Sippican Cottage



A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

Notes From The Oud Factory Outlet

I received an email invitation from the Guitar Planet or the Music Galaxy or the Trombone Shack or the Oud Factory Outlet or maybe it was the Accordion Diaphragm Superstore or some other purveyor of only the finest noises. They’re having a drumming contest. I’m sure it was a very exclusive offer. They no doubt sent it to me because I purchased an A string from them back in Clinton’s first term or some similar big outlay, and they’ve kept me in mind since then. It’s an honor I don’t deserve but I will accept, like a Nobel Peace Prize or something.

A drumming contest, you say? I know a drummer. He’s currently the best eleven-year-old drummer on Earth. He used to be the best ten-year-old drummer on Earth, but he can’t seem to stick to anything for very long. I counseled him to continue being ten years old for as long as possible, but he doesn’t listen. Now all his business cards will need re-printing.

He’s not eligible for the drumming contest, of course, and for two different reasons:

  1. He would have to be five years older than he is to enter. Five!
  2. He knows how to play the drums properly. That’s not allowed.

I have no idea why they wouldn’t be interested in letting him enter because he’s eleven. They’re supposedly looking for a “man bites dog” headline for their contest. If he won it, they’d have something unusual to tout, I’d say. But of course, they want everyone to be unusual in exactly the same way. That is to say, everyone is required to look reliably dissolute and buy one more cymbal instead of practicing, forevermore. Their music store is almost useless for a real musician. Their stock in trade is selling instruments to people who will never learn to play, but develop exquisite taste in choosing the perfect black T-shirt with the finest Big Daddy Roth typefaces announcing tours of geriatric thrash-metalers from days gone by. 

So he’s too young. Got it. But what about problem number 2?

To enter the contest, you’re supposed to, and I’m not kidding here, drive to their musical Lubyanka satellite store at the appointed hour, take five minutes to adjust the drums they have already set up, and then play for three minutes. Play what? With whom? What they mean is you’re assumed to be a musically incompetent show-off, and you’re supposed to make as much noise as you can, and the loudest noise wins.

A three-minute drum solo is a penance. It’s a plague. It appeals to the basest instincts of humans. It’s noise. My son has been taught to play music with others. He can, and does, accompany his much older brother perfectly, and he never plays a note out of place, or misses, or steps all over the vocals, or plays drum fills that go three quarters of the way to the bridge, then get frightened by how fast they’re going and turn around and try to go back home to the verse in the wrong spot. He has never played a drum solo, and he never will. He plays music. Playing music is apparently not allowed in a drumming contest.

I don’t really care about the drum contest. I wouldn’t enter him in it even if it was allowed. It doesn’t have anything to do with music. And besides, he gets paid to play, so if you want him to perform in The Bouzouki Vivisectionist’s Warehouse or the Dulcimer Grotto or whatever you call your stripmall slice of bedlam, then write him a check, upfront, or buzz off.

(My two sons, of whom I’m inordinately fond, call themselves Unorganized Hancock, and will be appearing at the Fryeburg Fair in about a month. Be there and/or be square. There will be no drum solo)

6 Responses

  1. The only time I ever had anything to do with drum solos was with this one mediocre bar band. We'd play Caravan with a drum solo. An unsuspecting drummer would go "sure, OK" and away we'd go. A couple minutes into the thing we'd call for a drum solo and as the guy got into his moment of fame we would drop our axes and go offstage for a smoke or a pee or a beer or all of the above. Not all at once; I tried it one time and, well, it didn't work out that well. Ten minutes later we'd go back onstage all nonchalant as the drummer glared at us. Lasers in the back come to mind. We could only pull that off once with each drummer and we did go through a lot of drummers. They learned fast; one guy, when we dropped our instruments to go offstage, he put up his sticks and came with us. Seems he had been warned.

  2. Not a drum solo man/boy/guy/whatever myself, but I was impressed by and quite pleased with Gene Krupa's solo in "Sing, Sing, Sing".

  3. Oh yeah, the old time guys had quality before breakfast. Drummers like Krupa or Buddy Rich, when they were drumming a solo you could almost hear the song or some riffs just below the drums. They played drums, didn't beat 'em. As a bass player I was always playing in synch with the drummer. After working with a guy for a while we'd know each other's riffs. The downside of drumming is, you gotta carry a lot of hardware.

  4. Hi Up Late- Thanks for the great suggestion. I'd never heard of that fair, but it's perfect for the boys. I imagine that it's too late to get booked for this year, but maybe next year.

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