Trying to think who the modern day equivalent of the Steve Miller Band was -- a rock radio staple, hit after hit after hit, year after year after year, bland but reliable and undeniable -- I concluded it would have be the Foo Fighters. In just one respect, Foo has the edge over SMB, which is that they have two superb drummers rather than just one in the band (Grohl opting not to join the select ranks of the singing drummer and got someone else to do the job).
Check out the near-enough breakbeat at the start of "Take the Money and Run". (Also the ear-worm nice-touch of that flurry of claps every so often).
More journeyman groove-maintenance of a high caliber.
And then this slinky ultragroove, notable more for the whole band's conjoined contribution. (And that synth intro... separate track on the LP, sometimes played together with "Fly Like An Eagle" on the radio.... makes me wonder why synthpop was any big whoop when it came along... well, it was the coldness and stiltedness = New Thing factor, whereas here synthesiser is used in a totally fluid and muso rock-funk-fusion sort of way that's perfectly consonant with the Old Wave way of doing things)
There's people who swear by the white blues psychedelia of Children of the Future and Sailor and Brave New World... I've never gotten around to them... I have a feeling I'd probably prefer the hookmeister Miller who sold his talent short churning out all this road-trip-friendly fare during the middling meridian point of the American Seventies...
That Sorrows song, "Take A Heart", the drumming touches a little on this thing I always picture as "rim of the crater"...
"Rim of the crater" = that circling, panoramic sweep thing drummers do. Involving the toms, right? The slower it's done, the more crater-ific...
E.g. "For Your Pleasure" -- at moments throughout, but especially from 2.20 onwards (when the "ta ra"'s start fading to the horizon).
Paul Thompson says his hero is Jon Bonham, but on that track he's nearer Jaki Liebezeit.
Well I was going to play Can's "Quantum Physics" next but it is not to be found on YouTube. Indeed the rest of Babulama is blocked. "Quantum" is a case of cosmic crater. But it also has something insectile about it... chittering and thorax-y.
Liebezeit-fan Steve Morris's most crater-y moment is probably this:
Great thing about pop music, there are always things to discover. Case in point, this record: "Neanderthal", by Hotlegs, a prototype of 10cc. Strangely, although it got to #2 in the UK in 1970 (and was a big hit elsewhere in the world too) I have no memory of ever hearing it. Included here not because I like it particularly but because offhand I can't think of another pop record where the drums are mixed so upfront, to the drastic expense of everything else on the record. Apparently the song only came out because they were messing around with a
new kit and trying drum layering at Strawberry Studios.
Well, actually, now I think of it -- there is another song where the drums are mixed so upfront to the expense of everything else on the record - mostly because there's not much else on the record -- and it's this tune, which I do remember from Top of the Pops as a kid: Cozy Powell, "Dance With the Devil"
That was a Number 3 hit, in January 1974, would you believe?
Here's the B-side:
Amazingly Cozy Powell had two other hits in 1974 with "The Man in Black" and "Na Na Na".
Regarded by drummers as one of THE great drummers of all time... but man, he drummed on a lot of shit records by a lot of shit bands: Rainbow, Graham Bonnet & the Hooligans, Michael Schenker Group, Whitesnake, Emerson Lake & Powell, Black Sabbath 1988-91, The Brian May Band, Tipton Entwistle Powell, Yngwie Malmsteen....
Quick one under the heading of "wattage" - examples of drumming that aren't particularly elegant or inventive but transmit a feeling of pure unstoppable power.
Can't remember where I read this (possibly Chuck Eddy in Stairway to Hell) or who it was originally in reference to, but the phrase "generates enough energy to keep a hospital running" always springs to mind when listening to Ray Philips on this Budgie track from 1972:
Same goes for Mick Tucker here
That's lousy sound quality but picked for the view of Mick right at the start. This is better
Okay, bassist Herbie Flowers is the true star here, but drummer Jim Gordon is close behind. As well as power supply he also contributes a drum solo, but a pretty basic one.
That was actually a single and got into the Billboard Top Thirty in 1972. It could almost be off Fly.
- Here and Now. Ridewas briefly one of my favourite groups during my teenage years, in part,
because of the terrifically kinetic drumming of Loz Colbert. Mixed beneath the
walls of shoegaze guitars, his flurry of fills imbue a wonderful tension to the
group’s debut album, Nowhere, always serving the song despite constantly
threatening to spill outside the constraints of the guitar-based pop songs. If
he’d played in a blues-based rock band in the 1970s, he’d be considered an
absolute maniac behind the kit"
[in all honesty i never thought Ride would come up in a discussion of great drumming, rhythm, etc]
Apples “Oscillations” - "Just listen
to the precision of the drumming and how crisp the snare and hi-hat sound! This
song was really unimaginatively sampled by UNKLE for their track “Rock On” in
the mid 90’s, but let’s not go there!"
[cor, good choice]
then got me thinking of garage rock, so here’s The Haunted’s “1-2-5” -
which early incarnations of Loop used to play (c.1986)"
[love it -- drummer's great but it's the crypt-like echo that makes the difference]
here’s Black Sabbath’s “Supernaut” which I’ve included for the
percussion break from 2m 37” to 3m 19”…"
[righteous choice, those sploshy, laden-sounding ride cymbals and hi-hats.... i would however go, in fact i WILL, go for 'War Pigs' -- which, when it came on the car radio recently, prompted from my 13 year old son in the back seat an involuntary, virtually emetic reaction: "this is terrible music" [pause, then as if shaking his head in disbelief] "terrible music". i drily noted, while in mid air drum, that it was only one of the greatest rock songs of all time, not that that cut any ice with Kieran. i never did establishwhether it was ozzy's vocal, ah, 'grain' that distressed him so,or the bombastitude of the almost breakbeat like drum intro]
"Here's something from my home town of Melbourne, Australia.
The band is My Disco and the drummer is Rohan Rebiero. An amazing combination
of the minimal and the maximal."
the drum series, but, all very hip underground choices for the most part so
far. Where are the in plain view greats? Thinking: Frank Beard of ZZ Top (La
grange is great), Keith Moon, Mitch Mitchell, Bill Ward, Neil Peart, Phil Rudd
of AC/DC (laying down the solid groove you can dance and drink a beer to
without spilling a drop), Charlie Watts. All these guys are so good they pretty
much make my heart explode with joy and make my toes a tap, tap, tap. Give it
up for the stadium monsters!"
[absolutely. indeed i'll probably be leaning that way, towards the obvious-er or at least the mainstream here on out. leavened with the odd obscurity. but i appreciate the digging people are doing, some great rhythmic arcana being shared]
" Marvin Gaye "T Plays It
Cool" - This one was sampled a lot in
hip-hop but already has a ready-made loop feel to it. Marvin does this fill and
the end of the first four bars and it must have just seemed so good to him,
that he just keeps doing it every time round, never really altering it or
missing it out. There are changes in the groove's intensity, but the patterns
with the killer open hi-hats remain throughout. "
"Inell Young "The Next
Ball Game" - Filthy New Orleans business.
James Black's drumming is so wild and in your face, it's like "oh, there's
a song going on in there somewhere?" [warning sound quality is poxy on this -- sounds like it's being played by fleas inside a thimble]
"23 Skidoo - "The Gospel
Comes To New Guinea"-- Ten-minute jazz drum showcase dressed up as
apocalyptic industrial, innit. "
Most of the drumstuff I’ll be posting is stuff I’ve heard
on the radio recently. That'sone of the best things about living in
LA – being in the car, listening to
the radio a lot. Hearing new things--Top 40, chart-(t)rap, modern rock, NPRoisie (the latter a distant fourth)--but alsorehearing things you’d once
loved but hadn’t revisited in decades, and rehearing thingsyou never gave the time of day but suddenly click, or at least intrigue. Radio is a great machine for jolting you out of looking in the same place for your bliss. But equally it reintroduces you to bygone bliss
you’d somehow mentally mislaid with the passing years.
An example: the other day I heard The Gap Band on some old
school black pop station: “Burn Rubber On Me”, which is filed in my memory as “Jolene”
(the song’s addressee). Then the same day, I heard another
Gap Band tune, one I didn't know: "Early In the Morning”.Now I wouldn’t say the Gap Band were any kind of immense
musical presence in my life but they had a bunch of great tunes, three of which ("Burn", "Oops Upside Your Head", "Humpin'" ) were sizeable UK hits. And In "Burn" and "Early" particularly, there's this thing they
do, a signature drum move. It recurs
at points through the tunes but it’s also right at the start: like revving up, or the
firing of a starter pistol.
As with “Gonna Make You A Star”, I don’t know what you call
that: it’s not a break, it’s not a
fill either, I don't think. It’s more like a retriggering: the beat breaks up a little
but also comes down even harder (and Ray Calhoun is already beating the shit
out of the skins). There's a jolting effect, a bit like when ER personnel clamp those defibrillators on the chest of someone in cardiac arrest to zap their heart back into
motion. Except that in the Gap Band’s case, the patient is in rude health,
so it's somewhat superfluous.
The other thing I like about those Gap Band tunes is more generic. They feature a particularly heavy form of the drumming hallmark of black club music
at a particular point (end of the Seventies, into early eighties), what I think of as the crunch-thwack snare. As a postpunker-turned-funkateer, I
used to be obsessed with records with that sound.
Trying to trace it back historically, you start to hear it coming through with acts like
Confunkshun and HamiltonBohannon (worthy of a post in himself), taking over with Slave and Steve Arrington solo, but also with one-hit disco-funk wonders like Yarborough & People’s, with pre-codpiece Cameo and countless others...
I thought maybe I was imagining this or misremembering it, but when looking up info on the Gap Band -- and in this age of archival overload, there's still areas that are underdocumented and barely analysed, amazingly -- I found this entry on Gap Band's 1980 album III:
record signalled a seismic change in the funk landscape: Parliament-Funkadelic, Ohio Players, Rufus and Tower of Power had split up; War and even Earth Wind & Fire were losing
steam; Kool & the Gang had gone
pop; James Brown and Sly Stone were approaching self-parody.
Disco, often unduly blamed for the death of funk, was fading away. The Gappers
came up with a new electrofunk approach on the single "Burn Rubber On Me
(Why You Wanna Treat Me Bad)": crunching Moog bass line, crashing
programmed snare, no horns, and a tortured, pleading vocal straight out of Stax - it was their first R&B #1.
Together with Dazz Band's
similar "Let It Whip" and maybe George Clinton's
"Atomic Dog," it's practically a subgenre unto itself - though in
fact a bigger influence on Prince's
early 80s sound than the more frequently cited Rick James. "
Dude says "crashing programmed snare"--I'm not sure about that, though. The size of the snare sound, the width and breadth of it as
it slashes across the audio space of these recordings, is clearly
adulterated in some way. At first it's probably just a case of close-miking and reverb, soon it feels like
production or mixing magic is being applied (maybe prototypical forms of gating, that mid-Eighties
electrofunk hallmark?).But it still
sounds plausibly the handiwork of particularly muscular drummer
who’s really really into his work. It swings in a way that drum machines couldn't really manage at that point, I don't think.
Who started it? Parliament-Funkadelic? Certainly the P-funk aligned Zapp’s “More Bounce to the
Ounce” (coproduced by Bootsy Collins, made at the very end of the Seventies, released in 1980) is a particularly thwackalicious example of the "practically a subgenre unto itself". The drummer is Lester Troutman, with percussion from Larry Troutman. The beat is outwardly mechanistic and unchanging, but every snare hit is inflected slightly differently: I don't know if that's Lester's playing or EQ-ing. (Incidentally a lot of drum tech scholar types says it's a clap not a snare - a live clap, a hand-clap, with the scrunchy smeary thickness and subtle differences coming from the heavy layering of claps. But however it's made, the sound serves the function of a snare, as far as I can see).
Dude also mentions "Atomic Dog", where the downstroke is so imposing and prominent as it slices scrunchily across the sound space. (Apparently that's an effect caused by playing the drum track backwards).
Dude also mentioned Dazz Band, "Let It Whip", another song I hear often on oldies radio here. The snare-thwack is present but a little muted.
As we get further into the Eighties, postdisco/boogie/electrofunk takes over and it's a less band-oriented sound (Gap Band, Dazz Band), it's more about producers + a mix of players and machinery. The thwack-snare fades out, the Linn and the Synclavier come in; the drums get into that busy hyperactive Swiss Watch feel rather than the suspended trance-like groove of "More Bounce"/"Atomic Dog" . It's the start of that period when black club records sound like Cupid & Psyche and Jam & Lewis.