Friday, July 11, 2008

Never question Bruce Dickinson

Voice, guitar, drums and bass are the classic ingredients of great rock — the original quartet, if you will. Sometimes there are extra textural elements added, like piano for that old-time rock sound, or strings for a lush, orchestral touch. However when you need something extra, something magic, something to take you that one final step into greatness there is one go-to instrument that you must call upon.

The cowbell.

Yes the cowbell. That rhythmic vixen, that bewitching accent, that roman statue of idiophonic percussion, the glorious favourite both of inventive heavy metal drummers and of people who can't find their herd of cattle.

No song has ever been lessened by the addition of the cowbell. There are pantheon of glorious, life-shaping rock songs made perfect by that spicy beat of the cowbell.

Let me name just a few:

  • AC/DC — You Shook Me All Night Long
  • Aerosmith — Walk This Way
  • The Beatles — Helter Skelter
  • Bon Jovi — Bad Medicine
  • Cheap Trick — Dream Police
  • Guns 'n' Roses — Welcome To The Jungle
  • Kiss — Rock And Roll All Night
  • Powerstation — Some Like It Hot
  • Rage Against The Machine — Killing In The Name
  • The Rolling Stones — Honky Tonk Woman
  • Survivor — Eye Of The Tiger

The only criticism the band has heard of Squid Ink's as-yet-unreleased début album Eight Legs To Hold You from those lucky enough to listen to it is that there is no cowbell. Would the diamond that is Mrs Bun have been given that last final polish with a judicious touch of cowbell? Would some cowbell have been the final brushstroke on the masterpiece that is Gonna Hear My Sound?

Back in 2000, the awesome Christopher Walken guest starred in what has now become a favourite Saturday Night Live skit: More Cowbell. Does the skit work despite, or because of, him spending the whole time reading cue cards? Does it work despite, or because of, the unprofessional way the cast are trying not to crack up on stage? My theory is that it works because Christopher Walken is awesome.

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Blogger Unrelenting Tedium said...

Why only last rehearsal I was caommenting on the cowbell shaped hole in Crafty's kit.
While not a rock classic I would like to add Pink Folyd's Pigs (Three Different One) to the list for some outstanding cowbell work. For sheer cowbell dynamism of the type demonstrated in the skit certainly Joe Cocker's Hitchcock Railway is notable.

12/7/08 10:29  
Blogger silky-D said...

The sketch is mint. I had readabout ti but never seen it, so thanks for that p-borg. Will Ferrell is always funny and Chris Walken has the unique gift of being able to make anything hilarious just by reading it in a stilted fashion. I am not good on percussion (Crafty's fine work aside, it pretty much all just sounds like banging stuff to me). But I seem to recall overt cowbell on another Gunners track: possibly Night Train? Clearly when Steven Adler was not busy mainlining pure heroin he had a fondeness for the cowbell. Was this maintained during the Matt Sorum years?

12/7/08 10:51  
Blogger Unrelenting Tedium said...

One question. I know Bruce Dickinson as flying ace and swashbuckling swordsman...and lead singer of Iron Maiden. Is this the dudes having a go at Bruce? Is he known for production? The name surely isn't a coincidence is it? Particulalry in the '70s? Am I thick?

15/7/08 08:24  
Blogger Unrelenting Tedium said...

I realise that is several questions but it is in fact just different aspects of the same question.

15/7/08 08:25  
Blogger Crafty said...

I can't help but feel that this post was designed to try and get me to get involved with the blog again... Well congratulations Paddy, it worked.
I had been planning a surprise (albeit pushed by UT at last rehearsal) return of the cowbell at the next rehearsal but now there will be no surprise.
Lately I have been pairing back the number of toms I use, both to cut down the amount of stuff I have to carry and to challenge my fills, but I think now is the time to introduce the cowbell into the already smoking Ink sound to replace the missing toms.

15/7/08 08:38  
Blogger Paddy said...

Silky — Mr Brownstone, It's So Easy… Adler was banging away on his cowbell for quite a lot of that album. He had a fever — and the only prescription… was more cowbell

UT — I'm told that the writers found Bruce Dickinson given a production credit on Blue Oyster Cult's album and then went and made up this stuff just for a laugh. My source tells me there are two Bruce Dickinsons — the producer is just some guy and the Iron Maidenish tie-in is just coincidence. BUT WHAT AN AWESOME COINCIDENCE.

Crafty — that's groovy. Bring it on.

15/7/08 17:40  
Blogger Unrelenting Tedium said...

In the interests of science I just listened to both Use Your Illusions...and admittedly I skipped a lot because they never were very good and time has not been kind (that said there was the odd suprisingly good number on there as well) and there is heavy use of the CB on Bad Obsession but I didn't pick it anywhere else.

15/7/08 21:23  
Blogger silky-D said...

it's pretty much all garbage except for the monologue/rant that closes Get in the ring.

Bob Guccione Jr at Spin magazine, what are you pissed off because your dad gets more pussy than you? Fuck you. Suck my motherfucking dick.

I always wondered whetehr Mick Wall at Kerrang et al were annoyed or thrilled to feature so prominently in the deranged ramblings of a man clearly degenerating into grandiose delusion.

As, I'm sure, I've probably blogged before, I was also a big fan of Civil War -- to the extent that myself and myPakistani friend Ashraf Chaudhury used it for our year ten poetry recital (we solemnly read alternating lines), Sure I chose the text because I was lazy, already knew the words and woldn't have to memorise it. Mr Sisley begged t differ, however, opining that this was not poetry and giving us two days to come up with something better. We opted, I recall, for Poe's haunting The Raven. I made Ashraf dress up as a bird because I felt it would lend a certain drama to the performance.

16/7/08 08:38  

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