There’s nothing cheesy about a little clapping. And by clapping, we’re not talking about applause on live tracks. We’re talking about the kind of deliberate claps artists use to punctuate, drive, shape, and form their songs. Admittedly, it’s not always done well, but when it is, it can elevate a humdrum song into an epic one. Find out which rock bands and artists have mastered the art of the well-timed hand clap the best as we rank the 10 best rock songs featuring clapping.
10. Blur – Tender
Written in 1999 about singer Damon Albarn’s breakup with Justine Frischmann, Tender came at a time when Blur where struggling to cement their sound. Albarn was starting to move in a more experimental direction, whereas guitarist Graham Coxon was still honing his own particular brand of low-fi punk. As imallouttabubblegum.com notes, the band’s 6th studio album, 13, is a sometimes uneasy compromise between the two different styles. Yet despite that, it still manages to deliver the goods, as evidenced in Tender’s spine-tingling gospel choir sing-a-long and artistic hand claps.
9. T Rex – Bang a Gong (Get It On)
If glam rock was about anything (asides from makeup and platform boots), it was hand claps. The proof? T Rex’s Bang a Gong (Get It On). If there was one artist who defined, shaped, and pioneered glam rock more than anyone else (with the possible exception of David Bowie), it was T Rex frontman, Marc Bolan. Bang a Gong (Get It On) finds Bolan at his very best. Strangely enough, it also finds prog-rock legend Rick Wakeman on piano, if even for a few minutes. Glittering with stardust and studded with handclaps, it’s a glam-rock masterpiece.
8. John Cougar Mellencamp – Jack & Diane
Some songs use handclaps as decoration. Others use it as a driving force. John Cougar Mellencamp’s Jack & Diane is an example of the latter. As ultimateclassicrock.com notes, the claps keep the song in shape, power it along, and make it a much much better track than it’d otherwise be. The song ended up being voted as one of the Songs of the Century by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It also spent four weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, given Mellencamp one of his most successful hit singles of all time. And it’s all down to those claps.
7. The Stooges – No Fun
As treblezine.com points out, contrary to its title, No Fun is actually a boatload of fun. Some of that comes down to the fuzzy power-chord riffs. Some of it is down to Iggy himself, who always manages to be entertaining no matter how angsty his lyrics get. Most of it, though, is down to the stoic handclaps, which ground the whole song and stop it from descending into the unhinged bedlam it occasionally hints at.
6. The Beatles – Eight Days a Week
If there was ever a band to appreciate the value of some hand claps, it was the Beatles. They did it beautifully on I Wanna Hold Your Hand, and they did it just as well on Eight Days A Week. Strangely enough, John Lennon never liked the song, even going so far as to call it “lousy.” By the time it was released, he was on a very different writing path to Paul McCartney (who was largely responsible for its lyrics), so his sentiment was perhaps understandable. That doesn’t mean it was justified though. Eight Days a Week might be lighthearted and poppy, but it’s a far cry from disposable. The infectious round of claps in the chorus, meanwhile, is nothing short of genius.
5. Stealers Wheel – Stuck in the Middle With You
Originally written in the early 1970s as a Bob Dylan parody, Stuck in the Middle With You is a jaunty, simple guitar track that’s elevated to greatness by the hand-clapping beat that drives it alone. Over 20 years after its release, it was introduced to a new generation of fans when Quentin Tarantino decided to add it to the soundtrack of ‘Resovoir Dogs.’ Positioning it alongside the movie’s most iconic scene (you’ll know the one, even if you haven’t seen the film) was a masterstroke.
4. Mott the Hoople – All the Young Dudes
Back in 1972, Matt the Hoople were on the verge of being dumped by their record label after a series of commercial flops. Then along came superfan David Bowie with a gift from the gods – or, perhaps more accurately, a gift from his writing pad. All the Young Dudes was written specifically by Bowie to keep the band together. It worked, at least temporarily, scoring them their biggest commercial hit and setting the foundation for their critically acclaimed album of the same name. The lyrics, as you’d expect of Bowie, are exceptional, but it’s the subtle wrist action in the chorus that makes it so infectious.
3. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – The Weeping Song
Handclaps aren’t just for pop songs and rock anthems. In The Weeping Song, Nick Cave proves that some rapid-fire wrist action can serve a gothic dirge just as well as anything else. Just like they do on John Cougar Mellencamp’s Jack & Diane, the hand claps serve as a driving force, punctuating the lyrics and pushing the song towards its somber conclusion. Persistent, intense, and never anything less than poised, they make a good song great.
2. The Cars – My Best Friend’s Girl
The Cars like a hand clap, but they like to keep it subtle. On My Best Friend’s Girl, they’re there at the beginning and they’re there again (albeit briefly) at the end. In between, there’s nothing (bar some very fine vocals from Ric Ocasek and some spine-tingling bass). But despite being understated, the first flurry lays the foundation for the song, guiding it, shaping it, and setting the foundation for everything that comes next.
1. Queen – We Will Rock You
It’s hard to find a Queen song that doesn’t have some hand claps, but if we had to choose only one to top our list of the 10 best rock songs featuring clapping (and we do), it has to be We Will Rock You. Less of a song than a generation-spanning, genre-defying anthem, We Will Rock You has one of the most recognizable clapping sequences in the history of popular music. If you can get through the entire thing without throwing in a few of your own, you’re made of sterner stuff than most.