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Hot Damn Duo Group

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Julian Harris
Julian Harris

Too Much Cowbell

We love little records (45s) and music with a soul to it but were frustrated having to purchase records from all over the world and pay way too much in shipping charges to get the records we love to the US.

Too Much Cowbell…

One of the most popular Saturday Night Live skits ever is all about the cowbell. Wikipedia says... "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 " The Reaper" by Blue Öyster Cult.

[ the group starts the song again, as Gene bangs more wildly onto the cowbell, gyrating his exposed belly. In the booth, Walken is smiling to keep from laughing. Before the session is interrupted, Gene misses a beat on his cowbell.]

[ the band starts up again, this time Frenkle is playing the cowbell in tune with the band. Close-up on Gene as he bangs the cowbell to freeze-frame with graphic: "In Memoriam: Gene Frenkle: 1950-2000"]

SMITH: OK. Maybe it is just me, because everyone else seems to like it. And it does make sense; you can't clap with mittens on. But for some reason, when you have a cowbell in your hand, it is like you can't hear it anymore.

SMITH: Maybe it's because I'm trying to radio interviews here that I'm more sensitive. Maybe I'm a cowbell curmudgeon. The skiers don't mind. When the slalom racer from Zimbabwe, Luke Steyn, came down, most of the crowd had left. He finished 61st. And yet a few cowbells made him feel like a star.

The skit is a reenactment and parody of the studio recording of the song "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" by the band Blue Öyster Cult. The guy screaming "I gotta have more cowbell" is the producer. Because the cowbell player (Will Ferrell) and the producer (Christopher Walken) are popular actors, and because SNL was a successful show at the time, this skit became a big hit. The humor lies in that "more cowbell" seems like an absurd request - a background instrument becomes louder than the vocals, the melody, etc.

The phrase is "more cowbell" and not "more cowbells" because Walken is asking that the one cowbell that's there be played more loudly. This is actually standard usage - someone might similarly ask for "more bass" or "more guitar", both in the singular. (Or, in another context, someone might stay a stew needs "more carrot".)

The "more cowbell" joke can now be seen all over US pop culture, though at this point, I have to say it feels rather stale. While it's not an idiom, you could call it a "pop culture reference" or "meme".

Understanding it as a cry for "more excitement" isn't bad, actually, but I wouldn't read too much meaning into it. One of the appeals of SNL was its randomness, and people often quote it quite randomly.

Some independent Baptist churches (at least in West Virginia, USA) have cowbell services that features several preachers presenting brief sermons in quick succession. Each preacher has a time limit (five minutes to ten minutes time limits are common.) If the preacher goes over the proscribed time limit, the moderator rings a cowbell, which is the preacher's signal to wrap it up. This bell gives the service its name.

Thus, when one sees members of the congregation posting "More cowbell!" to Facebook, the meaning is "we would like to have another cowbell service!" To the uninitiated, however, it looks as if it is a chic cultural reference to the SNL skit.

As a musician with a long history of playing with groups, I can see another reason that this skit has resonated with so many people: maybe "cowbell" represents the rather loony metaphors that musical directors use when they don't know how to communicate. These metaphors, in my experience, were often accompanied by wild, hard-to-interpret, gestures. I can picture it in my mind: "I need, um, (how can I explain it?) more cowbell!"

Overly fawning coverage sets you up for eye rolls and skepticism. It can paint a target on you, challenging others to take the shine off. So be wary if the media puffs you up too much, because when it comes to company story arcs, puff comes before the fall.

Have a base of committed supporters. During peacetime, focus on building connection and community with your diehards. When hard times come, you\u2019ll be much more likely to come out on top if you can overwhelm the original accusation with the help of third party advocates who understand you well and can be force multipliers for your message. Then, as discussed above, you can go on to use the attack on you to recruit more supporters to your movement among the sympathetic people who witnessed the exchange and took your side.


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