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Pride? It's Accordion Awareness Month!
In the spring of 1975, The Who were recording another album. They had not had a hit single in three years. Their lead guitarist and main songwriter was thinking of moving on. Goodness, he was about to turn 30!
Paul Sexton wrote on November 29, 2022, “After the film version of his musical epic Tommy, Pete Townshend found himself disillusioned with The Who, and felt that the band had reached a natural conclusion. But he was urged to persevere, not least by his guru Meher Baba, and the album was completed to considerable acclaim and success.”
He gave the band all the songs he had — except one.
Sexton wrote, “The number was called Squeeze Box, and Pete admitted in his autobiography Who I Am that he wrote it entirely for his own amusement, and didn’t even include it among the batch of songs he presented to Roger Daltrey for consideration for the upcoming album project. The man who persuaded Townshend that he should do the song, with the band, was his old mate from the Small Faces and the Faces, Ronnie Lane.”
Daltrey loved the dirty little song because it was just fun. It wasn’t about changing the world. It was about enjoying the world. The song was the story of an accordion and the song slowly rose in the charts to become a hit. The only downside was father’s insomnia because Mama’s got a squeeze box, Daddy never sleeps at night.
Welcome to Accordion Awareness Month, which I began promoting as a way of goofing on Pride Month, which for some reason has replaced the Bride’s Month of June. AP’s calendar now reads April, May, Pride, July . . . Everything is rainbowed now, including fudge.
Accordion awareness seemed unnecessary. I mean if someone is playing an accordion, how can you not be aware — unless you are deaf, of course.
It turned out, many readers are quite aware and do appreciate the accordion. One reader told me he played accordion at Carnegie Hall as part of a youth concert. But he gave it up when the accordion became the target of mockery, which was very disheartening. That saddened me because I am starting to appreciate the accordion.
Musician Mike LaTour wrote, “If your accordion knowledge is limited to Weird Al and Steve Urkel, then you may be surprised to know that the accordion has been used for far more than just polka. Not surprisingly, it was the instrument of choice in the folk music of the early to mid-1800s. In the first half of the 20th century, it enjoyed its day in the sun once more and was used in the popular music of the day. Today, it’s used in light-classical music, rock, pop-rock, folk and ethnic music, and more.”
It is an organ one carries on his chest. Sure, many people use it to play Lady of Spain, but Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor is a favorite as well. I like Sergei Teleshev’s version, but after linking it on Saturday, I received an email from a reader.
He wrote of Teleshev, “Fugue-gedaboutit. Failed entrance exam to the conservatory of Minsk and fired off the Lawrence Welk Orchestra.”
My readers know their accordions.
(Welk’s honky-tonk pianist, Jo-Ann Castle, occasionally had a duet with Myron Floren on accordion. Why? Just Because.)
Likewise, Frankie Yankovic was your man for The Beer Barrel Polka. This is his duet with his Canadian counterpart, Walter Ostanek.
If someone is messing with your toot-toot, call in Buckwheat Zydeco.
The accordion helped the Lady fall in love with the Tramp on a beautiful night.
What I am most aware of is that playing an accordion is an accomplishment. It takes coordination, training and practice. Being gay or lesbian or even straight isn’t all that big a deal. If you have pride not in something you have mastered after years of struggle but for just having sex, I pity you, fool, because you have wasted your life.
The people behind the National Accordion Awareness Month said, “The accordion (also called the concertina) is primarily used to accompany traditional polka music but has been featured in many classical and modern musical works, from jazz and zydeco to folk, gospel, and blues.
“The oldest name for the accordion is derived from the Greek word harmonikos, which means harmonic or ‘musical. It goes by many names across the world — Akkerdeon in Germany, Fiarmonica in Italy, Bayan in Russia, Sun-Fin-Chin in China, Harmonium in Pakistan, and Trekspill in Norway. But it is commonly just called accordion in many countries.
“The invention of this humble instrument is a subject of much debate among researchers. Some credit Austria as its birthplace, others think it was invented in Berlin. What researchers do know is that the accordion spread around the globe because of European immigration into other countries.”
This may explain some of the scorn toward the accordion because it represents people from Central and Eastern Europe. They and Italians are considered lesser people by many other white people. Hence, their music is less worthy than say rock. There is a pecking order in American music. The blues are revered. Polka is as unwanted as a red-headed stepchild.
Then again, disco was disliked as was bubblegum music. Maybe people having fun and dancing is the problem with polka and the rest.
Which brings me back to Squeeze Box and Mama.
She goes in and out and in
And out and in and out and in and out
She’s playing all night
And the music’s all right
Mama’s got a squeeze box
Daddy never sleeps at night
Sleep is for the weak. Accordions are for the masses. This is the accordion awareness month.