Monday’s Music Moves Me – Songs with Weird, Funky or Cool Instruments

It’s Monday and you know what that means: It’s time for Monday’s Music Moves Me. I’m honored to be serving as one of this month’s Co-Hosts. My final theme for the month, songs with unique or unusual instruments, is one I’ve been looking forward to working on for a few months now. And I bet none of you will be surprised that I’ve decided to turn it into a series. Haha. That’s right, welcome to Part 1 of my Songs with Weird, Funky and Cool Instruments series. At this point I haven’t yet decided on how many parts this series will have but I’ll figure that out soon.

I’m starting off with a simple and not very unusual instrument because when I chose the theme, this instrument was the first that came to mind. I’m also keeping it short because, well, some of you already know that I had a little bump in my road a few days ago. I fell on my deck, and as Murphy’s Law would have it, I fell on my GOOD shoulder. Most of you know that I had shoulder reconstruction surgery back in April due to two full-thickness tears in my rotator cuff that resulted from a fall, when I slipped on a still wet freshly mopped floor and my shoulder came crashing into the fireplace bricks. The surgery I had, arthroscopic superior capsule reconstruction for irreparable rotator cuff tears (aka SCI) is fairly new (5 years) and quite intense. I’m still in physical therapy for that one and my range of motion is very limited still (only at 60 degrees). So the other day, when I fell over, like a damn tree falling in the woods, and hit hard the cement pad with my good shoulder, I knew immediately it wasn’t good. I laid there for a few minutes while the dogs all gathered around me, sniffing at my face, — and do you believe not one of them offered to help me up! Not one! Good grief!–

I went to see my orthopedic surgeon on Friday. His P.A. saw me and after looking at the x-rays told me there were no broken bones. BUT the fact that I am unable to lift my arm over my head it is indicative and symptomatic of a rotator cuff tear. I couldn’t believe it. And in my already fragile state, I just started to cry. I can’t even express how mad I am at God right now. Where the hell were my angels when I was falling? Why didn’t they catch me? After everything I’ve been through over these last several years and now this? I’m real fucking pissed off.

But like Steve (the P.A.) said, it was only the second day since the injury. He said to give it a few days to calm down. And let’s just pray that it’s only a contusion (bruised muscle). They are sending me for an MRI, which is scheduled for Wednesday this week. I’m holding out hope but I don’t think I’ll be that lucky. I still can’t lift it over my head. My life sucks sometimes…

Because I’ve been hanging out with ice packs for the last few days I haven’t had a lot of time to spend on the 4M post. So I’m going to start off with a simple playlist of songs that utilize the cool instrument known as the COWBELL

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It may not be particularly unusual as many bands incorporate cowbells into their music. Actually many more than I expected. But I love a cowbell.

What is a cowbell, you ask? Well, it is exactly what it says it is. It’s a bell that was used for cows. The bell was hung around a cow’s neck in order to help locate the animal by the noise it makes. its origin can be traced to freely roaming animals. Though the bells were used on various types of animals, they are typically referred to as “cowbells” due to their extensive use with cattle.

At some point it was discovered to also be useful in making music. Wikipedia says “The cowbell is an idiophone hand percussion instrument used in various styles of music including salsa and infrequently in popular music.” But I’ve discovered that the cowbell has often been used in popular music.

The song that most screams cowbell to me is Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” because it was featured on one of Saturday Night Live’s most memorable skits. Airing in April of 2000, the sketch, called “More Cowbell”, is unforgettable with guest host Christopher Walken and the hilarious Will Farrell and other SNL cast members Jimmy Fallon, Chris Parnell, Chris Kattan and Horatio Sanz.

I so wanted to include the video of the complete sketch here but apparently copyright issues are keeping it from being available. There are snippets of it here and there but I can no longer find a video that has the sketch in its entirety. If you have never seen this particular SNL sketch, do yourself a favor and try to find it somewhere. (If you do find the whole thing, please let me know!).

Since I can’t embed the actual performance video for you, I’ll just provide the Wikipedia synopsis, in case you’re interested in what all the hoopla is about this most memorable SNL skit. If you’re not interested, just scroll through the next few paragraphs.

Here is a 44-second snippet blend of the SNL original More Cowbell sketch:

“More Cowbell” is a comedy sketch that aired on Saturday Night Live on April 8, 2000. The sketch is presented as an episode of VH1’s documentary series Behind the Music that fictionalizes the recording of the song “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” by Blue Öyster Cult. The sketch featured guest host Christopher Walken as music producer “The Bruce Dickinson”, and regular cast member Will Ferrell, who wrote the sketch with playwright Donnell Campbell, as fictional cowbell player Gene Frenkle, whose overzealous playing annoys his bandmates but pleases producer Dickinson. The sketch also starred Chris Parnell as Eric Bloom, Jimmy Fallon as Albert Bouchard, Chris Kattan as Buck Dharma and Horatio Sanz as Joe Bouchard.

The sketch is often considered one of the greatest SNL sketches ever made, and in many “best of” lists regarding SNL sketches, it is often placed in the top ten, being ranked number nine by Rolling Stone. As a result of its popularity, “more cowbell” became an American pop culture catchphrase.

Sketch Synopsis

An episode of VH1’s Behind the Music documenting the band Blue Öyster Cult showcases footage of the group from a 1976 recording session that produced the band’s biggest hit, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.” The producer (played by Christopher Walken) introduces himself as “The Bruce Dickinson” and tells the band they have “what appears to be a dynamite sound.” The first take seems to go well but the band stops playing because the cowbell part is rather loud and distracting. Dickinson, to the surprise of most of the band, asks for “a little more cowbell” and suggests that the cowbell player, Gene Frenkle (Will Ferrell), “really explore the studio space this time.” Frenkle’s exuberance in following this advice causes him to bump into his bandmates as he dances around the cramped studio, thrusting his pelvis wildly in all directions, and the band aborts another take.

Frenkle sheepishly agrees to tone down his performance in the spirit of cooperation. He passive-aggressively plays the cowbell very close to Eric Bloom (Chris Parnell)’s ear and fails to keep time with the rest of the band. The rest of the band expresses frustration with Frenkle, but Dickinson remains focused only on getting more cowbell onto the track. Frenkle makes an impromptu speech to the rest of the band, declaring that Dickinson’s stature lends a great deal of weight to his opinion about the cowbell part and that the last time he (Frenkle) checked, they didn’t have “a whole lot of songs that feature the cowbell” and therefore he would be “doing himself a disservice, and every member of the band” if he “didn’t perform the hell out of this.” In the end, the band agrees to let Frenkle play the cowbell part his way. The sketch ends with a freeze frame on Frenkle with the superimposed message: “In Memoriam: Gene Frenkle: 1950–2000.”

It may be hard to see the actual SNL sketch in its entirety online for free at this time but there are a bunch of remakes and tributes to it on YouTube. This isn’t the best one but it gave me a chuckle when I watched it, especially because they portray Blue Oyster Cult with a two-man band. From the 2016 Sycamore Junior High Talent Show, here are Casey Johnson, Andrew Sprowl, and Connor Carto:

Okay, so that’s it for Blue Oyster Cult & “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” My next favorite song that I thought of immediately when thinking cowbells is Nazareth’s “Hair of the Dog.” There are actually several great classic rock songs that utilize the cowbell. But since I’m tired and I really want nothing more than to take a pain pill, grab the huge ice pack that is waiting for me in the freezer and hit my bed, I’m just going to list the songs I’m featuring in the Cowbell playlist. I may come back and add some informational tidbits over the next few days so feel free to stop back by. I may even add more songs. But right now, I just wanna go to bed with my ice…

Oh, before I go, let me just tell you a little bit about the series before I sign off. Each part of the series will describe instruments that are not widely used or not widely known, followed by a playlist featuring songs using those particular instruments. The series is still under construction so you’ll have to join me on the 4M dance floor for the rest of the it, dates to be announced later. It won’t be next week though because that Freebie week will feature the final installment in my Aging and Getting Old(er) series.

Without further ado, here is Part 1 of Songs with Weird, Funky & Cool Instruments, featuring the Cowbell Edition playlist:

(Don’t Fear) The Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult

Hair of the Dog by Nazareth

Mississippi Queen by Mountain

Never Been Any Reason by Head East

You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet by BTO

Rock & Roll, Hoochie Koo by Rick Derringer

Honky Tonk Woman by Rolling Stones

Fool for the City by Foghat

Slip Kid by The Who

You Can’t Do That by the Beatles

Drive My Car by the Beatles

Low Rider by War

Time Has Come Today by the Chamber Brothers

We’re An American Band by Grand Funk Railroad

Down On the Corner by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Born on the Bayou by CCR

Funk #49 by the James Gang

Nightrain by Guns & Roses

Out Go the Lights by Aerosmith

Photography by Def Leppard

Rock of Ages by Def Leppard

Working for the Weekend by Loverboy

We Didn’t Start the Fire by Billy Joel

Rock Lobster by the B-52s

How cool was that for a total hit parade of classic rock classics?! This may be one of my favorite playlists that I’ve put together. And the other thing that’s cool about it is that it totally qualifies to be part of Mary’s Rocktober Music Fest at her blog Jingle Jangle Jungle! Yay! She’s had some really kickass rock songs every single day this month and there’s still more to come. Be sure to check it out! #RocktoberMusicFest

That wraps up the Cowbell edition. What is your favorite Cowbell song? Come back in a few weeks for Part 2 of the Weird, Funky & Cool Instruments series. What instruments do you want to see featured? Can you guess what instrument(s) I’m going to bring to Part 2? 

Monday’s Music Moves Me (4M) is a blog hop hosted by Marie of X-Mas Dolly, and co-hosted by Cathy of Curious as a Cathy and Stacy of Stacy Uncorked Two other co-hosts recently joined the fun: Alana of Ramlin’ with AM and Colette of Jamerican Spice. Be sure to stop by and visit the hosts and the other participants listed below: