Ian Anderson: Hero to flute-rock enthusiasts

By Drew Ailes

In the sixth grade we were all arbitrarily assigned instruments to learn. It was hell for broke parents, and it was hell for us kids. (When you are a young boy, everything around you is considered to be a weapon.) I got a trombone, but others were not so lucky, and had to endure the torment that comes with playing the soft, emasculating flute.

But nowadays I realize the flute is serious business. The shakuhachi, for example, is a bamboo flute from Japan, designed by traveling zen monks to play songs and beat their enemies up. In Tampa Bay recently, meanwhile, two rocket launchers and a flute gun were turned into authorities for $75 and some baseball tickets.

So in tribute to the disrespected woodwind instrument, here are six of the most badass flute bands that aren't Jethro Tull. Because you already knew about that one.

6. Genesis

Peter Gabriel played the flute. Not all the time, but sometimes. Here, Phil Collins is wearing a shirt that says “Genesis” on it, and is also playing a whistle. Despite the incredible energy of this performance and the intensity of that flute, Genesis would later go on to suck ass and never use the flute.

5. Traffic

Growing up, my dad forced me to listen to Steve Winwood a lot. And the Pointer Sisters. But before Steve Winwood was ruining my life with that haircut, he was playing in a band called Traffic, alongside the legendary and now deceased flutist Chris Wood. This song, “Forty Thousand Headmen,” will incinerate your ears with the heat of a thousand denim shirts burning in Winwood's mind's eye.

4. Camel

I don't hear a lot of love for Camel, a 1970s prog-rock outfit that had album art that looked like a pack of cigarettes. While I still don't understand why you would do that, I do know that Andrew Latimer and Mel Collins can play the hell out of the flute. Check out the dual flute assault of “Rhayander/Rhayander Goes to Town,” an instrumental song that is about a hunchback who cares for a goose or something. Camel would later release an album called Moonmadness which would feature album art of a camel wearing a spacesuit.

3. Gong

The only people I know who listen to Gong have done a ton of acid. The band has a gigantic catalog that I fumble through every year or so. It's probably pretty important that you watch this live video from 2010. And stay away from the acid that has a pyramid with an eye and a set of wings on it, unless you enjoy spinning in circles for a few hours.


2. The Moody Blues

Look at these guys. They all look like they should have their own '70s detective TV show, wherein they strangle bad guys with gold medallions. Instead, they tear through some melancholy love ballads and destroy you with songs like, “I'm Just A Singer In A Rock & Roll Band.” The Moody Blues, who I have been foolishly ignoring for 30 years, named themselves under the assumption that they could get an endorsement from a brewery called M&B Brewery. Their flutist, Ray Thomas, was such an incredible force that he was actually nicknamed “The Flute” — no doubt because of his abilities to metaphysically demolish your soul with the ferocity of a flute-shaped sword. Yeah.

1. Nokturnal Mortum

Alright, I'm going to deviate from the theme of the article. Ukraine's Nokturnal Mortum is not a badass band, despite being technically “heavier” or more “extreme” than any of the aforementioned bands. So why do I say this? Because they are a famous Nazi black metal band. WITH FLUTE. And that ain't cool. You'd think that a band utilizing such a misunderstood instrument could recognize the dangerous errors of holding once-popular false beliefs. But apparently not, because members Knjaz Varggoth, Astargh, Bairoth and keyboardist/flutist Saturious are unrepentant, racist assholes. Oof.

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