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danny kustow

music friday: drummers

In honor of the passing of the immortal drummer Hal Blaine, here are five of my favorite drummers.

Keith Moon, "Happy Jack". My personal standard for rock drummers. I don't know who did it first ... hell, this wasn't even the first time Moonie did it with The Who (see "My Generation", for instance). But on this track, the drums take over when you'd normally hear a guitar solo. I am not an expert on drumming ... I think some aficionados think Moon was a sloppy drummer. Fuck them. Tbis is rock and roll, and Keith Moon is the Little Richard of the drums.

Buddy Rich, "West Side Story". Again, an expert can correct me on this, but Buddy Rich always seemed to me to be the greatest drummer of them all. I mean, I'm not a fan of his music (that's OK, he didn't like rock and roll, either), but holy moly could he play. This medley is one of his most famous ... if you click on the link and see the performance lasts for 15 1/2 minutes, you might decide to find something else to do, and I doubt it would help if I told you the last 9 minutes are a drum solo. But you won't be sorry ... this ain't "In-a-Gadda-da-Vida", or even "Toad".

Billy Cobham, "Birds of Fire". Funny that I've included two jazz drummers on this list. Jazz isn't my genre, for the most part. But I am not the only rocker who was blown away by The Mahavishnu Orchestra. Saw them in concert in 1972 ... might have been the loudest show I ever attended. Billy Cobham was a monster.

Janet Fucking Weiss, "Youth Decay". A few days ago, Rolling Stone posted a piece called "Fred Armisen: My 5 Favorite Drum Songs". Armisen's Sleater-Kinney selection was "Get Up", and I thought that was a delightful choice ... I've always loved it, especially in concert, especially the very end. It is not a typical Janet Weiss performance, though ... usually she's more in the Keith Moon/John Bonham overpowering mode, whereas here ... well, I'll just quote Armisen:

This is a very emotional song, but Janet Weiss plays this weird disco beat that just builds and builds. It’s kind of an emotional beat, which is kind of a hard thing to do. It’s hard to express yourself with just drums. The song is uptempo; it’s also melancholy. It’s this melancholy, driving beat that builds all the way through to the end. It doesn’t just use the snare drum, it uses the floor tom on the four, which I really love. It’s kind of a challenge to be in a band when you’re not the singer and still try to put your own signature on a song. Janet Weiss does that here.

Nonetheless, "Youth Decay" is one of my favorite S-K songs, and probably my favorite Janet performance. Especially the end. And did I mention, I'm all about a forked tongue and a dirty house? As for her nickname, I give you this:

Hal Blaine, "Be My Baby". The reason for this post. What Chuck Berry's lick on "Johnny B. Goode" is to rock and roll guitar, Hal Blaine on "Be My Baby" is to rock and roll drums. And it's one of the reasons I've been known to call Mean Streets the greatest rock and roll movie of all time.