Friday, April 15, 2005

Notes on some rock songs on The Bone

You can tell that "For Those About To Rock, We Salute You" isn't a very good song just from the unfortunate title. But the intro to the song, a tense, staccato motif, is one of the great moments in rock music. Maybe someday a genius will come along and make something enduring from that beginning.

"Don't Fear the Reaper" actually has a cowbell in it - muted or rather mummified with tape and added in the mix, but a cowbell nevertheless. I listened to the SNL sketch based on the song the other day, and when the actual version came on the radio as I drove the lab today I for the first time noticed the somewhat intrusive cowbell. There's probably a theorem about the best comedy being founded on truth.

The song itself is lovely, of course. I especially like the "ahh" sigh (similar I think to the cadence of another great BOC song, "Burning For You") before the instrumental section, which briefly achieves a suitably satanic passion. So what if it's about teenage suicide or vampirism or somesuch.

I find The Who's "Join Together" to be one of their most satisfactory songs. It doesn't get that much airplay, perhaps because it's rather repetitive. But the slightly nervous instrumental intro leads to a muscular verse/chorus - driven by a rising figure in the bass and by Roger Daltry's throaty, impassioned vocals - which never grows old to me. In the car today I got a sense of what was going on rhythmically - the bass figure is like a cresting wavefront pushing the melody forward. I'll have to listen to it again to be sure. In the meantime I wanted to mention one couplet: "It's the singer not the song/That makes the music move along". Reportedly, Townsend and Daltry had a difficult relationship, and it's odd for the former to have written the above to be sung by the latter. But I don't know how much the power of the song derives from the group's musicianship and the unusual arrangements (flute and mouth harp?). Something that irks me about rock is the lack of old standards. In a better world there would be more old wine in new bottles - I'd like to hear what a lot of other talented groups could do with Rush's "Lakeside Park" or Metallica's "Fade to Black" or , well, "Join Together".


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