Normally I’m not a great fun of the cowbell. The way it cuts through the mix can be easily parodied, such as in the SNL sketch of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear The Reaper”, which has unfortunately been taken down from YouTube.
Nevertheless, it’s a legitimate instrument, and has it’s place. Certainly, it fits in innocuously enough on Man Parrish’s 1982 classic “Hip Hop, Be Bop”.
It’s a seminal electro tune, as Nick Frost famously quips in Shaun Of The Dead –in a fantastic musical comedy scene — “It’s not Hip-Hop, it’s Electro!”.
As such, it’s got the 808 drums, a staple of the 80s; that’s where the cowbell is from as well. The bass is sampled from The Clash’s “The Magnificent Seven”, from 1977. The synths are incredible for that time period, and give the song a slightly ethereal quality.
It’s a stripped back sound, but there’s plenty going on, and the song stays fresh throughout. If something like this was made today, it’d be called retro-futuristic. As it was, the song was just futuristic!