Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Show #81 June 16, 2012

 Christina and Cowbell... a powerful combo!

Christina- Idle Jets Nashpop: A Nashville Pop Compilation
Vicious- Lou Reed Transformer
Time And Time Again- Smithereens I Was A Teenage Zombie
Tiger Beat Twist- Simpletones I Have A Date
Whoever Said That You Was Cool- The Sidewalks Natalie 
Wallflower- Mega City Four Wallflower 7"
Lonely Next To You- Shane Champagne S/T 10" EP 
He'll Never- Walter Clevenger and The Dairy Kings Love Songs To Myself 
^Don't Fear The Reaper- Blue Oyster Cult Don't Fear The Reaper
Super Geek- The Greenberry Woods Big Money Item
Lover Like You- Cherry Vanilla Venus D' Vinyl 
Teenage Heartbreak- Sorrows Teenage Heartbreak 
End Of A Dream- TV21 On The Run 7" 
Tiger Feet- Mud The Singles '67-'78
*Party's Over- Raspberries Starting Over
*Sunrise On Sunset- The Hollywood Stars The Hollywood Stars
*Working Too Hard- The Beat The Beat
*You've Got To Pay- The Only Ones Special View
*Hammer In My Heart- Utopia Utopia
Achin' To Be- The Replacements All for Nothing
Loving Touch -The New Romans Jenny 7"
I Want Your Love- The Lonely Boys The Lonely Boys 
My Tulpa- Magazine Real Life
Don't Make Me Wait- Primitive Souls Primitive Souls 
Some Other Time- The Shazam Godspeed the Shazam 
>Time Has Come Today- The Chambers Brothers Time Has Come Today 
Isn't Anything Sacred Anymore- The Sweat No More Running
Heartbreak- The Signals Person To Person 
Crossfire- Phil Neal Standard Question 7" 
I Hope You're Happy Now- The Wellingtons In Transit 
Grazing In The Grass- Hugh Masekela Grazing In The Grass

^Power Pop Peak:  #12 Billboard Hot 100 7/31/76

*SacroSet:  More Cowbell!

>Power Pop Prototype:  1967

As a lifelong third rate guitar player, musical simplicity and/or ineptitude has always had a special place in my heart.  I still remember hearing The Ramones for the first time thinking "oh my god!  I can actually figure these songs out and play them myself!"  The bass is all on the left side and the guitar all on the right, so on my stereo I could switch the balance over to the left speaker and figure out Dee Dee's bass part.  Since he and Johnny ALWAYS played the same notes I'd have the guitar part down about ten minutes later.  It was a very empowering experience and I started playing the guitar a lot more that day.  

Needless to say, that NEVER happened when I was listening to Rush a few years earlier.  

Nothing against Toronto's finest, but they were so far ahead of me musically it's like comparing a very large rock to Usain Bolt.  I loved Rush's music but I never related to it the way I did to the punk rock songs I could actually play myself.  In fact I haven't put a Rush album on the turntable in years.  When it comes to my pre-punk records, I'm much more likely to listen to Kiss or AC/DC- good old "simple" rock and roll.

Rush's Neil Peart is a rock god among drummers- many of whom, in my experience, care more about "drumming" than about "music."  Guys who subscribe to Modern Drummer magazine (not to be confused with Drummer, which interestingly is gay porn).  Guys who can talk for hours about pataflaflas, flamacues and triple paradiddle-diddles, but whose record collection consists of two dusty old drum corps albums.  

The thing about Neil Peart is that he didn't limit himself to drums. By the time I saw Rush on the Farewell To Kings tour he had added, in his own words, "orchestra bells, tubular bells, wind chimes, crotales, timbales, tympani, gong, temple blocks, bell tree, triangle, and melodic cowbells."   Seriously- the guy only has TWO ARMS!  The only word I am familiar with in that quote is "cowbell." 

If you're a fan of Kiss, then you are a fan of the cowbell- Peter Criss was not one to be stingy with the 'bell.  One of my first favorite Kiss songs was "Calling Dr. Love."  How do I love it?  Let me count the ways:
  • My last name is in the title;
  • Awesome Gene vocal performance "there's nothing you can do-ow-oo!"
  • The title is a riff on The Three Stooges;
  • Soaring Ace Frehley guitar solo;
  • Weird "Calling Dr. Love" background vocal in second chorus and coda.

Like Neil Peart, Peter Criss had a huge kit and at concerts was always up for the big drum solo (for drummers a "highlight," for everyone else a "bathroom break.")  Yet unlike Peart, when it came to recording Criss didn't try to jam every drum, cymbal and glockenspiel into every damn song- and God bless him for that.  Maybe it's simply that band leaders Gene and Paul wouldn't let him; perhaps Rush were just more democratic.  That would jibe with my own experiences with drummers who, unless you keep them in check, tend to favor a "more is more" approach.

Anyway a cowbell is a great way to keep drumming simple.  No matter how many tom-toms they have, if your drummer's putting one stick on the bell in a 4/4 time they can't get into too much trouble.  A cowbell in the intro also tells the audience that the beat is "special," you're calling attention to it with a little extra emphasis.  Of course Will Ferrel's brilliant SNL sketch has forever changed perceptions of the cowbell. The funny thing about what is now commonly referred to as "More Cowbell, " is that it almost didn't make the cut.  Ferrell had written the sketch months earlier, but it kept getting passed over.  According to Jimmy Fallon, the sketch wasn't even that great in rehearsal until Will Ferrel changed his shirt.  I've got to say the shirt is awesome, but it's really Christopher Walken as Bruce Dickinson ("THE Bruce Dickinson") that makes it work for me.  His quotes are the ones I remember the most, especially "Babies, before we're done here ya'll be wearing gold plated diapers!"

As much as I love the sketch I did worry that "More Cowbell" would be the end of the instrument, reducing it to ironic deployment in indie rock douchery.  My fears have proven unfounded however as songs like The Wellington's "I Hope Your Happy Now" carry the cowbell torch forward. The cowbell isn't a joke- it's just fun!  For that reason I think we can all look forward to a lifetime of "MORE COWBELL!!"

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1 comment:

  1. Excellent choices for power pop cowbell songs! You had a couple I didn't have on my site: (shameless plug, i know)

    I'll be blazing past 2700 songs in this weekend's update.