Sep 072010

DOWNLOAD LINK: Rick Buckler Crash Cymbal Quotient Analysis, edited source material

I pass along a note I received today from RTH Labs’ Senior Music Engineer, Milo T. Frobisher:


FROM: Milo T. Frobisher, Senior Music Engineer, RTH Labs
TO: Townsman Hrrundivbakshi, Senior RTH Labs Liaison
RE: Rick Buckler’ Crash Cymbal Quotient/Numerical Crash Analysis, “Away From the Numbers”

Townsman Hrrundivbakshi, I send this quick note to summarize our recent research findings in re: Rick Buckler’s Crash Cymbal Quotient (CCQ), as found in “Away From the Numbers,” by the Jam.

Our methodology was simple, though far from easy: over the full four minutes (exactly) of this song, our junior engineers counted the exact number of times Rick Buckler deployed his crash cymbal for rhythmic emphasis. Please note that we did not undertake the low-frequency extraction from his snare as you requested, nor a pattern analysis of his tom fills to determine their similarity to, or substantive difference from, those of KISS’ Peter Criss, aka “Cat Man.”

I should warn you that by listening to the edited source material above, in which we replaced each instance of Buckler hitting his crash cymbal with a spoken word marker, you run a significant risk of never being able to listen to this song in the same fashion again. I should specifically point out that my nephew, James Frobisher — an intern in RTH Labs — needed to physically remove himself from the Laboratory premises after being asked to do the CCQ analysis in the instrumental break in the middle of this song, so profound was its effect on his young mind. You have been warned.

The results of our investigation are startling. Over the course of this four-minute song, Rick Buckler hits the crash cymbal — importantly, he seems to hit the same cymbal every time — a total of 137 times. By our base-60 calculations, that amounts to, roughly, one cymbal crash every 1.8 seconds. We leave it to you and your more contextual thinkers in the Hall to determine the subjective value of this datum.

Thank you for your time in this matter. I look forward to working with you further in the future.



  18 Responses to “RTH Labs Investigates: Rick Buckler’s Crash Cymbal”

  1. Mr. Moderator

    I believe RTH Labs is due for an award of some sort. Brilliant work, gents!

  2. Wow, that reminds me of another song with heinous cymbal usage: The original version of “I Melt With You,” which has a crash at the top of every single four-bar phrase. So irritating. They re-recorded the song a few years later, it sound almost identical to my ears – except those cymbal crashes are gone.

    Cymbals are overrated.

  3. That’s really funny!

    On a completely separate issue that I could post to The Orockle, or Is There a Drummer in the House, I’ll toss over to the RTH Labs instead.

    Please explain what people mean when they say a bad drummer is playing “behind the beat.”

    Isn’t the drummer by definition responsible for creating the beat? So, whatever he plays is the beat! Therefore, everyone else is actually playing ahead of HIM. Does it just mean that he’s playing too slowly, or slowing down as the song progresses?

    I’ve always struggled with that phrase, and hope someone can explain it clearly so I can start using it to criticize people too.

  4. misterioso

    God, that was hilarious. But I’ll say it again: the fact that Buckler was/is a drummer of, well, modest ability has never once interfered with my enjoyment of the Jam (enjoyment which, unlike several here, I sense, is largely undiminished even after many years). It’s not like I would like the Jam more if Steve White or Steve Cradock, much better drummers, had been on the records instead.

    Nonetheless, superb work.

  5. hrrundivbakshi

    Not sure you need RTH Labs for that one, Chickenfrank. Playing “behind the beat” means pretty much what it sounds like, i.e., if the tempo of the song is a certain number of beats per minute, then the drummer — for a very short while, only — plays a bit slower than that. The band usually keeps chooglin’ away at the “proper” tempo, lending the groove a sort of loping, stop-start-y kind of feel. I’ve always seen it as a drummer’s version of what interpretive classical pianists do frequently — slow things down for emphasis. (There’s a name for this, but I can’t remember what it is.)

    Note, therefore, that playing behind the beat isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all — though misused, it can be. And, of course, to tight-asses like Mr. Mod, playing behind the beat is probably *always* a bad thing. (See: Mod’s intense dislike for NRBQ’s Tommy Ardolino, perhaps the behind-the-beat-iest drummer we all know.)

    Hope that’s helpful.

  6. 2000 Man

    That is hilarious, and like misterioso, I still like The Jam just fine. But it’s gonna be awhile before I get that out of my head!

  7. I’d be interested in the same same sort of study done on Keith Moon who didn’t even bother with a hi-hat. Like say, Substitute or something along those lines. Or maybe Baba O’Riley would be a more apt study? I’m not defending Buckler or saying there’s anything wrong with Moonie’s drumming (BECAUSE THERE ISN’T!!), just think it’d be interesting to have something to compare cymbal use against.

  8. Mr. Moderator

    HVB wrote:

    And, of course, to tight-asses like Mr. Mod, playing behind the beat is probably *always* a bad thing. (See: Mod’s intense dislike for NRBQ’s Tommy Ardolino, perhaps the behind-the-beat-iest drummer we all know.)

    Not true, hrrundi; I don’t have a beef with drummers who lay back on the snare a bit. In fact, I probably prefer that approach to drummers who are too atop the beat (eg, Buckler and The Undertones’ drummer). Ardolino’s an effective drummer, albeit a contributing member to that band’s overall “I-could-give-a-shit” vibe.

    Driving down to the Delaware shore late last night I was listening to Get Happy! followed by some Booker T & the MGs tunes. Man, whatever spot on the beat that Pete Thomas and Al Jackson played is PERFECT! Those cats play drums EXACTLY as my soul desires drums to be played!

  9. Mr. Moderator

    For the record, as much as I complain about Buckler, I can overlook his drumming because when Paul Weller’s on his game his songs and lyrics can carry any clunky band he’s ever put together.

    Moon got away with all sorts of things that few drummers could get away with. John Maher, the Buzzcocks’ drummer, and Clem Burke have some of his knack for highlighting every possible beat in a song, but I’d say that’s a dangerous style for most mortals.

    Have you ever seen the Classic Albums episode of The Who’s Who’s Next? The engineer talks about how Moon was the only drummer who followed the vocals. He plays only the vocals and drums for “Going Mobile,” I believe, to illustrate.

  10. Yeah, I saw a Daltrey interview where he was talking about that–he would highlight the vocals with various (cymbal) accents but then do nothing during the breaks that could have used some rolls or something. But, yeah, he could get away with it somehow.

  11. misterioso

    Non-musician speaking here, but it seems to me that what Moon did shouldn’t even be called drumming, there should be some other name for it. (Mooning? No, that’s been taken.) Yes, he used the drums, but what he did is so unlike what any other drummer that I’m aware of did, apparently so inimitable, and, I suspect, so specific to the context of the Who, that it belongs in its own category.

  12. HVB, that is very helpful. Then I can infer that it’s impossible to play behind the beat for a whole song, or everyone would finish before you! I always thought people meant that the drummer always does it. Your explanation shows how you can only do it occassionally as a stylish choice.

    Anyone else a good example of employing that technique besides NRBQ? Thanks.

  13. BigSteve

    In Buckler’s and the Jam’s defense it was their first album. And isn’t it partly an engineering problem? I think the drums are recorded and eq’d so that that crash is more annoying than it should be.

    Playing behind the beat is not a criticism to me, but it only works in certain kinds of music, and it requires special talent from the drummer and the rest of the band. Al Jackson is a good example. Listen to him on Al Green’s Love’s and Happiness. He’s playing the simplest possible beat, but the snare is a microsecond behind the rest of the instruments, and it has the effect of goosing the rhythm along just so. But yes it requires that the rest of the band stay where they are, otherwise the tempo will drag.

  14. BigSteve

    And I do think the drummer can do it for a whole song (see Love & Happiness).

  15. Like anything, playing behind the beat can be awesome. There’s just that tiny, tiny slice of a second that sits between “right on time” and “too slow.” And even if you do it right, it doesn’t mean that it’s right for the song. But still.

    “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” is the classic example of doing it beautifully. If you still don’t feel it, compare with the Simply Red version.

    Re Buckler: FUNNY! I always hated this song, and that is why.

  16. Much clearer now, Townspeople. I don’t think I’d ever heard someone compliment a drummer for his playing behind the beat. I thought it had to always be a pejorative. I guess it’s more common to do it poorly than sublimely.

  17. hrrundivbakshi

    Another good behind-the-beat drummer is/was Levon Helm.

  18. OK, just counted. Only 67 cymbal crashes in “I melt with you.” In 3:48, that means a crash about every 3.4 seconds.

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