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"Whoa" bands and related species

Proposal for a new way to classify bands: by the sounds the lead singer uses to fill in spaces in the lyrics. This stemmed from an observation made perhaps ten years ago by my husband (then boyfriend), who remarked that the song on the radio was apparently by "one of those 'whoa' bands." (Note: it was that song that went, "Whoa-ohh! Heaven let your light shine down," if you wished to know.) We have since speculated that all bands could potentially be pinned down and labelled like dead butterflies in this fashion.


The Beatles, I would claim, are primarily a "yeah" band. Witness "She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah," and "Beep beep, beep beep, yeah!" (from "Drive My Car"). "Polythene Pam" has a "yeah, yeah, yeah!" or two as well. And most of the song "It Won't Be Long" is composed of nothing but "yeah." ("It won't be long, yeah, YEAH!, yeah, YEAH!, yeah, YEAH! It won't be long, yeah," etc.) However, a claim could be made that they are also something of a "hey" band, as heard in, for instance, "I Should've Known Better": "And I do, hey hey hey, and I do!"

The Stone Roses, perhaps, are also a "hey" band. See "The Hardest Thing in the World": "It never happens that way, a-hey hey hey, a-hey hey hey." Many hair bands from the '80s and '90s are "hey" bands as well. Def Leppard comes to mind: "You and me, babe, hey hey!" (That was from "Pour Some Sugar on Me," and I am proud to say I wasn't sure of that and had to look it up on the web.)

The Cure, meanwhile, is mostly a "do" band. Robert Smith, when he isn't just wailing mournfully in the lyric-free spaces, can often be found singing "do-do-do-do-do." Just listen to the end of "Friday I'm in Love," or the middle of "High."

David Bowie, in his elegant simplicity, tends to be an "oh" artist. For instance, "Oh-oh-oh-ohhh, little China girl," or "Didn't know what time it was, the lights were low-oh-oh, I leaned back on my radio-oh-oh" ("Starman"). But he does throw in some good "yeah"s in "Ziggy Stardust."

Morrissey may be the only one I can think of who is a "la-de-da" artist. ("I'm going to meet the one I love, la-de-da, la-de-da...") And Frank Sinatra, famously, of course, is a "do-be-do" artist.

Perhaps a separate species should collect what we might call "directive to lead guitarist" singers, who, just before the guitar solo, actually say something to the guitarist encouraging him or her to go ahead. Very common in cheesy '80s fare, e.g., Bret Michaels of Poison, in "Talk Dirty to Me": "C.C., pick up that guitar, and-a, TALK to me!" But also can be found from as far back as the '60s: Mike Nesmith of the Monkees in "Papa Gene's Blues": "Play, magic fingers!"

Suggestions for further taxa or specimens, o scientists of music?

P.S. Satire Alert Sticker: I'm basically joking and this is whimsical. I understand this would not be a good way to reorganize your CD collection.



( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 20th, 2003 10:47 pm (UTC)
Satire Alert Sticker: I'm basically joking and this is whimsical. I understand this would not be a good way to reorganize your CD collection.

Jul. 20th, 2003 11:26 pm (UTC)
This is possibly the most brilliant LJ post I've ever seen. Please stand by for worship.
Jul. 21st, 2003 05:34 am (UTC)
I concur.
Jul. 21st, 2003 04:19 pm (UTC)
Heheh...thank you. I figure if we spread the terminology wide enough, we can someday get the VJ's on MTV to start talking like this.
Jul. 21st, 2003 05:33 am (UTC)
I don't know if anyone else does this, but Mike Doughty (former lead singer of Soul Coughing, and now a solo artist) ends nearly EVERY LINE with 'uh'. (They teach you to do that sort of thing in formal voice training for some reason, according to a friend of mine.)

Unmarked helicopters-uh
The Lord is coming soon, uh

-Unmarked Helicopters - Soul Coughing

Just for example. But he does that in nearly EVERY SONG.
Jul. 21st, 2003 05:34 am (UTC)
He also has a song titled Uh, Zoom Zip for extra uh.
Jul. 21st, 2003 09:29 pm (UTC)
Heheh! I know that song - have that X-Files CD. You're right, he does it a lot in that one. We may indeed need an "uh" category. Perhaps Elvis could also be added to it.
Jul. 21st, 2003 07:27 am (UTC)
The "hey" sound can also be traced back to the 1950s:

"Everyday" - Buddy Holly (1957)

Everyday, it's a gettin' faster,
Everyone says go ahead and ask her,
Love like yours will surely come my way
(a-hey, a-hey, hey)(
Jul. 21st, 2003 09:30 pm (UTC)
Good "hey" example. Buddy Holly makes all kinds of little inter-lyrics sounds, doesn't he? He might be cross-categorial.
Jul. 21st, 2003 10:01 am (UTC)
It makes as much sense as many other arbitrary categorisations! :)
Jul. 21st, 2003 01:01 pm (UTC)
You also need a section for "hyunh!" bands (ala James Brown).

Also, a classification of lead-singer-who-doesn't-play-an-instrument "I'm not singing now" moves: Mike Nesmith and Axl Rose can go in the "snake dance" category, while Roger Daltrey can go in the "swing your mic" category.
Jul. 21st, 2003 09:32 pm (UTC)
Oooh, good suggestions. Steven Tyler of Aerosmith would go under subcategory "swing your mic by scarves tied to it." And Michael Stipe's flail-dance ought to be mentioned somewhere...
Jul. 21st, 2003 01:02 pm (UTC)
Also, you need a category for "wow!", like David Lee Roth always interjected.

Jul. 21st, 2003 01:13 pm (UTC)
Morrissey may be the only one I can think of who is a "la-de-da" artist. ("I'm going to meet the one I love, la-de-da, la-de-da...")

Jeff Heiskell from The Judybats has been known to be "la-la-la" artist from time to time:

"I'm going to la-la-la-la my way through this life..." - Native Son

(But this may just be a jab at Morrissey... whom he felt just "la-de-da-ed" whenever he was stumped for a line in a song and needed a filler of some sort)

Jul. 21st, 2003 09:34 pm (UTC)
Heheh...I'm sure there are indeed "la la" artists. Van Morrison, maybe? (There's the "sha-la-la" of "Brown-Eyed Girl.")

I couldn't think of any Moz/Smiths songs where he says "la de da" except just the one, though. Are there others?...
Jul. 21st, 2003 02:37 pm (UTC)
You could add "na na na" bands. The category includes both folky hippie bands and Nine Inch Nails. Not a very good classifier then, I suppose.
Jul. 21st, 2003 09:36 pm (UTC)
Definitely need a "na na na" category. Doesn't matter if they don't match stylistically; all they need to have in common is the habit of singing the same nonsense word in the filler space. :)

(*admires pretty!Frodo in icon...*)
Jul. 21st, 2003 10:19 pm (UTC)
New Order seem fairly fond of soccer hooligan-esque shouts of "woooo" and a "woo-hoo" or 2.
Jul. 22nd, 2003 08:08 pm (UTC)
Definitely need a "woo"/"woo-hoo" category. Can't believe I forgot that one, after the fuss I make about "'woo' girls" (i.e., girls who yell "woo!" late at night on the street for no apparent reason).
Jul. 22nd, 2003 07:11 am (UTC)
Hey and let's not forget Elvis Costello with "oh," both as a real word, as in "Oh, I just don't know where to begin..." and "Oh, I've looked at it every way I can...", and also as more of an exclamation, as in "You say that your love lasts forever when you know the night is just hours -- OH-oh-oh-woh-oh-oh...."

Also Prince with "hoo."
Jul. 22nd, 2003 08:13 pm (UTC)
Think you're right - I instinctively think of Costello as an "oh" artist.

Hee hee...and Prince is definitely a "hoo" singer. Perhaps Michael Jackson is too.
Jul. 30th, 2003 07:04 am (UTC)
Musical categories
And of course there's the sort of "Ooooh, nngggh" nasal sounds that you get from people like Christina Aguilera. :x

Of course, there's also categorizing bands by their names - in a manner of speaking. Somewhere out there is a quote (from Ellen DeGeneres, I think) about deciding to reorganise one's CD collection after a few too many drinks. This resulted in an odd but strangely logical category that included the Doors, the Carpenters and Nine Inch Nails.
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )