Out Of Shape Faculty

No, not my physique (although that’s absolutely true; in my fantasy world Margaret or I would get a job near a gym we could afford to belong to so that I could be active and healthy as Halley) — I mean, my faculty of critical recollection and assessment of musical information. I realized, the other day, that I’m losing some saved data that I haven’t used in years: the starting outfield for the 1944 Browns, for instance, or what I think of the various performers in the bands to which I listen constantly.
 
When Pippa and I were driving to Carrboro, listening to the Who, I pointed out Keith Moon’s delicate drum fills adjacent to his prodigiously energetic banging. Pippa, with characteristic curiosity, asked what other drummers I particularly respected — and I was flummoxed. I mean, plenty of other drummers do their work well. I just can’t pull out of my memory any examples of especially noteworthy rock drummers as distinct from “yup, there he is, good job” drummers.
 
Now, back in olden times, when Tuck and Matt and Johnny and Finn and mountains of other college friends and I would sit around and argue about such topics, I’d have been able to compile a Top Twenty-five list with relative ease. I still haven’t dredged up a Second After Keith Moon list — so I’m counting on commenters to leave nominations. Bear in mind — and as my students know, I’m particularly fierce on this — that I’m looking for nominations with reasons, not just boosterism, cheerleading, and other modes of fan-behavior. Evidence-based assertions only, please! And maybe the discussion will jar some dusty, cobwebbed memories back into vivid circulation.

10 comments / Add your comment below

  1. ?uestlove (no explanation necessary)
    Bonham (just Levee Breaks and his gloriously vile demise would be enough reason, let alone everything else)
    Watts (not always as flashy as Bonham or Moon, but when you actually listen to the drum line, he always manage to match the energy of the song perfectly)
    Jason McGerr, of DCFC (one of my personal favorites, he has a pretty impressively distinctive “voice” for being a drummer, and, like Watts, is gifted at supporting what’s going on around him musically)

  2. I also have trouble coming up with drummer names, but one I’ve always thought was interesting was Stuart Copeland (The Police), but mostly just for doing some non-standard things like reggae beats.

    I don’t really know who this drummer is, but this is a great sound:

  3. “… what’s his face in Led Zeppelin …”

    That would be John Bonham.

    Ringo Starr doesn’t ever seem to get enough credit; and I also liked the late John Panozzo from Styx. And Phil Collins was considered good enough to fill in for Bonzo when Led Zeppelin reunited briefly.

    Oh … and maybe that drummer from Spinal Tap who spontaneously combusted … or not.

  4. Steve Gadd is a good example of a session drummer who did admirable work on a variety of performers’ albums; I was thinking of Jim Gordon (All Things Must Pass and Layla and Other Love Songs, now that’s a pair fo achievements; I hadn’t heard, though, that he succumbed to undiagnosed schizophrenia and murdered his mother). Likewise Jim Keltner played on some records that I thought just painfully bland, but also contributed to some terrific albums (early post-Beatles sessions, and much later on Elvis Costello’s King of America).

    Art Blakey, Max Roach, Buddy Guy, and the underrated Dannie Richmond — yes, although jazz drumming is a different endeavor. I can actually name more jazz drummers I particularly respect than rock drummers; something about the coloration of jazz performance invites audible musicianship, while the rock — let’s be candid — encourages fervor at the expense of refinement.

    Chrlie Watts is a good counterexample; I just don’t remembering hearing him much (I’ll go on a Stones-a-thon now, to listen for Charlie Watts’s work. I’ll attend to John Bonham’s work too, and McGerr and ?uestlove. Thanks for the reminders.

  5. This thread seems to have died down, but if I’m not too late I’ll put in my two-bits worth (in no particular order):

    Ringo Starr
    Ginger Baker
    Keith Moon
    Levon Helm (The Band)
    Aynsley Dunbar (John Mayall, Journey, Frank Zappa, and lots of others)

    Of these I think the prize goes to Ginger Baker for sheer musicianship (though it has to be said that *anybody* who could last as long in Zappa’s band as Aynsley Dunbar did has to be one heck of a musician).

    Another great, great drummer that few people have ever heard of is Terry Bozio, who also played with Zappa for a number of years. I would never have heard of him either except that he went to my high school a year or two ahead of me.

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