Pre-Flight Instructions: The links on this page will be mostly for sending the reader to an artist's home page, discography or to an appropriate YouTube video, etc. If, however, your interests send you in search of a music bibliography, then look no further; I'm doing my best to create a complete list of the musical sources I reference, presented in the same clear format as my academic sources.
Getting Down to Business
Having been a drummer myself for most of my life, what I've done is combine the styles of John Bonham and Bill Ward, shaping it all with generous doses of Terry Bozzio and Fritz Randow (the German group Eloy's drummer who joined the group for their second LP, entitled "Inside").
Now I know, Bill Ward may not be a very memorable drummer; he can't play Frank Zappa's "The Black Page" backwards and blindfolded or anything, but when the beat comes down - there he is! He's a solid, dependable drummer who plays appropriately for the song at hand.
In my humble opinion, the best showcase for primo Bonzo (John Bonham of Led Zeppelin) is the entire album "Physical Graffiti". If he didn't get it all out on PG, then the rest of his best is to be found on "Presence" -- especially the songs "For Your Life", "Hots On For Nowhere" and "Tea For One".
Unless you're a Buddy Rich, Don Henley or Ringo Starr, most drummers find out that the crowd didn't come just to see them! I'll of course have more to say about drummers later... So where do we start? With an instrument?...an artful connection to current events?...the chemistry between band members? There are so many factors that go into producing a major new sound. Oh heck, I'll just start with a little about drums and percussion and that will probably lead me somewhere! Perhaps the drummer is the place to start! After all, don't you always hear that the beat is basic? Let that be our "pedestrian beat" idea as we waltz through this topic.
The drums have been widely used as signals to the other musicians, as well as being part of the song. They can signal the starting tempo, the ending of the song and even transitions within a song. Just off the top of my head I can come up with several examples for you. Led Zeppelin kicks off the songs "Rock and Roll", "D'yer Mak'er", "When the Levee Breaks" and, of course, "Moby Dick" with the drums. The Edgar Winter Group wakes up "Frankenstein" with them, and Thin Lizzy uses them to introduce us to "Johnny the Fox Meets Jimmy the Weed". Also, the Rolling Stones' song "Honky Tonk Woman", Aerosmith's "Walk This Way" and the Grateful Dead's "The Music Never Stopped", all begin with the drums playing solo. Even the Beatles start a song or two with the drums -- "Something", "What You're Doing" and "Tell Me Why", for example. Although "Tell Me Why" also has bass and piano accents at the start.
When the drums start playing in Led Zeppelin's signature song, "Stairway to Heaven", they signal a transition in the song past the point of no return. It is definitely a rock song from then until that last line. The Beatles may have even used the drums to signal the abrupt ending of their song, "I Want You (She's So Heavy)". If you listen closely in the left channel, after the song gets windy and surreal for a while, you can hear Ringo give a rounded "tssst" on the Hi-hat after not having done one in a while, and exactly two repetitions after that, the song cuts!
One thing that stands out in my mind is the technical wizardry that Frank Zappa employed on his 1979 "Sheik Yerbouti" LP. The utter creation of the song "Rubber Shirt" is impressive -- the intricate drum and bass interplay never happened together and were even in different tempos to start with. [Note: Go here to see his discography.]
I love the "placement" of sound inside the stereo effect arena in FZ's song "Wild Love". For example, just off center on the right of the field, you can hear this little bell-like clicking standing out above all the rest. Always makes me smile when I hear it!
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