Transcription – “Cult of Personality”

Ahhhh.  It’s 1988, and you’ve had just about enough new wave as you can handle.  Belinda Carlisle is no longer a Go-Go, George Michael is no longer in Wham!, and Rick Astley was not yet a punch line.   Thankfully, a new, underground band out of New York is about to light up the rock world and not only break musical barriers, but racial ones as well.



“Cult of Personality” Transcription

Difficulty Level: 8/10

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The Breakdown

Living Colour’s album, Vivid, broke late 1988 and immediately grabbed the world’s attention as not only as a metal band made up of black musicians, but as an amazing metal band who happen to be made up of black musicians.  Will Calhoun was the drummer, and his funk infused hard rock was a huge influence on many a drummer (including myself).

The first, and breakout hit from that record was “Cult of Personality,” an air-guitarist dream tune that pondered the motives of history’s most noted political figures.  The track stands the test of time (long after Terrance Trent D’Arby’s “Wishing Well” was long forgotten), and the drum part contains some of Calhoun’s most notable licks.

The drum part is pretty straightforward, but requires conviction and *ahem* brass to pull it off.  From the opening lick to the last bar, Calhoun keeps the pedal to the floor and doesn’t let off.  Pay special attention to the usage of half-open and closed HH.  Also, note when Calhoun closes his hat (left foot).  The verses contain a pretty simple groove that requires a Purdie-like pocket, but don’t let its simplicity fool you. There are enough flares and flourishes to keep the chop-collector happy.

While Living Colour’s later work dealt with more hard-hitting socio-political themes (and wasn’t as widely accepted as their Freshman outing), they have remained one of the talent-heavy metal acts of a generation.  These days, Calhoun is more into exploring the outer-edges of percussive expression, but he’s still got that intensity, and funky pocket.  Enjoy!


All Drummer Talk Transcriptions adhere to the PAS standard for drumset notation.
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