Spanking the Skins again

I now had a drum kit in my bedroom, it sounded pretty dire but it was a big step up from a cushion so I wasn’t complaining.

I was now faced with the question ‘what do I do now?’

In the mid 70’s there were two ways of learning the instrument. Firstly there was the option of finding a drum teacher if such a creature existed. Bear in mind that rock/pop was not even 20 years old was not even considered proper music by some of the older musicians. The major risk of hiring a teacher was that their teaching methods might be over 20 years old which was the virtual equivalent of studying medieval plainsong.

A classic case of this was David Lovering later of the Pixies. His first teacher was a guy in his eighties who insisted that he start by learning to read music and practice rudiments. Rudiments are sticking exercises which can be fun for the right person, I practically ignored them for years but a knowledge of rudiments is considered the sign of a ‘proper’ musical drummer. So to is the standard grip of the drumsticks, this was instigated in the days of marching drums and it means you hold the left hand stick in a different way. It’s invaluable if you are marching with a drum and its a good technique for Jazz but pretty useless for any other types of music. Ringo Starr made the matched grip popular but others who had had more formal tuition like Ginger Baker and Mitch Mitchell still used the standard grip. My concern was any prospective teacher was going to teach me to be Buddy Rich and I didn’t really like that sort of music at all, I wanted to be playing rock and roll, preferably by the end of the week.


jazz drummer matched grip and standard grip


It took David Lovering two years of rudiments before he was even allowed down to the cellar, or basement as I believed he would call it, to play on an ancient kit from the 1920’s. The irony of course is that he landed up playing the sort of straight forward music which just didn’t call for that level of education but if you look at any recent clips of him there he is playing with standard grip just like he was taught.

Of course if I was to start playing today this wouldn’t be a problem, I could find a sympathetic tutor online or I could watch 100s of YouTube videos or join an online tuition group like Drumeo of I could go to countless drum clinics or purchase any of the 100’s of tuition books available. The other option if only I had waited for punk to arrive was to simply own a drum kit and join a band learning as I went along, no one was going to expect too much.

But the only option left for me was to play along with records or indeed any music I could find anywhere. That was not an entirely bad idea obviously I was going to pick up some bad habits but no one was going to notice. Far more important than knowing all the rudiments for a drummer was to know how the song goes, keep the beat steady and end at the right time. Also what I hadn’t fully appreciated is that drumming is hard work, there’s no point in being able to execute a perfect double paradiddle if you are knackered by the second number. In fact when punk arrived being able to play fast and in time was abut all that was needed so playing along with recorded tracks had set me up well.

I had a fairly meagre supply of records which relied a bit heavily on the Beatles. Disappointingly The Fab Four are not the best band to play drums to. Ringo was a song player par excellence but that often meant that he didn’t play much or not at all so I found myself having to sit out the tracks Yesterday’ and there’s only so much Yellow Submarine a drummer can take. In fact my beloved 60’s material was not ideal,unless its The Who the drums are often pretty low in the mix and although the tunes were great even with headphones on I was drowning out the song when I played along, especially if I dared to hit the terrible cymbal.. As recording techniques improved so did the recorded drum part and my tastes began to move increasingly towards a heavier sound not because of the songs but because of the way the drums sounded

And that’s when I fell into Bad Company

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