What do you think of when you see a blog title like “The Sound of Drums”? For me, this triggers a kaleidoscopic series of thoughts ricocheting around my poor old noggin. For example…
I think of the short science fiction story A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury (there’s also a movie of the same name). In this tale, a time traveler called Eckels from 2055 goes back 66 million years to the Late Cretaceous period. Eckels is on a guided safari to kill a Tyrannosaurus rex, which would have died within minutes anyway, and whose death has been calculated to have minimal effect on the future. Unfortunately, Eckels inadvertently steps on a butterfly. When he returns to 2055, he discovers all sorts of differences have taken place, and not for the better…
I’m also reminded that, shortly after I’d graduated from university and started my first job, I was living in a block of flats in a rough area in Manchester, England. The guy in the flat next to me used to play what I thought were a set of bongos at full volume late into the evening (sometimes into the morning). I would have been really annoyed if he wasn’t so darned good at it. After several months, when we got to chatting, I complemented him on his playing and asked if I could see his bongos. He sheepishly replied that he’d had to pawn them and he was currently using his coffee table as a substitute. The amazing thing was that I’d never noticed the difference.
Speaking of bongos, sometime in the 1990s I was giving a presentation at an electronic design automation (EDA) conference in Beijing, China. One evening, I was invited to an underground rave in what appeared to be an abandoned warehouse somewhere on the outskirts of the city. In addition to the main music orchestrated by the DJs, there was a raised stage equipped with multiple sets of bongos on stands. Anyone could get up and start playing along with the music as the mood took them.
I’m not very knowledgeable about drums and drummers. I do know that Randolph Peter Best (né Scanland), who is better known as Pete Best, was the original drummer for the Beatles before the others ousted him and replaced him with Richard Starkey, now Sir Richard Starkey, whose stage name is Ringo Starr. I remember hearing about an interview in which John Lennon was asked if it was true that Ringo was the best drummer in the world, and John replied that Ringo wasn’t even the best drummer in the Beatles.
My wife (Gina the Gorgeous) has a mind like a trap when it comes to music. You can pick any tune playing on the radio and she can tell you when it was recorded, by which band it was recorded, the names of the members in the band at that time, and then recite the lyrics (the real trick is getting her to stop). We were listening to some group on the radio while driving somewhere last weekend when Gina volunteered that we were listening to the band with their original drummer who offered only a “two-dimensional” sound. She then played a later piece on her smartphone with the band’s second drummer who “adds a new dimension.” I have to admit that there was something to what she said, with the later songs sounding “richer” somehow.
I remember being devastated when Peter Gabriel left Genesis in 1975. I thought the band was doomed. I couldn’t believe it when drummer/singer Phil Colins took over in such an incredible fashion. I also remember seeing them live a couple of times in the late 1970s with Phil as the lead singer and Chester Thompson on drums — especially the part where Phil stopped singing and mounted a second set of drums, then Phil and Chester performed a prolonged solo with a strobe light flashing showing them to be lock-stepped in perfect synchronization (I just ran across a brilliant Rolling Stone article about Chester if you want to learn more).
I also recall seeing Led Zeppelin live at the Knebworth Festival in 1979. This was the last time they would play on English soil with the late, great John Henry “Bonzo” Bonham, who passed away the following year (RIP). I find it hard enough to keep time tapping my fingers on a table, so John’s off-beat syncopated excursions with displaced beats and accents leaves my ears ringing and my mind gasping for more.
All of these thoughts were triggered when I ran across the DRUME Music website. I’m currently drooling over their DRUME Hand, which is a 12-inch diameter steel tongue drum with 11 tones in the key of D major.
This little beauty delivers an ethereal sound that would go well with my Ocarina (see also I Have an Ocarina and I’m Not Afraid to Use It). I keep on thinking of other drum-related topics, but if I don’t stop now, we’ll be here all day. How about you? Does this blog’s “The Sound of Drums” title trigger any thoughts you’d care to share?