Squeeze Play

CMJ New Music Monthly, July 2000
by Patrick Rapa

Ever imagine there'd be a day when kids would headbang to an accordion solo, scratch the names of accordion players into bathroom-stall doors or dream about a wall of accordions? One day, they will. That is, if John Linnell's prediction of accordion dominance comes true. And he should know. He's been playing the bellowed box for more than 15 years in They Might Be Giants. "Obviously, it's not up there with the guitar, even now," Linnell allows. "Although, I guess the guitar is sort of fading in popularity, so maybe they'll both end up in the same museum of no-longer-cared-about things." Or perhaps accordions will end up in his New York apartment, which boasts an unknown multitude of them stashed away in various places. The Giant can name eight of them off the top of his head, counting the plastic toy accordion a fan sent him. Linnell's oldest is also the first one he bought, a bulky 1928 model made by the Walters company of New York. "I've never considered myself a collector. In fact, some of them are in such bad condition that I've just sort of stuck them somewhere or given them away." They don't come cheap--an endorsement deal with Hohner only landed him half off a $3,000 instrument. "New accordions cost prohibitively much. That's probably one of the reasons nobody plays them." It's best to buy used, he advises. His current favorite is the miniature-key Gretsch, a flea market find he used on his recent State Songs (Zöe-Rounder) solo project. Linnell's always on the lookout for the perfect accordion, although he probably won't find one that meets his criteria: "I'd like to find one that was large but didn't weigh anything."