Part 1. For those of you who knew my brother Dave, you probably don’t know he played the drums in his teen years. As a preschooler I used to sit in our tiny basement facing him ten feet away on the stairs covering my ears at his insistence while he wailed away on them.
Our crabby neighbor used to call the cops for disturbing the peace-during the middle of the day. The house with the five kids, boatload of cousins and an extra friend each was not popular with the formerly quiet neighborhood. For those of you who don’t know, Dave broke his neck, was paralyzed playing college football at 18.
When he returned home after 18 months away in two hospitals he spent hours upon hours immersed in music, LOUD music. I had studied piano formally for five years at that point but my real music education began joining him immersed in classic rock, reading liner notes, learning deep or focused listening-always turned way, way up.
Dave had a very high quality sound system which ruined me for digital music enjoyment unless of course it’s turned way up and even then, digital quality is so different from analog. Seriously, don’t get me started, I’m a stereophile and a bit of a wine snob about it minus the wine, I just like crisp, clean, separate fidelity.
At some point in time I was brave enough to ask him what “IT” felt like, being paralyzed. Only took me a couple of decades to start asking some questions. He was very comfortable responding, like he’d been waiting for me to ask forever until then.
He described his body feeling like he had a lead blanket from the dentist laying on him, you know, the heavy thing they used to cover you with to protect your body from errant x-ray fallout or whatever. He could tell where someone was touching him, it just felt heavy blanketed layers away.
He was always excited to share a new album with me. He curated six hours of reel-to-reel recorded music for his friends’ wedding from his record collection. I was his technical sound engineer queuing everything up, fading everything in or out by hand. He had to patiently talk me through every step initially. Can you imagine entrusting your nine year old kid sister with your million dollar stereo system and records? Ok, it wasn’t a million dollars but it may as well have been because I had zero dollars and everything more than zero could have been a million. (It was $2000 in 1973 dollars-a catastrophic injury insurance policy pay out, $14k 2022 equivalent). It took a month to produce, but was such fun to hang out with my patient brother and soak in so much encyclopedic music knowledge he shared with me, I loved it.
It wasn’t until much later that I connected the dots of songs he serial listened to-always had a stand out drum line, not just a simple rhythm. I would start albums or songs over and over and over for him. It’s something I do and have done since that time, memorizing every breath of a song.
My music lessons were a complicated time, I cannot say they were a wasted decade studying with a formerly brilliant conservatory trained musician who lost her mental edge long before I began working with her when she was 78. She was more interested in my company than teaching me music which she had long forgotten how to do and she loved me. I spent ten years enjoying tea and cookies, feeding her ducks, hanging out for very expensive, formerly highly sought-after lessons and I adored her. I learned how to fake the piano. I suppose serial listening helped me learn.
When I worked on my brother’s failed autobiography I listened to his favorite music on headphones loud enough to give me ringing headaches. It was great. Helped me remember things I didn’t recall forgetting. It wasn’t until then, when he was no longer available somewhere in those initial 230k words that I developed a theory as to why he played certain songs over and over-it was for the drumlines, and he liked them loud because he could feel them in his bones.
When my darling husband is away, I play covers like the attached turned up to Spinal Tap 11. Our house is fairly new with excellent insulation and sound proofing. He says he can hear the music inside the car from the driveway. I tell him I like to feel it in my bones too.
This very famous song for anyone who may not know the other story of Layla, not the Patty Boyd Harrison lovesick drive behind the lyrics but the production notes. Duane Allman actually wrote the famous seven note na-na-na-na-na-na-na riff, Eric Clapton responded with the five note na-na-na-na-na response. Both of them played, recorded those twelve notes on a single track. If you listen closely to the riff you can tell two guitars are playing-the vibrations are so rich. They sound different than anything because you never have two guys playing the same lead melody.
Multiple rhythm guitar segments, the sitar, bass were recorded by Clapton and others on separate tracks. The drums are one of the few occasions in music where the rhythm matches the seven note riff, returning to it every iteration of the chorus. You’ll catch it when the drum joins the third repeat of the riff in the intro. Yes, three separate components are common in rock music, the verse, the chorus, often a bridge. I have yet to hear another drum line mimic the rhythm of the melody like this. It’s a brilliant work for the drums, truly equal to Clapton and Allman on six guitar tracks.
This drum track is presented on top of the original recording which historically guitars are turned up via engineering to dominate the drums but in reality the drums would blow you away live. I recommend turning this up a bit, it’s a fantastic drum cover performed by Avery Molek.
I know it’s a long post, thank you for reading this far. For the love of God, don’t read this far without listening to this drum cover. Yeah, yeah, you know Layla, but listen one more time anyway. Did I already recommend turning it up? Love your comments about your music indoctrination, this song, this cover. Love you. XO M