“I’ve got a fever and the only prescription is more cowbell!”
In uttering that line during the April 8 2000 epic Saturday Night Live sketch featuring Will Ferrell’s fictional take on the recording of Blue Oyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”, Christopher Walken set in motion a super-meme that has been used in everything from TV shows and movies, animation films, charity events, to online games. Its use has become so widespread that Walken has bemoaned audiences shouting out “needs more cowbell” during his stage shows, and Ferrell has commented that he thinks it has probably ruined Walken’s life. Blue Oyster Cult also weighed in saying that they loved the skit and it has probably lessened the eerie nature of the original track.
According to Ferrell the skit was inspired when, hearing the cowbell played during the song, he wondered “what kind of life does that person have?”. Despite the widespread popularity of the meme, the song in fact has a very muted use of the instrument that was almost a staple of rock music in the 70s. Even the band members were unhappy with its use, with drummer Albert Bouchard – who, despite contrary claims, was the cowbell player – saying that they thought it sounded “like crap” and, in a similarity to the skit, it was their producer – David Lucas, not the skit’s ‘The Bruce Dickinson’ – who insisted on including it. It was kept in only after heavy modification with tape and being played with a timpani mallet to deaden the sound so it actually sounds more like a wood block than a cowbell. To me that adds to the humour as it parodies the prominent use of the percussion instrument in so many other songs of the time, and since.
So in homage to the SNL skit, the meme and BOC’s genre defining song, Hong Kong Beat offers this set for rockers who have the fever!
Sadly the World has said farewell to another leading musician at a too early age, Taylor Hawkins of the band Foo Fighters. As the band’s drummer since 1997, Hawkins was more than just the man driving the rhythm, he was as much the spirit and soul of the band as its founder and former Nirvana drummer, Dave Grohl.
Among the post-grunge parody of itself that a lot of rock music had become during the latter half of the 90s, the Foos were one of the handful of bands that stood out and shaped a sound that was both new and fresh as well as a throwback to the hard rockers of the 70s and 80s, Hawkins being a key component to that sound offering backing vocals and of course meaty beaty big and bouncy fills that challenge you to jump out of your seat and kick out the jams.
Always one to acknowledge his influences both in drumming and performance style, he pointed to a handful of drumming greats in various interviews. From 60s icon Ringo Starr to punk and new wave giant Budgie (Pete Clarke), there were many notable influences including Alex Van Halen who he covered at a school concert performing ‘Panama’; the late Neal Peart of Rush who Hawkins acknowledged had ‘provided’ him with some of his favourite ‘borrowed’ beats; Steve Perkins of Jane’s Addiction who, along with the stage intensity of Police’s Stewart Copeland and inventiveness of Phil Collins, had greatly influenced his performance style; and last, but not least, Roger Taylor of Queen who he described as “so visual, the ultimate in cool and collected”. After watching Queen at the age of 10, Hawkins realised that this was exactly what he wanted to do with his life. In one interview he recounted how the Foos were listening to Queen and David Bowie’s ‘Under Pressure’ on the car radio when Dave Grohl just turned around and said with a laugh, “Why are we even trying?“ While the final version of ‘Under Pressure’ was an organic collaboration between the band members and Bowie, it was based on a Roger Taylor composition ‘Feel Like’.
So, as tribute to Taylor Hawkins, Hong Kong Beat offers this collection of tunes by his influences alongside some of his own best.