13. Stewart Copeland — The Police. He’s had a fun post-Police career, collaborating with everyone from jazz bassist Stanley Clarke, Primus’ Les Claypool and Phish’s Trey Anastasio (the latter two in the same band, Oysterhead) to the Doors. We’re very lucky that he was the drummer who fused reggae and punk. Other drummers would’ve made a hash of it. (Hmmm … bad word choice? I’ll leave it — it illustrates my point.) I would’ve loved to hear him with the Doors — he has the dramatic tendencies of John Densmore with far more technical prowess.
14. Frank Beard — ZZ Top. I’ve said it before: You could put me in front of a drum kit for a thousand years, and I’d never nail the fill from LaGrange. Playing drums in a blues-based band is generally one of the easiest jobs in the world as long as you have a certain feel, but Beard took it to a new level.
15. Martin Chambers — The Pretenders (1978-1985, 1993-present). Kept the beat as Chrissie Hynde unleashed some odd time signatures on their debut album (check out Tattooed Love Boys), provided a classic drum intro for their best song (Middle of the Road) and returned after an eight-year hiatus to revive the band’s sagging sound (Night in My Veins).
16. Bill Berry — R.E.M. , Hindu Love Gods. The man indirectly responsible for me getting my first car (he sold one to a high school friend of mine, and I got that guy’s car) was one of those guys whose devotion to his band and security in his own skills made him accept a lesser role than he could have had. On the early albums, his drums are buried in the mix. Berry also wrote a couple of the group’s songs, including the overrated Everybody Hurts and the underrated Perfect Circle. And he has to be one of the most down-to-earth guys in the business, considering he walked away from it all in 1997 to work on his farm.
(Hindu Love Gods? Basically, it’s R.E.M. minus Michael Stipe plus Warren Zevon, though other singers occasionally filled in at Athens-area gigs. That group recorded a fun bunch of covers, including a great take on Prince’s Raspberry Beret. And they played on most of Zevon’s Sentimental Hygiene, giving Zevon fans a welcome break from the tired old California session vets who usually bogged down his albums.)
17. Philip “Fish” Fisher — Fishbone. You won’t find many bands with an odder history than Fishbone, so it will come as no surprise that “Fish” is no longer in the band that bears his name, sort of. His brother, Norwood, is still in the band despite being sued in an ill-fated attempt to deprogram former guitarist Kendall Jones after he left to join an alleged cult. (I wasn’t kidding about the band’s history.) Norwood and “Fish” were a fearsome rhythm section on an album that WILL be part of the “classic rock canon”: The Reality of My Surroundings.
18. Boris Williams — The Cure. Maybe a strange choice, I know, especially for a band that changes personnel about as often as Spinal Tap. But he had a good 10-year run and played on all their best albums.
19. Fran Christina — The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Roomful of Blues. Again, not a genre known
for good drumming, and again, not a band noted for stability. (Jimmie Vaughan isn’t even in the band anymore, for Pete’s sake.) But Tuff Enuff and their cover of Wrap it Up — the only reasons anyone outside of Texas knows this band — wouldn’t have had quite as much kick if Christina hadn’t had a gift for sneaky fills.
20. Jeep MacNichol — The Samples. OK, this one’s a little obscure, but he’s a good one. You could call him the Stewart Copeland of jam bands. He has a distinct reggae influence, and he has inventive cymbal flourishes. On As Tears Fall, a tribute to a departed parent, MacNichol’s lively drums strengthen the notion of enduring hope. We saw The Samples long after his departure, and drummer Sam Young did a great job of mimicking MacNichol’s style, but Jeep was the original. It’s just a shame Samples leader Sean Kelly long had an approach to the record business that bordered on self-destructive.
21. Gina Schock — The Go-Gos. That ankle-burning bass drum on We Got the Beat, those tom rhythms on Get Up and Go … yeah, you’ve gotta love Gina.
22. Phil Collins — Genesis. If only he’d stayed behind the drums …
23. David Narcizo — Throwing Muses and related side projects. OK, so you haven’t heard of Throwing Muses, the band featuring Kristin Hersh and stepsister Tanya Donelly, who went onto be part of the original Breeders lineup and the singer-songwriter-guitarist of Belly. His early work was full of tom-heavy rhythms reminiscent of Adam and the Ants or Bow Wow Wow, but he branched out into some snare-driven fills that would be the envy of any jazz drummer. (Best example: Bright Yellow Gun — notice the subtle accents that he works into such a quick fill. Then try to do it yourself. Not easy.)
24. Larry Mullen Jr. — U2. Yeah, that one’s easy. Like Bill Berry in R.E.M., he could take one for the team when needed, or he could step up and drive a song. If you’re going to play with a guitarist as unique as The Edge, you need to have some tricks up your sleeve.
Part 3 coming up …