Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Song of the Week: Beatles, "Wait"

(Quick note: I'm a bit sick this week, so I'm flipping the YouTube Concert and Song of the Week posts.  Trust me: you don't want to hear me sing right now, nobody wants to hear me sing right now.  So, SOW comes today, and look for the YTC--hopefully--on Friday.  Next week, they'll go back to the normal routine.  Thanks!)

Song of the Week: The Beatles, "Wait" (Rubber Soul)

If not for a great teacher, I might've overlooked this song.  The class was called "Beatles and Beethoven," and in it, we studied Beatles songs and Beethoven compositions (mostly his 5th symphony) and found relationships between the two.  The teacher pointed out that the rhythmic device that opens Beethoven's 5th is practically the same as the beginning of "Wait." 

So, I thought it was high time to give Ringo some love.  There are many reasons to like "Wait," but all of them depend on Ringo's solid rhythmic foundation for the song, and his ingenuity.  He uses a lot of percussion: tambourines, shakers, full drum kit, etc.  Different song sections have different drum parts.  Each verse, chorus, and bridge--all very different--needs to meld together.  And he has to make each part its own event while connecting it all seamlessly. 

Of course, he does it.  My favorite Ringo flourish of the song is the easy-to-miss drum roll he plays going into each chorus (0:12, 0:32, etc.).  Through all the technical precision of the song, he still manages to find spots to convey its emotion.  The anticipation and doubt John sings about in the verse just spill over into each chorus, and Ringo takes him there.  Ringo's brilliance isn't just that he serves this little complex song so well.  It's that he can do it without intruding; somehow, all of his great effort is still easy to miss.

I hear Ringo's drumming in a lot of bands today.  For example, the New Pornographers write multi-section, rhythmically-unusual songs with lots of different percussive parts.  It's often their drummer's job to blend it all together, to make the off-kilter sound solid.  There's a lot of "Wait" in songs like "Crash Years." 

I know there are more virtuosic drummers, but I'd rather have Ringo Starr in my band any day.

Til next week,

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