Cousin Jack, who has a good musical ear and an even better musical memory, in a comment to yesterday’s post, noted the absence of “Wipe Out” (by the Surfaris) from the list of guitar instrumentals. The fact is, I had not forgotten about that song when I assembled the list. Rather, I made a conscious decision not to include it. Here’s why.
“Wipe Out’s” not making the list had nothing to do with the guitar playing in the tune (although I never really cared much for it), but rather it had to do with the dumb drum part in the song. For decades as a drummer, I have had to deal with people who want to hear that song, because, sadly, and stupidly, they believe that being able to play the dumb drum part in “Wipe Out” is the ultimate test of whether one is a good drummer.
“Yo, you’re really good, but can you play ‘Wipe Out’?”
For years, particularly during the time the song was popular and even for five to ten years after that, when asked that question, I would politely smile and nod at the requestor, and the band would play the song, and I would dutifully play the stupid-ass drum part. Even though in recent years I have not gotten that request nearly as often, I still am dogged by that God-awful song.
As recently as last summer, some guy positioned himself near the band I was working with and intently watched me play for most of the night. I could not help but notice the guy, because during the songs he fixated on me to the exclusion of the other three guys, and after each tune he would vigorously applaud. (What’s not to like about that? If you perform, you’re an applause junkie.)
So, we were taking our final break of the evening, and this fellow walked up to me and told me how well he thought I played and how much he enjoyed watching me play. (What’s not to like about that? If you perform, you’re compliment junkie.) I sincerely thanked him for saying nice things about my playing.
By that time of the night, I was tired and sweaty, but I was still basking in the glow of the compliment I had just received from this person. In fact, I had even managed to convince myself that this obviously sophisticated listener might even be musician himself, something that would make the compliment very special.
However, without warning, this fellow lobbed a turd into my punchbowl and snapped me back to reality when he asked, “Hey, can you play ‘Wipe Out’?”
As in the past when asked this question, I smiled, but this time I said, as graciously as humanly possible, “Yes, I can play that song, but I am afraid that we will not have time to get to it tonight, as we have a number of prior requests that we simply had to get to.” He was noticeably disappointed, presumably because he would never be able to truly satisfy himself that I could pass the ultimate drumming test.
The desire to avoid being rude to this person prevented me from saying what I was thinking, and that was this:
“Jesus Farookin’ Christ, Asswipe. You stared at me for more than three hours, during which time I played my ass off and did boatloads of stuff that require a helluva lot more skill than being able to play the piece-of-shit drum part in “Wipe Out.” And after watching that, how could you think for one goddamned minute that I might not be able to play that shit? Did you ask the piano player whether he can play ‘Chopsticks’?
So, to answer your question, you dopey bastard, yes I can play ‘Wipe Out,’ but don’t even think about asking me if I will play “Wipe Out,” unless you want these drumsticks shoved way, way up your sorry ass.”
And that’s why “Wipe Out” was not on the list.