Thursday, June 17, 2010

My 5 favorite underrated Rock N' Roll drummers

#1. Jerry Nolan (New York Dolls, Heartbreakers, London Cowboys)

My most memorable hangover was back in my college days.  I woke up with a particularly nasty headache, immeasurable nausea, and a shitty disposition.  To make matters worse, I'd woken up far too early, and couldn't get back to sleep.  The TV was on, so I laid in a fetal position watching VH1....and for some reason, the New York Dolls came on, - I believe it was the video for "Lookin' For a Kiss".  I'd been a fan already, but I'd never seen any of their live clips.  I noticed the drummer, Jerry Nolan, in the back, pounding the holy FUCK out of his hot pink drum kit!  Wow!  It was almost as if Dave Grohl had gone glam and beamed himself back to the early 70's!

What I really love and relate to about Jerry's style is....the power and fury with which he played.  He pushed the beat in a way that really gave those songs a swift kick in the ASS (which might have something to do with the fact that he was a Gene Krupa freak)!  The raw adrenalin that he brought to his bands was really special, and really made him stand out.  That was probably why, when the Dolls were auditioning drummers to replace the tragically departed original Dolls drummer, Billy Murcia, Jerry beat such other New York drummers as Peter Criss (who went on to great success with Kiss, and whom Jerry taught how to play) and Marc Bell (who later became Marky Ramone). 

I listen to Jerry's drumming and watch a lot of his moves.  To put it simply, the guy's style had a lot of fire, class, and more than a little bit of fucking DANGER.  He was and always will be THE composite New York Rock N' Roll drummer, as far as I'm concerned.  He had a big effect on me.  Thanks Jerry!


Here's an article Jerry wrote for the Village Voice, not too long before his death.  It's a great read:

#2. Nick Turner (Lords of the New Church, Barracudas)

I happened upon the Lords of the New Church when I was growing up by accident.  I ran into their 3rd album, Methods To Our Madness, in some cut-out bin in some "Mom and Pop" record store back home, before I'd even started listening to the bands their members had first made their names for themselves in (the Dead Boys, the Damned, Sham 69, and the Barracudas).  I took a look at the back cover, thought that they looked cool, and figured it was worth the 3 bucks to take the LP home and give it a spin.  I'm sure fucking glad I did.

Nick was another drummer, like Jerry Nolan, who really pushed that beat, loved to play hard & fast, and bring the music to a fever pitch.  This might have something to do with his background with the criminally-overlooked surf band, the Barracudas.  Another thing that impressed me about Turner was his use of the toms, giving a sort of tribal edge to certain parts of certain songs.  It's a dynamic that comes off as being very fucking intense and from left field, so to speak.  I do it quite a bit myself, and, I'm sure it's not coincidence.  Thanks, Nick!

I don't think Turner did any drumming after he left the Lords.  That's too bad, especially for me.  His style is instantly recognizable to my ears, and I'm sure I could identify his drumming, no matter who he was playing with.  There are few drummers I can say that about.

#3. Scott Rockenfield (Queensryche)

I'm by no means a fan of "Progressive Metal" music at all.  I think it usually consists of technocratic dweebs attending a wank fest.....displaying chops and meaningless drivel of the like.  That's not what Rock N' Roll is about, and I suspect the dudes who play this type of music get laid very rarely.

Queensryche were different, in that they executed their music with taste, spirit, and ingenuity.  And their driving force was sitting in the back, and his last name is ROCKENFIELD.

What I love about Scott's style is that he plays much more sparingly than most of his counterparts.  You see, SPACE is also a percussion instrument, and one that he uses extremely well.  He plays with power and authority, and makes a HUGE noise, but he doesn't overplay, especially with  the double kick, which I don't usually like anyway.  The result is really cool, creative drum parts, executed in such a way that makes the songs move and groove.

I spent years playing along the Rage for Order and Operation Mindcrime, and surely know every drum fill on both.  Obviously, he had a huge effect on how I play, even though he plays a completely different kind of music.  I see a lot of that.

#4. Mac McNeilly (The Jesus Lizard)

There was a time when I was OBSESSED with the Jesus Lizard.  I found their music to be extremely intense, powerful, and interesting.  They didn't have songs with "hooks", per se, and they simply weren't a "hits" kind of band.  What they did was something dark and imaginative and, at times, profane.  And I loved it, and still do. 

And pummeling it all into shape within an inch of dear life, was MAC!  The first song I ever heard of the Lizard's was "Boilermaker", the first song on the LIAR album.  He wasn't playing a straight-forward back beat on the 2's and 4's, with the rest of the band playing over it (although he does this on some songs, of course).  No.  He was doing a creative, almost poly rhythmic drum part that was centered around the guitar line....and, I might add, it was fucking BRUTAL!  I'd never heard anything like it.  It opened my mind up a lot of possibilities and creative approaches to different rhythmic qualities of songs that I hadn't considered before.  It helped me a lot, and still does....again, even though the music I'm helping make is way different from these guys.


#5. Boris Williams (The Cure)

Boris played with the Cure during, for my ears, their most fruitful years (from The Head on the Door through Wish), musically speaking, and anchored their best line-up.  And his presence is felt on all of those albums.  I think the guy is the most creative drummer of the entire genre (English Goth/Alternative). 

He is another drummer who often had an unorthodox approach to the regular, often creatively-stifling 4/4 time signature, often, again, playing around with different beats, often around the guitar lines, and often incorporating his toms and different odd percussion instruments into the beats. It really helped set the Cure apart from their contemporaries, and he deserves credit for his unique contributions to that, as far as I'm concerned.  He certainly inspired me to come up with some different ideas, and to figure out how to play his!

Another really cool thing about Boris's style was,  he would come up with this creative beat, and repeat it over and over, playing few drum fills, etc.  This sort of "cadence" approach to Rock N' Roll drumming isn't easy, because it required focus and discipline.  Trust me.

Here's a great interview with him back in his heyday:

I could come up with many more.....and maybe I will.

Thanks for reading!

Marty E.


  1. Super, and super funny post...

  2. FYU- The anti-spam word I had to type in was "uncocked." I think that word should have an actual meaning.