How Drums & Bass Make the Song: Isolated Tracks from Led Zeppelin, Rush, The Pixies, The Beatles to Royal Blood

There may be no more critical interplay between two musicians in modern music than that between bassists and drummers. As jazz bassist Christian McBride put it in a recent NPR interview, “the bass and drums should work as one instrument. It determines whether it’s funk or jazz or country or rock ‘n’ roll. It all depends on what rhythms are coming from the bass and the drums that make a particular music what it is.” In funk and jazz, these rhythm players tend to get a lot more credit. Most people—even die hard fans—would be hard pressed to name one country bassist or drummer. In rock and roll, we’re used to lauding lead singers and guitarists. And certainly classic duos from Jagger and Richards, to Page and Plant, Roth and Van Halen, Morrissey and Marr and a lengthy list of others each have earned their vaunted places in music history.

Yet as a fan, I’ve always been drawn to unsung bass and drum combos—like The Smiths’ Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke, Jane’s Addiction’s Eric Avery and Stephen Perkins, and many others in bands whose flamboyant leaders tended to overshadow their rock solid supports. This is not the case in many other groups of superstars. McBride gives us the examples of Bootsy Collins and John Starks in James Brown’s band, and bassist Sam Jones and drummer Louis Hayes from Cannonball Adderley’s ensemble. Today we look specifically at some famed rock rhythm duos, and listen in on isolated tracks from some of their bands’ most well-known tunes. We begin with the absolutely classic powerhouse rhythm section of John Paul Jones (top) and John Bonham, whose grooves anchored the riff machine that was Led Zeppelin. Just above, hear their push and pull on “Ramble On.”

As it turns out, Zeppelin were big James Brown fans, and Jones has specifically mentioned the funk influence on his playing. Jones and Bonham, in turn, have influenced thousands of rhythm players, including perhaps one of the most famous of bass and drum duos, Rush’s Geddy Lee and Neil Peart. Just above, hear Lee’s fuzzed-out bass work in tandem with Peart’s expert time changes and breakdowns in isolated tracks from “Vital Signs,” a song from their early-eighties new wave-inspired album Moving Pictures. Rush is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but more rock and roll drummers than not probably cite them as an influence at some point in their careers. Though it wasn’t apparent to me in their heyday, even such a minimalist band as the Pixies had a Rush influence, specifically by way of drummer David Lovering. His locked grooves with bassist Kim Deal more or less defined the sound of the 90s through their influence on Nirvana, Weezer, Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins and countless others. Hear their isolated rhythm tracks from Doolittle’s “Wave of Mutilation” below.

It’s hardly necessary to point out that perhaps the most famed rhythm section in rock history comes from its most celebrated band. But Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr often get remembered more for their songwriting and personalities than for their rhythm playing. Ringo’s taken his share of undeserved flak for his no-frills style. I’ve always found him to be an especially tasteful player who knows when to add the perfect fill or accent, when to lay back and let the song dominate, and when to get out of the way entirely. Starr’s thoughtful drumming perfectly complements McCartney’s highly melodic walking basslines—captured as well on the George Harrison-penned “Something,” below, as on anything else the band recorded.

Again, it’s hardly necessary to cite the number of bands influenced by the Beatles, though it’s harder to name rhythm sections directly inspired by McCartney and Starr’s dynamic. Nonetheless, their DNA runs through decades of pop music in all its forms. The other three duos above have directly inspired a more specific phenomenon of bands made up solely of bass and drums. One such band, the UK’s Royal Blood, has won numerous awards (and praise from Jimmy Page). See them perform a live version of “Figure It Out” below.

Other bands like Death From Above 1979 and Om have hugely devoted followings. (See a discussion of more bass-and-drum-only combos here.) With the success of these bands—along with the rise of electronic dance music as a dominant form—it’s safe to say that killer rhythm sections, so often overshadowed in rock and pop history, have pushed past traditional lead players and, in many cases, taken their place. I’d say it’s about time.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Watch Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Clever Promo for Ridley Scott’s New Sci-Fi Film, The Martian

“Ever since our species first looked up at the sky, we dreamed of reaching Mars. Back in 2029, that dream became real, when the first humans stepped foot on the Red planet. And, in a few months, a new group of astronauts will make the journey….”

It all seems like many other Neil deGrasse Tyson videos you’ve seen before. Until he says, “Back in 2029.” Wait, what?

Behold Neil deGrasse Tyson appearing in a clever promo for Ridley Scott’s upcoming film The Martian

Based on Andy Weir’s bestselling 2011 novel The Martian, the movie will star Matt Damon as Mark Watney, an astronaut who goes on a big mission to Mars — the one so stirringly described by Tyson above. But the journey to Mars is not where the real action happens, and we’ll just leave it at that. No spoilers here.

The film will hit theaters in October. You can watch an official trailer here. And, in the meantime, you can always listen to Neil’s Star Talk Radio Show (referenced in the clip) anytime.

via Slate

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Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn & Twain Himself Meet Satan in the Zany 1985 Claymation The Adventures of Mark Twain

“But who prays for Satan?” Mark Twain asked in the autobiography left behind as he exited this mortal coil on the tail of Halley’s comet, whose 1835 appearance coincided with his birth.

It’s a good question.

Had he instead asked who claymates Satan, the answer would have been clearcut.

1985 saw the release of The Adventures of Mark Twain, the world’s first all claymation feature film, in which Satan starred alongside Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Becky Thatcher, and Twain himself.

Director Will Vinton, father of the California Raisins and Domino Pizza’s ill-fated mascot, The Noid, drew on some of Twain’s best known work, cobbling together a story in which the fictional kids stowaway aboard an airship Twain plans to pilot into the comet.

The Satan section above comes courtesy of the author’s final, unfinished novel, The Mysterious Stranger. The animation is top notch, but hoo boy, it’s hard to imagine a vision this apocalyptic getting a G-rating today.

Vinton himself resisted the rating, not wanting to be lumped in with more regular kiddie fare. It performed disappointingly at the box office despite great critical response from such lofty realms as The New Republic.

Is it really so surprising that families flocking to the Care Bears Movie steered clear of one featuring a shape-shifting, free-floating mask, who terrorizes the children in the film (and presumably, the audience) by conjuring an enchanting little clay kingdom only to rain misfortune upon it. We’re talking smashed coffins, grief-stricken clay mothers wailing over the bodies of their young, helpless victims being swallowed up by cracks that appear in the earth.

Where’s the Happy Meal tie-in there!?

It’s reassuring to know that the existential horror was indeed deliberate. As Vinton told James Gartler in an interview with Animation World Network:

“… it was just such a bizarre character, to start with.  In fact, I haven’t seen a character quite like that in almost anything else – someone who has this power but no feeling one way or another and just sort-of tells it like it is regarding the future of humanity.  We wanted it to be about metamorphosis, visually, and make that a big part of sequence.  He transforms and grows up and down from the earth and appears out of nothingness. The design of the character came from an early drawing that Barry Bruce did, where a jester was holding his face on a stick.  I thought it was a really interesting way to play it.  I ended up doing the voice of the Stranger with a female performer.  We wanted it to be almost androgynous, so she and I did it together and made a point of not trying to hide it, even.”

I’m not sure the person or persons responsible for the theatrical trailer, below, got the memo…

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday

48 Hours of Joseph Campbell Lectures Free Online: The Power of Myth & Storytelling


Photo by “Folkstory” features Joseph Campbell (left) with Jonathan Young, via Wikimedia Commons.

You may not be interested in politics, they say, but politics is interested in you. The same, if you believe famed mythologist Joseph Campbell, goes for myth: far from explaining only the origin of the world as believed by extinct societies, it can explain the power of stories we enjoy today — up to and including Star Wars.

The man behind PBS’ well-known series The Power of Myth left behind many words in many formats telling us precisely why, and now you can hear a fair few of them — 48 hours worth — for free on this Spotify playlist. (If you don’t have Spotify’s software already, you can download it free here.)

“From the Star Wars trilogy to the Grateful Dead,” says the Joseph Campbell Foundation, “Joseph Campbell has had a profound impact on our culture, our beliefs, and the way we view ourselves and the world.” This collection, The Lectures of Joseph Campbell, which comes from early in his career, offers “a glimpse into one of the great minds of our time, drawing together his most wide-ranging and insightful talks” in the role of both “a scholar and a master storyteller.” So not only can Campbell enrich our understanding of all the stories we love, he can spin his lifetime of mythological research into teachings that, in the telling, weave into a pretty gripping yarn in and of themselves.

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Everything I Know: 42 Hours of Buckminster Fuller’s Visionary Lectures Free Online (1975)


Colin Marshall writes on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Oliver Sacks’ Last Tweet Shows Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” Movingly Flashmobbed in Spain

“A beautiful way to perform one of the world’s great musical treasures.” The video above, and the accompanying 58-character sentence, make up the last tweet from Oliver Sacks, the influential neurologist who passed away earlier today. The clip (originally highlighted on our site back in 2012) features 100 musicians and singers from the Orchestra Simfonica del Valles, Amics de l’Opera de SabadellCoral Belles Arts, and Cor Lieder Camera performing what’s now the anthem of the European Union — Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” from his Symphony No. 9. It’s a pretty stirring performance, and certainly a worthwhile way to punctuate a Twitter stream. (Side note: Dr. Sacks started following our Twitter stream several years ago, and we still consider it a great honor, a high point in OC history.)

You can read Mr. Sacks’ obituary here, and an appraisal of his intellectual contributions here.

h/t @miafarrow

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newsletter, please find it here.

If you would like to support the mission of Open Culture, consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere. You can contribute through PayPal, Patreon, and Venmo (@openculture). Thanks!

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Watch a Luthier Birth a Cello in This Hypnotic Documentary

It’s always interesting to see how things are made—crayons, Fender Stratocasters, cartoon eggs

The documentary above takes you through the creation of a cello in the Barcelona workshop of master luthier Xavier Vidal i Roca. (To watch with English subtitles, click the closed caption icon — “CC” — in the lower right corner.)

The opening shots of luthier Eduard Bosque Miñana taking measurements have the jazzy feel of a Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood segment, but once music scholar Ramón Andres gets into the act, things take a turn toward the philosophical.

His thoughts as to the ways the “king of all instruments” speaks to the human condition are commensurate with the level of craftsmanship its construction requires.

(Though seeing Miñana patiently fit a steam-shaped curve to the developing instrument’s c-bout leads me to question Andres’ choice of anthropomorphizing pronoun. With a waistline like that, surely this cello is a deep-voiced queen.)

The master luthier himself acknowledges that there is always a bit of mystery as to how any given instrument will sound. Most modern cellos are copies of ancient instruments. With the design set, the luthier must channel his or her creative expression into the construction, working with similarly ancient tools – chisels, palette knives, and the like. If power tools come into play, director Laura Vidal keeps them offscreen.

The effect is meditative, hypnotic…I was glad to have the mystery preserved, even as I agree with cellist Lito Iglesias that musicians should make an effort to understand their instruments’ construction, and the reasons behind the selection of particular woods and shapes.

Iglesias also notes that the luthier is the unsung partner in every public performance, the one the audience never thinks to acknowledge.

The Sarabande of Bach’s Suite for Solo Cello no. 1 in G major brings things to an appropriately emotional conclusion.

via Devour

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Carl Jung’s Hand-Drawn, Rarely-Seen Manuscript The Red Book

Despite his onetime friend and mentor Sigmund Freud’s enormous impact on Western self-understanding, I would argue it is Carl Jung who is still most with us in our communal practices: from his focus on introversion and extroversion to his view of syncretic, intuitive forms of spirituality and his indirect influence on 12-Step programs. But Jung’s journey to self-understanding and what he called “individuation” was an intensely private, personal affair that took place over the course of sixteen years, during which he created an incredible, folio-sized work of religious art called The Red Book: Liber Novus. In the video above, you can get a tour through Jung’s private masterpiece, presented in an intensely hushed, breathy style meant to trigger the tingly sensations of a weird phenomenon called “ASMR” (recently the subject of a This American Life segment). Given the book’s disorienting and often disturbing content, this over-gentle guidance seems appropriate.

After his break with Freud in 1913, when he was 38 years old, Jung had what he feared might be a psychotic break with reality as well. He began recording his dreams, mystical visions, and psychedelic inner voyages, in a stylized, calligraphic style that resembles medieval European illuminated manuscripts and the occult psychic journeys of Aleister Crowley and William Blake.

Jung had the work bound, but not published. It’s “a very personal record,” writes Psychology Today, “of Jung’s complicated, tortuous and lengthy quest to salvage his soul.” Jung called this process of creation the “numinous beginning” to his most important psychological work. After many years spent locked in a bank vault, The Red Book finally came to light a few years ago and was translated and published in an expensive edition.

Since its completion, Jung’s book—a “holy grail of the unconscious”—has fascinated artists, psychologists, occultists, and ordinary people seeking to know their own inner depths. For most of that time, it remained hidden from view. Now, even if you can’t afford a copy of the book, you can still see more of it than most anyone else could for almost 100 years. In addition to the whispered tour of it above, you can see several finely illustrated pages—with sea serpents, angels, runes, and mandalas—at The Guardian, and read a short excerpt at NPR.

And for a very thorough survey of Jung’s book, listen to the lecture series by longtime Jung scholar Dr. Lance S. Owens, who delivers one set of talks for lay people and another more in-depth set for a group of clinical psychologists. Above and below, you can hear the first two parts of Owen’s more general lecture on Jung’s “numinous beginning,” a book, “unlike anything in the modern age; a work completely without category or comparison.” Visit the Gnostic Society Library site to stream and download the remaining lectures.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Take a 360° Virtual Tour of Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Personal Home & Studio

360 tour taliesin2

You can learn a lot about an architect from looking at the buildings they designed, and you can learn even more by looking at the buildings they lived in, but you can learn the most of all from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin. For that best-known of all American architects, this house stands still today not just as his home but as one of his notable works, and as the studio in which he designed other notable works (including Fallingwater). Wright’s enthusiasts make pilgrimages out to Spring Green, Wisconsin to pay their respects to this singular house on a hill, which offers tours from May through October.

For those less inclined toward architectural pilgrimages, we have this HD 360-degree “virtual visit” of Taliesin (also known as Taliesin East since 1937, when Wright built a Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona). “The center of Frank Lloyd Wright’s world was Taliesin East,” write the online tour’s developers. “It was his home, workshop, architectural laboratory and inspiration for nearly all his life.” In the comfort of your web browser, you can “experience what he saw daily, surrounded by Asian art, expansive views of Wisconsin’s rolling hills, his own courtyard gardens and a space to relax before a fire watched over by a portrait of his mother.”

You can also get a view of “the actual drafting tables where Wright designed his most famous buildings” and the drawings on them, all while “staff historian Keiran Murphy shares the history, the personal stories and points out special objects in the room” (if you choose to keep the “tour guide” option turned on). And Taliesin certainly doesn’t lack history, either personal or architectural. Wright built its first iteration in 1911, and it lasted until a paranoid servant burnt it down in 1941, axe-murdering seven people there (including Wright’s live-in ladyfriend and her children) in the process. Wright, who’d been away at the time of the tragedy, recovered from the shock of it all, then set to work on Taliesin II, though he didn’t really live in it until after he returned from his work on Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel in 1922.

Three years later, another fire (this time probably due to an electrical problem) badly damaged the house again, necessitating the design of a Taliesin III, which he could begin only after digging himself out of a financial hole in 1928. It is more or less that Taliesin that you can see today, whether you visit in person or through the internet. If you feel sufficiently inspired as a result, you could even apply to study at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture located there. While the house won’t likely turn you into an architectural genius just by osmosis, at least you can rest assured that it has probably put its most dramatic disasters behind it.

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Colin Marshall writes on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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