Friday, 14 December 2012


Our God is Speed focuses attention on a single city.

Well how about boiling down this Deep-South-as-the-centre-of-the-percussion-universe meme to a single album?

New Orleans Funk: surely Soul Jazz's greatest ever compilation, and a veritable apotheosis of late-twentieth century drummery. When I was a 16-year-old living in the wilds of rural Northumberland, this was all the rhythmic education I needed.

Re. Ringo, in response to Joe's comment below and Blissblog's, I think I stick by the view that Ringo is clunky, but that's not to say that he's not great. If you listen closely to Rain, you can hear that he's frequently out of time, and those fills are basically what a ten-year-old would do if you told him to be "adventurous" with the kit. But it's because of this that Rain works. Pop music is always undergirded by a populist impulse which means we applaud amateurishness and gaucheness far more than technical virtuosity. Or rather, the ideal thing is when we hear an amateur doing something extraordinary, when someone tries on a role that she or he is not quite at home with, and the listener thinks I could do that, any man or woman could do that, on an extraordinary day. This is partly why X Factor and its attendant culture is so damaging: it reverses the populist principle by taking incredibly ordinary stuff and pretending it's somehow technically accomplished, effectively saying to the populace you think you could do this, but you can't, because you don't have the X Factor. This is elitism, pure and simple.

Or, in Adorno's phrase, the "barbarism of perfection".

There's clearly a lot more to say about the formula primitive = good in pop. If you want a radical example, I think this is why early Oasis were so good: they had a truly dreadful drummer in Tony McCarroll.

This must be the shittest beat ever committed to record, but it works perfectly in context (as a foil for the trippy, corruscating guitar line; as an onomatopoeia of hopeless mundanity; as a launching pad for a melody that soars).

Here's another one:*

And another:

Rave exploited exactly the same trick (primitive pulse + soaring hook), but that's outside of our purview ...

Charlie Watts is another notable example of the primitive-populist principle in action:

I could go on, but you probably hate me enough by this point.

*I would advise all you Oasis sceptics out there - and I'm aware that's probably everyone - to give Listen Up and Fade Away some serious attention. They really are rather good.


RJC said...

'The McCarroll Hypothesis' - being that the sacking of curly Tony marked the point at which Oasis stopped being great is one that friends and I often return when drunk.

On top of the musical reasons you've cited, I think that getting rid of the weakest link to be replaced by a music industry approved safe pair of hands destroys the whole 'last gang in town' image that great bands so often portray.

I remember thinking at the time that once McCarroll was gone, and Meg and Patsy came on board it was clear that Bonehead and Guigsy wouldn't be far behind him.

When's your DM book out? I can't wait :)

Alex Niven said...

Cheers RJC! Not sure when the book will be out yet but probably early in 2014 in time for the 20th anniversary.

Tony McCarroll was indeed a great loss. He was so bad he made Oasis beats sound sampled which was undoubtedly part of the secret to their success.