At the outset, I would like to unequivocally state that this post has nothing to do with tongues. It does have everything to do with musical licks, which are snippets of songs that are: 1. ”Hot” because of their musical complexity and difficulty to play, 2. Memorable because of their innovation or effect they had on music in general at the time they appeared, or 3. Unusual, because one would ordinarily not expect to hear them in a rock and roll tune.
I got to thinking about what Licks have caught my attention over the years. Mind you, I didn’t spend a good deal of time mulling over this list. These just popped into my cruller, so I thought I would share. The categories and picks are mine alone (doubtless many can think of better examples), and they are in no particular order.
Outstanding Bass Guitar Lick: It’s the two or three bar bass lick in the middle of “Call Me Al” by Paul Simon. That is some ass-kickin’ bass playing.
Two Guitar Solo: No question. It’s the two-guitar solo in the Eagles’ “Hotel California”. Gives me chills every time I hear it.
Piano Lick: Probably a zillion that could qualify, but the one that comes to mind is the piano playing at machine gun speed in the beginning of Billy Joel’s “Angry Young Man”.
Ass-Kicking Song Beginning: Is there a better instrumental beginning of tune than the beginning of “China Grove” by the Doobie Brothers? That grabs you by the guts and won’t let go.
Guitar Hook that Runs Through the Entire Tune: It’s Mark Knopfler’s guitar lick in “Money for Nothing”. Honorable mention to Keith Richards’ guitar lick in “The Last Time”.
Drums: It is the very basic four bar “solo” in the Venture’s “Walk Don’t Run”. This is a classic example of a lick that is not notable for its difficulty. On a scale of difficulty from one to ten, this is about a 0.1, but it caught everyone’s attention at the time and was probably responsible for Slingerland, Rogers and Ludwig selling thousands of drum sets.
Guitar Lick with Distortion: Gotta be the guitar lick in the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction”. I remember when the record first appeared, no one could figure out exactly what instrument was playing the now-famous guitar part. However, it didn’t take long before music stores were selling “fuzz boxes” like hotcakes.
Outstanding use of a Wah-Wah Pedal: For me, it is the beginning of Isaac Hayes’ “Theme form Shaft”. Every time I hear that, I consider it a Master Lesson in the proper use of a Wah-Wah pedal.
Best Bassoon in a Tune: Small category, this, but ya gotta love the bassoon part in Simon and Garfunkel’s “Feeling Groovy” (a/k/a the “59th Street Bridge Song”) as performed by Harper’s Bazaar. Those four-note licks are absolutely perfect.
Best Recorder: This is another very small category. In fact, the only tune I know of that uses a recorder is the Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday”. I believe the now-dead Brian Jones played it. No, it is not a flute; it is a recorder.
Best Theremin: This a microscopic category. However, you can hear it played well by Rob Schwimmer in Simon and Garfunkel’s recent live concert recording. of “The Boxer”.
Best Kazoo: No question about it. It’s Denny, the Grouchy Old Cripple’s live version of “Rocky Raccoon”. This has never been recorded, but it damned well should be.