It would be a bit of a waste of time to list the 10 greatest drummers ever, as the countdown is pretty much set in stone. John Bonham looks down from a gilded perch at the likes of Keith Moon, Buddy Rich, Ginger Baker, Mitch Mitchell and Cozy Powell, with Stuart Copeland, Neil Peart, and Bill Bruford snapping at their heels. Brian Chase, Danny Carey or Jimmy Chamberlain might get a look into depending on your genre persuasion while Mike Portnoy and the one-armed guy from Def Leppard usually get honorary mentions.
It’s standard fare. But all the usual frothing over paradiddles, exploding bass drums and endless solos often leaves some strong contenders out. Here’s a toast to our favourite overlooked drummers.
10 Gene Krupa
The name might mean as much to you as credit derivatives, but both John Bonham and Keith Moon have cited the jazz and big band drummer as a major influence, and he helped pioneer and define rules for the use of hi hats and tom toms, which are – you know – kind of important in a kit.
9 Billy Cobham
The reasons this guy should be here are legion but chiefly thus: he propelled Miles Davis and The Mahavishnu Orchestra to some of their best work; his seminal album ‘Spectrum’ is essentially one long solo with instrumental bits bolted on (and gave birth to Massive Attack’s ‘Safe From Harm’); he can play with four sticks at once.
8 Simon Kirke
Free’s drummer set the standard for rock solid rock beats and understated yet utterly essential drum patterns. Never one to throw in superfluous notes or wanky flashes he remained consistently modest in his approach (although he still knows how to solo when needed).
7 Charlie Watts
And from the same school of understatement, the Rolling Stones’ nonchalant beatmaker, who’s remained as cool as Richards and a perfect counterpoint to Jagger’s manic swagger for no less than fifty years.
6 Phil Collins
‘No Jacket Required’, tax dodges and drumming gorillas have all sullied and muddied the reputation of the Collins, but back when Genesis were prog imps he thumped a mean tub.
5 Matt Tong
While it’s commonly agreed that 95% of the world’s great drummers come from the 20th Century, a handful have emerged during our generation, and the Bloc Party drummer is one of them. Nice guy too, which works for Dave Grohl.
4 Meg White
Yes, really. The noughties Ringo copped far too much flack for her stripped back style, which lest we forget was exactly what Jack White’s manic musicianship needed as a spine. Few who saw The White Stripes at Glasto, and Meg bashing the most basic beats of all time to an enthralled audience of 70,000+, would argue. OK so she doesn’t unleash the merest sniff of even a paradiddle but she looks pretty cool doing it.
3 Dominic Howard
Because it’s hard to image a three piece from Devon conjuring such intergalactic monstrosities without him.
2 Terry Bozzio
Terry what? So he may not sit pretty on your usual ‘greatest drummer’ lists but Frank Zappa’s sticksman could match Neil Peart any day, and as this clip shows he treated the drum solo more like a torrid affair than a musical break (check out the facial expressions). Also, who else has a drumkit like this?
1 This Guy
The campaign to get Steve ‘the mad drummer’ Moore at Glasto starts here.