Let There Be Drums

I’m In A Rock N Roll Band; The Drummer

The BBC have been running a series on terrestrial TV channel BBC2 celebrating the Rock Band and tonight, Saturday 15 May 2010 they are celebrating the drummer. With drummer jokes. Having been a drummer myself (that’s a fact not a recommendation) I thought I’d put together a list of the drummers who influenced me, or who I copied or, later on, whom I realised I had no chance of emulating. You can vote on your favourite drummer at the BBC here. I ended up briefly managing a Venezuelan Salsa band, Spiteri, because I recognised the Brasilian drum solo by Airto Moreira they were copying (it’s included below), so I know I have got the ears if not the chops. Here we go;

Sandy Nelson; And in the beginning was the solo drum artist. The first bit of drumming I can actually recall identifying was the little tom-tom riff in my Mum’s copy of the Everly Brothers Til I Kissed You. So when Sandy Nelson made his bid to be the Duane Eddy of the Drums I was hooked right away. Let There Be Drums;

Tony Meehan; Before The Beatles everyone loved Cliff Richard and The Shadows. Nerdy boys preferred The Shadows to Cliff and played tennis guitar pretending to be Hank Marvin. Me I preferred Tony Meehan at the back on drums. So when he and Jet Harris (the James Dean of the Shadows) quit and formed a duo I was happy as Sandy. Two bands of instrumental geezers – Diamonds;

Dave Clark; or is that Clem Cattini? Dave Clark, leader of the Five who displaced The Beatles when Glad All Over went to number one on the very first Top Of The Pops (my Mum bought it!) had the gimmick of a drummer as band leader. I loved them for it but it seems that Mike Smith was more of the architect of their Tottenham Sound and Dave Clark was the business man. As you can see from the video they were in The Shadows of The Beatles. Still I bought the follow-up to that because it is a drummers pop record, and it is as noisy as hell – Bits and Pieces;

Keith Moon; In the early sixties drummers had to make their mark inside the Pop Song. Not many did,  Ringo was the exemplar, and then along came Keith Moon. “He’s only playing triplets” said Buddy Rich; yeah and so many of them. One evening I was walking to evensong at Windsor Boys School in Hamm with a friend who had his transistor radio on and, just thirty minutes late at 5.45, this came on the radio. Auto-destructive drumming for f-f-f-fun. My Generation;

Ginger Baker; I was in Germany for 18 months and returned to England for Christmas 1966. Turned on Top of The Pops which had Hendrix playing Guitar with his teeth on Hey Joe and, dressed as a Roman centurion, Ginger Baker playing his drums with Roman stabbing swords. WTF!!! Pop had changed, they had musicians in Pop bands now and Ginger was phenomenal. As we did then, I Feel Free;

Mitch Mitchell; This was the Lulu Show, on BBC on Saturdays in 1968/69. Hendrix was supposed to play Hey Joe, which was already two years old. He was pissed. Played free-form, played Hey Joe a bit and then launched into a tribute to Cream who split up November 1968. The show was live on BBC and so they had to stay with him as BBC has no ads to cut to. Lulu didnt get to sing her closing song, we got 4 minutes of Jimi instead of 2 and you get this classic video. Mitch Mitchell, the only drummer capable of following Jimi, maybe because he played with Georgie Fame at the Flamingo Club. Hey Joe / Sunshine of Your Love;

Clive Bunker; A new group, a new album, a new drummer. Now it was worth checking out the new groups. I loved Clive Bunker’s work on the original Jethro Tull with Mick Abrahams, much better than the classic line-up. This is from the first album and roars. Dharma for One;

Robert Wyatt; Soft Machine stood in for Fairport Convention at York University in Spring of 1968 and, although the Rugby Club hated them, I loved them, and the jeunesse doree tan of the hyper-active drummer / singer Robert Wyatt, from the first minute. Starting off by explaining the British Alphabet to undergrads just to piss them off and then tore the place apart pretty much without a break. I needed a drum kit of my own myself to Hope for Happiness and more;

Jo Morello; As soon as I bought a drum kit I started appreciating jazz drummers, and jazz. I bought Take Five and taught myself drum notation, so I can tell you that drummer Jo Morello is playing the wrong notes on this live version. But you don’t get bored with jazz and you don’t reproduce your previous performance. So here in 5/4 is a live version of Take Five

Tony Williams / Miles Davis; Once a drummer I began my life-long obsession with Miles Davis, like Richard Williams who explains his appeal brilliantly in The Blue Moment. The first album I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro as it was described as a “Concerto for Drums.” Twenty-one year old drummer Tony Williams drove that album and would also be instrumental in bringing a rock sensibility to jazz, but it was his cymbal work that stood out on Filles. On the boundaries here with Miles on Agitation;

Ginger Baker; Along with Take Five the other track I practiced drumming to was Toad. However playing along with a 15 minute live drum solo, whilst quite a feat of foot-tapping, was not the best way of preparing to play drums in bands; teenagers hey!. So I remember the winter of 1970 as being the opportunity to play along with Eric’s great riffs and emulate the Ginger octopus. Turned out I was copying the wrong parts. Drumming is all about rhythm not solos, but here is one and it must have inspired Moby Dick. Toad;

John Bonham; every drummer must have their John Bonham story. Mine is that I think his best work, apart from Achilles Last Stand, is on the fade to Whole Lotta Lemon Squeezing, especially the double trip around the kit at 4′ 35″ in. But whether it is supporting the riff playing the free form middle or backing the chorus Bonham plays it just right. And hard; Very Very Hard. Whole Lotta Love;

Ian Paice; Suddenly every new band had a red-hot drummer and they were having hit records and getting on Top of the Pops where I saw this performance at the time. I saw Deep Purple later at the Dagenham Roundhouse but this was the first time I saw Ian Paice drumming, later to play with Paul McCartney. Great drumming on a pop hit, still beats jazz drumming for me but it is so rare. Black Night;

Tony Williams Lifetime; The best single live performance I ever saw was the Tony Williams Lifetime live at the Marquee club in 1970, which Jack Bruce in Composing Myself calls one of his best ever performances.  Inspired by Hendrix, like Miles himself, Williams left to make more of the developing links between jazz and rock. Bruce had left Cream and joined John McLaughlin and Larry Young in a series of awesome live performances.Cant find any but here is a taste of how the swung and rocked. Big Nick;

Mike Shrieve; Anyone who want to see Woodstock, not just drummers, came away bewitched by Santana’s Latin “Soul Sacrifice.” Brilliantly filmed it captured the link that rhythm creates between a band and the audience. And the ridiculously young drummer Mike Shrieve outshone Carlos Santana. I saw it at the Odeon High Street Kensington and although the audience rose as one to cheer the closing performance of the newly dead Jimi Hendrix it was Mike Shrieve’s drumming that created the most upbeat moment in the cinema. Featuring a drum solo no less on the long version, Soul Sacrifice;

Bill Bruford; What can I say about Bill Bruford. I saw him in Yes three times before they had a recording contract, then bought his blue double drum kit once they did. Despite his early successes with Yes he was personally blown away by the playing on the first King Crimson album and eventually joined them. I think their best album is Larks Tongue in Aspic which was ripped off by Francis Lai to provide the soundtrack for soft-porn epic Emmanuelle! But here are King Crimson live with percussionist Jamie Muir and Bruford on Larks Tongues Part One;

Jaki Leibzeit; And then I discovered my other all time favourite drummer, Jaki Leibzeit of Can. Previously a jazz drummer Leibzeit worked out a groove that let him link the avant-electronics of the two ex-Stockhausen classically trained sidemen with Michael Karoli’s Floydesque guitar. Can were part of that unique phenomenon in Germany that chose to reject American music and develop a European rock music, and they are also my all-time favourite music group; what Velvet Underground might have sounded like if they were a jazz band perhaps. He is still evolving the shape of his drum kit as he continues developing his rhythmic style. I also saw him play with Jah Wobble underpinning the twin basses of Bill Laswell & Wobble. One More Night;

Airto Moreira; Miles Davis used him in his great fusion bands for Bitches Brew and after but the Brasilian percussionist was at his best in his own settings and in Fourth World with Flora Purim. I love Brasilian rhythm because it is a soundscape in itself not just the underpinning of other egos. This is Track Three Side Two of the Fingers album – the glorious Parana;

And then came punk, and Rat Scabies and Jim Walker, a lot of it four square and pedestrian, but also experimental like Hugo Burnham in the Gang of Four. So I sold my drum kit and started listening to African and World, and, and, and… tbc

You can vote on your favourite drummer at the BBC.


21 Responses to “Let There Be Drums”

  1. […] Let There Be Drums « Radio YouTube […]

  2. Why is Brian Bennett any where on this list?

  3. Hi Kitty, good call. My list is just based on drummers who Ilistened to as a drummer. I like The Rise and Fall of Flingel Blunt with Brian Bennett

    It is on the YouTube Playlist I am making to go with this post;

    I also liked Apache first time around and it starts off this Shadows Playlist

    Hope that Helps 🙂

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  15. everyone knows Dave Clark didn’t drum on any of their records but it was Bobby Graham who was the drummer not Clem Cattini

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