Accordion, Instrument of the Gods It Happened to Me

Accordion tidbits [Updated]

UPDATE: Oops — forgot to link to the Born to Be Wild video. Here it is.

BloggerCon and Born to Be Wild

BloggerCon has long come and gone, but I’d forgotten to link to the video that Jim Moore took of me at Dave Winer’s closing discussion (when Dave introduced me to Wendy, he told her I was to be granted “special accordion privileges”. Thanks, Dave!). Here it is: Born to Be Wild, rock anthem of bikers and bloggers.

Betsy Devine of Feedster says that she’s “gotta try to remember the chorus of Born to Be Wild. Here are all the lyrics, Betsy, they’re easy!

Get your motor runnin’

Head out on the highway

Lookin’ for adventure

And whatever comes our way

Yeah Darlin’ go make it happen

Take the world in a love embrace

Fire all of your guns at once

And explode into space

I like smoke and lightning

Heavy metal thunder

Racin’ with the wind

And the feelin’ that I’m under

Yeah Darlin’ go make it happen

Take the world in a love embrace

Fire all of your guns at once

And explode into space

Like a true nature’s child

We were born, born to be wild

We can climb so high

I never wanna die

Born to be wild

Born to be wild

In case you’re curious, the verse rides on E, while the Holy Trinity of Rawk — E, G and A — form the backbone of the chorus.

Steppenwolf, like AC/DC, Nine Inch Nails and Outkast, are an accordion band that just haven’t realized it yet.

Chicks dig accordions

Jim Elve, acdcordionist and guy behind BlogsCanada writes:

I was suggesting to one of my young nephews recently that he should take up the accordion and that the good looking babes would flock to him. He scoffed.

Joey deVilla, however, provides ample proof again and again.

The accordion helps, but there are some other factors:

  • I leave polka to the experts. That’s a polite way of saying “Polka is not the babe magnet it once was.” Of course, polka playing requires amazing technique that I don’t have; I’ll readily admit that my pared-down punk rock approach to the accordion would get me laughed out of a polka hall.
  • I play to my strengths. I learned just enough pop keyboard technique before my shenanigans at a recital (I made a mockery of Barry Manilow’s Weekend in New England) got me kicked out of the Yamaha Organ School (there’s a story). From there, I joined a number of bands throughout high school and at Crazy Go Nuts University and even took some jazz piano lessons. I breathe rock, pop, soul, jazz, electronica and hip-hop, so I play music in that genre.

    Lately, from playing with Lindi (in her earlier incarnation) and noodling along to the Amelie soundtrack, I’ve found that I have a secret talent for playing romantic musette pieces in the French style. Perhaps when this Internet craze blows over, I’ll open a little cafe and play in it.

  • I’m using the element of surprise. The accordion comes with years of cultural fol-de-rol attached to it, and much of it ain’t pretty. It conjures images of old men (I think of the old Polish fella at the local multicultral festival called Caravan, pushing the hot vodka drink krupnik, telling all the young ladies “ees goot foor zex!“), Urkel and the Schmenge Brothers.

    People never expect She Sells Sanctuary played on an accordion, and the shock usually causes them to forget all their musical instrument prejudices.

  • I am confident and shameless. You have to be if you’re going to wander into bars, lounges, clubs and parties with an accordion. It helps to have a glib tongue and even an “elevator pitch” about why you’re wandering about with the instrument.

    With or without an accordion or similar totem, confidence is necessary. Nobody respects a doormat, and they certainly ain’t gonna shower lovin’ on one, either. You need iron balls, kiddo! You gotta clank when you walk! (And if you can play Chocolate Salty Balls on the accordion, so much the better.)

    If you’d like to do this, but you’re not sure how, Halley Suitt’s How to Become an Alpha Male should point you in the right direction.

  • Dress nicely. Bathe. Hit the gym. Lose the junk food. Looking good helps, and being healthy will also make you a better accordion player. It’s a physically demanding instrument, especially if you sing along and doubly so if you sing and do Elvis moves.

The new accordion

My first accordion, the Titano, is finally beginning to show signs of serious wear. There’s an air leak in the body that I’ve patched up with duct tape, two keytops are missing, and the reed selectors are in need of some serious repair. It’s been good to me for almost five years, and I think it’s time to relegate it to taking to rough-and-tumble bars, busking and camping. I needed a new accordion, one that fit somewhere between the “street” accordion and the “gig” accordion, a Crucianelli with lovely reeds and a very sweet French sound.

I got this two Saturdays ago, on the afternoon before the For the Love of Breasts gala. The gala was its first night out, and if that was any indication, this new one has some powerful babe-magnet mojo that science cannot yet explain.

I picked it up at Richmond’s Trading Post (151 Church Street, on the east side, a half-block north of Queen), a reputable pawn shop of the Church Street pawn shop strip. It came with a case and sold for $395. I paid in cash, so they didn’t ask for tax.

It was the second-most expensive accordion in the shop; the most expensive one was selling for a mere $50 more, and had a great black body with white and gold trim, but didn’t sound as nice, nor was the volume between the chord buttons and keyboard balanced (the chord buttons drowned out even the loudest register on the keyboard). I chose it after trying every piano accordion in the store, checking each reed switch, playing each chord button and key in every setting, both during the “inhale” and “exhale” of the bellows. I checked the bellows for air leaks and looked for signs of wear in the usual places (I’m an expert on accordion wear now, after having dragged the Titano all over the world).

My thanks to the fine people at Richmond’s Trading Post for putting up with me testing every accordion. You rule, guys!

The For the Love of Breasts gala was its first night out, and what a night! While dancing with some lovely women during the band’s first song, the lead singer spotted me from the stage and called me up.

“Look man, that’s amazing that you can play along. We’re doing all cover tunes, and you’re free to join us onstage for the whole first set. I’m gonna make it so that the women are all over you tonight.”

I looked at the set list. Some of the tunes were:

  • Video Killed the Radio Star by the Buggles
  • Kiss by Prince
  • Don’t You Want Me by Human League
  • Brown-Eyed Girl by Van Morrison
  • You Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC

All crowd-pleasers and all of them easy to play (especially the last one, which I can play even after having killed a bottle of Jagermeister.) This was too easy.

Here’s a video of the You Shook Me All Night Long segment. I think I’m channelling My Aim Is true-era Elvis Costello in my moves. Nerdy, yet cool. I can live with that.

The night, at least up until 1:00 a.m. is chronicled in this photo album. I must extend my thanks to Eldonj Brown, who took most of the pictures and played the role of faithful wingman for the night. I owe Eldon many, many hours of wingman duty now.

After that, things went well too, but I think I’ll skip blogging that part. I will simply say “it was a lovely evening” and leave it at that.

I love this instrument.

5 replies on “Accordion tidbits [Updated]”

Both — but come to think of it, I met you the night before at the cocktail reception. I’m not sure who did the introduction then — it may have been AKMA, Si, Ross or Jay.

I was still recovering from a bad cold, so I didn’t work the room as well as I wanted to.

joey… you’re my hero. really. I don’t know anyone who has a funner, crazier, cooler life then you. I mean that. I hope to some day follow in your footsteps of awesomosity!!!

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