This post has been a long time coming for me. As most of my readers know, I am a drummer. I have been playing since I was 12 years old and to this day, outside of the Millenium Falcon and my current drum set, the best gift I ever received was a Tama Swingstar drumset for my Bar Mitzvah. That thing was bad ass (at least I thought so). I played for hours in my basement with my headphones on, trying to mimic all of the drummers I admired. If you are a reader of my blog you already have a good sense for my taste in music – and you can bet I was jamming out to a lot of the bands I often write about. I have always loved playing. Any opportunity I got to play in front of people I would – from my bar mitzvah to summer camp to my wedding – I was getting behind that kit if at all possible. I still play to this day. Not on a “professional” level by any means, but I get together with another “Dad” and great friend who happens to be a great guitarist too and we jam out in my basement for hours covering songs we both like, now sometimes with our kids singing along. Point being – I have long been a fan of drumming and appreciate good drummers a TON. When I listen to music I always focus on the drummer and what he/she is doing. I often think “I can play that” or “Holy crap – I wish I could play that”. Either way – a great drummer is often too unappreciated by most casual music fans. Yes – people appreciate a good drum solo every now and then, but most don’t often sit back and think about what the drummer is doing. For one blog post, at least, that is all going to change. This week I give you my Top 5 Drummers of All Time. As with all my lists, this is purely based on my opinions – not critics or other musicians. Look – I love me some Phil Collins too, and he IS a great drummer – but he isn’t sniffing this list.
5. Keith Moon, The Who – I am not a big Who fan but do have a lot of respect for their music. That being said, Keith Moon is awesome. Probably one of the more “unorthodox” drummers who ever lived, he could not only lay down a terrific beat but had the uncanny ability to do the most creative and off-beat fills you will ever hear. He is VERY tough to imitate, because his style defies every thing you learn when studying to be a drummer. His drumming alone makes some of the “weaker” Who tunes far more enjoyable than they have any right being. Dude was a legendary party animal and “hero” of some of the most unbelievable rock party legends. Here are several highlights of Keith Moon – Enjoy!
4. Alex Van Halen, Van Halen – I know some fellow drummers and other musicians who will see AVH on this list and say I must be high. To you I say three words “Hot For Teacher”. This guy can flat out wail on the drums, and is the most underrated, but vital part of what is one of the greatest bands of all time. Next time you listen to a Van Halen song tell me you don’t fidn yourself air drumming along. Not the most technical and not the most precise, it doesn’t matter. His style is 100% balls out rock and to me, he is the epitome of the metal era behind the kit. Yes there are “faster” speed metal drummers like Lars Ulrich, but Lars could never play with the feel and soul Alex Van Halen does. However, I know Alex could play Lars’ style equally as well. Alex Van Halen ripping it up on Hot For Teacher
3. Stewart Copeland, The Police – This guy is a genius behind the kit. Part Jazz, Part Rock, part Reggae, his style goes beyond classification. Some of the greatest drumming ever recorded was by him, and I am a marginal Police fan at best. He is so subtle yet precise with his drumming – you really have to listen intently to truly appreciate just what he is doing. He is one of those drummers that I listen to and just throw my hands up and say “well, I can never play that”. I am sure a lot of other drummers say the same thing – often. Dude is one bad ass mo-fo. Stewart Copeland solo on David Letterman
2. John Bonham, Led Zeppelin – Most rational music fans have him at either #1 or #2 at worst on lists like these. That’s because it is generally accepted he is to drumming what Jimi Hendrix is to guitar – the godfather of it all. He literally re-invented drums for a new age while with Led Zeppelin. Drummers will tell you he can do more with one foot than 99% of drummers can do with two these days on double bass pedals. Bonham has a style that, when you hear him, you know it is him. There is only one other drummer I can say that about, and he is my #1. From the ballads to the epic hard rock tunes of Zeppelin, they were made unforgettable by Bonham’s drumming. He was so important to the group, that when he died the band called it quits. Extra credit – like Keith Moon, dude was a legendary party animal. Of course it had to be Moby Dick by Led Zeppelin
1.Neil Peart, Rush – The G.O.A.T. This guy make all other drummers pale in comparison. He is the only drummer that I can honestly say is the lead instrument in his band. Not the guitar, not the bass, the drums. He is so ridiculously good that he literally inspired a whole generation of kids to want to play the drums. Rush is an amazing band, but try picturing their music without Peart. You can’t because he is so essential to what they are and do. The fastest hands in the business, he is what all other drummers aspire to. My friend and I laugh when we are playing and he starts playing the riff from “YYZ” or “Limelight” because he knows damn well I can’t play that shit. When he does that I then ask him to play “Eruption” by Van Halen. He gets the point. I loved watching their recent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by the Foo Fighters. Both of the presenters could not control their drummer nerd geek out when talking about Peart, because they know what all the rest of us do – the guy is the best there ever was. Neil solo in Frankfurt. Awesomeness.
There you have it, my favorite drummers ever. Who are your favorites? Anyone I miss? Until next week – there is no spoon.
P.S. – If you have never seen this 8 year old kid play on YouTube, go to his channel immediately. This kid is a prodigy and a lot of fun to watch. Avery Drummer Channel is here
Another great article Ed… Disclaimer: I am not a drummer so my opinion should be weighted accordingly.
Must say, I agree with your top two in the order you placed them. I don’t have an opinion on the Who as I don’t listen to them and I am about the same level Police fan as you are so I respect Copeland, but don’t really have a dog in that fight…
With all of that said – let’s discuss AVH. Total underrated drummer! As I started to read your paragraph on him “Hot for Teacher” popped into my head as a great work example before I got to your mention of it! That leads me to the following possible outcomes:
–1. You hit it straight on giving him mention.
–2. You and I have been jamming together too long and I have a completely biased opinion that is in line with yours.
–3. We have drank far too much Trillium together out at the firepit playing “name that tune” from my music library and we have become one conscious musical mind.
One miss in your top 5 – Dave Grohl…. Guy is one of the rare humans that is great at everything he does. I’ll be he can knit the hell out of a sweater too!
Rock on brother.