Saturday, March 21, 2009

Notable rock drummers

It's not that hard to make a list of guitarists in rock music who were not only great guitarists but important in the history of rock guitar. The first few names are gimmes: Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Eddie Van Halen. After that, people can get quibbly about who really deserves to be on the list, but there are certainly a bunch of names that are likely to appear on most people's versions of the list.

I was thinking about who would be on the equivalent list for drummers, and not that many names jumped out at me. Without testing the borders of "rock" by going out into the rhythm-and-blues family (where we'd immediately get Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich, amongst others), only two names occurred to me that should be on everyone's list: Keith Moon and Neil Peart. But I feel like there are others that just aren't coming to mind.

It's a truism that drummers don't get the glory that guitarists get, generally. (Neil Peart had to be superhuman to break that glass ceiling; I recently read someone's comment on a forum that the one thing that most made him doubt his atheism is watching Neil Peart play.) But even so there should be more names that jump to mind. I can think of drummers who did good work, but the standard is not only that they were great but also that they were important to the history of rock drumming, perhaps because of innovating techniques or defining styles (the way Gene Krupa did), or for combining elements from different genres, or something.

So, who am I forgetting?


litlfrog said...

Hmm, the others that come immediately to mind for me are Ginger Baker, John Bonham, and Mo Tucker. Baker was and is a technical master with more subtle, intricate drumming than most others of his generation. Bonzo, well, was Bonzo and helped define hard rock drumming. Maureen Tucker wasn't as technically skilled, but her hard backbeats drove the Velvet Underground albums.

Looking up some others . . . how could I have forgotten Bill Ward (Black Sabbath), Dave Lombardo (Slayer--those double-timed thrash metal beats), Reni (Stone Roses), and Lars Ulrich (Metallica)?

Hawthorn Thistleberry said...

Ginger Baker, maybe. But as a great fan of Led Zeppelin, I am still hesitant to name Bonham. He was a solid drummer by any standard, but I don't feel like he innovated, or refined a style, or in any other big way changed the shape of drumming. The history of drumming would have been very nearly the same without him as with him, is what I'm thinking. But I'm prepared to be wrong about that.