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Funkadelic - You Hit the Nail on the Head underlying mechanism verified

How are you getting along lately? This time, from the byword of funk, check out the funk groove that looks simple on the surface but you cannot easily make it happen.

In a Funkadelic's album "America Eats Its Young" released in 1972 has a lot to listen to for drummers. Drums stand out in the songs much. The groove in the outro part of the 14th track "Wake Up" is a must-listen for all of us, but this time we are going to see the 1st track "You Hit the Nail on the Head". 

America Eats It's Young

America Eats It's Young


This is how the drummer plays from the beginning of the song:


The organ riff and the somewhat wild strumming of the wah-wah guitar combine to create a unique dance groove. I like the way the song starts. The song is trimmed to start in Auftakt from the Hi-hat open accent in the drum pattern. We do not hear stick-hitting tick-tocks of the ride cymbal, and the ride cymbal itself does not produce a beat. Meanwhile, we can hear after-hitting resonance of the ride cymbal, and it makes the song a little bit thick and lively.

This drum pattern does not seem particularly important. But what does make such really funky groove?! I figured it out through hearing the riff for a while. Not to mention the organ phrase with staccato contributes to it, but the root cause could be the very subtle swing feel like this:


The drummer on the song, (probably) Ramon "Tiki" Fulwood might not be aiming that effect. But his natural instinct would realize that groove. This sense of time really matters in this song.

In this finely timed pattern, the song goes on and suddenly changes to a quite relaxed feel at 2:54 singing loosely "You hit the nail on the head". After some time relaxing like that, it returns to the pattern of the beginning when the snare drum breaks in. It's very cool to brace up and wake up the song to be funky again.



The lyrics of this song go like this:

You Hit the Nail on the Head
Just because you win the fight
Don't make you right
Just because you give
Don't make you good

"You Hit the Nail on the Head" means "you're exactly right" followed by the statement "Just because you win the fight don't make you right". It sounds like sour grapes, but also seems to convey a profound message. The 2nd track of this album "If You Don't Like the Effects, Don't Produce the Cause" criticizes people who protest against major issues for social justice but don't change anything about their lives. Other songs have messages about political and moral value judgments. This time I found out that Funkadelic has something certain specific they want to claim. Why have they been popular from generation to generation? Their music itself? The star shaped sunglasses on Bootsy Collins? It's more than that.


Z / Shampoohorn - Jesus Clone ...not bad...heh-heh...

Introducing Zappa again! But it's not him we would imagine. This time his sons Dweezil Zappa and Ahmet Zappa. The group name is "Z" and the album name is "Shampoohorn". If you look closely at the logo Z, you can see that the initial letters of their names, "A" and "D", are hidden here. An easter egg type thing! 




In this album, Dweezil is on guitar, and the "interesting hat" Mike Keneally is on keyboard, guitar, and the arrangement of harmony. Lots of drummers are joining: Terry Bozzio, Tal Bergman, Joe Travers, Morgan Ågren, Toss Panos, and etc. Terry Bozzio plays on the songs Rubberband, Bellybutton, and Them. As there isn't much information on the Internet actually and I don't have the CD with me, I am relying on my memory of reading the lyrics card (liner notes) more than 20 years ago when I was listening to it very often.

This time, let me check the song Jesus Clone, which includes heavy twin bass drums and odd meters always come with Zappa. I could not find who the drummer is...



The beginning goes with a twin bass drums slash beat pattern. I think it's a little unusual since 4/4 and 9/8 come in turns. The cymbal notes with a mark like "A" on the 2nd-4th bars are muted (choked) right after hitting the cymbal. The cymbal notes with a circle on the 5th bar are by china cymbal, trash cymbal, or like.




The progression of the meter from the 10th bar is somewhat unusual as well. 1 bar in 4/4 and 3 bars in 5/4. That's pretty strange! Each measure, except for the accent on the cymbals on the 1st and 2nd beats, is cooked in lower tones with floor tom and kick. Sometimes there are linear phrases with cymbal, tom, and kick. Drum notes move very freely around the kit. I would get lost in those odd meters.
I would feel relieved as 4/4 continues from 18th bar. And you hear quite a heavy pattern. This is an example of heavy metal drums in quarter notes open high-hat. The right and left hands keep the big quarter notes while the kick fills busily the spaces, creating a loose and heavy metal groove. And from 26th bar, bad luck, it goes back to the strange progression...

The songs in this album are based on the vocabulary of metal music. On the other hand a lot of highlights worthy of listening to, such as a song with beautiful choir harmony (Doomed To Be Together, etc.) are included. I also recommend this album to you who love Progressive rock or inhering odd meters. The album has the songs that have more highly intense odd meters than Jesus Clone (for example Kidz Cereal and Shampoohorn). Listen to the odd songs and enjoy making yourself puzzled hard.


Farewell to Steve Vai - Kill The Guy With The Ball

"Kill The Guy With The Ball" where the Deen Castronovo's high-speed technical drum play shines from the Steve Vai's mini-album "Alien Love Secrets" in a row. Steve seemed to be playing well with his own weinie when he was little (†). Let's look at the part in the middle of the song this time.

Alien Love Secrets

Alien Love Secrets


(†) What do I mean by playing with a weinie?!
See the story in "When i was a little boy" recorded in Alien Love Secrets. http://www.vai.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=9673



What I would like to pay attention to is the triplet on the 3rd beat in the 6th bar. The history dates back more than 20 years ago. When Alien Love Secrets was released, I was very impressed with this part listening to it on a music listening system in Tower Records in Tokyo. At that time I told my friend "The tempo changes only around here!" and "It is amazing to play this in a band without difficulty!" but he had completely no idea what I was saying. Beyond time and space, hope my thought makes sense to you here and now...

The tempo seems to be changed, because the 1.5 quarter note phrase of the guitar starting from the 5th bar changes its rhythm to a triplet of the 3rd beat in the 6th bar without changing the melodic line. I wondered if I became old and too insensitive to be impressed. I think it is a bit typical listening again now...



Right after that, the "DaDa DaDad Dad Dad Dad Dad Dad Dad Da" part and the drum solo of the next bar. The 32nd notes on 10th bar are very similar to the 32nd note phrase in intro part. We can see it has the 6 + 4 sequences (see the previous article). He had to play the same phrase, maybe because the tempo is very fast. But still the difficulty level is high even just filling it with 32nd notes.

The phrase with the sextuplets in the 12th bar is a bit hard to see, but if you look closely, 4 notes R-L-R-K are repeated. When you try to fill the space of such an 1 bar break with sextuplets, you may instantly roll toms with just your hands. It demonstrates that he is a superb drummer for placing the linear phrase incorporates kicks here.

Other parts of this song that I did not pick up here also have some interesting challenges in terms of rhythm. If you are not sure a certain part is ad-lib or not, I recommend to refer to another recording in the album Sound Theories. Most of the rhythmic challenges are written and intended. 

Sound Theories I & II (Bril)

Sound Theories I & II (Bril)