Sunday, July 11, 2010

hype of the week: 1976 blue devils

When I need to energize myself -- for an event, for a hard effort, for whatever -- when I need a dose of confidence, when I need to get "hyped", I often turn to drum corps.

I marched for more than half a season in my local drum and bugle corps -- the Spartans of Vancouver, WA -- until my father lost his job, got blackballed by his union (loooong story), and we suddenly were eating a lot of macaroni and cheese and tuna casserole and my folks could no longer come up with the balance of the money needed for me to go on second [national] tour. I came home from first [Pacific NW] tour to the news that my folks had to pull me out of the corps. I was heartbroken. I went on to march in my high school band, but as anyone who has marched in both can tell you, school band is not the same. I collected drum corps recordings after that, and whenever a show came to town I would try to scrape up money for tickets, but the spring and summer of 1978 was the beginning -- and the end -- of my experience as a marching member of a corps.

Still, I hear drum corps in my head whenever I need to boost myself a little.
In anticipation of my next race tomorrow night, I went skipping around and found this delightful flashback, to what drum corps looked and sounded like when I marched.

At the risk of sounding like an old fogey, I'll go out on a limb and say this is the way real drum corps was, and ought to be. Enjoy.


Mark said...

Wow. I was scrolling down comments in a bikeportland comments thread when I inadvertently clicked on your name and was surprised to arrive at your blog where I find "1976 bluedevils." I know what you mean about enjoying some drum corps once in awhile, preferably good loud ... I do the same.... Oh,ya, and I was in the 1976 Blue Devils Corps... really... and a few other years as well... Is that the weirdest coincidence yet??? Wow... That's very cool... -Mark

Mr. Fusion Jazz said...

Blue Devils rock! This is the other reason I read this blog – for the music references. The early 70’s is when I first learned about drum corps. I know you play snare (definitely cool) but the sound of the brass when they turn from the far side of the field to the audience is the best.

I was only ever in marching band (clarinet, meh.) but our director had been part of the Hawks corps from Portland, OR, so we used drum corps elements in our marching and that was the main reason we had one of the best high school marching bands in Washington in the mid-70's.

Yes, the drum corps sound is definitely energizing and I do like the lower pitched snares from the 70’s. Pretty cool too, Mike, that you found this reference.

Cheers, Gene from Tacoma

Mr. Fusion Jazz said...

Sorry, meant to say "Mark". Gene

bikelovejones said...

@ Gene -- yeah, I love the sound of old-school bugle brass (Word: TWO-valved horns in G are bugles. THREE-valved horns in Bb are NOT), especially when 27th Lancers did that beautiful backfield brass stuff in the late 70's. Gorgeous chords that bounced off the back grandstands, then the whole horn line would turn on a dime and the obliques would suddenly become a massive company front, with horns to the box as they came right at you. Goosebump City.

Although the modern, high-tension snares are super-fun to play, they require a totally different technical approach; and my wrists don't care for the feel after an extended period on them. Plus. if you spend any time on YouTube and start comparing sound quality, those older, lower-tensioned snares are actually CLEANER because they require more work on the part of the hands and wrists to play well. We used to practice open, timed rolls into our pillows at night during tour. Today's drummers don't have to do anything like that because the head does all the work for them.

Listen sometime to how clean a mid-70's snare line is, then go and listen to one 20-25 years later. Dirty as hell, and their instructors let them get away with it. Crazy.

--Beth, being SUCH an old fogey