“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” (1976) by Blue Öyster Cult
Top 25 popular Songs featuring a Cowbell
25 - “Beds Are Burning” (1987) by Midnight Oil
Hate to blow my own trumpet, but I’m pretty good with impressions. I’ve got Hugh Bladen, Patrick Stewart and Schwarzenegger pretty much down. A friend does a brilliant Christoper Walken. And through teaching them, a grand of majority of my friends can do a reasonable Michael Caine.
But without doubt the easiest impression anyone can do, is Peter Garrett dancing: keep your feet concreted, jiggle your legs though, flail your arms and wrists, move your neck like a chicken, and that’s pretty much it. Easy. If ya keen enough, shave your head.
24 - “Blurred Lines” (2013) by Robin Thicke
I was surprised when he released this under his own name. He’s more famed as a successful producer, working behind the scenes for Christina Aguilera, Lil Wayne and even Guy Sebastian. But he made the right choice – for this song is pure pop perfection; funky as fuck and sexy as sheeit. I’ve been ripping this track up the entire week … shakin’ my tush … and thinking of those titties.
23 - “Qhude Manikiniki” (1985) by Umahlathini Nabo
A mate of mine is forever the Hipster. He will always declare how the novel is better than the movie; how the original is better than the cover; how the movie is better than the remake. He may be right, but most of the time I just wish he’d just shut the fuck up. I was talking to him about Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’, a phenomenal album in its own right. “No, no, no, no, no, you should listen to the album Simon was listening to that inspired him to write ‘Graceland’. It’s called ‘The Indestructible Beat of Soweto’. It’s a far better album that perfectly convolutes the rhythms of South Africa whilst bridging a gap between the cultures of blah, blah, blah, blah …”
In this instance, he is absolutely correct. It’s a great album and this is a great song from it. Just someone please tell me him to shut up.
22 - “Born on the Bayou” (1969) by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Whenever you wanna hear the best of American Southern music, you can’t beat CCR. Take for instance this song – you can see y’self laying back on that porch, paying them Bayou crocodiles never mind. The rough and tumble Texan guitar with that swirling Appalachian Mountain riff. Then add cowbell and Fogerty’s Baptist wailing and you’ve pretty much got the essence of the Dixie. Then all that comes crashing down, when you learn they’re actually hippies from West Coast San Francisco. I never saw that coming.
21 - “Low Rider” (1975) by War
The United States have ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ as its national anthem. Mexico has its own anthem too. Guess what most Mexican-Americans have declared as their specific anthem? Pretty self-racist, if ya ask me. But what do I know? Viva La Raza!
20 - “Honky Tonk Women” (1969) by the Rolling Stones
Have you been to a party and met women that Jagger’s singing about? Confident, raunchy, know exactly what they want. It’s never happened to me, but a few cougars have hit on mates of mine at bars. Usually in their forties, divorcees, cheetah prints, looking for young cock. And good on them! There’s been a gigantic societal shift towards women being independently wealthy, feeling self-assured and acknowledging that they can get youngun’s just as much as Sugar Daddies do.
19 - “Time Has Come Today” (1966) by The Chambers Brothers
I only discovered this song last year when it came up on the news. The songwriter didn’t get a god dam penny for writing this sonically psychic masterpiece. The news went viral and was all over CNN. It generated so much publicity, he was able to do a comeback tour, which he’s currently doing. (Time has definitely come today.) That is great news.
But he still hasn’t had his royalties for this song returned to him. The music business can be absolute shit.
18 - “Hair of the Dog” (1975) by Nazareth
Like everyone else, I always thought the name of this song was ‘son of a bitch.’ That’s the line you hear in the chorus. I never clicked on that it was rather a thesauric translation, ‘heir of the dog.’ Clever.
17 - “Good Times, Bad Times” (1969) by Led Zep
The first song of ftheir first reunion in a very, very long time. Some say, the greatest rock band that ever lived. The screams and applause in the dark of the O2 London arena. An introductory video showing the band in thinner days. Then the drums kick in. And that cowbell that sounded as fresh as when they originally recorded it.
“IN THE DAYS OF MY YOUTH /
I WAS TOLD WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A MAN /”
Bonzo would’ve been proud of his son.
If you love a good concert film, I recommend “Celebration Day.”
16 - “Dance Yrself Clean” (2010) by LCD Soundsystem
Of the 2000’s, looking back in another twenty years, I believe there will only be a handful of bands that we could call truly ‘revolutionary’ during that decade. Great bands like the White Stripes, Coldplay and Green Day, offered great new music but without upstanding their roots from the twentieth century. There are only a few bands that began totally new sounds from totally new technologies: TV on the Radio, Animal Collective, Outkast, Muse, Hot Chip and the mother of these specific alternative dance acts, LCD. It was only until James Murphy that I realised that someone can shoot the DJ; that techno music can be wiser; it can tell stories of breadth; and become a legitimate form for serious songwriting. Genius.
15 - “Teach Me How to Dougie” (2010) by Cali Swag District
My nieces tried to. I slipped and twisted my ankle. True story.
14 - “Electioneering” (1996) by Radiohead
Never in a million years would I’ve thought the arty farty pretentiousness of Thom and the boys would embrace the clunky cowbell. Far too simplistic for them. But showcasing why they are one of the greatest bands of all time, they invigorate the rural, mundane instrument into a song of vitriolic and electric buzzsaw. The pretentious bastards really can’t do wrong, can they?
13 - “You’re So Vain” (1972) by Carly Simon
There’s some great mysteries in Popular music: what the hell did Billie Joe McAllister throw off the Tallahatchie Bridge? Did Phil Collins really see a guy drown? Who was Alanis Morrisette’s “You Oughtta Know” aimed at? Inspiring maybe the latter, the mother of all mysteries is definitely who the hell pissed off Carly Simon with this number? Mick Jagger? Cat Stevens? Most evidence is pointing towards Warren Beatty, but who the hell knows; Carly has kept to her guns. Not only is it a great marketing ploy to not reveal, but in retrospect, it saves some form of niceties – for the song is unkind and vicious, to whoever the hell Carly’s anger is aimed at.
12 - “Hey Ladies” (1989) by the Beastie Boys
See Entry 23 of this project
11 - “Silence Kit” (1994) by Pavement
The first track off ‘Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain’ and when I first heard it (my first ever Pavement song), I thought, ‘this album’s gotta be, and is gonna be, a joke.’ The mixing sounded shitty, the guitars sounded lazy, the arrangement was strange (especially with that Salvation Army band part at the end) and the lyrics, well, I have no idea what a silence kit is.
But with time, I realised this was the start of something new in American music. It was supposed to sound like it recorded on a potato; it was supposed to sound like Stephen Malkmus was a child; the lyrics were actually silence ‘kid’ but they didn’t bother fixing the ink mistake because it didn’t matter.
Out went the diamond prestige and leather professionalism of Motley Crue and those other Hair bands, and in came something fresh, ragged, incomplete, strange, lazy and engrossingly exciting! By 1993, alternative music took over. And this has truly become one of my favourites of all time.
10 - “Easy Morning Rebel” (2003) by My Morning Jacket
Did you know that the Hives song “Walk Idiot Walk” was about George W Bush? – “see that robot talk”. Did you also know that Radiohead’s “2 + 2 = 5” was about him as well? – “are you such a dreamer / to put the world to rights”. We all know Green Day’s “American Idiot” was about him! But did you also know that Bloc Party’s “Helicopter”, Nine Inch Nails’ “The Hand That Feeds” and System of a Down’s “B.Y.O.B.” were about him as well? And while most of those political 2000’s songs were mostly antagonistic towards Dubya, My Morning Jacket recorded this lil’ ditty, which represented the half that did support him.
There were many other pro-Bush songs recorded too, but none of them got any chance of acceptance because, well y’know, protest songs are more popular; the creative industries themselves are fairly liberal; and most pro-Bush songs are just awful – except this one.
9 - “Spoon Man” (1994) by Soundgarden
There’s a homeless man around Auckland City who most dwellers have, without doubt, seen at least thrice. One time, I saw him walking beside a café I was in with two other mates. One mate said, “Hey, there’s Spoon Man.” “Spoon Man?”, my other mate said, “that’s funny, coz we call him Mono-Dread man – coz he’s gotta mono-dreadlock, y’know.” This homeless guy has been homeless for so long, he hasn’t had a bath, hence his hair has been matted, and hence, his hair has become dreaded into only one lock. “That’s funny”, I said, “because me and my mates call him Platypus Man.” The tail, y’know. I asked my mate why he and his friends called him Spoon Man. He said it had something to do with that other homeless guy featured in the Soundgarden video clip of the same name. My other mate said, “No, that’s Artis the Spoon Man. He’s not homeless. He’s just a famous street performer in Seattle. Me and the wife saw him when we went up there.” “Oh, okay.” The homeless guy had left our vision and without anything else to talk about – “… sooo, how about those All Blacks, ey!”
8 - “Little Sister” (2005) by Queens of the Stone Age
Hey, Sis! Thanks for reading my 100 Days Project! Wish Mum a very happy birthday for me! See ya!
7 - “Love Is the Drug” (1975) by Roxy Music
A friend of mine is an amateur DJ. He used to love DJ’ing so much, he’d do it for free – any opportunity for him to break out some mad styles: parties, flat warmings, birthdays, the whole sh’bang. Ten years later, married with two kids, he picks his spots carefully. If he does it for free, it’s dependant on whether the wife will allow. Otherwise, he’s got bills to pay and needs cash upfront. Fair call.
I’ve slowly noticed he’s lost his passion for it. It’s more professional and less fun. I can understand. Weddings are not made for Notorious B.I.G. or System of a Down. He’s become a puppet for the bridal schedule. I guess that’s what adult life is all about now.
I asked him what song they always request, that drives him nuts. He said it’s this one. They go bonkers for it. Older women start screaming and grabbing their friends to hit the dancefloor with them, as soon as the guitar kicks in. Even older men go apeshit over it and start drunk karaoke, all the way through to the cowbell part. People go absolutely mad for it.
And he is sick to death of it. He knows it too well: every curve and every bump of it. He knows its levels and how it should be mixed in any school hall amplifier of your choosing. He even knows it asleep. Poor guy.
6 - “I Will Always Love You” (1992) by Whitney Houston
Play it right now for me …. fast forward it to the two minute mark … are you playing it? … it’s quite faint in the mix … if you listen closely … around the 2 minute mark … you can faintly hear it …. are you listening to it? …. can you hear it? …. if you are currently listening to it right now …. carefully … you can hear …. how fucking GAY YOU ARE. TURN THAT PRETENTIOUS SHIT OFF!
5 - “Magic Doors” (2008) by Portishead
It had been 11 years since their last album, and boy, was happy to hear from them again.
But this was not ‘Dummy’. This album was more eclectic and less hip-hop orientated. There was even a Ukulele song! I think that’s why most people disliked their second album because it was a poor impersonation of their first. People wanted the band to explore new sounds more. And even though it took 11 years, they did explore, and created a confident, different and mesmerising third album.
Make no mistake; I wasn’t dissing their second album. It’s far better than most albums released that year and gigantically better than the efforts from Aqua, 98 Degrees and Smash Mouth that year too. I’m just saying when I rank Portishead albums, it will always be 1994’s ‘Dummy’ first, this brilliant 2008 return coming in second, and then that 1997 album. Altogether, truly speaking, it’s a flawless trio.
4 - “World Destruction” (1984) by Time Zone, with John Lydon
I only knew of this song from when it was featured in ‘The Sopranos’.
In the episode, “For All Debts, Public and Private”, Christopher kills the guy who killed his dad. In the final scene, after the satisfaction of what he did, he visits his mum’s house – the only place where his memories of his father are fresh and unbroken. His widowed mother is stereotypical. Grouchy, complaining, but still wanting to cook him breakfast. Just as he leaves, he pulls out the $20 bill that he found in his dead guy’s wallet and puts it on the fridge: a trophy; a token; a completion to his forever patriarchal wanting; a symbol of revenge exacted; the proper accompaniment to go with the photos of his Dead dad in the house; the game hunter’s elephant; the end. It has all come full circle.
Finally after all these years of male strangers coming in and out of his mother's bed, he can rest easy that the yearning for his father has been debited.
The cowbells kick in, as the camera zooms in on the dollar note that reads, “this note is legal tender for all debts, public and private.”
It’s on Youtube, I think. God, whatta scene!
3 - “Principal's Office” (1989) by Young M.C.
I comprehend that lawyers, doctors and teachers are the three most important vocations in a society. But I wouldn’t want to be any of them. Lawyers are dishonest; Doctors are humourless and Teachers deal with kids – no thanks. My parents would’ve loved for me to be any of them – so much for that. But of the three, the last is the worst, because if I was that horrible that young, I can imagine what they’d be like if I were teaching them now.
We were horrible to our teachers. We said to a teacher whose first name was Justin that he must have a small dick, because he’s just in. We said to a teacher whose husband committed suicide that we understood why he committed suicide. We said to a one legged teacher that he was a one legged cunt. Horrible, absolutely horrible. No excuse, other than we were 14.
The only time I was sent to Brother Peter’s office was when I told ‘Justin’ that he better ‘watch out’! I thought it wasn’t too bad, in the grand scheme of what everyone else was saying to teachers. Nothing too drastic at all. But, for god sake, I threatened a guy! A guy twice as old as me! Man, what a dirty rascal I was. The guy probably wasn’t, maybe, truly fussed over what I said to him. Maybe. He probably went home, emasculated at work, and fucked his wife hard … with his small dick.
I can only admire my friends in the Education industry. I now think they do a great, but difficult, job.
2 – “Drive My Car” (1965) by the Beatles
There’s only one act in this project I’ve repeated. And that’s the Beatles. So, why not include them again somehow. Because, y’know. It’s the Beatles, man!
1 - “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” (1976) by Blue Öyster Cult
The phenomenon that reinvigorated this classic peculiar instrument … and inspired this list!
You’d think the kids today would know Chris Walken for his breath-taking performances in The Deer Hunter; The Dead Zone or The Funeral. But unfortunately all they want, when they meet him, is for him to leave messages on their iPhones shouting, “MORE COWBELL!”
That SNL sketch gets better every time I watch it: Jimmy Fallon sniggering in the corner, Will Ferrell’s ridiculous shirt, Chris Walken’s catchphrase of a generation and the classic Rock standard that’s pretty much reduced to a joke by the end of it.