Thursday, March 10, 2016

Transcription: Jeff Porcaro — Southbound

This is a song from my childhood which I only ever new from one line, which my college-age friend Tom, from the Big Brother/Big Sister program, used to sing at odd times:

Southbound / unfold your wings and fly / how would you like to be / swingin' in the branches of a coconut tree 

This was about 1976. Searching the lyric on the Google machine, it turns out the song was Southbound, by Three Dog Night, the ultimate early 70s band. It was an exuberant time— the word “party” was first used as a verb, and the phrase “party time” was coined and liberally splashed around like so much then-popular Jōvan Musk. A lot of people wore beards and/or mustaches, and body hair was in. Macramé was at its zenith. Hippies were current. People said man a lot, and WOOOed a lot— here: the ultimate 70s woo. That's the crux of 1971-75.

Whatever. That was the vibe of the period to my 5-9 year old self...

THE TUNE, anyhow, from the band's last album on the cusp of the Disco era, is a solid mid-70s studio funk number. The drummers credited for the album are Jeff Porcaro, Ed Greene, and Mickey McNeel. I can't find info for who plays on what, but in my ignorance of Greene's and McNeel's playing, I'm guessing it's Porcaro.

As you can guess from looking at it, the hihat part is played with both hands alternating, and the snare drum played with the right hand. The right hand is generally emphasized in the hihat rhythm— he especially seems to lean on the 3. He'll often play the bass drum and snare drum in unison: he usually hits the 4 with both drums, as well as the stops, and big ensemble hits. The entire song is played on a closed hihat, and the crash cymbal is used sparingly— often hits are played on a closed hihat.

This would be a good transcription to actually play, to learn how to play funk effectively. If you're going to do that, don't get hung up on very minor variations in the time feel— you'll have to judge what is musically significant and what you can ignore.

Get the pdf

Our song starts at 22:39:


John Olson said...

Nice track....I'm thinking this might be Ed Greene, as the groove and fills remind me of what he did on Steely Dan's "I Got the News" from "Aja."

Anonymous said...

Ed Greene = every Barry White song ever.

Todd Bishop said...

Son of a bitch! I should've known that...

Todd Bishop said...

Updated the text so I'm not suggesting Greene and McNeel are "hippie band slobs"... an ill-considered turn of phrase there. Still seems plausible that the Porcaro is the drummer here.