Why drummers get such a hard ride is beyond me. Take them out of rock n roll and what have you got left? I'll tell you:
Is that really what you want? Listen to this version of Back in Black with the drums taken out.
Isn’t the space where the beats should go the saddest abyss you’ve ever contemplated? It makes us want to weep with loneliness. The guy who uploaded that video has a whole load of drumless tracks on Youtube for learners to practice thrashing on. Listening to a host of these videos back to back is an unnerving and bleak experience, as though all the drummers in the world were whisked off in one mass alien assault, leaving rock n roll jilted, a blustering buffoon that’s all bark and no bite.
Stumbling across those vids today made me want to give a little back to drummers. You- all of you—are the thing that makes music BLOODY GREAT. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I’m not even going to stick in a snidey half arsed drummer joke at this point, this is strictly about the love.
So here are 10 drum beats that have done wonders for the world of sound. Some of them are just a tiny snippet of perfection, and some of them last a whole song, but all of them have the power to elevate the ordinary into the magical.
Ronettes - Be My Baby
The opening two bars of this Phil Spector classic must be amongst the most recognisable drum intros of all time. With a couple of thuds of the kick drum and a sharp hand clap, Spector conjures up all the teenage drama a lovelorn mind could ever wish for. There are more complicated drum patterns on this list, and more sampled and more revered, but none more perfect.
Led Zepplin – When The Leevee Breaks
Hip Hop: You owe John Bonham. The Led Zep sticksman is far and away the most sampled rock drummer of all time, simply because he is a beast. Listen to him pound them tubs. He sounds like his biceps are made of superfunk and bigger than my head .
MJ – Billy Jean
As classic beats go, this one’s a no brainer. Michael is often remembered for the negatives. It’s easy to be distracted by the way he chose to dress, and act, like a mental middle aged woman pretending to be Johnny Depp in a shit Tim Burton flick, but really, forget all that. Just slap on Billy Jean and remember Michael for what he really was; a saint walking the Earth, blessing us with the sharpest sounds ever recorded.*
*Like many MJ fans, I get a bit over the top when I think about his music. Deal with it.
Justin Timberlake – Like I Love You
JT has built a career out of wholesale ripping off Michael Jackson’s stage act (wisely, minus the stuff with the kids and the weird wearing- plasters-on-your-fingertips thing). I heard a rumour once that Timberlake’s first album was originally offered to Jacko but he rejected it. Probably not true, but believable, if only for the sheer old school, MJ style energy the producers jam into it—the drums on Like I Love You, played live then looped by Pharrell Williams, are the loudest, sickest things to have graced a pop record before or since for decades. They turned Justin from a boyband sap into a serious musical concern, and made him a gazillion more dollars to spend on whatever insane crap, prozzers, and hard drugs a former child star (probably) fills there life with.
Butthole Surfers – Human Cannonball
This one’s in because it’s a personal favourite. It was a toss up between Human Cannonball and Motorhead’s Overkill- the Motorhead song holds seniority but, screw that, I love this track too much not to stick it in, and I’m in charge here. Listen to how those drums tell you, in no uncertain terms, that it’s time to headbutt the walls, crush beer cans against your throat, flail your arms like you’ve rabbitpunched a wasps nest and leap around just because you FUCKING CAN. RAAAARRRGGHH. There. Doesn’t that feel good.
Phil Collins – In The Air Tonight
Balding misanthrope Collins stamped his massive studio honed sound all over the 80s, and his trickery with technology has weathered remarkably well. Still, it’s become impossible to listen to these drums without thinking of the bloody Cadbury’s ape advert, so we’re not even going to try. Take it away ape man....
Stone Roses – Fools Gold
You could argue that Reni’s propulsive, shuffling drums make this as much a funk tune as an indie anthem, and back when this first saw light of day, in the Madchester glory years of the early 90s, it was embraced by wide eyed ravers and guitar lovers alike. The Roses never really produced anything else quite like this again- not much of a surprise given their glacial workrate, but a one off classic none the less.
Spanky Wilson – Sunshine of your Love
Make no mistake, Ginger Baker’s drumming on the Cream original of this is totally amazing, but you know that anyway... You may, however, not have heard this hyped up version by soul legend Spanky Wilson, where the drums are ratcheted up way past ‘nuts’, and right into ‘sheeee-it’. Heavy, heavy work.
Queen – We Will Rock You
It would have been criminal not to put this in. I mean all this song is is fricking drum beat. Big, lairy drum beat. If humans ever decide to go on an intergalactic rampage, I nominate this as the track we blast out as we crush one alien civilisation after another. HELL YEAH.
Billy Squier – Big Beat
And finally, a song that celebrates the beat itself. Most recently used by Dizzee Rascal on Fix Up Look Sharp, what makes Billy Squier so great is his acknowledgement of what we all know. “I”, he screams, “Love the big beat”. Yes, we nod sagely. It’s a massive beat, and he loves it. Good man.
*Disclaimer* The eagle eyed amongst you will spot the absence of any real metal tracks in this list. Basically I’ve run out of space, so haven’t covered Slayer, Machine Head, Metallica, Pantera, or even the Sabbath.. Shame on me...! I guess they’re gonna get a list all of there own... Any other suggestions are more than welcome...