Marching to the Beat of a (Very) Different Drummer

Mental_floss takes a look at seven bands and their colorful drummers. Real or fictional, these musicians left their mark on our pop culture landscape.

Keith Moon: The Who's Who of Drummers

Rockers who find novelty in trashing hotel rooms should bow their heads in shame and take a lesson from the original master, Keith Moon. Dubbed "Moon the Loon" for his frenetic craziness, the infamous drummer for The Who took mess-making to heights unseen outside the closets of teenage girls. One famous incident happened after a hotel manager told Moon to turn down the "noise" in the lobby (which just happened to be Moon playing some of The Who's songs on cassette). This could have been the manager's way of subtly letting Moon know that rocking out to his own music is about as lame as wearing a Who T-shirt to a Who concert, but the drummer didn't see it that way. In response, Moon walked the manager back to his hotel room and had him wait in the hall while while he trashed the place in true rock star fashion. Then just to ensure a grand finale, the drummer blew the door off its hinges with a cherry bomb. He then turned to the manager and said, "That was noise." The two returned to the lobby, where Moon restarted the tape deck and said, "This is The Who." (image credit; Wikimedia user Leahtwosaints)

John Bonham: Led's Head Case

When a guy's drumsticks are so big and heavy that they're referred to as "trees", you probably don't want to pick a fight with him-even if he, say, throws you off stage during your own performance. Such was the case with Led Zeppelin drummer John "Bonzo" Bonham, who had a habit of making it very clear when he thought someone else's drumming was sub-par. According to Zeppelin manager Richard Cole, Bonham saw nothing wrong with jumping up on stage, replacing the other band's drummer, and giving the audience "the best show" he could muster. In similar stage-hog form, Bonham was known to take his trademark "Moby Dick" and extend it to a masochistic hour-long experience, leaving one to wonder why fans didn't take a lesson from Bonham and jump on stage to end the ego-fest. (Image credit: Flicker user Dina Regine)

Animal: A Split Personality

Who's the craziest drummer of all time? Jim Henson's Animal, of course. The drummer in the all-Muppet group Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem Band, Animal's Ritalin poster-boy ways were inspired by none other than Keith Moon. But not even "Moon the Loon" could claim to be covered in hair, or wear broken shackles around his neck and wrists. It took not one, but TWO, behind-the-scenes talents to pull of such an impersonation. Frank Oz performed the voice of Animal (he was also responsibel for the vocal stylings of Miss Piggy and Yoda from "Star Wars"), but had no part in the drumming itself. For that, Henson hired Britain's leading big-band drummer Ronnie Verrall. Ironically, it was Verrell's turn as the "WO-man" crazy Animal that would finally allow him to collaborate with drummer/idol Buddy Rich, as well as some not-so-sought-after idols: a pig, a frog, and a Gonzo.

Stewart Copeland: A Sting and a Miss

If it weren't for Stewart Copeland, the famed rock group The Police would probably have never formed. Of course, if it weren't for Stewart Copeland, they probably wouldn't have broken up. Copeland and lead singer Sting were constantly at each other's throats, resulting in creative arguments, sabotage, and yes, even fisticuffs. Copeland, who felt his creation slipping away as Sting's popularity eclipsed his own, often resorted to completely throwing out Sting's musical compositions in favor of his own re-worked arrangements. In retaliation, Sting would often have Copeland isolated in a separate studio during recording sessions. Which, we suppose, is another way of saying, "Don't stand so close to me."

Buddy Rich: Little Drummer Boy

Practice might make perfect for some people, but not for Bernard "Buddy" Rich. Easily the world's greatest jazz drummer, Rich never took a lesson and refused to even consider stooping to something as silly as rehearsing. The son of vaudeville performers, Rich hit the stage in 1921 when he was only four years old (where he was billed as "Traps, the Drum Wonder") and soon became the second-highest paid child entertainer in the world. Later in his career, he led some of the most successful big bands ever, and played with such greats as Tommy Dorsey, Dizzy Gillespie, and Louis Armstrong. But his driven and competitive nature came complete with a volatile temper, which Rich was happy to showcase. He was notorious for screaming at his band members for hours on end (which they secretly recorded) and fearlessly ridiculing pop stars during public interviews. Oh, and Rich also always needed to have the last word, even on his deathbed. While lying in a hospital after surgery, a nurse asked Rich if anything was bothering him. His response: "Yes ... country music."

John Fishman: Vac to the Future

Most drummers are known for their ability to play (shocker!) the drums, but John Fishman rolls his eyes at such a cliche notion. Chief envelope-pusher of the envelope-pushing band Phish, Fishman, besides being a drummer, is also a gifted virtuoso on the 1965 Electrolux vacuum cleaner. By putting the device in reverse mode s that it blows air out of the tubing, Fishman is able to create a squealing sound when he covers the opening with his mouth. It seems like an, er "acquired taste" to us, but the band's, shall we say, unique audience gleefully accepts it as music, so who are we to judge? In fact, the instrument is so popular that Fishman created a similar device called the "bag-vac" by combining an Electrolux vacuum with a set of bagpipes, which (finally) legitimized housecleaning in a kilt. Men of the world, rejoice! (image credit: Flickr user Dan Shinneman)

Wanted: Drummer Who Won't Die

While rock drummers are notorious for dying too young, no band has had more trouble keeping the slot filled than legendary (and utterly fictional) rock group Spinal Tap. Here's a recap of how just a few of their so-called drummers have disappeared.

>>In 1969, original drummer John "Stumpy" Pepys, also known as the Peeper, is killed in a bizarre gardening accident that the police claim is "best left unsolved."

>>Eric "Stumpy Joe" Childs (from the band Wool Cave) is hired, yet tragically dies in 1974 from choking on someone else's vomit. The originator of the vomit is still unknown however, because -as Tap bassist Derek Smalls so insightfully points out- "you can't really dust for vomit".

>>Peter "James" Bond steps in but dies from spontaneous human combustion.

>>Mick Shrimpton is hired to fill Bond's shoes (and sticks), but he, too, spontaneously combusts.


Marching to the Beat of a (Very) Different Drummer is reprinted with permission from the Scatterbrained section of the March/April 2005 issue of mental_floss magazine.

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"Sting would often have Copeland isolated in a separate studio during recording sessions."

I believe it's common practice for the drums to be isolated in a separate room during recording, isn't it?
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