This is the title track from San Francisco garage rockers Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's sixth studio album, Beat The Devil's Tattoo. The majority of the record was written and recorded at The Basement Studio outside Philadelphia, the same place where Howl! was written and recorded half a decade earlier. It was the debut full-length release on the band's own Abstract Dragon label and the first album that their new drummer Leah Shapiro plays on.
The song and album title is a phrase gleaned from Edgar Allan Poe's 1839 short story, The Devil In The Belfry. Singer Robert Levon Been explained: "Leah had given me a book of Poe short stories and I'd immersed myself in it. The one phrase 'Beat The Devils Tattoo' leaped out at me though for some reason. I read up on it and found that it originally meant 'the beat of a drum or a bugle signaling soldiers to return to their camps after dark'. But it's a very old lost phrase. These days, I guess it's used whenever anyone anxiously drums their fingers on a table or taps their foot on the ground incessantly, they're 'beating the devil's tattoo.'"
Been told Express Night Out about this track: "This is the only song that I was really stoned while writing. I don't recommend it normally to all the kids out there. I was pretty much incapacitated, with no sense of space and time. I was trying to play other things and I jut couldn't do it, and this melody on the guitar was the only thing I could physically play. So I just kept playing it over and over again until it became this mantra that kept me from freaking out.
I noticed that every 20 seconds in the songs, something changes. It tripped me out. It's actually down to the second - if you actually go through it, down the second there's a change. I wander if my space and time were broken into 20-second intervals, so things only happen for 20 seconds since my brain would start over or I was only present for 20 seconds at a time. Then it would change and I had to restart it. It's spooky."