A shrine to tambourine players, you ask? We say, of course. Lists of accomplished percussionists, bassists, and guitarists abound. Whole piles of magazines discuss the technique of playing these instruments (we wouldn’t know, we don’t read them because what’s the point? We can barely type) BUT the tambourine is a populist instrument—ANYONE CAN PLAY IT! And all too often this fact has led most people to consider the tambourine player—a joke. We think this could not be more wrong-minded. It is sad that most people and critics misunderstand the tambourine and its artistes—viewing it as mere prop, something to be bent to the stage dramas enacted by lead singers, or something for them to do during solos by other “real” musicians, or most tragically as an “instrument” given to band members plopped there as ornament and left without any significant function in the band. The first defense of this sort of bigotry is to say: since frivolity is essential to the very core of our being, we ask what is wrong with having no obvious function? But we know that will sway only a few select lazy people who by now aren’t even reading this and have scrolled down to the list…The second defense of the great tambourine player dilemma is this: a good guitar player is lauded for using his or her instrument to convey emotion (While my guitar gently weeps, anyone?), BUT god forbid a tambourine player consider or even ATTEMPT such a feat (he or she would only meet with derision and scorn). So we have a major project ahead, we hope to simultaneously resurrect the tambourine player from the land of a million guffaws and raise them from obscruity by shining a light on their craft. I mean recently a friend suggested I listen to the song “Lake Marie” by John Prine and it is a lovely song, but the tambourine playing totally makes it. I asked who played it and he couldn ’t find the answer…the tambourine credit was nowhere to be found!!! Imagine, oh I don’t know, Dylan’s “Tombstone Blues” or “Like a Rolling Stone” without the tambourine—BORING! So the first part of our project follows below: a list of artistes who have devoted their careers to the tambourine and Who have shown devotion to the craft, development, advancement, and innovation of the playing of the tambourine.
I would like to thank Lord Ouch, Amyd and assorted others who sent important tambourine info my way but are far too mortified by the whole undertaking to want to be acknowledged publicly for their participation.
1. –8 million. Stevie Nicks
Ms. Nicks has had such a long and devoted association with the tambourine that many have suggested she deserves ALL the slots on the list. See also subcategory 3: the dark side of tambourining, ex-cheerleaders as tambourine players.
2. Davy Jones (of the Monkees)
Many tambourine critics consider him the quintessential tambourinist (or simply the world's greatest tambourine player), however, we think that Ms. Nicks makes the case for her supremacy without any additional commentary on our part.
3. Tracy Partridge
Some consider her the patron saint of tambourine players. We would agree if it weren’t for the fact that The Partridge Family didn’t really exist (you would think that would be a plus but our slavish devotion to Ms.Nicks forces us to lower the fictional Ms. Partridge's ranking).
4. Linda McCartney (Wings)RIP
(see also subcategory:wives of lead singers)
5. Valerie of Josie and the Pussycats Frequently called "The Smart One" in the Pussycat group. We sort of think of her as The Emma Peel of the Tambourine. Sadly in the current film version of the comic they have decided to use a guitar, a bass, and a drum, so the genius of the guitar, tambourine, and drum sound will be forever a distant memory.
6. Liam Gallagher
Read the link, and feel bad for the tambourine.
7. Juan Cervantes
Full disclosure: I don’t know who he is. However, we find that tambourineheads have mentioned Tambourine Music of Central America, 1994 as a seminal work in the tambourine oeuvre
8. Joan Osborne
See subcategory: another hippie chick lead singer with a tambourine. Dare we say you haven't lived until you've seen her dance around on stage, sing, and slap her tambourine silly. You want to help her find the beat, but enthusiasm counts for a lot here.
9. Patty Scialfa(E Street Band)
We might point out that Ms. Scialfa is a talented musician and vocalist and those who have seen the E Street Band live have mentioned to us that in her husband’s support band (see Linda McCartney) she has sung backup and played guitar but see the video of "Glory Days" for her true talent... tambourinist (not a slight remember we love the instrument).
10. Clarence Clemmons (E Street Band)
While Patty has only occasionally played tambourine in her husband's band we must look to the person to whom Bruce has had his longest and most intimate relationship for true tambourine greatness. When the Big Man lays down his sax (which happens a lot more often than it should - something we'd like to say about his boss's harmonica) he never stops giving the goods during a stage show - he has an arsenal of tambourines from the crescent half-tamb to the really really big tambourine. He can be joyous, solemn, or playful and still turn in a professional performance. A tambourine hall-of-famer!
11. Kenny Aronoff
Extremely well traveled session drummer who has played drums and tambourine on lps by such luminaries as Stevie Nicks (what she doesn't play the tambourine tracks on her own records?), John Cougar Mellencamp, Bonnie Raitt, and many many others.
12. Natalie Maines (Dixie Chicks)
Live show reviews have mentioned that Ms.Maines uses her tambourine as a lasso (she must be double jointed or something as such a move seems to defy logic) AND has collaborated with Stevie Nicks on her upcoming Trouble in Shangri-La lp which we can only hope will feature either a tambourine duet or dueling tambourines. Oh the possibilities are chilling!
13. Roger Daltry
Tambourine smasher extraordinaire of The WHO
14. Steven Tyler
Livs dad and other stuff and another important thing: he is Livs dad.
15. Ian Astbury (The Cult)
16. Robert Plant (Led Zep and solo work)
On his Fate of Nations album Plant notes in the lyrics of "Down to the Sea" that "Life is a big tambourine/ The more that you shake it the better it seems/ This is my wisdom - these are just words from the sea." Right on, Robbie.
17. Mick Jagger
18. Richard Ashcroft (ex Verve now solo)
He is known to improvise on the instrument and use tambourine loops in recordings and the video for "Cmon People" (downloadable at the above-listed link)features extremely moving and melancholic footage of a tambourine falling to the floor that we applaud heartily and should actually move him up on the list but that would mean that there is some kind of heirarchy to the names on this list and some kind of heirarchy would imply some kind of order and really there is none (fooled ya? right...)
Has a song called "Tambourine" which he plays all by his lonesome.
20. Kim Gordon
Plays tambourine in the Lucky Sperms
21. We’re pretty sure someone in ABBA
Hence feel the beat of the tambourine
22. Phil Collins
23. Neko Case (of Neko Case and her Boyfriends)
On her lp Furnace Room Lullaby lp she recieves a tambourine credit. She is also an accomplished drummer and loves Sheila E. What else can I say except that we feel we must divulge our prejudice here: we love her.
24. Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth)
Drummer who is known to place and strike a tambourine on his snare.
25. The drumming twin of Blonde Redhead, Simone
Ditto what was said about Steve Shelley's drumming technique
We don't know for sure that he played tambourine but Sandra Bernhard's monologue over "Mighty Real" in Without You, I'm Nothing mentions disco dancing with a tambourine and back in the day who didn't go to the disco without poppers, a pair of way tight levis, a hanky in your back pocket and shake their tambourine while they grooved out to "Mighty Real"?
27. Linda Thompson (of Richard and Linda Thompson)
See that subcategory, spouses of the singer
On Sleater-Kinney's cover of "Rock Lobster" she plays tambourine. We always knew she was way cool, now she is a Tambourine Smashing Goddess.
29. Aldo Nova
Bad 80s synth pop haircut nightmare currently has a career as session musician who plays many an instrument including the hallowed tambourine.
30. Van Morrison
We have to admit we can't find a reference on the web to him playing the tambourine but we have been told by fans that have seen him live that he has done so. If you are troubled by the tangential relationship to the tambourine, then substitute Natalie Merchant (aka subcategory 2: another hippie chick with a tambourine) because we have seen her tambourineshake with our own eyes and she is an even more severely beat challenged dancer than Joan Osborne so we feel for her.
See Subcategory 1: spouses of the singer. How scary that John and Paul's respective spouses played the same instruments in bands fronted by their hubbies! In the D.A Pennebaker film Sweet Toronto which features the Plastic Ono band Yoko sings and plays tambourine. What I wouldn't pay to see her play tambourine in a bed-in. Now that would be ART!
32. Sonny Bono
When he worked for Phil Spector he used to love to sit in with the percussion section and play tambourine. However, alas poor Sonny couldn't keep time and was usually told he had a phone call so that they could pull him from the studio and record. See subcategory 1, part b: spouse of singer, bend the gender and poof, our first male mate tambourinist even if he was a failed tambourine player, kudos for trying. And oh yeah, Cher played tambourine as well.
A recent note from our man in Minneapolis noted that during the Stephen Malkmus solo tour stop there, "Mrs. Malkmus" played tambourine for about ¾ of the set or so. He pointed out that even when tambourine was not called for, "Mrs. Malkmus" was trying to fit it into the song. I suppose that she might be suffering from Richard Ashcroft jealousy. There seems to be a tambourine moment happening on the indie/alt rock scene and we are here to be your guide...not just a hippie thing anymore...no no no. "Mrs. Malkmus" is Stephen Malkmus's long time companion, and her real name is Heather Lorimer or Heather Larimer spelled both ways in literature about the band. She is referred to as a writer in many interviews but we are not sure what she has written. Upon searching we found that a book entitled Louis Wain: King of the Cat Artists was published in 1982 by one Heather Larimer. We are pretty certain that is not the same Ms. Larimer, but who can resist copy like "Edwardian Cat Art Historian Turns Tambourinist"? Not moi. See Subcategories 1: mate of lead singer and Subcategory 3: former cheerleader turned tambourine player.
34. Peter Zaremba
Singer and tambo smasher for the Fleshtones. The pioneer of the current wave of indie rock tambo players. And he's from NJ!
35. Hope Sandoval(formerly of Mazzy Star, currently of Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions)
Chicago critic Jim DeRogatis wrote the following about Mazzy Star live: "the only hint of any action on-stage comes when Sandoval gets pissy about something--poor monitors, noisy crowd, improper alignment of the stars--and petulantly throws her tambourine to the floor." Our first tambourine DIVA.
36. Lisa Kekaula of the Bellrays
A soul shouter who has been singled out not only for her voice but for "furiously banging and bruising her body with a tambourine." MC5 comparisons float around the Bellrays...but we say Kekaula should be considered the Iggy Pop of the Tambourine.
37. Big Star
The tambourine track in the song "Try Again" is poignant, there is some great tambourine playing throughout their songs, but I can't find the person to credit for it. Alex Chilton's first gig as the Box Tops singer associates him with another notable tambourine moment: "Fields of Clover," a song that sort of spurts into motion after a few spastic tambo gushes. We also found that Alex Chilton himself has played tambourine and sang back up for Tav Falco's Panter Burns. So we gonna spread a few tambourine props all around.
38. Linda Ronstadt
We were somewhere near Bakersfield when the drugs took hold...oh wait that is the beginning of Fear and Loating in Las Vegas, nevermind, but it was Bakersfield where fear and loathing tambo stylee comes real and the harsh black heart of a tambourinists' underbelly is exposed: Ms. Ronstadt, a candidate for anger management rehab has kicked a door and broke her leg, and heaved a wax candle at a loudmouthed customer at the Troubadour (she was in the audience, not onstage), took her tambourine and threw it frisbee style into the audience at the conclusion of "Silver Threads, Golden Needles" at a man who had annoyed her by taking flash photographs after she asked that flash pictures not be taken. "That was for the asshole who keeps taking flash pictures," she said. Umm...okay, where's Jerry Brown when you need him?
39. PJ Harvey
Our Minneapolis correspondent sent us a note that during her most recent show there she did a song called "Gypsy Landslide" where she put down her guitar and picked up a tambourine. We can only think that this must be an hommage to Ms. Nicks. And that my tambourine pals takes us back to where we began...a complete tambourine circle.
Someone we miss? Email us.
GEAR and TECH TIPS!
Some web sites that will help you select your next tambourine or put some shine on your moves:
Coming Soon (in the next century anyway)
Part II--great tambourine songs...AND Part III--Ode to the Handclap. Email us your choices!