Drummage Seventies 1 of 2

Apparently I am more interesting when drunk, and since this state is an inevitable byproduct of the industry in which I work (fuck am I really 32!? I wake up hungover and alone in the morning and my whole body aches from lack of human contact; my job is to pleasure others), here's some more inebriated comments on thwacking... rock side...

Black Fucking Sabbath "War Pigs" Bill Fucking Ward

The late 60s and early 70s are generally regarded as the peak of recording technology. Sure, for those of us who love Trevor Horn, Juan Atkins and Maurizio, the idea that progress stopped way before the seminal recordings made by the aforementioned artists were even envisioned is ludicrous, and yet, if we are talking solely of the recording of guitars, bass and drums captured through microphones, the era of Neve, API, Telefunken and Ampex is a classic one. Ironic, then, that one of the more important bands of this era, a band that is considered a pioneer in heavy metal (heavy as in full, as in replete), sounds so positively feeble on record (at least in comparison to their reputation). Finally hearing this live version of "War Pigs" was a revelation for me. Here is the real sound that led so many to make "unfashionable" decisions so long ago. Bill Ward hits, and hits hard, because this is the real shit (and there's jazz in this too - listen to the Billy Higgins performance from a few posts ago and then this again, meditate on the word "anticipation" or even, minus the "corporate self-help book found in airport bookstores" connotation, the word "synergy"), and you can't fuck with it. Is it me, or is Black Sabbath one of the first rap/hip-hop artists, too?

Led Zeppelin "Immigrant Song" Mr. John Bonham

"Levee" is classic and "Fool In The Rain", otherwise a bland, AOR cop-out, is revered by drummers just because it is really, really, really, fucking hard to play, but, again, Zeppelin benefits as much from well-mastered live recordings as Sabbath. Listen to the album version, and then try the one above again. It's not so much that Bonham plays differently; it's that the live versions gets closer to what we all imagine Bonham to actually sound like. I could have picked any of a hundred or a thousand recordings to convey this man's (and this band's) music, but, after another night of pleasing others, this is all that pleases me.

AC/DC "You Shook Me All Night Long" Phil Rudd

Seventies part two will be funky. But this song, actually from 1980, but, I think, correctly placed in this entry, serves as a nice bridge. Rudd, like Al Jackson Jr., is a master of playing things that anyone else can play but in an inimitable style. The real hook, the real attitude, in this guitar-driven, gravely-voiced, meat and potatoes and jiggly genitals record, is the way Rudd plays his hi-hats between the guitar riff. For those that understand the basics, Rudd is playing straight 8th notes on the hats, but not really. Start from the beginning: boom (bass drum): thwack (snare drum): tss-TSS-TSS (hats between guitars): boom: thwack. In my mind, it's the "tss-TSS-TSS" that really pushes the verses forward, and if those moments weren't accented, if they were played like virtually every other drummer ever would have played them, I swear, I really do, you might not shake it as much to the chorus as you do when you, being of open mind and desirous body, hear this at your local after a few... or maybe it's just me... I'm not smart, after all, just more capable of over-analysis than most.

Will you be my girl?



Drummage 1960s 2 of 2

What I love about blogs if the conflict between the liminal and definitive.  Drunk, I am, and yet, here is part 2 of 2.  While I extolled the virtues of "playing for the song" in my first post, I must admit that, as a drummer, I love the florid as much as the reserved. So while the first post demonstrated the virtues of the latter here is the decadence of the former...

Santana "Soul Sacrifice" Michael Shrieve
It's really freaky to think the entirety of pop music discourse fits within the lifespan of people who are still alive.  If the Beatles are the beginning and Burial is the end, well, Ringo and Paul can listen to Burial. Youknowhatimean?

Anyways, I still believe in the 60s and here is what makes me believe. Santana is criminally underrated. The Rolling Stones are literally pedophiles. So much for "the revolution". Michael Shrieve feels ecstasy before it is even synthesized (ok not really true)! Drugs can only help a person achieve a state of mind that music should be able to do naturally (ok not really true but it would be nice)...

Jimi Hendrix Experience "Hey Joe" Mitch Mitchell

Excuse my perversion, but if Jimi's solos are orgasmic, who warmed him up? In this track, the answer is obvious. The guitar solo would be nothing without the tension to-be-released, provided by the rest of the band generally, and Mitch's frenetic fills specifically...

John Coltrane Quartet "Afro Blue" Elvin Jones
There's four ways of playing music: try hard because you know no better, let go because you know no better, try hard because you know what is at stake, and let go because you know what is at stake. Elvin Jones ascends to the temple and demands beauty from his personal vision of God. Don't believe me? Listen as he hits harder than most in two time signatures simultaneously in anticipation of Coltrane's solo. The impatient anger of moral desire!

Pete La Roca "Sin Street" Pete "La Roca" Sims
Seriously unsung jazz player, Pete chose to drive a cab instead of play fusion in the 1970s, and no matter how many jazzfunk records I discover and come to love through my digging as a house DJ, I can't help but agree with Pete's decision. Sims was one of the first, if not the first, jazz drummer to introduce totally free playing in his solos. While his earliest innovations, in terms of temporal narrative, were created while he was sideman to Joe Henderson on a handful of Blue Note sessions in the early 1960s, my favorite work of his is on his second solo album, Turkish Women at the Bath, the title of which references an Ingres painting. Pre-scientology excellence from Chick Corea and top-of-his-game playing from Sun Ra sideman (and MASSIVE Coltrane influence) John Gilmore still impress after many years but Sims' free playing towards the end of this track inspires greatly. Sadly, the only clip available is cut off...

Grachan Moncur III "Evolution" Tony Williams

Elvin Jones is the only man ever to have lived that might be capable of walking up to Tony Williams and telling him he still has a lot to learn while being correct. Williams was still a teenager when he joined Miles Davis' band and not much older when he added his unique piece to the puzzle of Moncur's challenging yet evocative composition. There are a lot of songs I could pick to best exemplify Williams' drumming, and yet his comfort with the weird, not just his absolute mastery of the mainstream jazz idiom, is what makes Williams' drumming something perennial long after jazz has gone (stupidly) out of fashion...

killing it "normal"...


Drummage 1960s 1 of 2

This is not a definitive list, a history, or an argument. Just some favorites... and I'll let them speak for themselves, mostly...

In general, what I really like about drumming from this decade in the pop/rock realm is that most, if not all of the non-jazz players listed below most likely trained in jazz, which resulted, at least to my ears, in more swing, more groove, and more melodicism and sensitivity in the construction of parts than in any other decade. Yeah, that's a big claim, and there are plenty of great drummers whose foundation lies solely in rock who are able to do all that the following drummers can do and yet... there is something really special about this decade, isn't there?

Ronettes "Be My Baby" Hal Blaine
Classic riff, really nice fills. Even the singer agrees (see second video around 2:13)! It's rare for a drum part to be one of the predominant hooks of a song...

Martha & The Vandellas "Heatwave" Motown Drummer TBD
An astute fan of Motown's early 1960s records will note that a small handful of fills are utilized across multiple records. Each drummer that was part of the Motown band in the 1960s had their own fills and commonly used these fills to identify themselves. I used to have a magazine that featured a chart describing these fills and their respective owners, but I no longer do, so the performer on this record will have to remain anonymous for the time being. As for the performance... infectious swing/shuffle of a kind that slowly disappeared from most mainstream pop drumming to be replaced with straighter 8th and 16th note feels. 

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles "Tears of a Clown" Motown Drummer TBD
At the risk of giving two credits to the same drummer, given the paucity of information on who played what, here is another Motown classic. Good groove, good energy, great sound...

Otis Redding "Try a Little Tenderness" Al Jackson Jr.
Possibly my favorite drummer, Al Jackson Jr. specialized in the kind of straightforward yet irresistible parts that always served the song. For the most part, anything he played could be played easily by anyone who has spent even just a few months learning the instrument, and yet I don't actually think there is another drummer who could play the way he did, with the same attention to the small details, the same reserve, the same willingness to let the song speak (some of his most classic performances see him straying only once or twice from strict timekeeping). Oh, and he grooves like a motherfucker! This performance sees him leading the band from ballad tempo all the way to the possibility of death by hyperventilation for the horn section while staying funky the whole time...

Lee Morgan "Search for the New Land" Billy Higgins
Further along the theme of understated funkiness, here is a classic performance by Billy Higgins. I really love the casual yet crisp approach Higgins has to timekeeping, and his comping style, which is here dominated by repeating figures instead of a wholly-improvised approach. Definitely one of those myriad figures in jazz unknown to the uninitiated but certainly important to the development of his art form and an inspiration to many players outside of it.

Drummage Pre

Going to take Simon up on his request for good drum performances. I used to play drums quite seriously. Don't know if I was any good but I sure did listen a lot. Most of my choices are fairly canonical. But the canons of popular music were assembled in a much more democratic way by people with greater levels of understanding than those of other arts. For better and worse.

I am going to be limiting myself to a maximum of ten performances per decade and one appearance per drummer (with maybe one or two exceptions). I won't be posting any decades prior to the 1960s and nothing from this century. While the drummers of the 1950s and before suffer my lack of recognition due to my ignorance (outside of a few handfuls of jazz records), contemporary drummers suffer my lack of recognition for the opposite reason. I am more likely to play air drums to a programmed Neptune production than to any indie or mainstream rock record that I am aware of*.

1960s to follow almost immediately
1970s and 1980s will take some time
1990s will be easy, but possibly shorter

* It's not as if everyone forgot to play drums... it's just...
There's a recording engineer who calls himself Mixerman who says that "if the song sucks, the mix is irrelevant". I figure, if the song sucks, the musician's performance is irrelevant. For some, this would seem a little backwards. Surely, if the musician's performance sucks, how can a song be good? But since, outside of wholly-improvised music, the song precedes the performance, if the song is no good, then a musician's skill, which is to bring the composition to its full musical impact, cannot be fully utilized.