In SNL’s famous “Behind the Music” Cowbell skit [transcript], Christopher Walken is the producer during a Blue Oyster Cult recording session. Will Farrell is hard-driving on the cowbell through “Dont Fear the Reaper” — a little too hard-driving, his bandmates think. But Walken insists: “More cowbell. I got to have more cowbell.” The piece has cult status for a reason — we all know deep inside that the cowbell has been woefully under-appreciated in music history.
NPR makes amends with their tribute piece: There’s Just Something About That Cowbell, while The Cowbell Project archives every song readers can think of that centers on that luscious, penetrating sound. The site even calls Christopher Walken “The Patron Saint of the Cowbell.” You can also get Cowbell T-shirts to proclaim your adoration.
It’s the cymbal’s evil third cousin. It’s the dark ring that pounds in the back of your brain and lets you know, it’s time to rock. The cowbell is an instrument that can’t be overused. It should never be underused.
I’m glad for the cowbell that it’s finally being recognized for its place in rock history, I really am, but also feeling sympathy for the even less-lauded Vibraslap. If the cowbell is underutilized in modern rock/pop, the vibraslap is all but forgotten. Once upon a time, the vibraslap was a staple of both big orchestral rock and high school bands; now it’s less than a footnote. (MP3 excerpt from ELO’s “Jungle”):
Granted it’s kind of buried in the mix there — someone point me to a more prominent sample please — I got to hear more vibraslap.