Whistling in Music

Russ Stewart: London, October 2022

“Who’s the whistling Rufus?”

The miscreant in the 70s Bearsden Academy registration class refused to own up to the supervising teacher’s enquiry. 
Possibly unaware of Jimmy Shand’s greatest hit and hence confused by the question.

Inappropriate whistling should be a capital offence. 

It has its place…. 
Indicating occupancy in an unlocked public toilet cubicle. 
Encouraging your pit bull to relax it’s hold on a newborn’s throat during lambing season.
As an expression of innocence as you stand, catapult in hand, next to a broken window.

It is never appropriate in a musical context.  Lennon, Ferry, Presley, Rod Stewart, Peter Gabriel, and Whistling Jack Smith…. WTF?


Inability to write a lyric? 
Age shrunk vocal range? 
Can’t afford a sax player? (I can recommend a talented Western Australia resident who may have spare time when not dagging sheep in his hobby farm)

Picture Sir Rod in front of his bathroom mirror, engaged in some nasal hair husbandry. 
The tiling lends a supportive echo as he whistles a jaunty air. 
His rock and roll mojo has long since departed. 
He thinks : ‘got a potential hit here for my desiccated fans’. 

Thankfully none of my musical heroes have yet sunk to whistling. 

Todd Rundgren gets close.

On the otherwise excellent “Useless Begging” track he uses two coins to mimic a tap dance routine. 

Real tap dancing is cool. 

Executing a paradiddle in a puddle whilst rapping about one’s romantic attachments to “hoes”, and one’s dislike of law enforcement, would get my attention. 

The act of whistling looks ridiculous. 
Undignified puckering of the embouchure.
Budgie trills. 

Thankfully Roger Whittaker’s beard masked some of his facial contortions. 

A bearded Rolf Harris even indulged in a spot of whistling when not Waltzing Matilda (or whatever he was doing with the young maiden)  

Alas, the Bearsden Academy whistler remains at large. 

5 thoughts on “Whistling in Music”

  1. Fun, unique topic! When I saw your whistling topic, I first thought of Bobby McFerrin’s ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’. The Stena Line used his whistling as the wake up music on their overnight ferry to NL. That loud wake-up music made me enjoy the song a bit less. :/ In the US, there was a popular western hit with whistling. It was ‘Cattle Call’ recorded in the 1940s and 50s by several artists.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The first thing I thought of was Otis Redding Dock of the Bay…which I like! Sometimes they whistle to fill in something until a solo can be added but everyone likes it and it stays.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I dunno… Sometimes it’s acceptable. I like it in ‘Jealous Guy’ and ‘Dock of the Bay’, like Max suggested. Can’t stand it in ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’… In fact, I can’t stand anything about that song!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah – it is an integral part of some songs. Scorpions ‘Wind of Change’ is another. I remember a few years back, iit became quite de riguer with modern artists like Peter, Bjorn & John then others tried to replicate their success with that.
      (Still does nothing for me, though, I have to say. 🙂 )


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