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The Friday 5 – And The Drums, the Drums, the Drums, the Drums

As sure as night follows day, as certain as Sarah Palin about shooting things, as reliable as a Guy Ritchie movie being awful, yes folks, it’s the Friday 5. Today we’re going to get with the beat and celebrate those who power the music we love so much, who hammer out the rhythms which appeal to the primate in all of us. Today we celebrate the much maligned drummer.

Why do drummers provoke such ire? They are often portrayed as thick, unhygienic sorts who leech off the talent of the others in their groups. For instance, let’s look at this classic drummer joke about The Beatles;

In The Beatles

John was the brain

Paul was the heart

George was the soul

Ringo was the drummer

People who wish to disparage them often point to Phil Collins as an example of why drummers should be hated. Which is a pretty conclusive argument, to be fair, but then again, look at Sting but no-one despises bassists, do they?

Possibly it is because of the bother bands go to to get a drummer when they first get together. Everybody has mates who own a guitar, who can sing a bit so it’s easy to get started. Bass is basically guitar without solos, but drums? How many 14 year olds own a drum kit? So after long, fruitless searches, bands find a drummer, who generally plays in about six bands precisely because he owns a kit. They must treat him with respect lest he takes his sticks and fucks off.

So a few years down the line, the band get some success. The drummer, who has long since jettisoned the other bands, is now reliant on the songwriting skills of another band member. And for that band member, well, it’s payback time….

But the drummer can be a thrilling part of any band. Honestly. Today we look at some top-notch exponents of the art hitting things with sticks to make a living.

Keith Moon – You can’t have a list like this and not have the resident Who loon in it. Famously a complete nut job off the field, it shouldn’t be forgotten that he was a simply sensational drummer. His fills on songs such as ‘Substitute’ are just incredible, as much a part of the song’s greatness as the guitar or vocals. Once drove a car into a swimming pool, a feat made even more impressive by the fact the pool was on the second floor. Was also the inspiration for Animal from the Muppets. That, frankly, ensures immortality.

Reni – Stone Roses sticksman and the man responsible for the loping, grooving sound which categorized the bands success after the charisma black hole that was their early work. His gimmick was the fisherman’s hat, dutifully copied by many a pretend scally in the early 90’s. Apart from being an incredibly fluid drummer, he also contributed backing vocals which were a distinctive part of the Roses greatest era’s arsenal. Affected pretty deeply by the split, Reni claimed he was throwing the drumsticks in the bin and wouldn’t play with no-one no-more. And, to be fair to him, has pretty much stuck to that for over a decade.

Topper Headon – Drumming is a pretty tough gig at the best of times, so to do it when completely out-the-game on opiates is rather amazing. Headon’s military-drums-gone-mental approach to his kit helped elevate the Clash from the punk hordes and was to remain a feature through all the eras in the band. Headon was no mere tub-thumper however; check the subtlety of his work on the dub styled ‘White Man in Hammersmith Palais’ for example.

Bill Berry – There is an argument that R.E.M. have never been the same since the generously eyebrowed one decided to swap his drum stool for a porch chair and retire to his farm. And they’d be right. As well as being an accomplished drummer, Berry also bought excellent vocal harmonies to the band, was a songwriter in his own right and, most of all, was the bands conscience (he infamously got Michael Stipe to change the lyrics to ‘Welcome To The Occupation’ as he felt they were too direct.) Another one who seems to have no desire to return to the stage soon.

Charlie Watts – A jazz drummer in his youth, which is seemingly in the Crimean War era, the man behind the kit is by far the most likeable Stone. Consider the evidence;

* He sketches every hotel bed he’s ever slept in.
* He collects cars but doesn’t drive, so just sits in them and stares out the window.
* He punched Mick Jagger for referring to him as ‘My drummer’.
* He didn’t take drugs for the first 20 years of the band and then got addicted to heroin in the 80’s.
* He wears a cravat.

The man is pure, undiluted rock’n’roll royalty.

So the next time you hear a drummer being laughed at by a cocksure front man, think of the dudes mentioned above and remind him that without the man at the back, there would be noting to dance to and we’d all be listening to annoying willowy women paying acoustic guitars and wailing about the environment and stuff. And you fundamentally cannot pull to that type of thing. At least not somebody you’d actually want to sleep with.

Anyway, enjoy the weekend, ELM is off to Nashville, believe it or not, so we’ll see you Tuesday!

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3 Responses

  1. Other great drummers:

    John McEntire: Tortoise
    John Bonham: Led Zep
    Orestes: Bitch Magnet (don’t ask!)

    And of course most jazz drummers, who are light years ahead of most rock drummers.

  2. Top skin bashers :
    1. Paul Cook out the Pistols. Very under-rated part of the panzer division sound of Never Mind The Bollocks.
    2. Big Paul out of Killing Joke. Simply the best 80’s (see what I did there?) drummer. And sang the eternal verse at the end of “Psyche” that went “You’d wipe out spastics if you had the chance, but Jesus wouldn’t like it, noooooo!”
    3. Zeke Manyika. Who would have believed that the uber-white scratchy indie of Orange Juice could receive the funk?
    4. Mike Joyce. The Smiths. No further evidence.
    5 And remaining on him, his biggest influence, John Maher out the Buzzcocks. I defy you not to play air drums to a Buzzcocks song.
    6. Martin Muir out of Manic Noises. This was a Cumbernauld band who sounded like The Banshees but with a better drummer. Indulge me in this one.
    7. The guy out of Coldplay…..no i’m fucking kidding.

  3. Jimmy whatsisname from Smashing Pumpkins is actually a really good drummer. The pattern in I Am One is a tough one to knock out.

    The drummer from Good, Bad and the Queen ain’t half bad is he? Probably will return to obscurity now they’ve dissolved.

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