Thursday, 27 November 2008

Dumb drummers

My time in the rock business convinced me that drummers are at the very bottom of the food chain. And it figures. All you need is a sense of rhythm, you don't need to know any tricky stuff like chord formations, scales or harmonies. And I think it’s no surprise that black-dominated ‘music’ such as (c)rap is almost 100% rhythm, with only a token top line and a complete absence of complexity.

Steve, a drummer colleague of mine, typified the species, as this story underlines. His most notable characteristic was a mouthful of bad teeth. He must have been in agony from the exposed nerves, but he never seemed to notice. On one occasion, driving back from a gig in Kerry (I was at the wheel of the VW minibus) I made a comment to Pat Casey, the bass player. No response.

Now this in itself wasn’t surprising. Most of the scumbags would have been in a state of semi-inebriation, or could have been comatose due to the prevailing atmosphere in the vehicle. This was made up of:

A Certain Smile...


+ Oxygen/nitrogen 10%
+ Alcohol fumes 30%
+ Sweat fumes 10%
+ Steve’s rotting teeth 10%
+ Cigarette smoke 20%
+ Fart fumes (methane) 20%

This toxic fusion had a particularly severe impact on members who were not acclimatized. And Pat was very new. So I asked Steve, who was sitting beside Pat, to rouse him.

He’s not dare’

‘What do you mean he’s not there?’

‘He’s not dare’

‘Jesus Steve, I was talking to him ten minutes ago, I've been driving at 60 mph since then, so what the fuck do you mean he’s not there?’

‘He’s not dare’

I carefully turned around. And Steve was right! Where Pat had been, crushed up to Steve, there was now a void.

‘Jesus H. Christ Steve’ I screamed, ‘you’re sitting beside a guy, jammed up against him in fact, for an hour. He disappears, and you didn’t think it worth mentioning?’

‘I was tinkin’ about it’ he responded, offended

You were fucking thinking about it???

‘Yeah’

‘Sweet Jesus!’

In a sharp departure from German engineering standards, the VW minibus in those days had a side sliding door, which, if the catch were damaged, could fly open on the taking of a sharp right turn. And indeed, as we tracked back, we confirmed that this is what happened, finding Pat spread-eagled at the side of the road.

The last I heard of Steve was that, many years after the band’s breakup, he had seen Cormac, another old band buddy, in Academy St. in Cork. As they rushed to embrace they lost their footing at the edge of the kerb and fell in a tangled heap. Both ended up in hospital, Steve with a broken leg and Cormac with a broken wrist!

How did I ever grow up to be the normal balanced person I now am?

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amusing, but the Black created
musical form known as jazz far
exceeds rock in terms of harmonic
and melodic complexity. That branch of jazz known as bebop,
which was mostly created by the
very black Charlie Parker, is at
the high end of harmodic, melodic,
and rhythmic complexity.

It's curious, isn't it? I quite
agree with many of your
generalizations about Blacks and
IQ, and violence, and the like,
but Blacks do seem to have a
talent for improvised musics and
jazz is a lot more sophisticated
than White dominated forms like
rock.

There seems to be less Black
talent in jazz composition, with
Ellington and Strayhorn being the
exceptions. Interesting topic.

SAVANT said...

Interesting comment, and I dont disagree. But i do disagree with the conclusions. Blacks created jazz and of course there are exceptions like the ones you mentioned, add Charlie Parker, Oscar Peterson etc.

But I'd argue that, in proportion to the numbers involved relative to whites, blacks are way down in terms of sophistication. They are very much under-represented amongst the great instrumentalists, even in pop/jazz. And of course they're unknown in classical composition.

Still, as you say, an interesting topic.

Anonymous said...

Shane McGowan's I presume?

Anonymous said...

Did you ever find out where Steve ended up??

Anonymous said...

Not to distract from the discussion of oral hygiene (a
subtle stab at your neighbors to
the east?), but which of the
conclusions of Anonymous@17:29
(me) do you disagree with? That
blacks seem to have a talent for
improvised musics?

I don't know pop that well, but in jazz, Blacks are overrepresented
as instrumentalists with respect
to their percentage of the
population. Perhaps not so much
now, but during the time when
jazz was more popular, certainly.
Pick an instrument. Say piano. I
think black jazz greats on piano
outnumber white ones in absolute terms. That's still true about the
saxophone, but not true about the
guitar. I'm guessing, but my sense
is that there are more White jazz guitar greats than Black ones.

Classical music is tougher. There
was a fair bit of prejudice
preventing a Black from getting into conservatories through most
of the last century, and even for
whites, the opportunities for new
composers to get famous has been limited.

I still think composition is an
area of weakness for Blacks. Even in the jazz world, where there
were many great Negro improvisers, singers and instrumentalists,
song writing was largely a white affair. While Ellington wrote a
fair number, he was not in
the same league as Cole Porter,
Irving Berlin, or the Gershwins.

I suspect that this can all be explained in terms of differing
racial capabilities and average
personality attributes, but it's
just speculation.

And yes, the "dumb drummer"
stereotype is widespread in jazz
too, though I think jazz drummers
are probably smarter than rock
drummers.

SAVANT said...

Anonynous - I'd say you know more about this subject than I do (a rare admission for me!). So I defer.

However, music over the last 40 years or so there's no doubt that blacks are predominantly positioned as drummers or bassists. As you say, very few good at the guitar or keyboards

Anonymous said...

There's a common misperception that Shane McGowan has rotten teeth. In fact his situation is one where he removes his denture. Thats all.

E. Presley

Anonymous said...

now I and others are trying to find out who Savant really is. An early 70's rock musician from Ireland who left the business ?
so come one Savant , who are you and are you selling any CDs?

tvoh said...

"And of course they're unknown in classical composition."

Mon Savant,

Look up Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges.

SAVANT said...

OK tvoh - you know, the exception proves the ruke and all that...

SAVANT said...

Anonymous 18.57. My identity? Can't you tell from my photo which graces my home page?

Anonymous said...

Great post Savant. Any more stories from your rock career? This one was great. What a dumb bastard that guy must have been!

Anonymous said...

Bring us a few more rock'n' roll stories!

tvoh said...

Mon Savant,

There are some others.

http://chevalierdesaintgeorges.homestead.com/Others.html

SAVANT said...

Ok tvoh and others, I seem to be badly on the retreat on this one. Could this mean I dont know everything after all????

Anonymous said...

with most rap 'music' there's no melody at all, except when the rob a bit of it from a legitimate 'white' tune.

E, Presley

tvoh said...

Mon Savant,

Don't be so hard on yourself. You do know what tvoh stands for. Well, I did not attain my world class humility that I am so proud of overnight.

Just emulate me and all will be well.

Oh, did you take the name Savant from the character De Selby in Irish literature?

SAVANT said...

Took the name Savant because it refers to someone who is wise, all-knowing and judicious. Seemed a perfect match.

Anonymous said...

rap should stay in the ghetto.

Anyhow it is made for white kids not blacks.

Anonymous said...

The rappers shul stay in the ghettoe as well.