Hong Kong Beat’s homage to the humble cowbell

“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!

Hong Kong Beat tribute to Charlie Watts, The Rolling Stone who gathered no moss

While Ringo was the Swiss timepiece of the Beatles, always playing ‘in the moment’, for the Stones Charlie Watts was The Moment, the slave driver behind Jagger and Richards. As reported by Keith Richards about a time in Amsterdam when Jagger called Watts “his drummer”, Charlie picked him up by the lapels, floored him with a punch and pronounced that he was nobody’s drummer but Mick was his singer.

Always immaculately turned out – on that Amsterdam occasion he was said to be resplendent, spick and span, in a Saville Row suit at 4 am! – he represented the poise and grace of the Stones as the counter-balance to Mick and Keith’s anarchy, both off stage and on.

Although it was not him on cowbell on ‘Honky Tonk Women’, his crashing intro on the floor tom and snare made the quirky off tempo cowbell iconic as a percussion intro or a vital addition to any rock tune. Without this as the yardstick, maybe Walken would have never pronounced “needs more cowbell”.

As a person who shunned the rock and roll lifestyle after breaking his ankle fetching a bottle of wine and who proclaimed that he never really got ‘it’, and that rock and roll was just dance music, you can hear his early jazz drummer influence on ‘Little Red Rooster’, and with a little improv evident during ‘Suck On The Jugular’.

Whether it was rolling on those floor toms, like on ‘19th Nervous Breakdown’, riding the snare on ‘Beast of Burden’, or simply riding on the rim of the snare and what was (probably) just a wood block on ‘Shake Your Hips’, he was ineffably the sound of The Rolling Stones and they were his frontmen.

Hailed by everybody, including his peers as “a true gentleman of rock and roll” Charlie will be missed and The Stones, forever how long they keep performing will never again be the same without him.

RIP Charlie Watts, one of the greats.

The First Swing of the Axe – Hong Kong Beat selects favourite iconic rock songs

A single spotlight… A lone guitarist… The opening chord of a classic rock song… The crowd is instantly on its feet in recognition…

So many of the great rock songs start with an iconic guitar opening with nothing else except perhaps a lone cowbell or muted snare to accompany the guitarist, hunched in concentration over his guitar, lit by a sole spotlight… Perhaps it’s a driving riff or maybe just a sustained single note, maybe a big crashing sweep or an intricate pick, or an accident like Lennon’s feedback on I Feel Fine…

We all know our favourites. Instant recognition of the art of the lone axe man… and pure inspiration for the air-guitar heroes 😀

Hong Kong Beat presents just a few of our favourites in this 2 hour salute to the First Swing of the Axe.

Hong Kong Beat mobile disco wishes all its Aussie mates a great Australia Day, with some rocking downunder artists

Strewth, chuck a shrimp on the barbie and crack a tinny or two blue! (Said in my best Barry Humphries/Paul Hogan strine)

Being at the ‘other end of the Earth’ from most of the biggest music markets (Europe, USA), Australian and New Zealand artists haven’t always been greatly popular outside of their home countries, or even known – obvious exceptions of course. But there’s always been more to music from Downunder than the Bee Gees, Kylie, or AC/DC, quite a few that people didn’t even realise were Antipodean.

So, to celebrate Australia Day what better way than to chuck a few rockers on the decks and enjoy some great Aussie and Kiwi pub and new wave rock.

She’s bonza mate!