Topper Headon, The Clash. Born Nicholas Bowen Headon, his nickname was inspired by his supposed resemblance to a character from the comic ‘Topper’. His genre-splicing style was integral to The Clash’s sound, although his inability to kick heroin led to his departure from the band in 1982. Finest hour: ‘Rock The Casbah’ (1982). Pic: PA Photos
Ginger Baker, Cream. Although he rose to fame with blues-rockers Cream, Ginger Baker thought of himself more as a jazz drummer. One of the first sticksmen to use two bass drums, he later diversified into Afrobeat and even classical styles. Finest hour: ‘Toad’ (1968). Pic: PA Photos
Ian Paice, Deep Purple. The only original member of Deep Purple still performing live with the group, Paice’s simple-yet-devastating approach has seen him described as a “heavy Ringo”. Finest hour: ‘Hush’ (1968). You can vote for your own favourite drummers at NME.COM/rate/greatestdrummer/start. Pic: PA Photos
Bill Berry, R.E.M. A multi-instrumentalist who played drums for R.E.M. for 17 years before quitting (he’s now a farmer), Berry also made songwriting contributions to songs such as ‘Everybody Hurts’ and ‘Man On The Moon’. Finest hour: ‘It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine’) (1987). Pic: PA Photos
Stewart Copeland, The Police. Famous for his crisp, incisive snare sound, Copeland incorporates elements of jazz and reggae styles into his playing, with plenty of syncopation. Unusually, Copeland uses a ‘traditional grip’ (ie he plays the snare with an underhand motion). Finest hour: ‘Message In A Bottle’ (1979). Pic: PA Photos
Charlie Watts, The Rolling Stones. Having won ‘best dressed man’ awards from Vanity Fair and The Telegraph, Watts is celebrated as much for his impeccable sense of style as his playing, which is basic and unshowy. A quiet individual, he has always shunned groupies and these days owns an Arabian horse stud farm in Devon. Finest hour: ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ (1968). Pic: PA Photos
Bill Ward, Black Sabbath. Noted for his sledgehammer rhythms and rapid snare rolls, Ward’s drumming often closely doubles the bass and guitar riffs. Finest hour: ‘Iron Man’ (1971). Head to NME.COM/rate/greatestdrummer/start to vote for the greatest drummer ever. Pic: Retna
Neil Peart, Rush. Famous for his lengthy in-concert drum solos, the Ontario-born prog rock drummer employs a “butt-end out” style (ie he turns his sticks the ‘wrong’ way round) and is unusual amongst drummers in that he is also his band’s chief lyricist. Finest hour: ‘2112’ (1976). Pic: Retna
John Bonham, Led Zeppelin. Inspired by jazz legends Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich, Bonham learnt to play drums at age 5 and becamse renowned for his super-heavy, piledriving style – as well as a disastrous addiction to alcohol that saw him die in September 1980, age 32, after drinking 40 shots of vodka. Finest hour: ‘When The Levee Breaks’ (1971).
Keith Moon, The Who. He became famous for his outrageous and destructive behaviour – blowing up hotel bathrooms was a favourite stunt – but Moon was a highly innovative musician as well, pioneering a jittery-yet-fluid style of drumming, with liberal use of cymbals. He died in 1978 after an overdose of prescription pills. Finest hour: ‘Who Are You’ (1978).
Mitch Mitchell, The Jimi Hendrix Experience. A pioneer of the jazz/rock fusion style, in which the drums act as a ‘lead’ instrument rather than mere percussion, Mitchell never made much money from his work with Jimi Hendrix, since he was paid as an employee rather than given a share of royalties. He died in November 2008. Finest hour: ‘Manic Depression’ (1967).
Few would claim Meg White was technically a great drummer, but her primitive, almost childlike style is a superb foil for Jack White’s dazzling guitar playing. She proves that technique is not always paramount. Finest hour: ‘Seven Nation Army’ (2003). Vote for your favourite drummer now at NME.COM/rate/greatestdrummer/start.
Lee, Motley Crue. He might not be the most technically gifted drummer
in the world, but Tommy Lee certainly brought an element of showmanship
to the discpiline. His mid-80s party trick was to perform a drum solo
in a special rotating harness that moved over the heads of the
audience. Finest hour: ‘Kickstart My Heart’ (1989).
Moe Tucker, The Velvet Underground. A pioneer of the simplified, standing-up style of drumming later copied by Bobby Gillsepie (when he was in The Jesus & Mary Chain) and Glasvegas’ Caroline Mackay, Tucker used mallets rather than sticks, and rarely bothered with cymbals. Finest hour: ‘Sister Ray’ (1968).
Alan ‘Reni’ Wren, The Stone Roses. Responsible more than anyone else for establishing the laid-back shuffle that underpinned the 1990s Madchester/’baggy’ sound, Alan Wren was described by The Who’s Pete Townshend as the most naturally gifted drummer he had seen since Keith Moon.
Stephen Morris, New Order. Morris is responsible for the inhuman, machine-like drum sound that defined Joy Division and later New Order. He went to school with Ian Curtis and for a time was in the running to be Joy Division’s frontman. Finest hour: ‘She’s Lost Control’ (1979).
Dave Lombardo, Slayer. Born in Havana, Cuba, Lombardo taught himself drums by playing along to Kiss and Led Zeppelin records. Dubbed the “godfather of double bass” on account of his speed and skill with two bass drum pedals, Lombardo’s return to the band in 2004 after a 10-year hiatus caused a spike in Slayer’s popularity. Finest hour: ‘South Of Heaven’ (1988).
Dave Grohl, Nirvana. Technically Nirvana’s fourth drummer, Grohl is
obsessed with Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham (he has his three-circle logo
tattooed on his wrist). He’s famous for his powerful playing style,
although cynics point out that his drumming on ‘Nevermind’ was
augmented by digital samples. Finest hour: ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’
Matt Helders, Arctic Monkeys. Noted for his metronomic drumming style
and rasping backing vocals, Helders’ chief influence is Queens Of The
Stone Age’s hard-hitting drummer Joey Castillo. It’s rumoured Helders
drummed on The Prodigy’s recent album ‘Invaders Must Die’, although his
contribution is uncredited. Finest hour: ‘Brianstorm’ (2007).
Brann Dailor, Mastodon. Heavily influenced by prog rock, Dailor is
responsible for the dizzying tempo changes and lurching rhythms that
set Mastodon apart from most other modern metal bands. Finest hour:
‘The Wolf Is Loose’ (2006).
Pic: Rex Features