Saturday, May 2, 2015

Give Blood

I almost certainly listen to the pristine pop gem that is "Let My Love Open the Door" more, but "Give Blood" may just be my favorite solo Pete Townshend song.

I'd always loved David Gilmour's playing on it, but just found out the song's insane origin:
"'Give Blood' was one of the tracks I didn't even play on. I brought in Simon Phillips, Pino Palladino and David Gilmour simply because I wanted to see my three favourite musicians of the time playing on something and, in fact, I didn't have a song for them to work on, and sat down very, very quickly and rifled through a box of stuff, said to Dave, 'Do one of those kind of ricky-ticky-ricky-ticky things, and I'll shout "give blood!" in the microphone every five minutes and let's see what happens.' And that's what happened. Then I constructed the song around what they did."
I guess that is the kind of thing that tends to happen when you have a pretty much perfect band—and it simply doesn't get better than Gilmour, Palladino and Phillips—and toss them a decent scrap of a song idea and start the tapes rolling. Of course, it does hurt to then have one of the world's great lyricists—who's also a fine singer—write over the resulting results.

Turned out pretty well, I'd say.

Gilmour's "Run Like Hell" guitar is so integral, as are Townshend's own acoustic flourishes, but (beyond the lyrics and melody, of course, and great as the horns are, and they are) the real star here is Simon Phillips' mad drumming.

Simon Phillips is what you'd get if you were to create a drummer in the laboratory using Steve Gadd's unsurpassed technique and Keith Moon's unshakable belief that the drummer should be the primary lead instrument in a rock band. Check out the sixteenth notes Phillips plays during the first few choruses, but notice just how he arranges them: his left hand is playing the hi-hat with the opening and closing disco beat so beloved by the aforementioned Gadd, while his right hand splits duties between the ride cymbal and the snare, with the occasional visit to a passing tom.

Or note the (for him) simple tension-building he does before the third verse, the back and forth on the double bass drums before two syncopated flams on the snare and a cymbal crash. There are an awful lot of drummers who could more or less pull that off. There are almost none who would have written it, and none who would have written it and played it so savagely yet crisply.

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