Top 10 Best Accordion Rock Songs Of All Time

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OK, here at Rocknuts we’ve listed our picks for best Rock guitar riffs, best Rock keyboard solos, piano solos, flute solos, trumpet solos, trombone solos, best harmonica songs and even best didgeridoo songs, for heaven’s sake. Frankly, we are running out of instruments to talk about.

The accordion may be the unlikeliest Rock instrument of the lot, with an old-fashioned sound heard often in polkas and Parisian cafes but not so much in the contemporary music of the past 60 years. It’s got a soft, pastoral sound that creates distinct flavors in a song, but none of those flavors are exactly kick-ass. Still, some of these songs are surprisingly energetic.

My first two picks off the top of my head didn’t qualify for the list. I have always thought that the Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out” was the greatest accordion song of all time, until I discovered recently that it is not an accordion but rather a harmonium being played on that track. And the Who’s “Squeeze Box” is actually about an accordion, but the instrument itself is buried so far down into the mix that you can barely hear it.

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But the following are all relatively famous tracks where the accordion made a significant contribution, and as always, no more than one listing per band.

10. The Beach Boys – Wouldn’t It Be Nice

This one doesn’t immediately come to mind as an accordion song, but if you listen for it you realize it’s a key element of the song’s sound. During this period Brian Wilson was apparently trying to get every known Western musical instrument onto a Beach Boys record.

 

9. The Band – Rockin’ Chair

Garth Hudson’s accordion was so perfectly suited for a song about the bittersweet reveries of old men. It’s amazing how a bunch of guys in their late 20s managed – or even wanted – to capture such a rarefied sentiment.

 

8. Counting Crows – A Long December

These Nineties hitmakers are pretty much forgotten now, but this was a solid track, and the accordion worked its magic helping convey the bittersweet reveries of unrepentant Nineties hipsters.

 

7. Talking Heads – Road To Nowhere

On this one the accordion was like the bagpiper leading a regiment into battle, except in this case it was like happily leading a march of Eighties Yuppies into spiritual oblivion, by most accounts successfully.

 

6. Rolling Stones – Backstreet Girl

In 1967 the Stones were still searching for that Jumping Jack Flash identity that would lead their ascendance into the Seventies, so they tried a lot of different things. There’s still some debate as to whether it was Brian Jones playing the accordion on it. This song was so uncharacteristically earnest and sweet that Bobby Darin covered it.

 

5. John Cougar Mellencamp – Cherry Bomb

I know that John Mellencamp dished out more than his fair share of cheese over a 40-year career, but at his core is a pretty solid songwriter, a damn fine singer and a good positive attitude. The accordion made this number positively swing.

 

4. Nirvana – Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam

I’ve always believed that Nirvana’s ‘MTV Unplugged’ appearance marked a major turning point in Rock History in a number of ways, including the moment when big Krist Novoselic picked up the accordion and blew the few remaining minds that hadn’t yet been blown by the rest of the performance.

 

3. Paul Simon – The Boy In The Bubble

Paul Simon’s got lots of accordions in his songs depending on whether he’s culturally appropriating Zydeco or South African music. Just kidding, of course, he’s possibly the most musically adventurous Classic Rock figure of all time.

 

2. The Pogues f/Kirsty MacColl – Fairytale Of New York

Of course just about any Pogues song would qualify, and while this is one of the greatest Xmas songs ever written, I’ve always argued it wasn’t just an Xmas song, it’s pretty great any time of year.

 

1. Bruce Springsteen – 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)

You can practically smell the calamine lotion and taste the day-old corn dogs thanks to the late great Danny Federici’s accordion, dreamy like a soft ocean breeze, a perfect marriage of form and content.

 

Honorable Mentions:

Billy Joel – Piano Man
Jerry Jeff Walker – Mr. Bojangles
Peter Sarstedt – Where Do You Go To My Lovely
The The – Perfect Day
The Rascals – How Can I Be Sure
Arcade Fire – Neighborhood #2
ELP – C’est La Vie
Pearl Jam – Bugs
R.E.M. – You Are The Everything
Tom Waits – Cold Cold Ground
The Kinks – Alcohol
Anything by Gogol Bordello

So which ones did we miss?

Photo credit: By Necz0r (Henry Doktorski) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

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