Dulltown, UK/Europe: Today’s carefully chosen adjectives are: cracking, monticolous, Sisyphean, wauling, intrinsicate, avital, and floppy.
A few days ago I was sitting on a metal bench in the Dulltown Interchange with my headphones on. That day the Interchange loudspeakers weren’t playing the usual selection from George Frideric Handel’s Water Music; I expect they chose it because it calms people and cuts down on rowdiness and vandalism; what was coming over the speakers was just a series of security and anti-terrorism messages in a trustworthy and comforting female voice, but by now I know them all off by heart and can recite them along with her – ‘See it, say it, sorted…’
As I boarded my bus a bit later on I realised that I was, for some reason, thinking about drummers, and how very annoying they can be. Why would I suddenly be thinking about…?
Aha! Yes, that’s it! The last thing I’d been listening to on my headphones was Knock on Wood by Eddie Floyd from 1966. There’s a bit in the song where Eddie sings, ‘I better knock… on wood!’ with a gap in the middle of the phrase. The gap is filled by the solo drummer with four snare drum hits, which, if you happen to be counting the beats in the bars, goes, 2,3,4,1. It’s a very catchy and effective device which enhances the already excellent song.
So, why was I thinking about drummers? Well on the original recording that I was listening to the drum hits are quite tasteful and in keeping with the style and flow of the song, and are almost understated. When I have seen ‘soul bands’ in pubs and clubs over the years they always include this number, and the drummer, as drummers do, makes most of the opportunity to have a moment’s solo playing in this bit, and bashes the hell out of the drum, Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! I can’t recollect ever seeing a live version of this song with that section played nicely, with a bit of class, and taste. That’s the thing about drummers, if there’s the slightest hole in the music they are desperate to fill it with showy rolls, or paradiddles, whatever they might be! That’s why I found myself thinking about drummers and their antics.
Knock on Wood is a lovely little song, isn’t it?
By the way, have you ever heard the 1979 version of the song by Amii Stewart? It’s extremely ‘disco’ and pretty outrageous. It has weird processed drumming, probably from a drum machine, what a great invention the drum machine was! I recall when this version came out I mentioned to a few friends that I quite liked it. They looked at me open-mouthed in shock and managed to gasp, ‘Really?…’ They were offended that someone had the gall to produce such a tasteless travesty of a ‘classic’ soul song. It’s not a musical crime to produce a new version of a song you know – me, I like the idea of ‘musical crimes’!
Cover versions of old songs can be pretty good – look at Satisfaction by DEVO in 1978 – I hear that Mick Jagger said he thought it was great!…