At the very end of Pearl Jam’s hit song “Daughter,” the drum track delicately vanishes, the bass track disappears and Vedder’s signature vocals are long gone. All that remains are two guitar parts, playing single-note patterns… and a beat. But the beat isn’t played on a drum kit. Nor is it played on a djem- be or congas. Instead, drummer Dave Abbruzzese is playing the beat on his lap. What was a high hat, kick and snare has been replaced by the sound of Abbruzzese’s foot hitting the floor and his hand slapping his thigh.
It’s just a detail.
And it’s a small detail at that. But it’s magical.
And I think it makes the song.
The band could have ended the song when the more traditional instrumentation faded out and none of their listeners would have known the difference. But they went out of their way to highlight an otherwise peripheral element; like I have to go out of my way and off the main trail to find that mine on Mt. Diablo. Abbruzzese’s choice made a very human song about a very human topic end on a very human note. And don’t believe for a minute that a detail like that didn’t go a long way toward making that song the enormous hit it was, even if most folks who listened didn’t notice exactly what was going on.
Work slowly enough to see the gold nuggets and be certain they find their proper place in the Big Idea. The details matter. They make the Big Idea bigger and better.
This is an excerpt from my book Title Pending, which is available now.