Song of the Week – Drum Introductions in Rock Songs

Ignored            Obscured             Restored

I “wrote” today’s SotW using ChatGPT.  I decided I wanted to write about Rock songs with great drum intros and selected the songs that I wanted to feature.  I plugged that information into ChatGPT and “presto”, an essay was drafted within about 15 seconds!  It is pretty bland, but still pretty amazing.  The links and sentences in italics were added by me.  Otherwise, the essay is unedited intentionally to demonstrate to you what the software produced.  This was done today as an experiment.  I won’t be using ChatGPT again.

Drum introductions in rock music songs have long been used to capture the listener’s attention and set the tone for the rest of the track. Some of the most iconic examples of drum introductions can be found in songs like “Honky Tonk Woman” by The Rolling Stones, “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder, “Rock and Roll” by Led Zeppelin, and “Sunday Bloody Sunday” by U2.

In “Honky Tonk Woman,” the drum introduction is simple yet effective, consisting of a steady, pounding beat that immediately sets the mood for the song. This drumbeat, along with the slide guitar riff that follows, perfectly captures the gritty, bluesy feel of the song.  Charlie Watts is drumming with Jimmy Miller on cowbell.  They are out of sync, but Keith Richards comes in at the right spot and turns the screw-up into a “happy accident.”  Another “happy accident” is how the tempo of the recorded performance of “Honky Tonk Woman” speeds up by the end.  All of this “sloppiness” are consistent with the honky tonk feel that the Stones wanted to capture.

The drums in “Superstition” also serve to set the mood, with a funky, syncopated beat that perfectly complements Stevie Wonder’s soulful vocals.  An interesting tidbit about the drum intro on “Superstition” is that as iconic as it is, it was conceived by the late, great guitarist,  Jeff Beck.  You can read my post from May 22, 2021, for the full story.

“Rock and Roll” by Led Zeppelin also features a powerful drum introduction that sets the stage for the rest of the song. The drums in this track are played with a raw, powerful energy that perfectly captures the spirit of rock and roll.  But what really captures listeners is the way the beats are counted.  We mere mortals simply can’t figure it out!  That confounding twist is what lures us in.

The drums in “Sunday Bloody Sunday” by U2 are also notable for their energy and intensity. The drums in this song are played with a driving, urgent feel that perfectly captures the song’s political themes.  The intro, played by drummer Larry Mullen Jr. has the feel of the military marching into battle (the Irish Republican Army?).  Like “Rock and Roll”, the magic is in the counting.  Mullen uses the hi-hat and snare against the steady rhythm set by the bass drum.

In conclusion, drum introductions in rock music songs like “Honky Tonk Woman,” “Superstition,” “Rock and Roll,” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday” are powerful tools for capturing the listener’s attention and setting the tone for the rest of the track. These introductions are simple yet effective, perfectly capturing the mood and spirit of the songs they introduce. Drummers have always played an important role in rock music and the introductions in these songs are one of the ways they make their mark.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Superstition, Beck, Bogert & Appice

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

Stevie Wonder has amassed a huge number of hits over his esteemed career, beginning with “Fingertips, Pt. 2” when he was just 13 years old.  One of his biggest hits was “Superstition” from the superb Talking Book.  It reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1973.

But did you know that Wonder stole “Superstition” from… himself?  Well, “stole” may be the wrong word but perhaps “Indian giver” is the more appropriate term.  You see, the song was meant to be a “gift” to guitarist Jeff Beck.

Here’s the story.  In 1972, Wonder was working on the recording of Talking Book.  By that time, Wonder was playing virtually all the instruments on his recordings but still preferred to use outside guitarists.  Wonder received word that Beck would like to work with him and a recording session was arranged.  The deal was that Wonder would write Beck a song in exchange for his guitar playing.

At one session Beck was playing drums.  The Annette Carson book Jeff Beck: Crazy Fingers, quotes Beck as saying:

One day I was sitting at the drum kit, which I love to play when nobody’s around, doing this beat.  Stevie came kinda boogieing into the studio: ‘Don’t stop.’ ‘Ah, c’mon, Stevie,’ I can’t play the drums.’  Then the lick came out: ‘Superstition.’  That was my song, in return for Talking Book.  I thought, ‘He’s given me the riff of the century.’

It is ironic that “Superstition” was conceived with Beck drumming when Wonder’s version has one of the most distinctive drum intros in all of popular music.

Back to the story…  When Motown’s Berry Gordy heard the song, he knew it was a hit.  Ever the businessman, he rushed out          Wonder’s version before the one Beck had recorded with his latest group – Beck, Bogert & Appice – that was intended to be their single.  The rest is history.

This caused some bad feelings between Beck and Wonder that lasted quite a few years, but they eventually mended their friendship.

Enjoy… until next week.