• "BUM-BABUM-PA, BUM-BABUM-PA": 46 Years of Ripping Off "Be My Baby"

    Giu 5 2009, 11:20

    Traditionalist fuddy-duddies like to criticize sampling as being artless and cheap, but there's a not-so-surprising secret that they'd rather you not notice: pop music in an inherently cannibalistic medium. People are going to reuse what works, as long as they can get away with it.

    This thought brings us to "Be My Baby", the 1963 single written and produced by Phil "Wall of Sound" Spector. Pure, unadulterated pop gold if there ever was such a thing, the song was a huge hit and the pinnacle of Spector's abilities. Brian Wilson was obsessed with it. He wrote "Don't Worry Baby" - one of his most memorable and accomplished songs - as a "male answer" to the song. In the wake of Smile's failure and his descent into depression and schizophrenia, he listened to the song on the jukebox in his home hundreds of times a day, at one point having a copy of it cut down to a few particular seconds of it which he would listen to looped over and over again in a dark room for hours on end.

    The most famous segment of this famous song is without a doubt its intro, a wonderful little drum pattern that sets the tone perfectly: "bum-babum-pa,bum-babum-pa". Even if you've never heard the original before, it's more than likely that you've heard that before. For some inexplicable reason, that drum pattern has resonated throughout pop music history, from just a year after the original song's release to just a few months ago.

    Below is a half hour mixtape containing "Be My Baby" and nine of its imitators. There's Elvis Costello, who used the pattern in at least two other songs. (He's actually kind of the master of this sort of thing) There's The Magnetic Fields, who've used it twice. There's The Jesus and Mary Chain, who were either ballsy or lazy enough to use it four times in the same album. And then there's Asia. Yeah, sorry about that.
    01. The Ronettes - "Be My Baby" (1963)
    02. Elvis Costello - "No Dancing" (1977)
    03. The Jesus and Mary Chain - "Just Like Honey" (1985)
    04. The Magnetic Fields - "Candy" (1995)
    05. Clinic - "I.P.C. Subeditors Dictate Our Youth" (1999)
    06. Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons - "Rag Doll" (1964)
    07. Deerhunter - "Vox Humana" (2008)
    08. Asia - "Heat of the Moment" (1982)
    09. My Morning Jacket - "The Bear" (1999)
    10. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - "Gentle Sons" (2009)
    This is a select list, there are many, many more examples. The point of all this? Pop music is constantly recycling itself, and a good bit of instrumentation can be adapted to almost any situation.

    Even by Asia.