Friday, February 29, 2008

Weekend Listomania (Special Bang on a Can! Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental amanuensis Hop-Sing and I are off to a Japanese tuna boat somewhere in the South Pacific, where we'll be catching up with National Review's first annual William F. Buckley Memorial Fuck the Dolphins Cruise. Which means, of course, that posting by moi will necessarily be somewhat fitful for a few days.

But until then, as always, here's a fun project for you all to contemplate:


Totally arbitrary rule: No prog-rock or fusion need apply, unless I decide otherwise. Which means, I'm sorry to say, that Bill Bruford and Tony Williams can, uh, you know, blow me.

That said, here's my totally top of my head Top Eight:

8. Devo -- Satisfaction (1976)

That's the unheralded Alan Myers playing that brilliantly spazz mutation of the Stones' original straight four. Sound simple? Let's see YOU do it, bub!

7. Al Green -- Let's Stay Together (1972)

The late great Al Jackson pretty much invented the particularly sinuous Memphis groove that the Reverend Green rides here. Sheer bliss.

6. Faces -- Stay With Me (1972)

This live clip is a real find I think, but it ends before the recorded version did and thus misses some of Kenny Jones' most wonderful drum fills. Go get the album, pronto.

5. Elvis Costello and the Attractions -- Pump It Up (1978)

Pete Thomas
makes that tiny little drum kit sound like an apocalypse on this one, which remains one of the all-time great rock n roll dance songs largely because of his primordial pounding.

4. Rolling Stones --

(a tie) Tumbling Dice (1971)

and Rip This Joint (1971)

Charlie Watts, natch. When Mick Jagger noted (on "Get Yer Ya-Yas Out") that "Charlie's good tonight, isn't he?" he really meant "Charlie's good every night." On the studio versions (no less than here) of these two Stones classics, Charlie absolutely lays 'em in the aisles.

3. Bruce Springsteen -- Rosalita (1973)

That's the studio version, featuring Vinnie "Mad Dog" Lopez, the guy manager/producer Jon Landau kicked out of the band because he played too imaginatively. Not so oddly, the wonderful out of control almost jazz feel that informed Springsteen's music at the time immediately vanished with him. Yes, now it can be told: I think Max Weinberg is a great drummer with his own band on Conan O'Brien -- with Springsteen, not so much.

2. The Raspberries -- Tonight (1973)

The ultimate Beatles Meet The Who synthesis, and drummer Jim Bonfanti covers himself in glory as both Ringo and Keith Moon.

2. Led Zeppelin -- Fool in the Rain (1979)

A truly monster groove from the late John Bonham, and as my dear friend and drummer extraordinaire Glen Bob Allen puts it, "Bonzo's feel on the tune and the roll he does coming out of the Latin break back into the refrain is just beee-uuuu-tiful."

And the number one, nobody even comes close, coolest drum performance on a 70s song is ---

1. The Who -- Won't Get Fooled Again (1971)

Four guys playing and singing at their absolute peak, but guess who steals it? Once again, as Greil Marcus famously remarked: "Keith Moon playing lead drums -- after all these years, the audacity of it still takes your breath away."

Alrighty now -- what would your choices be?

[h/t the aforementioned Glen Bob Allen -- if you're in the vicinity of Manhattan, go see him tomorrow with the French Cookin Blues Band at B.B. King's!!!!]


dave™© said...

Can't believe you couldn't add in a little of the "airhammer" sound of the Dave Clark Five... of course, lead singer Mike Smith died today.

"Tonight" is a good choice, but I just love the huge drum break after the faux-fade in "Overnight Sensation". Very Moon-esque!

TJWood said...

It will be interesting to see what kind of reaction you get to your Max Weinberg comment, but I'll leave that to other bloggers. Four completely random nominations I'll throw out from drummers not yet mentioned are:

1)"My Sharona", The Knack--The late Bruce Gary was given kudos on this blog by Steve a few weeks ago.

2)"Instant Karma", John Lennon--This is the pre-Yes Alan White, which I'll assume qualifies as one of Steve's exceptions.

3)"Next To You", The Police (Stewart Copeland)--I can't remember being as blown away by a debut album as I was by the first Police album.

4)"Superstition", Stevie Wonder (Stevie Wonder)--My left-field pick. Nothing flashy, but a real groove-master, IMHO. It was between this and "Living For The City".

steve simels said...


Mea culpa for leaving out Stewart Copeland, although my choice would be "It's Alright For You," which I think is the best out and out rocker the Police ever did.

TMink said...

Good call on the Devo. How can it be so square and so danceable at the same time?


Anonymous said...

Clem Burke.



'Nuff said.


Noam Sane said...

That's Stevie himself drumming on "Superstition," no?

I'm with you 100% on Weinberg. Squared-off swingless drumming gives me a headache. The loss of David Sancious after "Born to Run" really did Springsteen in...from then on it's been nothing but plodding white-boy rock.

I'd pick "I'm Losing You" by the Faces...the drum break at the end...holy moly.

I always liked the drumming on "Helen Wheels" - I believe that's McCartney..? Great feel.

steve simels said...


Isn't "Losing You" on one of Stewart's solo albums?

If so, I think the drummer would be the great Mickey Waller, of "Maggie May" fame....

NYMary said...

I'll throw in a plug for Green Day's Tre Cool--especially on tunes like "Longview," those low toms totally get me.

king nosmo said...

Two come to mind--

1) Wasn't it a Huey Lewis -less News backing up Elvis Costello on "My Aim is True"? All of that drumming is amazing, pride of place going to the apocalyptically wound up yet tight-tight-tight "Watching the detectives" and "Waiting for th End of the World" (whose kick drum I used to audition new speakers). That guy is amazing.

2) Not a hit, but "Big Eyed Beans from Venus" Capt. Beefheart and the Magic Band, is the Hardest rock,ing song ever recorded, if i had to pick; and Art Tripp drives this careening juggernaut straight into the stratosphere. Ted Templeman gave the record just enough pop sheen to make it presentable, but the energy still jumps off the vinyl and trashes your living room.

--King Nosmo

king nosmo said...

Arrgghh! Learn to Google/Wikipedia before posting! Turns out it's 2 different guys on "My aim is True"-- Mickey Shine on everything BUT "Watching the Deteectives", where it's Steve Goulding. But, those guys rock, or at least they did then! Doesn't excuse Huey lewis, though. Or does it?

--King Nosmo

Noam Sane said...

Hmmmm, Steve. Wikipedia says Waller played on every cut on the album save that one, where he was replaced by Jones.

This page from a fansite backs that up.

There you go. Double sourced!

peter spencer said...

Levon Helm on The Band's "Don't Do It," infinitely subtle and swinging AND it's live AND it's the first time with a horn section AND he's singing. Check out the contrasting accents between voice and drums at "But you don't care about me/Open up your heart." Most people couldn't do that with two brains.

Anonymous said...

My favorite moments of drumming have be at live shows.

First would be BJ Wilson at any of the ten Procol Harum shows I witnessed. On record and even on live recordings something of what made BJ's drumming special is lost. Anyone who has never seen Procol live w/ BJ missed an amazing experience.

Second would be my ultimate night for R & R drumming, the night The Hounds played at the Mushroom on 13th Street in 1974. The band's drummer Bobby Alberston was connected to the Great Cosmos that night so be the end of the second set every eye and ear in the bar was locked on to him including the band. Bobby was so solid and inventive that everyone's jaw just dropped.
We still talk about that night with awe.

Steve do you remember it? He was always a real good drummer until he got bored a few years later, but that one night was pure magic! For me the best ever.

Return of the Plumber

MBowen said...

Marquee Moon, Television - Billy Ficca, drums This guy was almost as good and creative a drummer as Verlaine was a guitarist - that's saying a lot.

Every Picture Tells A Story, Rod Stewart - Micky Waller, drums A master class. He's been mentioned a couple of times already, but this is his high point.

I'll Be Around, The Spinners - unknown drummer/percussionist A brilliant backing track, with in-the pocket drumming and some perfectly timed cymbal work, but it's the congas that push this forward, subtly and perfectly, without any "babalu" bullshit.

The Police, Message In A Bottle - Stewart Copeland, drums This is where Copeland shows just how good he is. Check out the cymbal work.

Nick Lowe, I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass - Steve Goulding, drums I couldn't find a video clip of Graham Parker & the Rumour doing "Don't Ask Me Questions", but this is almost as good. Snappy and propulsive.

The Ramones, Judy Is A Punk - Tommy (Erdelyi) Ramone, drums Tommy Ramone took Maureen Tucker's (inadvertent?) art-schtick and made it rock. I picked this song just for the historical curiosity of the video clip.
And, sorry, Steve, but:
Yes, Roundabout - Bill Bruford, drums Bruford was as clean, subtle and propulsive as Charlie Watts. Despite all the tricksiness of the music, he cut through to find its rock'n'roll heart - at least as much as there was. He also had a snare sound that no one else ever duplicated - it sounded like his was stretched twice as tight as anyone else's.

shrimplate said...

Grizzly Nesbitt always made me smile.

FeralLiberal said...

You brought up Elvis Costello so I have to add "Watching the Detectives"

And Doug Clifford driving the beat home on CCR's cover of "Heard it Through the Grapevine"

Or the quintessential New Orleans rhythm of Little Feat's "Fat Man in the Bathtub"

Brooklyn Girl said...

Well, I suppose it would be stretching a bit to mention Jai Johanny Johansen and Butch Trucks on "Mountain Jam", since our host might consider it quasi-fusion and I don't want to break his rules, so instead I'll go with "One Way Out" from "Eat a Peach". Two drummers truly thinking as one.

steve simels said...

MBowen said...
And, sorry, Steve, but:
Yes, Roundabout - Bill Bruford, drums Bruford was as clean, subtle and propulsive as Charlie Watts. Despite all the tricksiness of the music, he cut through to find its rock'n'roll heart - at least as much as there was. He also had a snare sound that no one else ever duplicated - it sounded like his was stretched twice as tight as anyone else's.

I'll actually give you that one. Especially the snare sound...

And Peter --

Levon on "Baby Don't You Do It."



I don't remember the club, let alone the gig, but I'm sure Bobby was it.

My god...when he was on....

steve simels said...

MBowen said...

Marquee Moon, Television - Billy Ficca, drums This guy was almost as good and creative a drummer as Verlaine was a guitarist - that's saying a lot.

Funny you should say that. For years, I always thought Ficca was the weak link where Television was concerned.

Then I heard that live official bootleg that Rhino put out from the last tour they did in the 70s...

Guy was astonishing. What the fuck was my problem?

He was also very good with the Waitresses.....

Anonymous said...

Re; Billy Ficca: Ficca was incredibly inventive but his snare work never laid down as solid a rock & roll beat as Charlie Watts or Pete Thomas. A little more in the clouds then anchored to the ground, but hell he was amazing. He played with the Roues Brothers one night up in Portchester as their substitute drummer without having heard the majority of their music. He fell right in and was wonderful behind them. I got to spend some time between sets talking music with him and he was a real mench!

Re: Bobby Albertson: Steve, I bet Tony still remembers that night!

Return of the Plumber

MBowen said...

Oh, and how could I forget the weirdest hit single of the decade?

Who Am Us Anyway? said...

Cool: This sent me back to my LPs to find & dust off Every Picture Tells a Story. In the process I came across Nilsson Schmilsson -- I would nominate the 6:54 version of “Jump Into the Fire” with Jim Gordon.