Alan Eisenstock’s Playlist: Time for Live Music

Editor’s note: When Palisadian Alan Eisenstock is not researching and writing one of his nonfiction books (18 thus far!), he pursues what he calls “a crazy labor of love side project” that he started in March 2020: sending a weekly Covid-themed playlist of songs to his family and friends. These playlists (which can be downloaded on Spotify CLICK HERE. span rock ‘n’ roll and pop music from the 1950s to 2020, and Eisenstock adds one or two lines of commentary about each song that is clever, amusing and informative.)


Hi, Everyone,

Ready for live music? This week, music venues announced they’ll soon be presenting live music for the first time since the start of COVID.

In NY, places like City Winery have already opened with smaller audiences, six feet between tables, masks required. What to do? Idea. To get you in the mood, here are 20 songs with musical instruments in the title. Listen up!


  1. “Squeeze Box” The Who. Pete Townshend wrote this 1975 peppy country song about an accordion. Well, the lyrics are also filled with double entendres. I had no idea that an accordion is a sexy instrument. Should’ve stuck with it.
  2. “The Happy Organ” Dave “Baby” Cortez. David Cortez Clowney, noted R&B pianist and organist from Detroit, recorded this big hit in 1959. Foot stompin’!
  3. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” The Beatles. 1968 George Harrison composition from The White Album. By this point, The Lads weren’t getting along at all and George invited his friend Eric Clapton to play guitar on the song. The other Lads weren’t happy.
  4. “Mr. Tambourine Man” The Byrds. Great Dylan song recorded by The Byrds in 1965. The Jim McGuinn-led band that included David Crosby had a huge #1 international hit with the song. After Crosby and others left, Jim went incognito and became Roger McGuinn, Roger being his middle name.
  5. “Kick Drum Heart” The Avett Brothers. High energy folk/rock brothers Seth and Scott sing this cool 2009 song from their I And Love And Youalbum. Speaking of seeing a band live, try these guys.
  6. “Piano Man” Billy Joel. Born in the Bronx, Billy grew up on Long Island. This is Joel’s signature song and the song that gave him his nickname–“Piano Man.” LOVE.
  7. “Clarinet Polka” Myron Floren. The famous accordionist on The Lawrence Welk Show, Floren was born in Norway, grew up in South Dakota. Welk called him the “Happy Norwegian” because he was always smiling. Lawrence and Myron co-wrote this polka, a song I would never play for fear of injuring myself. “A wunnerful, a wunnerful…”
  8. “Hurdy Gurdy Man” Donovan. Mellow Donovan Leitch, born in Scotland, wrote this song in India while studying Transcendental Meditation with The Beatles. The song became a big hit in 1968. FYI: A hurdy gurdy is a weird stringed instrument that has a wheel and a crank.
  9. “Bang the Drum Slowly” Emmylou Harris. The great country-folk singer/songwriter wrote this elegy to her father in 1993 with the help of the brilliant Guy Clark. LOVE.
  10. “Guitar Town” Steve Earle. From his first album of the same name. Singer/songwriter/actor/author and frequent husband (he’s been married 8 times) recorded this big hit in 1986. Steve wrote songs for Guy Clark and played in his band. I’m a huge fan.
  11. “Daniel and The Sacred Harp” The Band. Robbie Robertson wrote this 1970 song from their album Stage Fright. The Band had begun going through all sorts of internal strife and Robbie wrote this about his fear of losing his integrity. The song was later covered by Alvin and the Chipmunks.
  12. “Different Drum” The Stone Poneys. A trio led by Linda Ronstadt on vocals. Mike Nesmith of The Monkees wrote this song. The Poneys covered it in 1967 and made it a hit, thanks to Linda.
  13. “Guitar Man” Bread. LA-based pop-rock band recorded this hit in 1972, one of thirteen Top Ten hits this crusty group had. There was an obscure band in the eighties called Cheese. I wish Bread performed with them so we could have had Bread and Cheese.
  14. “Dueling Banjos” Eric Weissberg, Steve Mandell. Smash hit and Grammy-award winner from the 1972 film “Deliverance.” Weissberg, the banjo player, session musician and a member of the folk group The Tarriers and Mandell, the guitar player, tear up this song written by Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith.
  15. “The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me)” Tom Waits. Singer-songwriter-actor and all-around character, Tom performs this 1976 song about a drunken philosopher in a dive bar who sings such crazy lyrics as “The owner has the IQ of a fence post.” The actual owner was a friend of his.
  16. “Mandolin Rain” Bruce Hornsby, The Range. Musician, songwriter, singer and Virginian, Hornsby sings this excellent song off his debut album The Way It is. Hornsby is a little “poppy” sometimes for me, but I think he’s underrated. Great voice.
  17. “The Guitar” Guy Clark. From 2009. Clark, born in Texas, was more than a singer-songwriter and mentor to so many, including Steve Earle. The guy was a poet. This features Clark’s excellent guitar-playing and is one of my all-time favorite story songs. LOVE.
  18. “Banjo” Leonard Cohen. Mr. “You Want It Darker” croons this song with, thankfully, Sharon Robinson backing him up. Kind of Cohen’s version of Guy Clark’s “Guitar” song. From Cohen’s 2012 album Old Ideas.
  19. “This Old Guitar” Neil Young. 2005 song about Neil’s love affair with his guitar, allegedly once owned by Hank Williams. Fun fact. Neil, one of my favorites, was a session musician who backed up The Monkees.
  20. “Ebony and Ivory” Paul McCartney. Written in 2005 by Sir Paul, the first time he’d sung a duet with anyone major, in this case, Stevie Wonder. We end our “instruments” playlist with two giants performing an amazingly cloying song about a piano keyboard symbolizing racial harmony. “There is good and bad in everyone…” Yuck.

And thus we end another playlist, this time with thoughts of hearing live music with live instruments. In the meantime, some advice…

Don’t Forget to Disinfect… and… PLAY IT LOUD!

The link again: CLICK HERE.

Fact Check

A hurdy gurdy is really a string instrument with a crank and a wheel. Maybe I’ll take it up.

Alvin and the Chipmunks did not cover “Daniel And The Sacred Harp.”


Which “Magic” song you got? The winner, miraculously, is The Cars.



Accordion or hurdy gurdy? Who you got… “Squeeze Box” by The Who or “Hurdy Gurdy Man” by Donovan?

Until next week,







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One Response to Alan Eisenstock’s Playlist: Time for Live Music

  1. Rosalie says:

    Thanks for another fun list!
    I’m adding “Green Tambourine” by the Lemon Pipers.
    Answer to this week’s Poll Question: Accordion!
    The fun of The Who’s “Squeeze Box” silences Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man” dirge.

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