Did Billy Joel Help Invent The Blast Beat?

Posted by on October 25, 2012

This is absolutely insane, and it’s been kicking around for a while, but according to Decibel, the modern blast beat is 42 years old, and one of the co-owners of it is none other than Billy Joel. Years before he became a hitmaker, his first band, Atilla, released one album in 1970. The two-piece consisted of Joel on organ and Jon Small on drums, and AllMusic.com deemed their self-titled album a “disaster.” The band ended unceremoniously when Joel had an affair with Small’s wife.

However, the album’s last track, “Brain Invasion,” may lay claim to the blast beat. The Deep Purple-inspired instrumental is essentially a five and a half minute organ solo. But at the 2-minute mark, there’s undoubtedly a blast beat amidst the Hammond noodling. Apparently, after the band broke up, Joel tried to kill himself by drinking a bottle of furniture polish. Thankfully, he survived, and went on to create the theme song from Bosom Buddies and some other work as well. And he can lay claim to stealing the inventor of the blast beat’s wife.

Granted, there are theories that some ’60s jazz drummers, like Sunny Murray had blast beats in their music, but that’s jazz, and taking place in the context of a drum solo. As far as rock and metal are concerned, we’re giving this one to Atilla and Small.

[via Decibel]

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Categorised in: Milestones

  • S.O.D. had the First.

  • Mickey Von-Schmidt

    Sunny Murray’s inventions shouldn’t be dismissed as “but that’s jazz blah blah blah..drum solo”. Listen to “Holy Ghost” with Albert Ayler in Greenwich Village circa ’65. It’s in the context of a song/tune/piece, not a solo and it’s totally a proto-blast beat. It’s pretty much there; I wouldn’t call it a theory.

  • Mickey Von-Schmidt

    Also, in the Attila piece above, the blast beat is kind of a tight rhythmic counterpoint to the organ part. The Sunny Murray with Ayler example is, as well as being formally reminiscent of blast beat, also much more in the spirit of a blast beat; a forwardly propulsive, aggressive percussive noise out.

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