I have *always* loved the drums in this song – its a great bit of song writing but I just love the drums & especially the way the hihat skips like in reggae & dub… And, brace yourself, but today I learned something from a youtube comment!!
“They had Steve Goulding in as a session drummer for just this one track on the album. If you see some video of the Attractions playing this song live you’ll see that their regular drummer didn’t even try to play the song this way”
And its so true – watch any live version of this song and its just hammered out with no syncopation at all…
Googled Steve Goulding, and via 2014 Modern Drummer
“It’s also Goulding slashing his way through Costello’s early hit “Watching the Detectives.” Goulding ended up on the track after subbing for Thomas (who was in the U.S. playing with John Stewart at the time) at tryouts Costello was holding to find a keyboardist and bassist to round out the Attractions.
“We spent all day auditioning bass and keyboard players,” Goulding recalls from his home in New York City, where he’s lived since the early 2000s. “‘Watching the Detectives’ was one of the tunes they had the people learn to see if they could play reggae. Most people couldn’t. I was quite conversant with reggae. I’d been listening to it since before I started playing. Where I grew up in Streatham, South London, that’s where all the Jamaicans came and set up shop, basically. You just had that music all the time. It was one of the first things I ever played on the kit. [Bob Marley’s] Carlton Barrett and [Peter Tosh’s] Sly Dunbar were both huge influences.
“Elvis wanted to record the song as a single,” Goulding continues, “and since they didn’t have Pete around, Andrew [Bodnar, Rumour bass player], Elvis, and I did it, and [Attractions keyboardist] Steve Nieve put the keyboards on it afterward. I wanted to combine Ringo Starr with a Lee Perry/Carlton Barrett kind of thing. I’d had the part worked up because we’d done it so many times during the auditions. [Costello manager] Jake Riviera was in the studio, and after an early take he was like, ‘That’s the one, that’s the one.’ I said, ‘I can do it better,’ so we did it again. And it was technically better, but it didn’t have the feel. So we just kept the previous take, warts and all.”
Thanks random Youtube commenter!