I have a soft spot in my heart for songs that include a well placed cowbell. Typically at the end of a song when the cowbell comes out of nowhere and signals that the end of the song is upon us.
One great example is the cowbell at the end of the Rolling Stones’ Dead Flowers. The cowbell comes in right near the end of the song at the 3:48 mark. Two stark and clear peals, it’s off the beat and partly masks Mick’s singing but provides such a coda. The cowbell effectively ends the song and is the ultimate kiss off on what is an excellent kiss off song. It’s a great little touch from Charlie Watts.
Another great example is the cowbell at the end of The Replacements’ Don’t Ask Why. Different from Dead Flowers in that its part of the cacophony at the end of the song. It first comes at 1:41 of the song and and its three strikes mirror Paul singing “Don’t Ask Why.” Actually the first time there is only 2 peals and I always wondered if that was an error. Technically I don’t think this is a cowbell as there is an upward tone in the 3rd peal, although it could be where the bell is struck. Much like Dead Flowers, the bells put emphasis on what is another fantastic kiss off song. It drives me crazy. I was at the Replacements Tribute last weekend at the Turf Club and I missed it when the band didn’t have those bells.
Honorable mention goes to what I think is an electronic chime at the end of The Tourist from Radiohead. It’s literally the last thing you hear at the end of the song and the last thing you hear at the end of the entire album. I could write a whole post about the meaning of that chime.
Are there other small elements of a song that you always look for? Any good examples? Also drop your lists.