Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hal Blaine

I remember sitting in the family sedan and listening to the radio in the early 60's and being totally blown away by, what was then called, "Surf Music." I lived in the Midwest and the whole California culture thing was tempting....exotic even. Hell, I wouldn't of recognized a surf board if it hit me in the head, but the music....that was a different story. It was the drumming that did it. A real up front sound, real fat and propulsive. When tunes like "Surf City", "Drag City","Surfer Girl", and "Surfin'USA", were played on the air, I would play "air drums" and imagine myself leading the band.
At the same time, Phil Spector, the legendary record producer, was introducing his Wall of Sound recording artistry to the public. The drumming wasn't as up front on these recordings, but you couldn't mistake the drive. Tunes like "Be my Baby" by the Ronettes and " He's a Rebel" by the Crystals, affected me in much the same way that Surf Music did.
It wasn't until a few years later did I realize who Hal Blaine was and how he contributed to the sound of these records. It was also then that I learned that the great Earl Palmer played drums with Hal on some of my favorite Surf records. They played double drums, writing out all their parts and then playing them together. Thus, the incredible fat sound.
Hal played on over 350 Top Ten records, 40 Number One records, and 8 Grammy Records of the Year. He seems to have worked with just about anyone who recorded in the 60's. His drumming on the Mama's and Papa's records and with the Fifth Dimension are textbook examples of how to play drums in the pop music genre.
Hal played Rogers Drums at first, but switched to Ludwig Drums in the 60's. He actually invented a monster drum kit that later became known as the Ludwig Octaplus kit. In addition to a standard 4 piece kit, the Octaplus configuration added 7 toms.
The pictured book is required reading for Drummers of any discipline.....hell, it should be required reading for anyone interested in American culture. It's a wild and wonderful story. It captures a time that we will never see again.

1 comment:

  1. Your mention of Hal Blaine and Earl Palmer brought back some memories. Yes, they contributed to the wonderful fat sound of Phil Spector, but I don’t believe many folks know the extent Earl Palmer contributed to pop music. Earl was the drummer on one of Frank Sinatra’s early Reprise albums. He also played on lps by the Mamas & Papas and Elvis Costello. He was the drummer on quite a few hot singles including “Donna” & “La Bamba” by Ritchie Valens, and “The Lonely Bull” by Herb Alpert. You also mentioned “He’s A Rebel” which is one of my favorite tunes of all time. It sure had the Spector power and sound! A bit of trivia: “He’s A Rebel” was written by the late great Gene Pitney. I like your website Jim. Keep up the good work!