November 13, 2008

Bass and Drums

"I like writing the songs because sometimes I want to be more than just a timekeeper."

—Hog Beatty

At dinner a few weeks ago with a few bloggers I mentioned that a certain Eminent Blogmistress was married to a bassist, and another web denizen at the table took this to be some sort of shot at her. Which of course it wasn't; in point of fact, the gentleman in question is a charming hottie. But, of course, someone then had to make the obligatory joke: "what do you call someone who knows lots of musicians?"

"Right, right; a drummer," I responded, rolling my eyes.

"A bassist," another blogger else replied.

"Like Paul McCartney?" I should have responded, but did not, because I'm socially inept and slow on the uptake.

As far as I'm concerned, however, it is those two elements—bass and drums—that make rock and roll what it is. And timekeeping is underrated; it undergirds Western Civilization, after all.

What songs rely most heavily on interesting drumwork or bass playing? I mean, beyond "In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida"? When do those two instruments transcend "timekeeping" and deepen the complexity of a musical composition? (Many anthropologists may have to sit this one out: both Count Linguist and Professor Musicology appear utterly indifferent to rock and roll, which strikes me as odd in the same way that I strike others as odd for not "getting" football.)

I listened to War Child on my way home from work last night. As usual, when I have an album in the CD player I let it run a couple of times in succession. (Food usually bores me after a few bites, but music retains its appeal for hours.)

"Queen and Country" was terrific, but "Bungle in the Jungle" still stands out. I mean, I understand that liking the song marks me as a second-rate Tull fan, but I cannot help it: there is certain perfection in the thing. As usual, the flute-playing thrills me, and the violin is exciting. But the bass guitar provides structure and spice.

(If my husband is reading this, I'd just like to request that we put off our argument about Ian Anderson's hatred of organized religion, manifested in the early Tull albums, until the weekend. Is Saturday afternoon good for you? I have to dust and do laundry in the morning, but I have time to squabble in the early afternoon.

P.S. Anderson's concerns, as I read them, had more to do with what he felt were the failures of organized religion to help "the least among us." He was not angry at God, per se, but rather bitterly disappointed at the unfairness of life, and unable to reconcile what he saw around him with orthodox conceptions of the Deity.)

Posted by Attila Girl at November 13, 2008 08:22 AM | TrackBack
Comments

Ummm, didn't you forget one of the most amazing bass performances of all time? A little known group called the Who? Fellow by the name of John Entwhistle? Obscure song called My Generation?

While Pete Townshend is playing all over the map in the lead part, Entwhistle is grinding out one of the amazing bass performances ever. It sounds more like a rhythm or second lead than a bass. It always gets MY blood pumping.

David

Posted by: David Harr at November 14, 2008 10:03 AM


I have a hangup about songs that feature stuttering.

Posted by: Attila Girl at November 14, 2008 02:33 PM


I am a bassist, and I can tell you that the relationship between a bassist and his drummer is the closest non-sexual union in the world.

When the rhythm gets screwed up, you can always tell who did it. If it was the drummer, the bassist whirls on the spot to give a "WTF?" look at the drummer (who in turn looks sheepish), and if it was the bassist, then the bassist is looking sheepish while the drummer gives him a dirty look.

Posted by: John at November 15, 2008 09:34 AM


I've read that Anderson has referred to Aqualung as an "anti-religion, pro-God" album ... and I believe that the quote from him is genuine because that's what I get out of the album. Especially the lyrics to the concluding song, "Wind Up."

Great blog.

Posted by: DArrell at November 15, 2008 05:52 PM


I should get that one on CD; I was never happy with the way the title track sounded on vinyl--it always seemed to be "skipping," but every album I heard featured the same clicking sound . . . someone taped one of the "Best of" albums for me, and it sounded more normal on that tape, as it does when I hear it on the radio.

Underrated: Minstrel in the Gallery; Heavy Horses--the latter, especially. Amazing from beginning to end.

Posted by: Attila Girl at November 15, 2008 06:22 PM


charming hottie is a little tongue tied at the moment but read this and appreciated it very much

he is intrigued by your musical chops, too

Posted by: Darleen at November 15, 2008 10:04 PM


I really haven't got any; I'm strictly into admiring that strange thing that magical people do that makes this great creation, "music."

All of the math-y side of my brain went into the kind of pattern recognition that makes mistakes jump out at me when I read--and unable to hold my tongue about it. (Here's a tip for other overzealous editors: make the marks in very light pencil. Then go back and erase two-thirds of them before you let the other editors see the page. That way, you'll stand a chance of getting invited to the company party, or at least of keeping your job.)

Posted by: Attila Girl at November 18, 2008 11:15 PM




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