More Cowbell Songs
What can we say? There were so many worthy candidates for our list of the Top 10 Cowbell Songs that we simply had to address the overflow with what else? More cowbell! Look (and listen) for yourselves and you’ll surely agree that when it comes to rock and roll, cowbells are the gift that keep on giving.
“BONG! BONG! BONG!” goes the cowbell, and we’re off into our second list of cowbell songs, courtesy of ever-pouting Canadian leather boys, Loverboy, and their chart topping anthem ‘Working for the Weekend.’ Frankly, relatable blue-collar anthems about getting loaded after a hard week of 9-5 never looked or sounded this slick — cowbell and all.
You ain’t lived if you ain’t seen the cover art of Head East’s ‘Flat as a Pancake’ album; nor if you’ve failed to hear their lone semi-hit from 1975, ‘Never Been Any Reason.’ Besides its roughneck guitar lick, sci-fi synthesizer hook and irresistible sing-along chorus (sample lyrics: “Woman with a sweet lovin’ better than a white line”) the song makes prominent use of — you guessed it — a cowbell. Have yourself a helping; we promise you’ll come back for seconds, thirds…
Before he went stratospheric with the Eagles, Joe Walsh of course spent several years cutting his hard rock teeth with the James Gang, and perhaps no tune better showcased the trio’s instrumental abilities and tight musical interplay than the cowbell-enhanced ‘Funk #49′ (listen for it during the tribal break halfway through); another obvious choice for our “more cowbell” songs list.
Like the best of soap operas, the Jefferson Starship saga involved a remarkable series of unbelievable plot twists, romance and drama, a revolving door cast (even the odd name change: beginning as Jefferson Airplane and later becoming Starship), and, in the case of 1979’s unexpected AOR smash, ‘Jane': cowbell! Yes, that’s our modest little friend bopping away behind Craig Chaquico’s searing guitar solo, and a perfect time-keeper it is too.
The Grateful Dead kicked around America’s concert venues for decades, their faithful Deadheads blissfully, wastedly in tow but did they ever score a mainstream radio hit? Not ‘til they whipped out a cowbell for 1987’s ‘Touch of Grey,’ which admittedly also benefited from a popular music video (released at the height of MTV’s promotional powers) that introduced the band – or at least their skeletons – and its lingering flower power ethos to a new generation of fans.
Bachman Turner Overdrive lurked across the 1970s like a lovable clan of semi-hairless Sasquatches (or oversized teddy bears — you pick), oftentimes seeming to hide in plain sight thanks to their down-to-earth, if somewhat sugary, boogie rock and unassuming Everyman image. Nowadays no one can even be sure that they ever existed! Instead, one can only listen for the cowbell adorning ‘You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet’ for probable evidence.
Perish the thought that we would dare leave The Beatles out of this cowbell-fest — especially since old Ringo was quite partial to the instrument, utilizing it on a half-dozen Fab Four classics. ‘You Can’t do That’ is hardly the most famous of these (‘Taxman,’ ‘Drive My Car,’ etc.) but it does arguably contain the most cowbell, pound for pound.
Frankly, we can hardly pick out a cowbell amid the over-produced glory that is Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Go Your Own Way,’ but we have it on good authority that it’s buried in there somewhere — amid the 463 other instruments (unofficially) mixed into the average track from 1977’s landmark ‘Rumors.’ And we’re not crazy enough to argue with Lyndsey Buckingham about it either.
Then again, we may have no choice after placing Def Leppard ahead of the Mac on this encore list of cowbell songs. But can you really blame us given the instrument’s upfront showcase on Leppard’s ‘Rock of Ages,’ immediately following the indecipherable gibberish uttered in place of the traditional 1-2-3-4? Consider, too, that this was probably take 258 of the song under perfectionist producer/taskmaster Mutt Lang (you’ll have to ask Mutt whether the cowbell was human- or drum machine-powered), and give Leppard a break.
Mountain’s universal calling card, ‘Mississippi Queen,’ is a natural, utterly regret-free choice to top our second volume of cowbell songs, since it (a) absolutely cooks, and (b) features one of the hardest hit cowbells ever heard. Who knows what state of disrepair it was in once the recording session finally wrapped, but even if this cowbell made the ultimate sacrifice to the cause of helping birth hard rock and proto-metal, its passing was not in vain. Hail, cowbell!