Tuesday, January 08, 2013

drummage, #9

A short and incomplete survey of Drummers Who Are Characters

Stewart Copeland

On account of the videos. Although as a musical voice he certainly asserts himself. I suppose by definition a power trio must have a good drummer because otherwise the whole thing topples, there's no compensating for a subpar limb when the animal is three-legged. And The Police are a power trio, far more related to Jimi Hendrix Experience or Cream than to Bob Marley and the Wailers.

Copeland also had a solo career, during the Police (as Klark Kent) and afterwards, doing soundtracks and what not. This is one that drummers and technique experts cite admiringly.

I'd happily never hear it again. Drummers, even Character Drummers, are best in their proper context.

Jet Black

Mainly because he's so much older than the rest of the band (c.f. Saxa in the Beat). He sticks out while also completing the group's baleful image, what with his resemblance to a big brown rat.  And he's named himself after the group's favourite colour. I enjoy also the fact that he drove an ice cream van. (Or did he just get hold of a second-hand one and repurpose it as the Stranglers tour bus? I prefer to imagine him tinkling round the neighbourhood, selling Double 99s  with a snarl to snotnose kids). As a drummer I was thinking he was merely proficient... then considered the zip he brings to the sexist-but-undeniable "London Lady", the off-kilter reggaematic funk of the sexist-but-undeniable "Peaches", the mechano-disko feel of "Nice N' Sleazy", all the waltz-time oddities the Stranglers did like "Outside Tokyo" here...

 Jet and Hugh Cornwell wrote and presented this mini-doc/video-essay on the colour black

What an old codger he is...

Charlie Watts

Whenabouts did Charlie get into that thing of seeming apart and disdainful-yet-amused by the antics of the frontline Stones? First time I remember noticing it is "Start Me Up" but I'm sure he must have adopted it much earlier. 

Ginger Baker

I'd almost go with the Saint Etienne view of Cream (orrible unpop) except that they did do two or three singles that managed to be both pop and heavy.  Apart from those, though, Cream do seem to be a band trapped in its era more so than almost anything else from that era (except perhaps for Big Brother and the Holding Company). Still there's no doubt who was the personality in that band (I just read a short story by Vanessa Veselka in which a character is described thus: "He has a face like Eric Clapton's. You'd never recognize him without context") and it's Ginger, and what do you know,  there's actually a documentary on Baker's turbulent life just coming out.

As for the after-Cream discography... I vaguely recall listening to something he made in Africa that Celluloid released... it was enough to discourage further exploration.

Dearie me... 

Then again, there's PiL's Album.

Baker, Ryuichi Sakomoto, Steve Vai and Johnny Rotten on one track.  As with Golden Palominos, the supergroup retooled for a postpunk world.

I enjoyed also "T.U.S.A" -- Ginger's vocal turn on the Masters of Reality album, in which he utters God's truth about American inability to make a decent cup of tea. (It's improved a lot since then - 1992 - but it's still amazing how often here you'll be presented with a cup of hot water and a unopened teabag on the saucer).

Keith Moon

Obviously. Goes without saying. #2 Drummer-as-Character of All Time and then only narrowed pipped for #1.

That James Wood New Yorker piece from a few years back on Moon - "The Fun Stuff", which subsequently became the title track of his recent essay collection - is terrific. But one thing that surprised me is that he thinks Moon was at his best between 1970-1976. Perhaps that's a drummer's perspective (Wood is a drummer. believe it or not). Lacking technical understanding, I can't divorce my response to the drumming from my response to the rest of the music. I vastly prefer the Sixties Who, and Moon in that music seems more explosive than his later self because the music as a whole seems more explosive.

Talking of divorce: I uploaded this "isolated Moon drum track" before listening to it. As impressive and characterful as it is as playing, it's infinitely more enjoyable inside the track itself.  This trend to for "isolated" parts on YouTube is a bit like eating the constituents of a sandwich separately.

Probably my favorite bit in Louie CK.

Ringo Starr


But he wasn't just a pretty face...

The title of that one came from Ringo too.