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Destroying Instruments


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Wait... they left off the best part!


Just as that clip is truncated he's picking up the harp that's broken out of the piano frame and begins playing it... like a concert harp... I just saw the whole sequence over the weekend. I'm always going back to the Marx Bros., typically watching 10 or 20 minutes just before bedtime -- usually fast-forwarding through all the music but Harpo's bits 'cause, let's face it, the Marx Brothers did not usually hire the hip musicians and singers; for some reason, they seemed to balance out their outlandish comedy with really behind-the-times sopranos and barrel-voiced baritones, instead of the hot jazz and swing one would normally hope for in musical comedies of the 30s. I think part of that is that their plays started out in the 20s and brought some of that oldguard sensibility with regard to music.


One exception for me is A Night at the Opera... I still tune out a lot of it, but when Kitty Carlisle finally belts out an aria late in the game you can see how she got where she was...


And, of course, Harpo often works up some very tasty bits on various harps and, occasionally, improvised harp-like instruments (or fake instruments -- I'm sure that the piano harp in the sequence above was lip sync'd, as it were, using a real harp... few movie musical performances, then as now, were shot with live sound.)



I also saw the opening bit to The Kids Are Alright over the weekend, which begins with the Who on the old Smothers Brothers TV show from the mid-60s. Not being a rocker at the time (I turned my back on rock when my beloved surf instrumentals -- and the Twist, the only dance I ever knew how to do right -- went out of fashion) I wasn't aware of the guitar and amp smashing shtick (seeing the Who a few times in the 70s, though, I would soon enough get more than my fill of that tiresome gimmick) and it really impressed me... :D I was just thinking, Wow, these guys are out of control! If I'd had my wits about me at the time, no doubt, I would have realized that the amps started "smoking" before anyone ever laid a guitar neck on them.


But I have to say, I found it problematic then and even more troubling now (now that I know that it was rigamarole they went through at every flippin' boring concert)... destroying a guitar. Maybe if Townshend could play like Hendrix... but as it was/is -- I just don't think he's got the moral authority to smash a guitar and get away with it. Windmills. Gawd. What happened to that band? They were actually pretty OK before they decided to go all rock opera on our sorry, gullible back sides. They weren't no Kinks, but the early stuff really had some edge and some intelligence.

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