What’s the deal with the drum sound in Van Halen’s “Jump”? Is it good? Does it serve the song/fit in with the production? Does anyone else feel like I do, whenever they hear “Jump” on the car radio? I always think, “That’s a weirdly unaffected drum sound! What’s the deal? Where are my drummer friends when I need them riding shotgun?”
Seriously, every time I hear this catchy VH song, not an entire verse goes by before I am reminded of how drums sound in a recording studio, at first playback, when the band has finished its take and loads in, with tremendous anticipation, to hear the engineer’s playback of the newly recorded rhythm track.
“Is that how the drums are gonna sound,” one band member immediately speaks up, not necessarily the drummer.
“They sound kinda dull,” chimes in another.
The engineer responds calmly, “Don’t worry. I’m playing it back flat. Nothing’s EQ’d yet. You’ll hear the top end and everything else you expect when we start mixing.”
It sounds to me like the engineer forgot to do anything with the EQ on the drums in “Jump,” as if they finished the other parts and left the drums flat, exactly as they were recorded to tape. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but to my ears it’s a weird thing. It sounds like Alex Van Halen is playing in an earlier decade than his bandmates on this song.
Let’s put aside the merits of Van Halen, the authenticity of David Lee Roth as a rock ‘n roll wildman, the song’s “I’ll show them I’m not some synth-playing wussy” guitar solo, and the surprisingly good cover of the song by Aztec Camera. Do you hear what I’m hearing? Drummers and would-be drummers, does Alex Van Halen’s drum sound make sense within the context of this song? Are the drums atypical of the drums in a usual VH song from this period, or are the drums the only thing typical in the mix?
Isolated, the drums make more sense: