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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Pedaling To The Beat of a Different Drummer

Although this is not directly related to Taiwan, but who cares, this is my blog and I'll write what I want.

Maybe I should start with a little explanation.

I was listening to my ipod during a ride (officially not recommended) and the playlist shuffled to the song "Fishing" by Public Image Limited. I was instantly transported back to 1986, when I first heard became acquainted with several of the punk and post punk bands that were popular on the outer fringes of the music scene. I wasn't a popular kid. Actually, I was the Tatooine of popular with matted hair, plastc 80's glasses and a bit short. We didn't have a cabin on a lake. We didn't have a video game machine. We really had nothing my peers at school could exploit me for like they did with each other. This isolation from the "cool kids", though painful at the time, allowed me to discover some really cool shit. Public Image Limited was one of those things I was exposed to through an older brother. It was freaky. It was weird. It was a big middle finger in the face of pop music.

The idea of early Public Image Limited was that it was NOT a band. It was a collection of alternating musicians with John Lydon a.k.a. Johnny Rotton of Sex Pistols fame as the glue. Fishing was the third song on the generically packaged Album... album. It was a major departure from the dub centered work  featured on First Issue and Second Edition, where Jah Wobble's bass lines provided the pillar of each song.

Bill Laswell was picked to produce the album and brought in his own musicians. Laswell creates the "Wall of Sound" with fusion, dub, world, jazz and electronica, often relying on mad guitarists like Buckethead, and members or quasi-members of Parliament-Funkadelic.

For Album Laswell assembled a musical Dream Team:

When I was a teenager, allI could hear was the guitar and the lyrics. When I listened to the songs in my iPod the thunderous sound of the drumming smacked me over the head. Maybe it was the pop-pop-pop of the pedals, but I was fascinated. I usually don't like drummers because they feel a constant compulsion to beat on everything with their fingers and it is usually really annoying.

What I was hearing was no session drummer, but the thunderous smashing of a sledgehammer. It was the great Ginger Baker formerly of Cream. If Clapton was God.... Baker was surely the Devil.

I picked up a few more albums that featured Ginger Baker and it was clear that his style is not simply raw drumming, but it had the finesse of a jazz drummer. Still, no matter how soft, it was clear drumming was a physical endeavor for Baker. The mashing and spinning; a balance of power, technique, strategy and endurance. It could be said that Ginger Baker plays drums like he is trying to win a grand tour.

Then I read this:
Peter Edward Baker was born on August 19, 1939, in a working-class neighbourhood of London. The son of a bricklayer, Baker was four years old when his father was killed in World War Two. As a kid, Baker had a single dream: to compete in the Tour de France. He rode his bike for mile after mile, pushing himself to prepare for the gruelling marathon. "I was a good fucking cyclist because of my build -- tall and thin," Baker recalls. But on a rainy day in 1956, as he raced across town, a taxi threw the 16-year-old, crushing his bicycle. Not long after, at a party, Baker's friends dared him to sit at the drums. He was a natural. "The high-hat, the bass drum, the cymbals -- I don't know how, but I could do it all," he says. At that moment, Baker forgot all about a new bicycle -- he wanted drums. He also discovered that he could outlast every other musician in the room. "Long-distance cycling conditioned me for playing the drums," Baker says today.
Finally an explanation! 


  1. Interesting guy. In some many super groups, but still a phenomenon unto himself...You seen this?

    beware of the hyperbole.