hans ulrik, mai lan, ndegeocello, neil innes, nimo, noisy oyster, pascal mohy, rabih abou-khalil, ry cooder
Sounds like this is about the noises oysters make; not quite.
But there is a story about a pub in London (long since disappeared) called the Whistling Oyster and how it got its name.
Apparently, at the very beginning of the Victorian era in the Covent Garden area of London, in a courtyard behind the Drury Lane theatre there was an tavern, reputed for “the superior excellence of its delicate little natives” and its clientele of bohemians. One day, inside from one of the tubs of oysters, a strange and unusual sound was suddenly heard.
“The landlord listened, hardly believing his ears. There was, however, no doubt about the matter. One of the oysters was distinctly whistling or, at any rate, producing a sort of “sifflement” with its shell. It was not difficult to detect the phenomenal bivalve, and in a very few minutes he was triumphantly picked out from among his fellows, and put by himself in a spacious tub, with a plentiful supply of brine and meal. The news spread through the town, and for some days the house was besieged by curious crowds. That the oyster did whistle, or do something very much like whistling, is beyond all question. How he managed to do so is not upon record.”¹
It seemed that one of its shells had a minute hole, through which the sound was emitted with each in/exhalation of water.
Jokes about the musical ability of the oyster appeared in the Punch magazine, although it was reported that an American, who came to see it perform, treated it with the utmost contempt as it was nothing compared to an oyster he had heard back in Massachusetts whistle Yankee Doodle in its entirety.
Eventually, a sign for the tavern was erected, displaying a weird and grotesquely comical representation of a gigantic oyster, whistling a tune and with a humorous twinkle in its eye.
However, it’s amazing how many songs and musical pieces in so many different genres that have been inspired by oysters. Went through a big search on Spotify, but it was difficult finding links for them all. So I decided to try and collect some of them (and the ones I like), all on one spot, just like oysters like to do, in fact. So cuddle up and listen to these pearls!!!
Oysters – Meshell Ndegeocello
Oyster – Elysian Fields
Oyster – Nothankyou
An oyster, a pearl – Sarah Blasko
Oyster – Registrators (to top it, a bite of Japanese punk!)
Les huîtres – Mai Lan (thrown in for our francophiles)
What kind of a noise annoys an oyster? – Frank Crumit (A wail, perhaps?)
What noise annoys a noisy oyster? – Neil Innes (scroll down to the song)
Noisy oyster – Bob Ropiak and John Higgins
And yet another variation on this same tongue-twisting theme – A noise-y noise a-noise a-noise-ster – often attributed to a famous American children’s writer, Dr Seuss, but that seems like another fairy tale:
The oyster song – Clinton Ford (a band singer in the 1960’s from northern England) – found only this sample on Itunes
The oyster is our friend – Lloyd Vivola (a folk singer from New York)
The Bluff oyster song – Max McCauley (all the way from Kiwi-land)
Huîtres à Sète – Anne-Thérèse Biéri, Ensemble Tamatakia
You’re not the only oyster in the stew – Fats Waller
The tale of the oyster – Cole Porter, sung by Sarah Mattox
Oyster girl – Jabara Home Party (love this mix of the jig/reel and Japanese sang-froid!)
Greasy oysters – Ry Cooder (music from the movie “Johnny Handsome”)
Oyster – Hans Ulrik Quartet (Danish jazz group)
Your oyster – Nimo (Latvian based jazz quartet)
12 huîtres boogie – Pascal Mohy trio (Belgian jazz group)
The oyster – Philippe Sellam/ Gilles Renne with l’Orchestre National de Jazz
Les huîtres étaient bonnes – Mécanos sonores (an obscure French outfit)
An oyster in Paris – Rabih Abou-Khalil (Lebanese oud-player and composer)
Oyster – Moguai (German electronic music)
If you have a favourite, don’t be shy – write a comment!
And if you know of any others worth including, please tell me. Thanks!
¹ John Philpots: Oysters, and all about them. London, John Richardson (1891) 903-904.