Jack of all trades

One Man Band

Hey guys and girls!

The theme for today’s post is multi-instrumentalists, ie, musicians that play more than one instrument. Furthermore, I bring to you other-worldly musicians that released albums where they played all the instruments present!

The first name that comes to mind is that of Mike Oldfield, who recorder the monumental album Tubular Bells in 1973, which apart from being his debut, was also the first album Virgin Records released.

This amazing album is composed of two ~25 minute parts that compose a unique song-album, and Mike plays all the instruments (with some help from a few session musicians and a choir), and the list is quite extensive:

Grand Piano, Glockenspiel, Farfisa organ, Bass guitar, Electric guitar, Speed guitar, Taped motor drive amplifier organ chord, Mandolin-like guitar, Fuzz guitars, Assorted percussion, Acoustic guitar, Flageolet, Honky tonk, Lowrey organ, Tubular Bells, Farfisa organ, Speed electric guitars, Concert timpani, Guitars sounding like bagpipes, Piltdown man, Hammond organ, Spanish guitar and Moribund chorus

The album sold more than 16 million copies, which is an astonishing accomplishment, if we note that the album is considered progressive, is instrumental and composed by two very long songs. Of course that the usage of the intro in the soundtrack of the movie The Exorcist helped, but even so… Mike’s popularity is such that even in this year’s Olympics opening ceremony he was called to accompany one of the segments of the show. But, enough words, here’s a live rendition of the first segment of the first part of Tubular Bells!

Pretty good, uh? If you want more, check the whole album here. I’ve pointed you to the part where a Master of Ceremonies enumerates a few instruments when they solo. Mike went on to have a very successful career, but Tubular Bells remained to be his magnum opus.

There are many other multi-instrumentalists who played all (or most of) the instruments in their compositions, such as

  • Billy Corgan, from The Smashing Pumpkins, who composed and played all the instruments on the song 1979 (well, he used a drum machine, but the song is still pretty good). The song went on to be their most recognized songs ever!
  • Dave Grohl, from Nirvana and Foo Fighters (mainly), composed and performed all the instruments on the album Foo Fighters, and only recruited musicians to play it live, what gave birth to his present band. Check Big Me, one of the songs in that album.

Of course I could mention thousands of other multi-instrumentalists, like Matthew Bellamy of Muse fame or Thom Yorke of Radiohead.

Hope I opened new ground for you to explore with this post, or, if you already knew these guys, that I reminded you of their awesomeness!

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3 comments on “Jack of all trades

  1. Within Portugal, Legendary tiger man might be the best example of multiinstrumentalism. Have you ever listened to?

    • Lourenço says:

      Yeah, I thought of mentioning Paulo Furtado, but as I don’t really know anything about him (except that he also plays in WrayGunn) I decided to leave him out of this post 😉

      Is it worth giving him a try?

  2. […] brothers that founded and played as drummer for The Beach Boys. Dennis was a multi-instrumentalist (remember what that is?) that played keyboards, guitar, drums and harmonica, and he released a critically acclaimed album […]

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