As Red Hot Chili Peppers’ mischievous sticksman turns 56 years old, we look at the other drummers that join Chad Smith in the percussion hall of fame.
Before he became a pop culture hero by participating in a drum-off with celeb lookalike Will Ferrell, Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ man Chad Smith had already cemented his place as one half of music’s most elastic rhythm section.
Though it’s easy to have a friendly dig at some of his lyrical contributions to The Beatles’ canon (‘Octopus’ Garden’ anyone?), when it came to the sticks, Richard Starkey was – and indeed, is still – a tour de force of swinging, effortless rhythms.
His little bro Eddie may be the more well-known of the Van Halen brothers, but it was Alex that provided the hard-hitting backbone of the band’s heavy rock sound. ‘Jump’ ain’t nothing without Alex.
Dave who? Only kidding! Before becoming our favourite rock and roll soldier at the helm of Foo Fighters, Dave was – OF COURSE – chief sticksman in a little known band called Nirvana. Some people get all the good genes.
Say what you like about Blink-182, but beneath all the crude banter and dick jokes, they’ve got a genuine powerhouse behind the kit. It’s easy to overlook Travis at the back, hammering like there’s no tomorrow, but that’s where the real magic lies in Blink.
Neil Peart, drummer for Canadian rock types Rush, might just be the most well-regarded of them all. Regularly topping ‘Best Drummer’ polls throughout the musical spectrum, his super-size kit and elaborate drum fills have been celebrated across the land.
Rock ‘n’ roll stalwart Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac fame has contributed more than his fair share of hits to music’s top tier. While the likes of ‘Dreams’ or ‘Songbird’ might seem like gauzy, floaty affairs, they’d be nothing without their central grounding rhythmic force.
While Mick and Keef took the spotlight, Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts sat in the background, providing the loose, relaxed tempos that gave the band their groove. “He is one big feelmonger,” says Mick Fleetwood of his peer. That’s definitely a compliment.
He may have been usurped by a drum machine on the notorious introduction of New Order’s biggest hit ‘Blue Monday’, but Stephen Morris is still a hero. As drummer for both Joy Division and New Order, his style adapted from doomy post-punk to danceable new wave, keeping both in the realms of the dancefloor.
Now forever sadly immortalised as a Cadbury’s-sponsored drumming gorilla, Phil Collins can at least be thankful that his powerhouse style and status as one of very few singing sticksman who was individual enough to parody. Even if it is by a monkey.
This one might divide opinion, but while Meg was often seen as the less talented foil to Jack’s virtuoso musicianship, the magic of The White Stripes lay between the interplay of the two. Pared back to as minimal a style as you can get, Meg was the nonchalant yin to her ex-hubby’s frenetic yang.
Dubbed ‘the human drum machine’, The Clash’s Topper Headon was meticulous. Simple but precise, his contribution to hits from ‘Train In Vain’ to ‘Rock The Casbah’ made up some of British punk’s core canon.
Maureen ‘Moe’ Tucker was a one-off even within the unconventional realms of her band The Velvet Underground. Sometimes reducing the kit down to the bare minimum, she’d also play with a mallet instead of a stick in her right hand to create a true primal sound.
You can’t really be a wallflower when you’re a part of space-loving, futuristic rock oddballs Muse, so it’s no surprise that drummer Dom Howard is both one of the most enthusiastic and one of the most creative modern drummers out there. With only three of them making enough of a racket to fill stadiums, his role is huge.
OK, so multi-talented Arcade Fire centre-pin Regine isn’t technically the band’s full-time drummer, but as one of the best all-rounders out there, she still deserves a nod. Frequently hopping onto a kit, before moving onto percussion and then singing lead, Regine’s ability to give the song whatever it needs at that point is exquisite.
Dave Grohl thinks Bonham’s the best. So does the Stones’ Charlie Watts. So does Queen’s Roger Taylor. Need we continue? Regularly awarded the title of Best Ever, Led Zeppelin’s powerhouse force revved up the engine on their rock ‘n’ roll machine, but also gave them their loose, sensual groove. Perfect.
The mad-eyed wildcard who inspired The Muppets’ maniacal drummer Animal, Keith Moon was a true one-off. Though his slightly unhinged, self-destructive side would ultimately prove his undoing, at his prime, it was also the spark that set him apart.
Once hitting headlines for touring the world’s largest tuned drumkit, which looked a bit like something out of Transformers, Terry ‘Ted’ Bozzio has never played it safe. Recording 26 albums with legendary eccentric Frank Zappa, his is a style that colours outside of the lines.
Playing with everyone from Thin Lizzy to Ozzy Osbourne to Whitesnake, Tommy Aldridge has basically been the go-to heavy rock drummer of choice for decades. Powerful yet adaptable, Aldridge proves that being a drummer for hire (or sorts) needn’t show lack of personality.
Having played with 70s prog types Procul Harum and not-very-proggy former Clash singer Joe Strummer, B.J.Wilson’s drumming was put to some diverse use. Light of touch and a whizz with a drum fill, however, he adapted to the challenge.
The battle of the drumming Alan Whites may be terse (Oasis’ former stick-wielder also went by the same name), but Yes’ contender wins out this time. As well as playing with the prog outfit, White also recorded with Lennon, Harrison, Joe Cocker and Yoko Ono over the years. Not too shabby.
Ol’ Jacky boy might be more highly regarded as a virtuoso guitarist and adamant technology-refuser, but let’s not forget about his drumming skills. The musical polymath sits behind the kit in The Dead Weather and also started off in his first band as drummer for Detroit cow-punk combo Goober & the Peas.
More than almost any other current band, Warpaint’s mysterious alchemy relies equally on each band member and the interplay between them. Drummer Stella Mozgawa is crucial to this: slipping seamlessly into the band’s extended jams but always reigning it in from mere noodling, she’s one of the best modern players around.
Her Sleater-Kinney band mates once deemed her beats so solid “you could practically bang your head against them”, but it’s not just her gutsy, full-throttle playing that makes Weiss one of the best. Playing with everyone from Stephen Malkmus to The Shins, Weiss knows when to rein it in, too.
Helders memorably first came to the drums as “that was the only thing left” when they formed Arctic Monkeys, but has since gone on to become the band’s unassuming powerhouse (and next level backing vocalist). Drawing influence equally from rock and hip-hop, Helders is a melting pot that works perfectly.
Lars may have been criticised in the past for his drumming skills, but let’s put things in perspective here – without Ulrich’s direction, arrangements and general leadership, there would be no Metallica. He may be here more for his overall contribution, but what a contribution that is.
One of the most adaptable players there is, Queen’s Roger Taylor not only managed to veer between the band’s eclectic styles with ease, but also live up to some of the most theatrical songs of the era. If you can provide a solid foil to Freddie Mercury, then you must be doing something right.
While The Police may not be the coolest band on the list, there’s no doubt that Stewart Copeland’s jazz-influenced beats were a key factor in their massive success.
Mid 1960s power trio Cream were fronted by the famous face of Eric Clapton, but drummer Ginger Baker was no less of an influential force within the group. Essentially inventing the drum solo, he was one of the first real drumming superstars.
Starting out in the jazz world Buddy Rich’s career (which began in the 1930s) has been credited as one of the most important of them all. Perfecting a technique that prioritised speed and precision, his influence has spread into the rock world and beyond.
Sheila E’s most notable work might be on Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’, but her drumming skills have also appeared on tracks by everyone from Marvin Gaye to Diana Ross. Add to that an impressive solo career and you’ve got an insatiable talent.