Not your everyday drumbeat?
January 20, 2015 8:08 PM   Subscribe

Friends, help me compile a list, would you? I'm looking for pop/rock songs that feature very distinctive beats from the drummer. Anything really ear-catching and creative that departs from more ordinary timekeeping, in some fresh way. As an example, one that falls into that category would be the Zombies' Time of the Season. And please include a YouTube (or other) link if you can, since almost any song ever recorded is now on YouTube. Thanking you in advance.
posted by flapjax at midnite to Media & Arts (57 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Devo - Satisfaction
posted by Sys Rq at 8:30 PM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Shannon Leto of 30 Seconds to Mars always impresses me with the musicality of his drum technique, and how he changes it up throughout the song.


Night of the Hunter

Capricorn (A Brand New Name)
posted by The Deej at 8:32 PM on January 20, 2015

A lot of Police songs would qualify - like Shadows In The Rain
posted by thelonius at 8:34 PM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

How about that 80's Burundi Beat / Malcolm McLaren stuff?

Adam Ant - Antmusic, Stand and Deliver, Goody Two Shoes

Bow Wow Wow - Aphrodisiac, I Want Candy (with a little Bo Diddley in there)
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:41 PM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Come to think of it, Clem Burke shines on a quite a lot of Blondie songs.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:42 PM on January 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

Clarification: unusual time signature? Frequent changes in time signature? Clever beats using conventional drums and 4/4 time? Use of non-traditional percussion instruments? For instance, would beat boxing qualify?
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:43 PM on January 20, 2015

Led Zeppelin's Fool In The Rain fits the bill
posted by STFUDonnie at 8:44 PM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure if you're looking for stuff that's distinctive (and perhaps groundbreaking for its time) or odd time signatures (or both). Having said that, off the top of my head, I'd offer:

Led Zeppelin - When The Levee Breaks


King Crimson - Starless - the time signature goes (I am told) to 13/4 at about 4m20s. A fair amount of King Crimson does weird shit like this.


New Order - Blue Monday

Leaving planet Earth:

Frank Zappa - Jazz From Hell

Amon Tobin - GOTO 10
posted by doctor tough love at 8:45 PM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Honky Tonk Women by The Rolling Stones
Murder By Numbers by The Police
Keep It Healthy by Warpaint
W.M.A. by Pearl Jam (yes, yes, I know, but the drums are so good)
Roses In Water by Sunny Day Real Estate
Cashout by Fugazi
posted by The World Famous at 8:56 PM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Tommy Gun
The Unknown Soldier
posted by pompomtom at 9:00 PM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ticket To Ride!
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:06 PM on January 20, 2015

  • Pop hit Just What I Needed, The Cars: verse after second chorus, drummer switches up to the offbeat.
  • Acoustic psychedelic classic Uncle John's Band, Grateful Dead: drummers use no metal (cymbals, hi-hat, chrome...)
  • Punk/world White Man in Hammersmith Palais: It's arguable that Topper Headon and the group pull off the first authentic white reggae - down to the flanger effect on the hi-hat.
  • Alt/new psychedelia: Two from the landmark Nothing's Shocking record by Jane's Addiction
    • Closing measures of Jane Says, emergence of steel drums into the instrumentation.
    • Ted Just Admit It, perfect example of *not playing* - leaving space for the piece to emerge from itself. This, from an era of relentless-open-hi-hat-smash.

  • Whipping Post, The Allman Brothers: Eleven beats per measure leaves the mind a bit unbalanced, certainly a calculated effect.

yeah, i'm old.
posted by j_curiouser at 9:18 PM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've long had a fascination with pop songs that feature regimental or rudimentary drumming - military beats. Some examples include

Jumper, Third Eye Blind
Cam Ye O'er Frae France, Steeleye Span
Let 'Em In, Paul McCartney and Wings
King of Birds, REM
Sunday Bloody Sunday, U2, which, oh look what I found when I Googled it, yay: What songs have a military snare drum in the background?
posted by Miko at 9:23 PM on January 20, 2015

Missing Persons Words

Terry Bozzio is a monster.
posted by dbiedny at 9:26 PM on January 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

Not exactly rock or pop, but definitely catchy and creative, as well as being distinctive:

Dave Brubeck - Take Five
Lalo Schifrin - Theme to Mission Impossible
Adam Clayton & Larry Mullen Jr. - Theme to Mission Impossible

They're written in 5/4, so that sort of helps them not being typical.
posted by LoRichTimes at 9:30 PM on January 20, 2015

Definitely, Tomorrow Never Knows by the Beatles. Uses a "non-standard" stuttered pattern. Apparently Ringo Starr was using a drum pattern like "Ticket To Ride" at first, which has a unique pattern too, but Paul McCartney recommended Ringo add a "skip" to the drum pattern. "Tomorrow Never Knows" is also notable for using the exact same drum pattern throughout the entire song without any fills, rolls or changes, which was unusual at the time.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:32 PM on January 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

Led Zeppelin's Fool In The Rain fits the bill

Yes. Insane polyrhythms in the verse lead-in to the guitar break, closing with reeeeaaally tasty tom fills to bring us the guitar.

Not to invite a debate, but Rush has some pretty sweet drum parts throughout their entire catalog. I like Red Barchetta. Here we threaten to diverge from 'pop/rock'.
posted by j_curiouser at 9:33 PM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Slightly OT, but not really.
posted by dbiedny at 9:41 PM on January 20, 2015

The Dismemberment Plan, The Other Side. The drumming in this made my jaw drop the first time I heard it.
posted by valrus at 9:48 PM on January 20, 2015

Radiohead Lotus Flower
posted by dbiedny at 9:52 PM on January 20, 2015

Response by poster: There have been some questions: am I looking for odd time signatures? No, not especially. Although Im not ruling them out. But an odd time signature, in and of itself, is not exactly what will, for me, qualify a tune for this list.

Anyway, all your suggestions are welcome, no matter what. As long as you feel the drum part is really distinctive, fresh, creative, unusual... thats the main thing.

Use of non-traditional percussion instruments? For instance, would beat boxing qualify?

Not really. Mostly looking for beats created on a *standard* drum kit.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:08 PM on January 20, 2015

Starfish and Coffee by Prince
Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac (particularly the verses)
The Crunge by Led Zeppelin
Vicarious by Tool (really gets going at about 1:36 - and incidentally is the only song that could put my second son to sleep when he was a baby. I'm a bad dad.)
Boris Williams from The Cure is a great source of ear-catching, creative beats:
Fascination Street by The Cure
Icing Sugar by The Cure
Close To Me by The Cure
White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane
Big Neon Glitter by The Cult
Soul In Isolation by The Chameleons
posted by The World Famous at 10:21 PM on January 20, 2015

The Shaggs? ;)

OK but seriously: Bon Iver's "Perth" and "Minnesota, WI" both feature what I think of as pretty atypical drumming, especially during the verses in the first case.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:27 PM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I always loved the beat that Stephen Morris seemed to invent with songs like Transmission, Ceremony, and Age of Consent.

It's not very sophisticated but I can't think of anything like it that came before and so crucial to the sound of that music. Super fast, precise 16ths on the high hat with staccato accents on the toms and snare. One of the first things I wanted to play when I got my drums.

Also, pretty much anything by Tinariwen. Oh yeah, you said standard drum kit.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:05 PM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Aphrodites Child - the Four Horsemen

Porno For Pyros - Pets

Powerman 5000 - Nobody's Real

Peter Gabriel - Intruder (this album had many memorable percussion and drum riffs. Phil Collins went on to use the "Intruder Drum" on In The Air Tonight.

Rob Zombie - Living Dead Girl

Devo - Jocko Homo - esp the second half

Nine Inch Nails - Closer

The Knife - We Share Our Mothers Health

Fever Ray - Keep The Streets Empty For Me and The Wolf

Sorry no links - doing this on an iPad, it's hard.
posted by doctor tough love at 11:11 PM on January 20, 2015

A couple that come to mind from different eras:

Elbow - Mexican Standoff
Utopia - Caravan
posted by treblemaker at 11:13 PM on January 20, 2015

Also, as my spouse pointed out: tons of stuff by XTC, e.g. Making Plans for Nigel.
posted by treblemaker at 11:16 PM on January 20, 2015

"Money" by Pink Floyd has a very unusual 7/8 time signature.

And from way back then in the 80's, I always found "These things happen" by David von Tieghem an interesting unusual drum beat. At first a run of the mill electronic drumbeat, but there is drum stuff happening constantly. You can see where it's coming from.
posted by hz37 at 12:57 AM on January 21, 2015

Roxy Music If There Is Something
The double kick bass drum note makes it special, best in the later stanzas of the song.

Gang of Four I Love a Man in a Uniform

PIL Banging The Door

Massive Attack I Am Home
within the song are some great drum tracks.
posted by artdrectr at 1:32 AM on January 21, 2015

No Cannonball yet? Just a little ticky-ticky, but instantly recognizable.
posted by klangklangston at 2:00 AM on January 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

In the category of "omfg, this is totally obvious, how did I forget it:" Bela Lugosi's Dead.

Actually, a lot of Bauhaus has pretty unusual drumming: Doubledare is maybe an even better example of what you're talking about. And Muscle in Plastic is great drumming if maybe a little more conventional (though it is perhaps noteworthy for anticipating drum'n'bass back in 1981...).
posted by en forme de poire at 2:18 AM on January 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

(Terror Couple Kill Colonel, as well)
posted by en forme de poire at 2:37 AM on January 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Tomorrow Never Knows - Beatles
Wipeout - The Surfaris
Walk Don't Run - The Ventures
Hard To Handle - Otis Redding
posted by chillmost at 2:54 AM on January 21, 2015

The drummer for Jawbox was one of the best drummers I've ever seen. Especially on stuff from For Your Special Sweetheart like Cruel Swing which I believe is in 5/4 time.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:47 AM on January 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

And while it is a little off your intended target, you have to listen to Mickey Hart.
posted by yclipse at 4:35 AM on January 21, 2015

Steve Gadd on Paul Simon's Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover.
posted by crLLC at 7:08 AM on January 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Questlove's "drum & bass" work at the end of You Got Me by The Roots ft. Erykah Badu.

Good song overall, but skip to 3:35 for the bit I'm referring to.
posted by kuanes at 7:11 AM on January 21, 2015

Phil Collins went on to use the "Intruder Drum" on In The Air Tonight.

Gated reverb. The legwarmer of drum sounds - very 80's.
posted by thelonius at 7:17 AM on January 21, 2015

If you're looking for distinctive drum beats, you'd be remiss to not include some Chuck Brown, the father of Go-Go.
posted by General Malaise at 7:20 AM on January 21, 2015

Feist - The Bad in Each Other
posted by BurntHombre at 8:16 AM on January 21, 2015

The Who had a lead guitarist, but they also had a lead drummer - Keith Moon.
The Who - Summer Time Blues
The Who - My Generation
posted by Homer42 at 8:31 AM on January 21, 2015

Nine Inch Nails - We're in This Together (with the rhythm pretty much lifted from Funkadelic's Groovallegiance) scooches the 2 up a sixteenth, which is such a simple thing but it makes everything go a bit sideways.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:22 AM on January 21, 2015

Also: The stripped-down percussion on David Essex's Rock On is pretty sweet.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:28 AM on January 21, 2015

Jeff Porcaro's "Rosanna" shuffle
posted by The World Famous at 10:53 AM on January 21, 2015

Http:// has this for you. A comprehensive collection beyond just pop, too. Often the songs with the strongest drummers and the coolest beats are also among the best songs. Go figure.

(Years ago I collected many, many gigabytes of complete songs from them via a recursive wget, which I highly recommend doing.)
posted by lothar at 12:10 PM on January 21, 2015

Will you take sampled instrumental hiphop anime scores? The Million Way of Drum from Samurai Champloo is one of my favorites.
posted by nicebookrack at 3:30 PM on January 21, 2015

You mean like Drums A Go-Go?
Yello always had interesting percussion; Rubberbandman is a good example.
M.A.R.S. - Pump Up The Volume?
Amerie's 1 Thing is based on a sample of the Meters, so I don't know if a single drummer could play it (the video shows like 20 guys pounding away, heh) but what a fun beat. There's an instrumental version, too, if you just can't get enough of that crazy rhythm.
NIN - The Perfect Drug
posted by Bron at 5:36 PM on January 21, 2015

Speaking of The Meters, how about.
posted by bricoleur at 6:25 PM on January 21, 2015

Or this?
posted by bricoleur at 6:29 PM on January 21, 2015

Local Natives Breakers is exactly what you're looking for. Time changes, multiple drum tracks, percussion that comes in and out during the song, drum breaks. Damnit that band is good live.
posted by cnc at 1:29 PM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

This one maybe doesn't qualify as creative, but I love that Typhoon puts their drummers out front, and at some points in Dreams of Cannibalism they actually have three drummers going at once.
posted by cnc at 1:51 PM on January 22, 2015

Speaking of awesome live: Cherry Valence's Lose that Smile.

(They have two drummers and they're about a million times better live, even if this track still rips on record.)


Stabbing Westward's Violent Mood Swings. The lyrics are dumb, but the steel percussion is what got me into them to begin with. It's been long enough that I don't remember what other songs have it, since that drummer was only on their debut, but it's an OK album overall if you like industrial.

Cop Shoot Cop's $10 Bill is another decent one — the band didn't have a guitarist, but usually had more than one percussionist, so they did a lot of fun things with drumming in rock idiom.

I also like Skeleton Key (that one's "The World's Most Famous Undertaker") a lot for this — live, they have a wall of objects that the drummer/s bang on in addition to their kit, but I've seen them stripped down and they still manage to get a ton of great sounds out of a simple snare/kick/ride setup by banging the shit out of it from all angles.

And to keep going on the double-drummer accidental theme: Dirtbombs' 21st Century Fox. One of the things that's fun about the Dirtbombs is they have a rule that if you visit them in the studio while they're recording, you have to play on a track. That means that they end up with a bunch of tunes where they have two drummers or two bassists or some other unusual arrangement. (They've also sometimes had two drummers formally in the band at once, along with two bassists, but sometimes it's just who shows up.)

Like I said, two drummers: Red Red Meat's Chinese Balls has a nice stop-start. They became Califone.

More later.
posted by klangklangston at 3:16 PM on January 22, 2015

Throwing Muses, Counting Backwards.
posted by Sonny Jim at 9:30 AM on January 24, 2015

(If anybody's interested, most of these made it to this playlist.)
posted by Bron at 3:08 PM on March 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Many thanks to all you kind folks who responded!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:11 PM on March 8, 2015

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