Monday, April 04, 2011

No, Really, More Cowbell

Christopher Walken as The Bruce Dickinson.

I've been putting together a playlist on my iPod of classic tunes from the late 1960s through the mid 1970s. Maybe it's because I've been listening to the music in earphones, or because I re-watched the famous Saturday Night Live skit with Christopher Walken not long ago, but for whatever reason, I suddenly realized just how much damn cowbell there was in that era.

But seriously. Rock and roll was cowbell crazy. No wonder SNL did their skit.

The question, then, is: How did I grow up in that time period and never notice all the cowbell around me? I had some of these records, certainly heard the songs on the radio.

Perhaps, as in Kabbalah (cow-bell-ah?), one doesn't really enter the orchard, or hear the cowbell, until one has reached the age of forty. Cowbell may have been too much for a child of the late 1960s and early 1970s to comprehend, what with having to deal with Watergate, Vietnam, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, the energy crisis, the breakup of the Beatles. . . There's only so much you can fit in your head.

My recent cowbell consciousness kicked off with a bang thanks to Mountain's "Mississippi Queen."

Then came Grand Funk Railroad's "We're an American Band."

And the Rolling Stones, for goodness sakes: "Honky Tonk Women."

Or the Kinks, on "King Kong."

There's cowbell action in the middle of "Stuck in the Middle With You," by Stealers Wheel (RIP Gerry Rafferty), with a good close-up of the humble yet powerful instrument at 2:27 of the video.

And, of course, there's "(Don't Fear) The Reaper," by Blue Oyster Cult, the song featured in the SNL skit that touched off what has become a veritable cowbell renaissance.

(As it turns out, Blue Oyster Cult was formed in 1967 at Stony Brook University. The same Stony Brook University where I currently work. Talk about your far-out spiritual connections, right? )

The list goes on and on. . . into infinity, I suppose.

I can't explain cowbell. I can only listen for it here and there in the world around me. "He or she who has ears to hear" and all that.

All I know is that I got a fever, and the only prescription is . . . UPDATE: And yet more cowbell...

War: "Low Rider."

Edgar Winter Group: "Frankenstein."

Head East: "Never Been Any Reason."

Three Dog Night: "Black and White."

Bachman Turner Overdrive: "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet."

Blood, Sweat & Tears: "Spinning Wheel."

Electric Light Orchestra: "Do Ya."

Electric Light Orchestra: "Evil Woman."

Crosby, Still, Nash & Young: "Carry On."


Garpu said...

How many times have I heard those songs and I'm only now hearing the cowbell? Time to hand back the doctorate...

Good to see you blogging again!

cowboyangel said...

Hey, Jen. Thanks for dropping by. It is interesting that we didn't hear the cowbell, isn't it? But I think you should hang to that doctorate.

Jeff said...

Ha. Even my son Brendan has seen the SNL Cowbell skit. He's only 14, and he doesn't even know who Chris Walken is.

As I was reading down through this post, Honky-Tonk Woman sprang right into my mind, so I'm glad you listed it. The cowbell actually works pretty well for that song. Now you've got me wracking my brain trying to remember others.

Christopher Walken... I'll have to dedicate a Chris Walken month at some point. One of my favorite scenes with him is in the night-time Venice I remember and love so well myself, with Rupert Everett and the lovely Natasha Richardson, God rest her soul. The Comfort of Strangers. "My father had a black moustache..."