Friday, February 09, 2007

The Best Drum Section In A Song

You’re driving along, or jogging, or working out on that thing that swings your feet and arms for you and doesn’t look like working out at all, or you’re me and you’re washing the one hundred million bottles per day that your baby twin boys go through, and you’re listening to music, and on comes a song with a great drumbeat, and whatever you’re doing, you tap out that drumbeat, right?

You tap your hands on the steering wheel. Or you pump your fists, or you take two of those bottles and actually play an infant-bottle-plastic-kitchen-sink version of that drum solo.

You do that because drum solos tear right into your gut. They grab your spine and shake it and make you dance, make you clap your hands, make you move move move.

You know that’s right. It’s the beat that makes most great songs, and what’s the beat? The drums. The most neglected, the least-glected part of the band is the one that really makes the band go. It’s a cliché: it’s got a good beat. We say it all the time.

And if an average drum beat can get you up on the dance floor, a great drum beat, a great drum line, a great drum solo, can make you shake, can make you sweat, can make you—heck, can even make me—groove.

Okay, I got a little carried away. Nothing I do, especially on a dance floor, can be considered to “groove.” But great drums make me feel like I groove, and that’s half the battle.

So I am celebrating the great drum sections, drum lines, solos, call them what you want. (I’m a musician of sorts, but not that kind of musician.)

And in doing so, you have to consider them all, and I have. All the ones I know about anyway, and all the ones that spring to mind as I pondered this article over several days. And you know what? If they didn’t spring to mind when I thought “drums,” then they probably weren’t that great.

I narrowed it, then, down to three. First, there is the classic drum solo from the “Carry That Weight/Golden Slumbers” medley on Abbey Road by The Beatles. This one is great because it has that great middle part where Ringo’s just pounding on the drums, great because Ringo did it and he gets even less credit than most drummers, and great because, well, it’s The Beatles.

Then there’s more modern contender, and the one The Boy would no doubt go for; he’s getting into classic rock, and so he would most likely back this horse: the drums for “Rock & Roll” by Led Zeppelin. Great drummer, who actually got credit for the work he did. Great band. Great song (which, by the way, is about sex, you people who listened to it in that Cadillac commercial and thought yeah, it has been a long time since the rock & roll and bought Caddies. The ‘rock and roll’ is sex.) And the drums capture that, and its a propulsive beat and it really spurs you on; “Rock & Roll” is on my “running” playlist.

But it’s topped. They’re all topped, and by a near-hair-band. They are all topped by the drumming in Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher.”

I don’t know how you can listen to this song and refrain from tapping your feet, your leg, your hands, your head, anything that you can tap, and ultimately begin moving to that beat. Moving somewhere, anywhere, just moving because the beat in “Hot for Teacher” picks you up and carries you on its shoulders.

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