Songs with persistent, but superfluous, percussion
July 19, 2012 9:31 PM   Subscribe

You know those clinking bottles in Bob Marley's "Jammin'"? Help me think of other popular songs that have what I am calling "persistent superfluous percussion".

I was driving home tonight from doing my regular Thursday night trivia show (yes, this is important) and heard "Jammin'" on the radio - classic reggae song, one of Bob Marley's greatest hits, heard it a thousand times before - but this time I heard and was struck by the repeated "clink-clink-clink" of the bottles being played as percussion, and trust me, once you hear it you can't NOT hear it. This is the type of percussion that doesn't seem to add anything of value to the song as a whole, because it blends into the background most of the time, but if you hear it by itself it really stands out, and it just. keeps. going. Persistently.

I guess the classic example would be Don't Fear the Reaper, because the cowbell was both so persistent and so superfluous that it spawned a whole Saturday Night Live skit (which I can't link because NBC has blocked it), but I'm sure there are many more, less obvious examples. I would love to put together a playlist of songs with this feature and use them in a trivia night (see how I worked the question angle in?!?)

Again, I'm looking for popular songs (of any genre, really) that have persistent percussion that you might not notice at first (and which doesn't seem to add much to the song) but which really stands out when you do notice it. Any other or better examples?
posted by Curious Artificer to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
How about the hands-on-thighs percussion in Buddy Holly's Everyday ?
posted by colin_l at 9:39 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

The reverb'd handslap / piano bench bangin' of Cecilia?
posted by komara at 9:51 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Maybe that's too obvious.
posted by komara at 9:52 PM on July 19, 2012

Quasi-random hand clapping during the bridge sections of Traffic's Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:53 PM on July 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, in both that one and Everyday the percussion is right up front, even though it is persistent. I'm thinking more of songs wher you wouldn't notice it the first time you heard it.
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:54 PM on July 19, 2012

This is not a great answer to your question. But this evening I was listening to the live Bob Marley album Babylon by Bus. The audience is clapping throughout most of the set, sometimes it's really obvious and other times it totally fades into the music.
posted by gnutron at 10:09 PM on July 19, 2012

The tongue clicks in Drop It Like It's Hot
posted by Ideal Impulse at 10:34 PM on July 19, 2012

"Unsquare Dance", by Dave Brubeck, features a hand clap for percussion. (It's called that because it's in 7/4. Surprisingly, it swings.)

Your question also reminded me of "Money" by Pink Floyd.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:35 PM on July 19, 2012

Oh man, perfect example: On Mike Doughty's tune Yes and Also Yes, the 'mini-shaker' sound you hear starting on the second verse is a prescribed capsule of the antidepressant Cymbalta. And once you learn about the Cymbalta shaker, you always notice the Cymbalta shaker.

Also, Fad Gadget's Collapsing New People features tuned bottles.
posted by prinado at 10:48 PM on July 19, 2012

The electronic droplet sound (that's the only way I can think of to describe it) that comes in at :50 in Apologize. Drives me nuts.
posted by janerica at 11:28 PM on July 19, 2012

I feel this way about the percussion in the theme song to season three of Star Trek. I sincerely do not understand what that drum is doing, or why. It's so discordant to my ear that it becomes the focus of the song whenever I hear it.
posted by metaman livingblog at 12:11 AM on July 20, 2012

XTC - You and the Clouds Will Still be Beautiful

I'm not sure this exactly fits "persistent percussion that you might not notice at first (and which doesn't seem to add much to the song)", in that there is nothing subtle about the percussion. But I was so blown away by the lyrics and the rhythm/delivery (?)* that it took a few listens to hear all the layers.

*Not sure what to call this, but the following stanza, which seems awkward here, sounds amazing and natural when delivered by Andy Garcia.

And every Troy with wooden horse
I take to peaceful waters but can't make him drown
And every Bastille that gets stormtroopered
"Hail to the Chief" comes rainin', rainin', rainin', rainin' down
And I've seen people conduct lightning down to a summer's day
And I've seen nations playfully hurl snowballs packed with stones and clay
And I know rain inside your head can seriously put a stop to play
But no matter what the weather, you and the clouds will still be beautiful.
posted by she's not there at 1:56 AM on July 20, 2012

Perhaps a better example, the thigh-slapping in I'd Like That.
posted by she's not there at 2:16 AM on July 20, 2012

23 seconds into Daft Punk's Crescendolls the main sample kick in, and with that, some REALLY annoying bongos. Like your beer bottles example, they don't really seem to add anything to the song and once you hear them you can never unhear them.
posted by arcolz at 4:19 AM on July 20, 2012

(I should clarify that it's 23 seconds in on the album track, but 48 seconds in on the linked video version.)
posted by arcolz at 4:20 AM on July 20, 2012

Macy Gray's Why Didn't You Call Me
posted by zombieApoc at 6:22 AM on July 20, 2012

All the sandpapery sound in Michael Jackson's Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'.
posted by vytae at 7:23 AM on July 20, 2012

Manu Chao goes in for a lot of little Space Invaders-y noises used this way, though I can't seem to find an example to link to right now.
posted by penguin pie at 10:05 AM on July 20, 2012

You know those clinking bottles in Bob Marley's "Jammin'"?

Those are jam jars. It's one of the few songs about jam making.
posted by w0mbat at 12:33 PM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

the following stanza, which seems awkward here, sounds amazing and natural when delivered by Andy Garcia

Andy Partridge, surely?

posted by Lexica at 7:05 PM on July 20, 2012

The triangle during the last verse of Aerosmith's Sweet Emotion comes to mind (starts at 3:11).
posted by Songdog at 8:10 PM on July 23, 2012

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