Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Great Drum Fills, Pt. 5

It's been three years since I last posted one of these. Damned if I know why I stopped, but now that I'm playing drums semi-regularly I feel like being semi-geeky and talking about shit that I actually like--like drums! In case anyone is interested, I've done minor updates to previous entries so that you can now actually listen to the drum fills on the post pages (thanks, YouTube!). All "Great Drum Fills" posts (past, present, and future) can be found here.

[Image Source; and is that a bitchin' looking drum kit, or what?]

Back in my youthful, playin'-the-drums-for-a-livin' days, ZZ Top were among a handful of bands who, as far as I was concerned, ruled the world. In fact, if you ask any old fart rock-pig about his favorite bands, ZZ Top will likely be high on the list. They played the blues. They boogied. And they rocked. Sometimes all at the same time. They had probably the thickest, most razor-sharp sound of any three-piece unit I've ever heard. And they were mean players who avoided the kind of over-the-top, mindless boogie that was common to many 70's arena rock acts. Yeah, they were good...

In this installment of Great Drum Fills:

Drummer: Frank Beard
Group: ZZ Top
Album: Tres Hombres
Great Drum Fill: Tres Hombres was ZZ Top's first smash album. And no wonder, with classic cuts like "Waitin' for the Bus" and "Jesus Just Left Chicago." For our great drum fill I'd like to direct your attention to "Lagrange," a hard-driving blues/boogie number that is basically a hybrid of John Lee Hooker's "Boogie Chillen" and Slim Harpo's "Shake Your Hips." (You may recall the Stones' cover of "Shake Your Hips" on Exile on Main Street.) "Lagrange" is a fast blues shuffle with very John Lee Hooker-ish picking on the guitar. During the intro Beard is just doing a very trad clicking of the sticks to keep time. When the band kicks in (at around the 35 second mark in the clip below) could easily have been today's great drum fill, but it's the second "jump" (at the 1:10 mark in the clip below) leading into the guitar solo that has always knocked me out.

As is usual for these posts, there's nothing earth-shatteringly  technical about this particular fill. As usual, its simply a matter of playing exactly the right thing at just the right moment. If there were such a thing as the perfect performance of a perfect song, it would be nothing more (or less!) than a continuous series of such moments. As it is, I'll take them when I can find them...

[Warning: Technical Shit--As a drummer I'm not even sure what the proper notation for this fill is. It sounds like a simple bar of triplets with the snare (flam) and bass drum (single note), but if I try counting it as triplets when I play it, it doesn't seem to work. I've found that it works better as "slurred" (i.e. "sloppy"!) triplets, if that makes any sense. Any thoughts, O Brothers of the Stick?]


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