A band is a team effort. Each member of a band contributes to the overall sound, be it the vocalist, guitarist, keyboardist or the drummer. The rhythms along with the bass form the backbone of a song. The human body resonates to the rhythm of the song. The way an individual grooves is directly proportionate to the pace of the rhythm. It is the music component that makes us move.
Drummers are integral to any band because they are responsible for the rhythm of the song. They generate the beat and timing of the song for other band members to follow.
The limelight in a rock band is usually grabbed by the lead vocalist and the guitarist.
Drummers are restricted in terms of movement on the stage and are generally seated at a single spot. Unlike the vocalists or guitarists they dont have the liberty to utilise the entire stage. The limited stage presence has not dithered many of the drummers from carving a niche for themselves. It depends on a musician whether they want to be behind or want to lead. The musicians make the instrument popular.
Some of the most famous and loved rock bands in the world have the most talented drummers. Their drumsticks have contributed to creating some of the best-loved rock anthems in the world.
Over the past few weeks, we looked at some of the greatest rock vocalists to adorn the stage in various decades. Starting this week, it’s the drummers in rock music that shall be featured.
First up is the 70s.
John ‘Bonzo’ Bonham is considered to be the man who changed drumming forever. Known for his power, speed, and distinctive sound, he has been termed as ‘mesmerising’ by fellow musicians, musicologists and fans. Though a shy and homely guy, Bonzo would attack the drums with all his might. Power and speed were not his only weapons. He developed a technique, where he would play bare hand, used extensively in the song ‘Moby Dick’ whose solos were the centrepiece of their live gigs and would often run 20 minutes.
Bonzo is considered by many to be the best rock drummer of all time and when he died so did Led Zeppelin.
‘Moon the Loon’ perhaps described the sound of The Who. Supremely confident of his abilities, Moon was known for his onstage antics as well as being a ‘mad hatter’ off it. But this image of his took nothing away from his abilities on the drum throne. He would smash his drum kits with ferocity and showed a passion for his instrument unlike many other musicians. Moon was a major contributor to The Who being named as the ‘Loudest band on Earth’ in 1976. He played melodic breaks and would add drum rolls in places even if they were not intended to get a unique feel to his band’s music.
The superstar of drums once described himself as the ‘greatest Keith Moon-type drummer in the world’.
The Professor of the drumming world, Peart was meticulous with his set up and technique. His playing style was melodic and his drum kit huge. Starting off he employed two bass drums alongside an array of cymbals, high hats, tongs, and crash. The percussions would include woodblocks, rototoms, octobans, chimes, timbales, tambourines, tubular bells, cowbells and even gongs.
Peart’s solos were the highlight of Rush’s live shows. The solos were never instinctive but were rather well planned and Peart would rehearse them for days before performing.
Being a part of a three member band meant he had a lot of ‘space’ to fill sonically. Instead of attacking the drums, Peart had his own, may be scientific, style of playing.
Paice joined Deep Purple as a 19 year old when Ritchie Blackmore took notice of him and arranged for an audition.
Primarily left-handed with a left-handed drum-kit set-up, he is known for extremely fast and smooth single and double stroke rolls as well as single bass pedal speed. He is also known for perfecting the one-handed roll.
Paice’s early influences include jazz and rock music which is reflective in his sound. He was the only constant member of Deep Purple till they split. Later he went on work with heavyweight bands like Whitesnake, Gary Moore Band and also worked on Velvet Underground’s final album ‘Squeeze’.
One of the founding members of Pink Floyd, arguably the biggest progressive rock band in history, Mason managed to stand out with his unique sound and technique. He managed to fuse jazz and big band sound perfectly to the band’s requirement.
By combining acoustic and electronic drums with rototoms and a range of percussion instruments, he developed a melodic universe of his own in every Pink Floyd song.
Mason’s style was more laid back and even gentler than that of other progressive rock drummers of the time. Despite being soft spoken, his live performances have a rather dynamic style with a mild but fierce energy.
To be a part of the ‘bad boys of rock’n’roll’, The Rolling Stones and not be a motor mouth, was an achievement in itself. Charlie had a strict ‘no interview’ policy. His importance in the band was confirmed by Ronnie Wood in the documentary ‘Tip Of The Tongue’. “Charlie’s the engine. We don’t go anywhere without the engine,” said Wood.
Watts never overplayed his hand nor was he flashy, heck he didn’t even do solos. He would stick to his part in the song and would not compete with the rest of the band. He probably had the smallest drum kit in rock ‘n’ roll and his style was uncomplicated. The ‘most sober Rolling Stone’ never played anything just because he could. His prowess as a jazz drummer is equally noteworthy.
The Drummers ‘Hall of Fame’
Keeping these illustrious gents company in the 70s were some fantastic drummers. All worthy of a spot in the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. Joey Kamer not only named the band Aerosmith, he also penned hits like ‘Closer’, ‘Can’t Stop Loving You’, ‘Kings and Queens’. A man who not only played the drums well but was equally proficient while playing guitar, bass, keyboard and even croon was Queen’s Roger Taylor. He also wrote Queen’s landmark hits ‘Radio Ga Ga’ and ‘A Kind Of Magic’.
Whats common between Kamer, Bonham, Paice and Taylor?
Answer: They consider Carmine Appice to be a huge influence on their drumming. Appice played with various acts and a spectrum of genres. He explored hard rock, psychedelic rock, heavy metal, glam metal, and blues-rock which resulted in him being inducted into the Drummer’s Hall of Fame.
There were other great acts albeit from genres other than rock or may be in rock. To include all of them would be an uphill and lengthy task. You can drop your suggestions if we have missed naming them here.