Drummers – the demented lunatics of the music world

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Animal skins… the Muppet drummer always creates mayhem. Photograph: The Muppet Hub
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Miles Salter

York writer Miles Salter reflects on crazy percussionists


Drummers. You just can’t trust them. They are a law unto themselves. They’re crazy.

If you want proof of this, look no further than one of the world’s most famous drummers, Animal from the Muppets. This crazed, wide-eyed individual set the bar pretty high for lunatic percussionists.

Animal’s demented way with a snare and his enthusiasm for making noise won him a place in the hearts of millions.

The view that the drummer was the joker was helped along the previous decade by Ringo Starr, the Beatles’ resident buffoon, who was happy to sing Yellow Submarine and became the butt of numerous jokes.

Then there was Keith Moon, one of the most brilliant drummers rock ‘n’ roll has ever seen. Moon’s spills and paradiddles came close to genius, his drumming on Who’s Next is thrilling.

Moon was, however, a haunted man, incapable of keeping his life steady. On one occasion, he took a drug that was meant to be used as elephant tranquilizer.

Moon died in 1978, aged just 32. Two years later, the other leading rock drummer of the era, Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham, also died. Drummers were getting a reputation – Spinal Tap, the spoof rock band famously declared that their drummer was finished off by “a bizarre gardening accident”.

phil-rudd-drummerNow, Australian rock monsters AC/DC have added another drumming story. Their stickman, Phil Rudd (pictured right by Doctoracdc72 on Wikimedia), was this week charged with attempting to procure murder. (I’m not sure how you “procure” murder. Is there a phone line you can call?)

The charges were dropped on Friday (November 7), and the “intended hit man” claimed the charges were “hot air”.

As the band are on the cusp of a new album and a lucrative world tour (the last one grossed $440 million) one wonders if the whole thing is an elaborate PR stunt.

The band’s management said that the tour will continue, with or without Phil Rudd. Not surprising. They’ll find another one. The main item in a drummer’s job description is to be able to count up to four. Lots of times.

If this isn’t some demented publicity sting, I doubt Mr Rudd will be with the band when they play arenas next year.

Perhaps he’s has had enough. He was kicked out of the band in 1993 and rejoined in 1994. Their first singer, Bon Scott, died in tragic circumstances. Their lead guitarist, Angus Young, dresses as a school boy every time they play a gig.

And the songs feature numerous double entendres and blazing pentatonic riffs. They like to fire cannons on stage. It’s testosterone driven stuff.

There are only so many times you can play Whole Lotta Rosie without starting to feel slightly aggressive. But even by drumming standards, it’s a new low.

Forget the drugs, booze and alleged death threats, Phil. Just keep the band in time.