Let’s talk about the drum roll hook. It’s one of my favorite devices in all of pop music, and has probably fallen into a bit of disuse these days.
For me, though, a perfectly-executed drum roll on a chorus — think Dave Grohl’s fills during “Come as You Are” or DJ Bonebrake’s stop time fills during “White Girl” — can elevate a song from great to classic.
And in the case of “All That Jazz,” Pete de Freitas’ exquisitely precise snare rolls after the chorus is practically the reason for the entire song.
The irony, of course, is that one of the stories surrounding the name of the band is that “Echo” was the drum machine they’d originally started recording with. But the second they got a drummer, they started structuring entire arrangements around him.
“All That Jazz” starts off with a double-time snare which then drops into a backbeat playing off of Will Sergeant’s guitar stabs until Ian McCullough finishes the chorus:
See you at the barricades, babe
See you when the lights go low, Joe
Hear you when the wheels turn round
Someday when the sky turns black
That the words are nonsense means nothing: this isn’t about the words, it’s about the battle between Will Sergeant and Pete DeFreitas that follows.
Every single time, Sergeant uses his guitars to push the song upwards, but just when they make it to the top, DeFreitas’ drums rolls it right back down. Over and over again, this happens. No matter how hard Sergeant’s guitar thunders, it’s always stopped short. At one point, Sergeant switches tactics and tries to go sideways for a bit, but DeFrietas is right there every time.
It’s tense and thrilling throughout,as if one false step could break the whole song. But of course, that never happens, and the entire song hinges on just how devastating every single one of DeFrietas’ simple-yet-perfect drum rolls sound.
“All That Jazz” performed live in 1980