Top Ten Drum Beats You Are Powerless To Resist
work as a DJ most weekends at a rock club in the city and it’s fun watching people react to trademark sounds at the onset of certain songs. There are riffs—Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”, fo’ sho’—that act like clarion calls to the punters, who’ll shoot onto the floor to stomp it out to their favourite tunes upon hearing them; people have been known to run from the toilets with flies and buttons akimbo as they race to catch as much dance time during their treasured tracks as is humanly possible. But—maybe through boredom or sociological experiment—I’ve become more interested in seeing what drum beats cause the mad dash to the floor.
Maybe it’s because drum beats are slightly more anonymous than riffs, meaning that sometimes it takes a few bars for people to realise what’s going on; this happens particularly with New Order’s “Blue Monday”, which will often find the bar-staff turning to pour a drink and then realising, upon turning back to the bar, that the customer has fled mid-order to throw themselves around like a new wave pinball. Either way, there are some drumming intros, beats, fills, rolls—whatever you want to call them—that it’s futile to try to ignore, particularly when there’s a dancefloor nearby.
And not every drum-led intro fits the bill; some (Suzi Quatro’s “Can The Can”, Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher”, Gary Glitter’s “Rock & Roll Pt. 2”, Queen’s “We Will Rock You”) were more from the bludgeoning-into-submission category than this Top Ten’s more gently sociopathic Mafioso-style school of persuasion, some were just awesome solos (the breakdown in “Whole Lotta Love”, The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”) and some were awesome but yet perhaps a little too subtle (Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say”, the marching beat outro to Mötley Crüe’s “Kickstart My Heart”). But when the balance is perfect and the percussive chemistry is right, you find yourself faced with… The Top Ten Drum Beats You Are Powerless To Resist!
10. Destiny’s Child – “Lose My Breath”
Maybe it’s because there’s not much of a culture of military salutes or high-school drum corps here in Australia, but there’s something about a marching band that gets me really hyped—hell, even that godawful Louie, Louie moment in the dreadful Mr Holland’s Opus works for me. So, it’s not surprising that Rodney Jerkins’ masterstroke of a production technique (that being “HIT ME!” followed by one of those hypey drum-lines, provided by nine-time world drum and bugle corps champions, the YEA Cadets) propels this recent (penultimate, if you will) Destiny’s Child gem into the stratosphere. If you try to play air-drums along with this song, put simply, you’re fucked. You don’t have enough arms, bitch.
9. New Order – “Blue Monday”
Here’s one of those drum beats that catches people off guard, such is the sparseness of its initial beat—but there’s no denying that “Blue Monday” is one of the most recognisable and most deceptively exciting drum beats around, proving that sometimes—when it comes to drums—what you leave out is as important as what you leave in.
8. Primal Scream – “Rocks”
Brilliantly aping the clap’n’stomp breakdown of Bachman Turner Overdrive’s similarly daft “Taking Care Of Business”, the party-hearty beat-in to “Rocks” is enough to turn the legs of any bar-leaning indie kid to jelly. They get so excited by the prospect of Bobby & Co. getting all Sticky Fingers on their wack asses that the stomachs drop out of their vintage Getting’ Lucky In Kentucky t-shirts and they fly onto the dancefloor like Pepe Le Pew on a cloud of pink pussycat perfume.
7. Katrina & The Waves – “Walking On Sunshine”
Anything you ever suspected about the awesomeness of the get-happy drum intro to “Walking On Sunshine” was confirmed by Jack Black’s bombastic entry into Championship Vinyl in the movie version of High Fidelity. Come on: if you hear this song and you don’t want to feel up the hoo haa of an invisible hottie, there is something wrong with you.
6. Joan Jett & The Black Hearts – “I Love Rock & Roll”
Sure, the riff is a big part of the power of “I Love Rock & Roll”, but it’s that snare roll that is the big signifier of good rockin’ to be had—its power was realised and increased by 5ive, who extended the beat-in (to twice its length) for their “I Love Rock & Roll”—sampling “Everybody Get Up”. Is it bad of me, in fact, to almost prefer that re-imagining? Yeah, you’re right, I’ll shut up now.
5. The Temptations – “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg”
You could almost say “…or any other Motown fill”—Martha & The Vandellas’ “Dancing In The Streets” springs to mind, and the Funk Brothers’ art of the signature roll was brilliantly pointed out in the heartbreaking Standing In The Shadows Of Motown—but it’s “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” that makes good on Uriel Jones’ drum roll’s promise, making a song that—without the joyous accompaniment—could have otherwise been just another whinging missive from a sensitive new age bloke into a plea that no warm-blooded woman could resist.
4. Sweet – “Ballroom Blitz”
There was something about glam rock that had great drumbeats falling from the speakers, and out of an embarrassment of riches, “Ballroom Blitz” was the undisputed king of them all. This may also be due to:
“Are you ready, Steve?”
“Alright, fellas, let’s GAAAAAAAAOOOOOWWW!!”
3. Michael Jackson – “Billie Jean”
Though both No Doubt’s “Hella Good” and S-Club-7’s “Don’t Stop Movin’” both tried to replicate the almighty POWAH of that “Billie Jean” beat, there could only be one victor. The originator is perhaps exciting because of how well we now know the song, but even in the ‘80s its simplicity and tension meant that the one-two punch of the beat had all listeners tight-throated with anticipation at what the rest of the song would hold (which was, incidentally, more of the same beat).
2. Outkast – “Bombs Over Baghdad”
Well, this one cheats somewhat by allowing Andre 3000’s “yeah” to beat the beat, so to speak, but who the fuck is going to argue semantics like that when the truth is that “B.O.B” contains one of the most thrillingly relentless drumlines of recent memory? Only a fool who wants me to open an almighty can of booty-dancing whup ass on their, er, ass, that’s who. Word!
1. Iggy Pop – “Lust For Life”
And here it is, ladies and gentlemen: the drum beat that’s so ridiculously perfect it almost sounds as though—like that myth about Tom Scholz feeding all the best riffs into a computer to come up with “More Than A Feeling”—it’s been somehow synthesised or looped out of twenty other brilliant beats. Every part of the arrangement of “Lust For Life”, from the spare guitar noodles to the piano glissandos to, yes, the drums, does exactly what it needs to do—no more, no less. Which, in the case of Hunt Sales’ buoyant skinsmanship, means coming up with probably the most exciting drum beat ever—if excitement means being unable to stop your feet from jumping up and down, your head from shaking like a puppet on a string or your face from plastering the most inane smile ever over its entiretly. If that’s not excitement, I’ll eat my hat.