s very sweet and it’s very simple and it’s kind of lovely. The whistling part is no Andrew Bird foolishness but just see if you’re subconsciously pursing your lips in imitation in half an hours time. JUST SEE.
Alpha Beta Gaga
Oh AIR, we love you so much. You’re almost as important (maybe more so, musically) as the gas for which you’re name. Characteristic AIR groove is played out with a cheeky whistle section in Alpha Beta Gaga. It’s the pivotal part of the track adding in that grand flair that almost no one else would be able to do with just a pair of lips. Whammy.