My personal list of rock and roll's top cowbell moments

Zero Mercury Drummer

Senior Member
Don't be hatin'... ;) And I know that the drummer might not have played the cowbell in studio, but he or she gets the credit.

In honor of the news that Mike Portnoy will be replacing the late AJ Pero on the new Twisted Sister tour, the ZM drummer presents you his original and totally biased list of the top rock and roll cowbell moments of all time: (off the top of his head, with minimal googling!)
Btw…AJ Pero is on this list and Portnoy is not. And all this stuff is on youtube if you’re bored.

10. Sheila E- “The Glamorous Life” Sheila Escovedo is from a long line of renowned percussionists and drummers. This Prince protege is master of the timbale and cowbell, and can probably play the best drum solo in the world in stiletto heels. She is also a serious and accomplished jazz musician while holding down her spot as an international sex symbol on the side. Bravo.

9. Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann- Grateful Dead- “A Million Dead Songs But You Probably Heard Touch of Grey” This duo played the crap out of a huge traveling drum percussion rack for decades with the Grateful Dead. Many cowbells were struck, so we’ll just give them a blanket place on the list.

8. Neil Peart- Rush "Witch Hunt" Neil Peart is of course a top drummer in rock history, but this list is basically one of popular cowbell songs. So he’s a bit further down the list than you might expect. The broken cowbell rhythm in the first verse of this “Moving Pictures” rock classic is a fabulous display of dexterity and musical placement.

7. John Bonham- Led Zeppelin “Good Times, Bad Times” Bonzo opens this song with a deceptively delicate cowbell/hi-hat part. It was the bass drum triplets done with one foot against the hi-hat later in this opening groove that went down in history, but it was the cowbell that rang it in.

6. Michael Shrieve and Santana- "Black Magic Woman"- I don't know exactly who played the cowbells in this hippie classic, but there are a lot of them. Reference 16-year-old drummer Shrieve's solo that is a highlight in the iconic "Woodstock" live movie.

5. Don Brewer- Grand Funk Railroad "We're An American Band"- again the cowbell starts the song, along with a perfect double bass fill in this 70s classic. It comes back in for the verse to really suck you in. Google It- it's badass.

4. AJ Pero- Twisted Sister "We're Not Gonna Take It" AJ's most famous beat and a basic food group of 80s glam metal. A chicken drumleg of a bass drum/cowbell moment to chomp on, immortalized for all history in a great MTV video. Featuring the frothing maniac Niedermyer.

3. Alex Van Halen- Van Halen "Dance the Night Away" A lot of people thought VH sold out to disco around this point, and they were right, but it's a catchy part that starts this song. And AVH has a secure place as a cornerstone of modern rock drumming.

2. Charlie Watts- Rolling Stones "Honky Tonk Woman"- it starts the song, you know the song, the song is legend. Enough said. Ever notice the tempo about doubles in this tune? You won’t see that in the modern age of computerized quantization and click tracks. But nobody remembers tempo.

1. Albert Bouchard- Blue Oyster Cult, "Don't Fear the Reaper"- this is no contest. It brought the phrase "more cowbell" into the public lexicon. It immortalized forever in one Saturday Night Live skit the sex appeal and magnetic allure of the humble cowbell. We salute you, Albert Bouchard the most famous drummer you never heard of.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I can forgive you for overlooking The Beatles "Everybody's Got Something To Hide" with cowbell 16ths running through most of the song, but how could you forget BJ Wilson on Procol Harum's "Power Failure"?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htyVq1yCgyE

Stay tuned for the classic '70s solo at 1:40. Also, looks like he got stuck with the child's drum throne... I've never seen anyone sit that far below the snare!

Bermuda
 

longgun

Gold Member
IMO, Mississippi Queen by Mountain and Hair of the Dog by Nazareth should be on this list...........................whenever I think of "cowbell songs" they are the first ones that come to mind.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
My totally irreverent top cowbell moments:

Steven Alder, Guns and Roses "Welcome to the Jungle" -
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1tj2zJ2Wvg
I hate to admit this, but Appetite for Destruction was the sole reason I bought my first cowbell. Never mind I was surrounded by great Latin players in San Francisco.

Sal Abruscato, Type O Negative "Black No. 1"
(although the Cowbell section was edited out of the radio and mtv version)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYxIMOODrvg
The middle of an weird epic ride of sounds, suddenly slamming cowbell. It shouldn't work, but oddly, it does.

Also special mention to Sal on Type O Negative's "Christian Woman" but again, the radio and MTV version edited out the cowbell section.

Mike Portnoy, Dream Theater, "Trail of Tears"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0C0DFgXonk
About 1/2 way through the song, Mike switches up to the Cowbell, which lays a nice simple foundation for the keyboard solo.

Aynsley Dunbar , Jefferson Starship "Jane"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPRN89El7DQ
While clearly an over dub in the studio version, it gave an excuse for the actors to rush the stage and play the cowbell part when the Jefferson Starship appeared on the short lived TV show "Fridays".
 

Zero Mercury Drummer

Senior Member
Good stuff! I see the 70s very well represented.

DrumEatDrum- I tried to think of a Portnoy number to add to this list, but couldn't. I hadn't thought of that song.
Something tells me that Bruford has done a great cowbell part, but I can't think of any outside of Earthworks, which I didn't include because it's jazz.
 

mmulcahy1

Platinum Member
but how could you forget BJ Wilson on Procol Harum's "Power Failure"?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htyVq1yCgyE

Stay tuned for the classic '70s solo at 1:40. Also, looks like he got stuck with the child's drum throne... I've never seen anyone sit that far below the snare!

Bermuda
Yeah, he's way down low. I was amazed that he didn't whack his elbows on the snare or floor tom's batter hoops. That snare drum was chest high on him.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
8. Neil Peart- Rush "Witch Hunt" Neil Peart is of course a top drummer in rock history, but this list is basically one of popular cowbell songs. So he’s a bit further down the list than you might expect. The broken cowbell rhythm in the first verse of this “Moving Pictures” rock classic is a fabulous display of dexterity and musical placement.
Dumb thing about this song is in the last few years Neil has talked about the Cowbell being an overdub in the studio, and he can only now play this song live because he can trigger the cowbell with his left foot, as seen on the Time Machine tour and DVD.

Yet, on the Grace Under Pressure concert (which used to air on MTV back in the day, and is now on DVD) he is clearly playing the cowbell with his hand, in, as you said, a fabulous display of dexterity. Apparently Neil doesn't always remember his own dexterity. lol

6. Michael Shrieve and Santana- "Black Magic Woman"- I don't know exactly who played the cowbells in this hippie classic,
That would have been José "Chepito" Areas playing the cowbell.

DrumEatDrum- I tried to think of a Portnoy number to add to this list, but couldn't. I hadn't thought of that song.
Dumb thing is I know Mike had a cowbell on his drum kit on the Awake tour, and I think maybe the I&W tour as well, but I can't think of a single song from that era where he actually uses a cowbell.
 

newoldie

Silver Member
I can forgive you for overlooking The Beatles "Everybody's Got Something To Hide" with cowbell 16ths running through most of the song, but how could you forget BJ Wilson on Procol Harum's "Power Failure"?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htyVq1yCgyE

Stay tuned for the classic '70s solo at 1:40. Also, looks like he got stuck with the child's drum throne... I've never seen anyone sit that far below the snare!

Bermuda
LOL! The strangest I've seen. How low can you go? Here's a Wikipedia quote re his child's throne seating: "He had a powerful, distinctive style – he sat very low behind his kit (often side-on at the side of the stage) and was once referred to as like an 'Octopus in a Bathtub'." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B._J._Wilson

Apparently, so great a drummer "Wilson was voted Best Drummer in the popular Playboy Music Polls of the early 1970s. He declined an offer by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant to be the original drummer for Led Zeppelin.[3]"
 
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