Everything om this page is on"Zanzibar and Beyond"with links and photo.
The clash of the old swing based "Rock and Roll" and the new unsyncopated more earth bound "Rock" It is a curious fact that although R and R in its rock-a-billy and country beginnings contained the swing rhythms inherited from the previous pop era of the big bands (most striking in the drum and walking bass * rhythms of "Presley's Heartbreak Hotel", the finger poppin' swingin' 1956 TV performance of Why do Fools Fall in Love? Frankie Lymon and Teenagers photo by Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers and in the country swing performances of Bill Haley and the Comets;** as noteworthy though less surprising was the swinging with rocking offbeat of Red Prysock's band) these rhythms were quickly forgotten: the swinging dotted eighth and sixteenth note cymbal ride became a more even string of full eighth notes without syncopation that seemed to put the snare drum offbeat into a kind of inflexible rhythmic box. I still with some effort can recall what attracted me to what I thought of was "rock and roll". The Red Prysock 33 1/3 long play record titled "Rock'n Roll with Red Prysock" with tunes like "Zonked" and "Fats Place" and jacket notes saying '"It's the Beat that does it...'" seem to magnify this ambiguity which has come to puzzle me as I recall how my drumming was forced to keep up with changing pop music rhythms once I'd begun playing with the Consuls. Only Norm's Prysock-like sax performances and Bruce's Fats Dominoe styled hits remained of the spirit of "rock and roll" of Prysock's and Dogget's early 1950's beat that'd mysteriously led me to become a drummer. There was something in that early rock and roll" 'beat' that kids [were] dancing to" that in itself seemed to rekindle the living pulse of music, a something that I felt, not thought. But changing pop styles and increasing instrumental power caused my original drumming motivation to dissipate as I found myself pounding my snare and cymbal to drive the increased amplification of instruments that became electrified imitations of their acoustic forbears: the bass fiddle the tallest and fattest started looking like a guitar hung round the bassists neck, the almost unmoveable piano became an over your shoulders keyboard and even the hollow lute-like acoustic guitar started looking like an axe as its hollow body was replaced by a dense axe-shaped support for an electrical pickup; where once the pickup projected the sounds of a wooden hollow body into a tiny 10 inch amplifier placed on stage almost apologetically, the creations of this now transformed instrument, still called a guitar, are amplified through a wall of mysterious humming cases that dominate the stage and maybe even the audience.
And as all the instruments in the pop group became more electrically amplified abandoning their original acoustical construction, playing techniques became more percussive as though the "beat" had united melody and rhythm into a single electro musical force. Chords, blocks of notes and chord progressions came to replace scales and intervals of notes usually associated with melody as chordal rhythms formerly accompaniment to melody came to share and sometimes obliterate instrumental melody with only the vocalist's lyrics able to maintain what was once called melody.
Tempos too have become more rigid: swinging performers tended to adapt to a wide variety of tempos(speeds) from a high flying up tempo allegro to a slow almost tempo less adagio while European influenced "Rock" players seemed bound to a more consistent middle of the road range of tempos as though the generally straight eighth note cymbal ride physically restricted quick playing facilitated by swing drummers bouncing sticks off cymbals in faster tempos, a technique almost impossible in playing a "Rock" eighth note cymbal ride. Harmonic development and resolution/cadence also have become less evident in later "Rock" than in the swing/blues based structure of some early "Rock and Roll" compositions. Not too long ago while watching the British led talent show American Idol I remarked to my wife that musical performances seemed to not have an harmonic conclusion; tunes seemed to just stop. This omission in recent pop tunes of an harmonic ending, a final chord progression that once marked the conclusion of classical music sections and sections and endings of standard jazz tunes seemed to have disappeared, perhaps anticipated by the fade that was replacing the harmonic cadence ending even when I was playing drums. Jazz, Be bop & Jazz-rock
Sometime during the 1970's talk about jazz began to annoy me because I believe that what people had begun calling jazz then bordered on rock and roll. My annoyance was my reaction to a fundamental change in rhythm from the traditional dotted eighth and sixteenth note cymbal swing of jazz to a generally even eighth note and persistent off beat of rock. The new brand of music called jazz (jazz-rock) often seemed rhythmically unlike jazz; its tempos like those of "rock" were difficult to vary because the confining "rock"- like rhythmic box dominated with even eighth note cymbal and steady snare offbeat on the second and fourth beat of each bar; cymbals seemed to arbitrarily punctuate with intermittent crashes instead of maintaining jazz' sometimes hushed rhythmic pulse as the cymbal and bass drum subtly interrupted to measure soloists' harmonically meandering improvisations. By the be bop era some jazz performances had become so airy that tempos seemed difficult to pin down. Some rode so fast that according to drummer Kenny Clarke all a drummer could do was to abandon trying to play a steady four bass drum beats to a bar and simply drop bass drum bombs to punctuate improvisations rather trying to keep time with the bass, piano/guitar. And in slow tunes this rhythmic and harmonic vagueness often seemed without tempo as everyone seemed lost in their own individual harmonic and rhythmic explorations held together by a kind of metaphysical bond having nothing to do with musical terminology.
Perhaps the vagaries that developed out of bop needed to be stopped, made simpler, less cool, more human when doo wop and rock and roll arrived to bring back music's lost harmonic, rhythmic predictability. But cool bebopâ€™s, hipster influences did not go away: they continued in smallish and dark after bars closed clubs, and in fewer bar rooms to a diminishing clientel while interest in rock and roll became our current global infatuation with rock that has electronically consumed both classical music and jazz in performance and harmonic structure so that today when someone talks of jazz and jazz festivals Iâ€™m unsure of the kinds of performances they have in mind. Recently a man on CP24 television announced an up-coming jazz festival would be highlighted by Dianna Ross and Stevie Wonder both stars of a bygone pop, rock based era. * Today in repairing a link to a Carl Perkins performance of "Blue Sued Shoes" I was reminded of the precise percussive quality of the early rock and roll walking acoustic bass as compared to the the less articulate guitar-like electric bass that tended to get lost in a homogeneous blend of electrically amplified sound. ** Tommy Steele was Britain's Elvis Presley who recorded "Elevator Rock" in 1956 backed by a swing orchestra with almost as much driving swing as Red Prysock's band. previous page Why did I become a drummer? Toronto's Secret, Spoken Version Site Map