Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Bakers Dozen Greatest Rock Drummers Of All Time

For no apparent reason, here’s a Glam-Racket's Bakers Dozen of the Greatest Rock Drummers Ever. The list is non-negotiable and, as always, if you have differing opinions you are completely wrong and should be embarrassed that you’re reaching for the comment button to add your own two cents.
  1. Keith Moon
    Essentially, a kid with ADHD that thankfully found the perfect position for him (on the drum throne) and who thankfully didn’t listen to anyone who advised him that a drummer is merely a timekeeper. If you watch Moon’s kits develop over the years, they just kept getting bigger and bigger. And in typical Keith Moon fashion, he played the piss out of every new tom, snare, or cymbal he added.

  2. John Bonham
    Like Moon, Bonham didn’t seem to play with much regard for traditional technique. Instead of laying down a backbone with the bassist, Bonham seemed to follow Jimmy Page’s guitar work, thereby creating this most awesome groove that was completely unique. Thousands have tried to imitate him, but very few “get” some of the clever nuances in his performance, even down to the squeaky pedals.
  3. Neil Peart
    Every fucking drummer in my high school band would have gladly sucked the dick of Neil Peart just to be able to play with a quarter of the man’s ability. Positive: He can play the piss out of the drums. Negative: His virtuosity sometimes negates any hint of improvisational skills. Positive: He’s a master of technique. Negative: Technique doesn’t necessarily give you soul. But whatever, the dude is awesome and he gets bonus points for being the greatest living drummer in the world and still taking lessons from another teacher to avoid getting comfortable with his own drumming.
  4. Clyde Stubblefield
    Get’s a little higher nod than fellow James Brown alumni John “Jabo” Starks because Stubblefield laid down the most sampled drum lick in history, “Funky Drummer.” For that song along, a syncopated, lock groove that is funk, this motherfucker shouldn’t have to work a day in his life again. Yet he still does, weekly in Wisconsin and he continues to follow Brown’s advice: “Don’t turn it loose…Cuz it’s a mother!” For all you white folks, this is what’s referred to as playing “in the pocket.”
  5. John “Jabo” Starks
    Here’s a guy that can give you a boner just by playing his kit. Yes, the man who’s responsible for propelling “Sex Machine,” “Super Bad,” and a host of other songs that make your penis erect, is good enough to not be “rock” drummer, yet still manage to be in this Baker’s Dozen list.
  6. Phil Rudd
    When you listen to AC/DC, what do you think of? Angus Young’s guitar solos? Brother Malcolm’s punch rhythm licks? Brian Johnson’s “I’m being dry-anal-raped” vocal stylings? I think of those too, but I also think, “My God, that drummer is so fucking subtle that it’s brilliant. Robert “Mutt” Lange is notorious for having bands, particularly drummers, re-record their shit until it’s perfect. For the making of Back In Black, Rudd used no click tracks and typically nailed his part on the first take, causing Lange to work with Bryan Adams.
  7. Stewart Copeland
    Lightning fast on those fucking hi-hats to the point that whenever I try to emulate his technique, I look like a retarded kid banging on a timpani with a dust broom. He amazes me at his ability to go from soft and restrained rhythms to powerful cracks in mere seconds. I totally expected Copeland to be a big star after the police, but the names Oysterhead and Animal Logic don’t seem to be household names, do they?
  8. Cozy Powell
    Cozy’s been described as having a “wet” drum sound, which translated means, “Let’s make the drums really booming.” Powell’s a highly sought after session player that’s done time with Robert Plant, Michael Schenker, Rainbow and even E.L.P., which required them to change their name (briefly) to Emerson Lake and Powell. Regardless of that questionable decision (working with Emerson and Lake, that is) he’s still one of my favorites.
  9. Charlie Watts
    Old Mr. Reliable. Seriously, can you imagine one single Rolling Stones song without Charlie behind it? A jazzman who understood that there’s little money to be made in actually playing jazz and ended up being the timekeeper (emphasize keeping time) for the greatest rock and roll band in the world.
  10. Ringo Starr
    Ringo likes to remind everyone that he’s the best drummer in the world. We all smile politely, nod, and secretly say under our breath “Dude, you were the drummer for the best band in the world…Big difference.” Or is there? Ringo may have a point; like Watts, can you imagine a single Beatles song if it were backed by anyone other than Ringo? There’s a good chance it might really suck, and to that point, Richard Starkey may be right.
  11. Tommy Aldridge
    Fucking dude can play. I’d never really listened to Black Oak Arkansas before, but then I saw the video below and was blown away at how good they were, particularly the drummer. He may have been (like Cozy Powell) too good for his own good as Aldridge always seems to be jumping from gig to gig with total disregard for the notion that the guy probably needs to settle down with a band and develop a legion of followers like Neil Peart has.

  12. Kenny Arnoff
    I want to know how many snare drums this guy has broken in his career. With every “snap” of that thing, I start to feel sorry for it. And then I think of all the trees that Arnoff must have demolished just to replace those sticks that he’s gotta be running through. Bald and relatively ugly, Arnoff is best know for his session work, starting with a great run during John Cougar Mellencamp’s mid-80’s run. That’s right, I said John Cougar Mellencamp.
  13. Terry Bozzio
    Has Frank Zappa ever hired a shitty musician? I’m not that big of a Zappa fan, so I will let those that are answer that. But from what I’ve heard, Bozzio’s got the goods. I’m lying somewhat, because when Missing Persons started and I saw the video for “Words” I declared “Hey, that’s the drummer for Frank Zappa!” immediately after saying, “Hey, that lead singer’s got some nice breasts.”

Honorable Mentions:
  • Ian Paice (Deep Purple)
  • Moe Tucker (Velvet Underground)
  • Scott Travis (Judas Priest)
  • Damon Che (Don Caballero)
  • Mitch Mitchell (Jami Hendrix)
  • Ginger Baker (Cream)
  • Marky Ramone (Ramones)
  • Topper Headon (The Clash)
  • Bill Ward (Black Sabbath)
  • Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth)
  • Dave Groh (Nirvana)
  • Alan “Reni” Wren (Stone Roses)
  • David Robinson (The Cars)
Dishonorable Mentions
(revered drummers that I’m not particularly impressed with)
  1. Mike Portnoy (Dream Theatre)
  2. Peter Criss (Kiss)
  3. John Densmore (The Doors)
  4. Alex Van Halen (Van Halen)
  5. Carl Palmer (Emerson, Lake, & Palmer)
  6. Travis Barker (Blink 182)
  7. Nick Mason (Pink Floyd)
  8. Vinnie Paul (Pantera)
  9. Carter Beauford (Dave Mathews Band)
  10. Jimmy Chamberlain (Smashing Pumpkins)
  11. Matt Sorum (Guns ‘n Roses)
  12. Chris Slade (AC/DC)
  13. Mick Shrimpton (Spinal Tap)


DJMurphy said...

Straight-up agree with all yr choices, but you missed a big one: Al Jackson, Jr. That tight, soulful rhythm on every Booker T. & the MG's song? My man Al. The heartbeat behind 95% of Stax's classic era hits? None other. And that great drumming on a bunch of Al Green classics? Need I speak the man's name again? Brothers and sisters, I gotta testify; Al Jackson was the king of the fatback groove.

Churlita said...

I don't care how dead he is, I will always be in love with Keith Moon. I've gotten a lot better about not dating drummers in general, though.

Anonymous said...

You forgot Bryan Herweg of Pelican. Nope! I couldn't type it with a straight face. Seriously Steve Smith (Journey) should have been an honorable mention. Otherwise the list is spot on.

Todd Totale said...

Herwig is part of the reason why I did the list! He makes Meg White look like Neil Peart.
And before the booze took over, Keith Moon was one handsome fuck.

Anonymous said...

No Peter Criss in your Baker's Dozen renders your list invalid and virtually meaningless. He inspired literally dozens of kids in the 1970's to take up the skins and have you ever heard one of his drum solo's?!?!?! I'm guessing not. Please pick up a copy, if you can find one, of KISS Alive or KISS Alive II to hear the master at work. Goodness gracious, his very first solo was so fantastic that he never had to improve upon it and was therefore able to concentrate on writing the song that really captured the hearts of junior high schoolers everywhere in the 70's - BETH! Name me one other drummer on your so-called "list" that wrote anything near that classic. Let me stop you before you blurt out "Toad" or "Moby Dick" They can't compare! Get it! I can also recommend Peter's 1978 solo masterpiece. Please try to find it on 8-track for the highest fidelity.

I Ain't No Russian said...

This list is seriously laughable for one reason and one reason only. Phil Rudd is on it. You talk about him nailing Back in Black on the first take. Show me anyone who's been playing the drums for more than 3 months who CAN'T be perfect playing a standard 2-4 rock beat. Subtle? The only way he could be more subtle would be to stop playing altogether. Get a clue.

Todd Totale said...

Part of being a great drummer is knowing when not to play. None of your own choices are going to be able to say that they propelled an album that sold over 25 million copies....Well unless you're picking Don Henley of course. Point being, Rudd is awesome enough to know what his role in the dynamics is. "Name a drummer who can't nail a 2/4 rock beat who's been playing for more than 3 months?" Scroll up and check out the digs on Herweg. There's you're answer.

I Ain't No Russian said...

Yes you have to know when not to play. You also have to know when to play. The drummer should complement the music at all times, and great drummers find ways to do this in unique and innovative ways (Neil Peart). Laying down a snare on 2 and 4 on every song is usually enough to keep the beat of a song. But it is not the sign of a great drummer, let along top 10 all time.

Todd Totale said...

You got me so worked up that I spelled "your" as "you're." Anyway, I think that's the brilliance of Phil Rudd. If you look at what he could have done with AC/DC, think about how differently the band would have sounded. And I don't mean in a good way. He was smart enough to lay off the fills, move the power chords forward, and let the brothers run the roost. Consider those that aped AC/DC and, aside from the guitar tones and chord phrasing, what is the second most common thing that is lifted: Rudd's drumming strategy of less is more.
And don't discount Back In Black either. Mutt Lange is notorious for spending months with drummers, getting the right bass drum sound and making sure every beat is metronome perfect. He's used click tracks on nearly every drummer he's worked with except Rudd. BnB was recorded and mixed and ready for delivery in two months. There's an art to timekeeping, and it's easy to sit here and to claim that anyone with three months worth of practice can do it. Actually being able to is entirely different.

Anonymous said...

Nice list except that John Bonham absoutely belongs at the top of any list of greatest rock drummers. I love Moonie, but Bonham remains in a class by himself. Bonham had a unique combination of phenomenal power and speed, combined with an ocean deep groove and unfailing timing. Million's of drummers are still trying to recreate the Bonham magic, ie Paul Bunyan stomping on the Grand Canyon.

Kiko Jones said...

- Ringo wasn't even the best drummer in The Beatles--that was Paul--but he is the luckiest drummer who ever lived.

- Dude, I'm not going to add to the Phil Rudd bashing except to say that I agree with the dissenters within the context of this list.

- Not impressed w/Alex Van Halen, Jimmy Chamberlain, or Carl Palmer? Really?

- Conversely, who is actually impressed by the limited abilities of Nick Mason or the graceless, plodding overkill of Matt Sorum?

FWIW: My all-time faves are Bill Bruford--leaving out the greatest prog-rock drummer ever is a criminal blunder on your part, my friend--Stewart Copeland, and Dave Grohl, in that order.

Anonymous said...

Dave Lombardo, Nicko McBrain?

Dave Whitaker said...

Glam-Racket - your list and 28 other best-of drummer lists have been consolidated into an aggregate list by Check it out on the Dave's Music Database Facebook page in the Notes section at