Monday, February 13, 2006

More Cowbell, By the Numbers

There is a cry ringing (or should I say "clanging"?) out across the land, a burning fever that must be satiated—everywhere you look people are practically begging for more cowbell.

Ever since Will Ferrell played Blue Öyster Cult cowbell soloist Gene Frenkle in a SNL parody of Behind the Music, "more cowbell" has been galloping across the web and inundating our culture. (For a ridiculously straight-faced exploration of the phenomenon, check Wikipedia's "more cowbell" entry.)

Now there's no better arbiter of culture and taste than Google. And since they're bound to replace the Library of Congress within the next five years and the entire U.S. government within the next 10, we sure better listen to what they say. I conducted a Google search for "more cowbell" today and got an astonishing 3,100,000 hits. Sure, that doesn't compare to George Bush's 44,800,000 hits or Britney Spears' 34,000,000, but 3.1 million Google hits is heavy hitting on the web.

For the sake of comparison, you would need to combine the results for Rutherford B. Hayes, James Polk, James Garfield, William Howard Taft, Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland and Zachary Taylor to equal the number of hits for "more cowbell" alone. That's a lot of mediocre presidents!

"More cowbell" has even outstripped its source material. Compare 3.1 million hits to 2,940,000 for Will Ferrell and 1,860,000 for Blue Öyster Cult. Poor producer Bruce Dickinson, played with trademark creepiness and panache by Christopher Walken, musters only 807,000 hits when you filter "Iron Maiden" (different guy—less cowbell, more fencing) out of the mix.

If we can trust Google as a fame-meter (and Google says we can, nay, must), "more cowbell" is about as famous as mid-echelon stars like Brittany Murphy (3.2 mil.) and Nick Lachey (3.4 mil.), and the cowbell didn't even have to marry Jessica Simpson. "More cowbell" even holds its own against another dominant craze in American Culture: American Idol. Check out these stats:
Kelly Clarkson—3,950,000
Clay Aiken—3,240,000
More Cowbell—3,100,000
Carrie Underwood—2,630,000
Paula Abdul—2,270,000
Simon Cowell—1,250,000
Ruben studdard—904,000
Bo Bice—733,000
William Hung—716,000
Ryan Seacrest—563,000
Randy Jackson—413,000
Fantasia Barrino—350,000
Looks like America's calling out for a new idol! Here are a few more standards of comparison from my scientific-ish research that leave "more cowbell" looking pretty good:

Cowbell vs. Canada
Bryan Adams—5,830,000
More Cowbell—3,100,000
Wayne Gretzky—2,800,000
Stephen Harper—2,440,000 (that's the new Prime Minister, moron!)
Cowbell vs. the Royal Family
Prince Charles—3,280,000
More Cowbell—3,100,000
Princess Diana—2,790,000
Prince William—2,040,000
Queen Elizabeth II—1,840,000
Prince Harry—1,180,000
Camilla Parker Bowles—730,000
Cowbell vs. Selected Current Novelists
Tom Clancy—6,610,000
More Cowbell—3,100,000
Salman Rushdie—2,940,000
Toni Morrison —1,740,000
Don Delillo—769,000
Cowbell vs. Public Intellectuals
George Will—3,130,000
More Cowbell—3,100,000
Christopher Hitchens—2,280,000
Harold Bloom —1,010,000
William F Buckley Jr—867,000
Richard Rorty—528,000
Richard Posner—417,000
Cowbell vs. Right-Wing Pundits
Rush Limbaugh—7,170,000
Ann Coulter—6,410,000
Bill O'Reilly—5,660,000
More Cowbell—3,100,000
Sean Hannity—2,300,000
Robert Novak—1,780,000
Tucker Carlson—973,000
John Podhoretz—331,000
Cowbell vs. Left-Wing Firebrands
Michael Moore—17,300,000
Al Franken—4,420,000
Barbra Streisand—3,620,000
More Cowbell—3,100,000
Susan Sarandon—2,990,000
Tim Robbins—2,190,000
Phil Donahue—410,000
Alan Colmes—388,000
Cowbell vs. Selected Classical Composers
Tchaikovsky—5,790,000
More Cowbell—3,100,000
Shostakovich—3,040,000
Rachmaninoff—2,290,000
Johannes Brahms—1,990,000
Mussorgsky—1,820,000
Igor Stravinsky—1,320,000
And just in case you might think this is nothing more than a call for more percussion in general:

Cowbell vs. Other Percussion Instruments
More Cowbell—3,100,000
Less Cowbell—46,700
More Triangle—11,300
More Cymbals—10,200
More Melodica—3,290
More Xylophone—3,120
More Gong—799
More Maracas—784
More Conga—759
More Wood Block—470
More Tambourine—404
More Vibraphone—231
More Tympani—102
More Jew's Harp—37
Whether you view all of this as a step forward or a step backward for world culture is a matter of personal taste. Don't be surprised, however, if your choice is what determines whether or not Google lines you up against a wall and shoots you when the revolution comes.

Update: I realize that the melodica is not a percussion instrument, but how often do you get to send a shout-out to the Hooters?
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