NEEDS MORE COWBELL
by Jo Michelmore
I did a post on the whistling. Then I did a post on the clap. Then a friend reminded me of another feature in songs that should be celebrated. The cowbell. Who doesn’t love the cowbell? Probably Swiss cows, actually. The cowbell stops them from easily running away, doesn’t it? Would you like a giant bell hung around your neck? Maybe, whatever you're into, I suggest not. Anyway, I digress. The cowbell is really nothing on its own, but put it in the right place and it takes an average song and makes it magic. So, this week, as a special request, I feature: the cowbell!
Hey Ladies - Beastie Boys, 1989
Classic Beastie Boys, this song is nothing without the cowbell. Nothing. It’s so instantly recognisable and the, “hey ladies!” followed by the chang chang chang is like an instant time machine to 1989. The clip? Beastie Boys being the Beastie Boys. It’s also a classic, featuring everything you want in a Beastie Boys clip; scuba divers, bad ‘70s suits, martial arts, hairdryers, palm trees and a girl’s body painted like a clock (long before Gotye and Kimbra even knew what body paint was). Most importantly, it features two arms poked through a wall, playing a cowbell. Excellent.
Go Your Own Way - Fleetwood Mac, 1976
The ultimate break up song, one of Fleetwood Mac’s best, was written by Lindsey Buckingham for Stevie Nicks, about their own break up. At the time it was recorded, the marriage of other Fleetwood Mac members John and Christine McVie was also ending. They all took a lot of drugs too. Was it the combination of all these things that made it such a great song? Maybe. Or maybe it was the cowbell. Probably the cowbell, yes. Huh?
Stuck In The Middle With You - Stealers Wheels, 1972
For those of you who are concentrating, you’ll notice a little pattern. This song was featured last week, in the clapping post. It was also stuck in my head for about three days after I listened to it. You know what else? Not only does it feature clapping it features the cowbell. If songs were judged only on their cowbell and clapping features, this could be the greatest song of all time.
Play That Funky Music - Wild Cherry, 1976
See, the funny part about this song is that it was played by a bunch of very un-funky, unattractive white boys. Weird. Its bass line is admittedly phenomenal though and it’s been sampled a bazillion* times. (*Not exact number) Anyway, beside all that, it’s got cowbell, which I wouldn’t necessarily describe as a funky instrument. Or maybe I would. Would I?
Pets - Porno For Pyros, 1993
You know how I said that Beastie Boys song was like an instant time machine to 1989? This one is an instant time machine to 1993. After Jane’s Addiction split, two of the members formed Porno For Pyros, and this song was their debut single. The ‘indie’ kids of the time (who were then called the ‘alternative’ kids) loved this song, like reeeeeallly loved this song. Perry Farrell was like a pied piper leading the alternative kids away from the mainstream, man, with a weird little orange clip, some laid back guitar riffs, lyrics about aliens taking over the world and keeping humans as pets and of course, the cowbell. Perfect.
Groove Is In The Heart - Deee-Lite, 1990
It was just a little dance song, but this one made an impact. Probably the only song most who know the name ‘Deee-Lite’ would know, it had a whole bunch of samples, a’70’s inspired bright, bright clip, a lot of tambourine, Bootsy Collins and just at the right time, a cowbell break. A whole feature of the cowbell! Brilliant. It also has the ability to get stuck in one’s head. Just warning you.