Earlier this summer, the good folks at The Word assembled 40 Noises That Built Pop, a collection of distinctive pop music sounds that have “caused your ears to prick up, or your eyebrows to raise.” Some were originally created in quite calculated ways. Others were happy accidents. Either way, theses sounds are now part of the pop tradition. We have highlighted four sounds that speak to us. But you should really dive into and enjoy The Word’s collection that was clearly put together with loving care.

The Power Chord from The Kinks: You Really Got Me (1964)
“It’s the essential building block of rock; the root and the fifth of the chord played at substantial volume on guitar and distorted to taste. It’s also the musical equivalent of the poker face; with just the two notes, it’s neither a sunny-sounding major chord nor a gloomy minor… Without the power chord entire genres of metal simply wouldn’t exist.”

Vinyl Scratch from Herbie Hancock: Rockit (1983)
“Any DJ cueing up a record through one ear of a pair of headphones will have heard the sound of scratching, but it wasn’t until the early days of hip hop that it was incorporated into musical performance… Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa and Kool Herc became the pioneers of “turntablism”, while Grand Mixer DXT’s work on Rockit propelled the sound into the mainstream and transformed the DJ into an unlikely frontman.”

Handclap from Kool & The Gang: Ladies Night (1979)
“As a percussive sound, [the handclap has] been used by everyone from flamenco dancers to Steve Reich, but it was in the mid-1970s when it found its true calling. Layered on top of the snare drum to emphasise the second and fourth beats of the bar, its formidable “crack” can be heard throughout disco and funk, and has since been employed by anyone wishing to hint at a party atmosphere…”

Guitar Feedback from Gang Of Four: Anthrax (1981)
“A classic case of rock music taking an undesirable noise and moulding it to suit its own purposes. The reason for feedback is simple: the guitar pickup “hears” itself being blasted out of a speaker cabinet, processes the sound and passes it to the speaker: noise piled upon noise. As rock music became less polite, more liberties were taken with feedback; while there’s an unintentional burst at the front end of I Feel Fine by The Beatles, the outro to The Who’s My Generation uses the sound more creatively.”

H/T Metafilter

And, on a totally unrelated note: Sun Ra and The Blues Project do Batman & Robin songs. Courtesy of the WFMU Blog Wayback Machine.


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  • Reg Webb says:

    I don’t think the “burst of feedback” at the beginning of “I Feel Fine” was an accident. It’s the dominant on an open string which builds into the start of the intro. George Martin clearly intended it to be there.

  • Dan Colman says:

    Well, yes, George Martin had a reason for everything, didn’t he?

    Dan

  • J U says:

    I think your captcha for suggest a link is broken! Thanks,

  • Richard Thomas says:

    Intellectually bankrupt; no mention of the commodification of “noise”, and peppered with fatuous, ignorant nonsense such as this: ‘The reason for feedback is simple: the guitar pickup “hears” itself being blasted out of a speaker cabinet….’ Yes, Dan. Guitar pickups are sentient…. Awful work, Dan Colman.

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