It’s been a while since I posted anything controversial so I’m way overdue. Today I want to instigate some dialogue either here or over on my Facebook page. My topic? How John Bonham’s drum solo “Moby Dick” is a way over-the-top self-indulgent interlude that is twice as long as it needs to be. I’ve posted here before about my lack of enthusiasm for drum solos and this one is at the top of my list. The recorded version on Led Zeppelin’s second album is palatable but the live versions border on the ridiculous. Fifteen to twenty minutes for a solo on any instrument is excruciating to sit through.
According to the song’s history: Live versions of “Moby Dick” are included on the live album How the West Was Won (lasting 19:20, performed at Long Beach Arena in 1972) and on Led Zeppelin’s 1976 concert film, The Song Remains the Same as part of Bonham’s fantasy sequence. It was also included on the film’s accompanying soundtrack. Both of them were cut to a shorter version. The Led Zeppelin DVD also has a 15-minute-long version that was performed and recorded at the Royal Albert Hall in 1970.
I have no idea how an audience can sit through that and retain their enthusiasm. I’d be bored to death after five minutes. Is this entertainment or overkill? I say the latter. Bonham could have showcased his skills more efficiently in a quarter or the time. Wail on the snare for a few bars. Play with your hands for a few bars. Hit the timpani for a few bars. Do that cross arm sequence on the toms for a few bars. Boom! You’re done. Five minutes tops including the intro and outro.
Bonham was not the only one. Other drummers like Ginger Baker played long solos. Both of them took their cues from the big band drummers from back in the day but even their solos never lasted that long. One reason may be so their bandmates could go backstage and take an extended break. That makes sense but doesn’t make me like extended solos any more than I do.
No doubt John Bonham is rightfully considered one of the greatest drummers of all-time but his real contributions come in the form of his accompaniment to great songs as a part of an exceptional band, not as an overwhelming soloist. Many drummers take their cue from Bonham’s style but I don’t know of any whose drum solo’s clock in at a third of an hour. Fans today are impatient and don’t want that. I don’t blame them. “Moby Dick” is from a different era. And if you can sit through the live versions from beginning to end you’re a real fan for sure.
Here’s a little endorsement video I shot a while back for our friends at Drum Kit Accessories. If you are interested in having your product reviewed email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
John George is believed to have served as the drummer boy for George Washington’s Headquarters’ Guard. He enlisted in 1777 at the age of 17, in the First New Jersey Battalion. This battalion was part of the Maxwell Brigade which served under Washington’s direct command. George is listed on muster rolls as the unit’s drummer boy. The brigade participated in action at Brandywine, and took part in the battles at Germantown and Monmouth. They were also present at Valley Forge. George served two three-year enlistments. His first three years were served as a private and when he re-enlisted in 1780 he returned to the ranks as a sergeant. He was present at Yorktown and continued in the Continental Army until 1783.
As a member of Washington’s special unit George was personally awarded a badge of Military Merit in recognition of more than six years of faithful service. After his time in the army George received a veteran’s land grant of 100 acres near Mercer, Kentucky. He would not receive his Revolutionary War pension for almost 40 years. Initially he received nine dollars a month, but his pension records indicate that it was later increased to twelve dollars because he had been a non-commissioned officer.
Down through the years many researchers have maintained that Sergeant John George was unquestionably a drummer boy of Washington’s Guard and many of his acquaintances claimed to have seen a certificate signed by Washington personally, confirming George’s assignment as a drummer with the Guard. The certificate has been lost for many years, but the research of Revolutionary War records indicates that John George could have been the Guard’s drummer for more than half of the war.
It is perhaps the most recognizable painting of drummers ever produced. “The Spirit of 76” was painted by Archibald M. Willard. Willard joined the 86th Ohio Infantry in 1863 and fought in the American Civil War. During this time, he painted several scenes with a wartime theme. He painted “The Spirit of 76” about 1875. This painting symbolizes the essence of the American Revolution and was exhibited at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The painting was sent on a tour of several major cities and then was purchased by General John H. Devereux and presented to his native town, Marblehead, Massachusetts. The models for the painting included the artist’s father for the central drummer and a farmer-soldier named Hugh Mosher for the fifer. The model for the boy drummer was Henry K. Devereux, son of General Devereux. Today the painting hangs in the Selectmen’s Room of Abbot Hall in Marblehead.
Here’s a quick look at the author’s philosophy behind FUNdamentals of Drumming for Kids. (Check out those photos of us as kids. Click the image for full-size.) For more details go to: https://maubrecht.wordpress.com/our-book/
One of the most underappreciated forms of drumming is what I like to call “street drumming,” or more specifically, “bucket drumming.” Walk around any metropolitan area and you’re more than likely to come upon one or more of these urban drummers beating the hell out of a bucket for tips. Many times these street musicians exhibit amazing speed, endurance and chops. I’ve been amazed on more than one occasion by the blistering single stroke rolls or heavily accented rudimental playing that the better street drummers perform as part of their routine.
Many of these drummers do not play drum set or any other form of percussion. For them, the bucket is more than just a rudimentary instrument, it’s an extended form of income.
The origins of bucket drumming are believed to have started in the 1990’s when a teenager from the Bronx named Larry Wright started drumming on buckets in the New York City subways. Wright used different sized buckets to generate different sounds. He often used the rim of the bucket as a hi-hat, a larger, seven-gallon bucket as the bass drum and a smaller, five-gallon bucket for the snare. His biggest innovation was lifting one bucket in time with his foot to produce a steady beat that he would play on top of.
Wright caught the eye of film and television producers and appeared in a documentary, a Levi’s jeans commercial directed by Spike Lee, as well as the Mariah Carey video for “Someday.” Those high-profile appearances helped to spread the popularity of street bucket drumming and influenced Broadway shows like “Stomp.” While it remains a mostly informal and un-commercialized genre of music, there are some well-known and prominent bucket drumming artists, including the Chicago Bucket Boys, and Funk Plastic from Seattle.