Whistling is not as easy as Lauren Bacall makes it out to be in To Have and Have Not.
“You just put your lips together and blow,” she says. Psssssh.
Anyone who knows me, really knows me, knows that I can’t whistle worth a crap.
Well, I should clarify that. I can whistle. I can’t carry a tune, and I can’t do one of those awesome attention-getting whistles with my pinkies hanging from the corners of my mouth, but it’s good enough to get the dog to come running. What my whistle is really good for is getting a belly laugh out of other people who see me doing it, because I look completely ridiculous. Seriously, watching me try to whistle has resulted in people laughing so hard that they end up bent over, holding their gut. My lower lip puckers in and I look like I have no bottom teeth and a really big overbite, and mostly just air comes out.
Today my kid came home from school and told me that one of her friends confessed to being an inept whistler, and she outed me to her friend to make the kid feel better. This inability to whistle like Bogey does after Bacall leaves the room after their kiss in To Have and Have Not is becoming legendary in my circle.
This whistle disability is becoming especially aggravating to me now that two – yes, two – of Billboard’s top 10 pop songs at the very moment I type this column happen to incorporate a heavy dose of whistling. In fact, that’s how the following playlist found its genesis.
I was in Holiday Market last week, and my friend Anna in the juice bar (one of my favorite baristas, along with Kathleen of Downtown Java & Cafe) was talking about this song that was just driving her crazy because she’d heard it on the car radio while driving her son to school, and couldn’t get it out of her head. She wanted to know what it was.
She couldn’t remember any of the lyrics, thought a woman sang it, and the only line she could remember had something to do with the girls or the boys (she wasn’t sure which) coming out to play, and she thought maybe they used an autotune at the beginning. But what stuck in her mind was this crazy beat that she said was unlike anything else she’d heard, and that I’d know it if I heard it because it would get stuck in my head.
My immediate response was, “You mean like Maroon 5? When they first hit the charts they had a beat that was totally unlike anything else at the time.” She agreed, and we thought maybe it might even be Maroon 5, which makes sense, because they’re #2 on the charts right now (sharing the credit with Christina Aguilera) for “Moves Like Jagger.” This song makes me happy. It makes me dance. We even had a 5 minute dance party in the kitchen tonight with this song playing louder than my stereo really should be played, although I kept my best Jagger moves to myself, although truth be told, I can hurky jerk around the kitchen like a chicken with my lips stuck out in a big Mick Jagger pout. I just choose not to subject my child to a 45 year old woman doing that at this tender point in her teenage development.
Back to Anna.
I found that Maroon 5 song for her on her Android, and she tried to listen to it over the din of the supermarket and the espresso machine screaming out foam in the background, and at first she thought maaaaybe, and then she shook her head and said nope. Wasn’t it. But it was close.
I thought about it and thought about it over the weekend, this song I’d never heard totally taking over my headspace. Then I went back to the market this morning, and Anna said she’d heard the song again over the weekend, and that’s when she mentioned the whistling. Which is, of course, why the Maroon 5 song, with whistling all the way through it, reminded her of the song she couldn’t get out of her head.
Before I tell you what the song was, let me brag on just how amazing it was that we ever figured it out. Because it wasn’t a woman, it was a bunch of guys. The only line she remembered? It’s not in the song at all. Nothing about boys or girls coming out to play, unless you mean playing with guns. The line is “All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you better run better run, outrun my gun.” And the autotune? Figment of her imagination. (Well, to be honest, she was trying to describe the beginning of the song, and said it had this weird echo-ey sound, and I suggested the idea of the autotune.)
But the whistling? That’s a sound that you can’t mistake for anything else. A whistle is a whistle. And finally I figured out that it was Foster The People’s “Pumped Up Kicks,” which is also in the top 10 right now. And it also contains a whole lotta that thing I can’t do. That whistling thing. And now I can’t get either of these songs out of my head.
Lucky you, you won’t be able to get these songs out of your head either after I’m done with you today. After this morning I sat down and pored through my iTunes and realized that I have a treasure trove of songs that incorporate whistling. And they are fantastic, my friends.
I’ve got the song that Harry, my cockatiel 20 years ago, could never quite whistle (wasn’t entirely his fault…he had a bad teacher).
I’ve got a song that features Shasta County’s own movie star Clint Eastwood whistling (and he’s not so good either…sorry, Clint).
I’ve got PB&J’s whistle (and by that I mean Peter, Bjorn & John, of course). This may be the only playlist ever to match up 2 Disney tunes, the Meat Puppets, Rammstein, Clint Eastwood in body (on Big Noise) and spirit (The Good The Bad & The Ugly) and Sammy Davis Jr, and well, I feel accomplished. Even if I still can’t whistle.
Stream the playlist on Grooveshark.
Folks, I apologize, but sometimes making the iTunes playlist is just such a pain in the whistler. I figure if you really want to own these songs, you’ll go to iTunes and find ’em, because that’s the kind of smartypants you are. Please forgive my laziness, and enjoy today’s playlist.
- Maroon 5 with Christina Aguilera – Moves Like Jagger My favorite song of the moment.
- Foster The People – Pumped Up Kicks The inspiration for this playlist and a really great song, but some semi-terrifying lyrics.
- Peter Bjorn & John – Young Folks They’re peppy, they’re fun, they killed at SXSW and they’re great on white bread. PB&J!
- One Republic – Good Life
- J. Geils Band – Centerfold This song brings back memories of 9th grade all over again, and contrary to most 9th grade memories, these are some great memories!
- The Bangles – Walk Like An Egyptian
- Professor Longhair – Mardi Gras in New Orleans
- Dr. John – Big Chief Basically the same song, slightly different twist
- Supertramp – Goodbye Stranger
- Kyle Eastwood – Big Noise from Winetka – Kyle is Clint’s son, and he’s an accomplished jazz musician. Dad helped on this song with the whistling.
- The English Beat – Can’t Get Used To Losing You – This tune can be easily substituted with Andy Williams’ version. They both have whistling.
- Lovin’ Spoonful – Daydream
- Otis Redding – Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay
- De La Soul – Eye Know
- Pixies – La La Love You
- Cat Power – After It All
- Monty Python – Always Look On The Bright Side You do know that Jefferson Public Radio is bringing Spamalot to the Cascade Theatre in November, right? How lucky are we?! I’ve loved this Eric Idle ditty since “The Meaning of Life” came out on VHS. He’s so….Russell Brand! There’s no language warning on this one, but there should be, with an S-Bomb at the end.
- Van Helsing BoomBox – Man Man
- Paul Simon – Me & Julio Down By The Schoolyard
- David Bowie – Golden Years Not a whole lot of whistling in this song, but enough to qualify.
- Andy Griffith – The Andy Griffith Show Theme Besides, this song makes up for what Bowie lacks with an overabundance of whistling. In case you were on the edge of your seat wondering which song my cockatiel couldn’t whistle worth a darn, this would be it.
- Happy Mondays – Step On
- Mary Poppins Soundtrack – A Spoonful Of Sugar This is the first movie I can ever remember seeing in a movie theater, if you don’t count the double feature my parents took me to in 1971. The Last Picture Show and Easy Rider. I was 4.
- The Beatles – Two Of Us
- Sammy Davis Jr – Mr. Bojangles
- Beck – Sissyneck
- Andrew Bird – Oh No There’s whistling in almost every Andrew Bird song ever released.
- Loose Fur – The Ruling Class
- Billy Joel – The Stranger
- Bobby McFerrin – Don’t Worry Be Happy I know a lot of people were disappointed when McFerrin refused to sing this song when he performed at the Cascade Theatre the first year it was re-opened, but I completely understand his excuse. He estimated that by the time this song hit the top 40, he’d already performed it 10,000 times and by golly, he was sick of it. I get it. I almost didn’t include it in this playlist because I’ve heard it way too many times myself. But I didn’t want to deprive you of some great whistling.
- Elliott Smith – Jealous Guy John Lennon did it first, but he’s already had a moment in the spotlight during song #20. Meanwhile, this is Elliott Smith’s debut on any of my playlists. Welcome, Elliot. RIP.
- The Smiths – How Soon Is Now
- The Fratellis – Whistle For The Choir
- Richard Cheese – Creep I love Richard Cheese, he’s like my dirty little secret in a smoking jacket. This song was my introduction to him, and in true homage to Radiohead, he drops an F-Bomb in this one. Hey, I’ll take that special!
- Noah & The Whale – Five Years Time
- Taj Mahal – Ain’t Gwine Whistle Dixie No Mo
- XTC – Generals & Majors
- Meat Puppets – The Whistling Song
- Snow White Soundtrack – Whistle While You Work
- Kill Bill Soundtrack – Twisted Nerve
- Ennio Morricone – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly Theme
- Rammstein – Engel
Valerie Ing-Miller has been the Northern California Program Coordinator for Jefferson Public Radio in Redding for nine years and can often be found serving as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre. For her, ultimate satisfaction comes from a perfect segue. She’s the mother of a teenage daughter and a 7-year-old West Highland Terrier, and can’t imagine life without them or music. Valerie wakes up with a song in her head, she sings in the shower and at the top of her lungs in the car.
A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.