Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's BĂȘte Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Wednesday, April 21, 2004


Three nights ago I posted in defense of the term "driving beat," which Robert Christgau considers a cliche.

Today I'm feeling that it may be close to a semi-technical musical term, like "swing."

Our definitions of rhythm are famously imprecise, "swing" included. "Driving beat," I would characterize as having a feeling of pushing the beat restlessly forward, accenting just ahead of where the beats fall. Swing, typically, accents just behind where the beats fall, producing a paradoxical feeling of liveliness and relaxation. Driving beats don't have that relaxation vibe.

Driving beats drove rock from the beginning through the mid-'60s. The beats fell more mellowly through most of the '70s, even a lot of heavy metal. John Bonham of Led Zeppelin swung. Punk drove the beats forward again, as did techno and house music.

If someone has a better term for this phenomenon, I'm all ears. But it's the best I can come up with.


My friend Jay Sherman-Godfrey wrote me today:

No good radio in the AM going to school, but just heard My Sharona on the radio-equivalent in the coffee shop downstairs.

Good tune. S'got that new wave singing going on, but the lusty lyric justifies the quavering intensity. The kicker is the Layla-esque coda with some nice melodic lead guitar.

One album wonders, the Knack.

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