Guys like drummers. Guys especially (myself included here) like insane drummers, legends who could pound those drum-skins into complete oblivion, who had a strange, reckless, devil-may-care abandon when it came to drumming, who seemed possessed by satan and never once apologized for it. These guys were madmen, kings on earth, usually with outsized personalities that made them near-impossible to work with but amazing to listen to when all was said and done.
We’ve thought long and hard, and have now come up with what we think are the definitive five most insane drummers in history. There might be a few more technically skilled (you can find me 20 metal drummers who can probably do more insane things than these guys) and others who we just don’t feel like putting on here (Neal Peart), so take issue all you want. It doesn’t matter.
There are plenty of tributes to those wonderful studio musicians all over the internet and in every tired classic rock magazine out there, but that’s not what we’re looking for. We want that inspirational drumming, that weird drumming, that insanley over-the-top drumming that doesn’t just make you think “wow, this guy sure is talented!” but instead “holy shite my ears are melting in the face of such thundering drum power” and other such hyperbole.
These and these guys alone would make the cut for the celestial all-star drumming team, if God were somehow forced to assemble a super all-star team of monster drummers. He will be, one day.
Benny Goodman’s drummer for a long period, Krupa started the whole drummer-with-insane-facial-expressions movement, as I like to call it. One of the most entertaining classic jazz drummers ever, Krupa isn’t the most technically accomplished, but is extremely fun to watch and brings giant personality to everything he did. Check out this youtube video for proof. Or this one. There’s nothing like a sweating, insane Krupa all dressed up in his 1940s-era band uniform, going absolutely mad on a minimalist jazz kit.
Our other jazz choice. Although I think other drummers have better recorded stuff, Buddy Rich is a classic oversized musician, with the domineering personality, the straight-A asshole behaviour pattern, and the madman drumming chops to back it all up. Here he is battling Animal from the Muppet Show (in Italian, no less). There are secret recordings of Buddy Rich’s rants against his bandmates, several of which were cherished for many years by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, who actually used direct lines of his on Seinfeld. You can hear some of those classic tapes here. A true madman.
The only drummer on this list to actually be certified insane (no), Ketih Moon was a psychopathic musician who did for rock drumming what… well, what a ton of other innovators did for a bunch of other instruments. Mostly using a stripped-down kit like his jazz heroes, Moon managed to make the Who’s early recordings sound so damn full of energy and life, thanks to his insane rolls and incredible speed, that he became an instant legend. The best story ever about him: he never owned a drumset, and would only practice in studios or at other people’s houses before the Who were about to go out on tour. He’d forget most of what he knew, but by the time he re-learned everything (in a matter of days) he was better than before. See him here.
Frank Zappa’s drummer. I guess that’s all that needs to really be said, since Frank Zappa was rather insane, thus making Terry Bozzio equally nuts when onstage with him. Check out this clip from Baby Snakes to see him in action. Youtube is full of slightly boring footage of Bozzio setting up his billion-drum set and drumming for Korn and all the rest of it, but to really appreciate the weirdness of this guy, you have to see him playing with Zappa. Just watch this clip and listen to the lyrics of this song, and try to think of another mainstream drummer who’s done stuff like this before. Ignore his later stuff and he easily fits on this list.
Led Zeppelin’s drummer was booming and massive and didn’t really play with the technical skills of the rest of these guys, but was amazing because he pounded away behind a bunch of Led Zeppelin’s heaviest, loudest stuff, and his massively long solos for Moby Dick are, instead of being technical examples of superfast drumming, big showcases for how much he could pound the hell out of his drumkit. Like Keith Moon, he died relatively young from some excessive drinking and partying, but while he was around, he was a massive force behind the drums. Check out a part of Moby Dick here, and listen to a song like Rock and Roll from the remastered How the West Was Won (youtube clip here, but you need good quality for this stuff, so buy it) to understand how loud and awesome he could get.
Thoughts, comments, other drummers you think fit this bill? Tell us! Now!