And Scotland’s Greatest Ever Guitarist is … Stuart Adamson, according to the readers of Dear Scotland. Thanks to all who voted. This week Alec gives us his thoughts on our greatest ever drummer. Paul Carlin (Dananananaykroyd), and John Disco (Bis) have their say too. Who do you think should be in our top 5?
As we did with the Greatest Ever Guitarist vote, we will compile a top 5 for you to vote on next Wednesday. Here are Alec Downie’s top five plus a few more to consider:
……Many moons ago I met Ted McKenna (drummer with The Sensational Alex Harvey Band) on a Saturday afternoon in Glasgow’s salubrious Corinthians for a wee chat. One thing led to another and a few pints turned into a full on sesh. Around eight o’clock that night, a fairly pished Ted leaned over and says, “Feck, I am supposed to be playing the Rory Gallagher Tribute at The Ferry the night!”
So we staggered out to George Square in search of a cab. We just about made it and were greeted by hugs from Rory’s brother Dermott who plied us with several more pints. I just remember thinking: “How the hell is Ted going to get up on the stage, let alone play the drums”.
But at the given time, Ted climbed behind a set of borrowed drums, made a few slight adjustments and with a click of the sticks and a smile the width of the Clyde Tunnel he counted in the band to the song, “Sleep on a Clothes Line”. I recall Ted hitting the drums with such joy, timing and passion that the tribute band collectively turned around in unison, stunned by the power and perfection of the drummer behind them. Years of touring, practice and ardour meant that, despite the booze, Ted never missed a beat.
But great drummers don’t just happen. Fair enough they may be born with a unique sense of rhythm but much of their art is study and practice. When touring with the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, I never once saw Ted forget his practice pad, the tapping of which was constantly in the background.
I once organised a drum and bass workshop with Ted for NEMIS. Ted bowled over the young “Who the feck are you old man?” audience of would-be-rockstars by running through the history of drumming and giving demonstrations on everything from African beats to Jazz to punk rock, while explaining the vital importance of “knowing your rudiments”.
We all know that Scotland has produced some incredible bands over the years and, unlike their singers or guitarists, often or not we would struggle to name the virtuoso drummers from the records we love. For a drummer to make it into the exclusive gang of “drummers we know the name of”, they need to bring something else to the table: style, looks, groove or, in Keith Moon’s case, sheer insanity. To that end here are some of my Scottish Bang Gang and why I love them.
1. Ted McKenna – Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Rory Gallagher Band, Michael Schenker Group, The Greg Lake Band, Jack Bruce, Tear Gas and others.
Ted is a man who can hit as hard as Billy Cobham, groove as cool as Charlie Watts and party like Keith Moon. If you want to make Ted (and everyone else) happy, give him a set of sticks, position him behind a set of drums and see the world’s woes dissipate in one roll of the toms.
Recommended McKenna groove: ‘Vambo Marble Eye’ by The Sensational Alex Harvey Band
2. Ross McFarlane – Proclaimers, Button Up, Sharleen Spiteri, Stiltskin
If ever there was a Scottish drum-slinger for hire it has to be Ross, equally happy playing at a local pub charity gig or banging the beat for 70,000 punters to leap up and down to on a T in the Park Sunday morning. Ross simply bleeds drumming. If you watch closely you will see that every note is coupled with a grimace, pout or grin, projecting an infectious enthusiasm through the band in front of him and beyond out to the audience.
Recommended bop beat: ‘Letter from America’ by the Proclaimers
3. Paul Thomson – Franz Ferdinand
Just before Franz Ferdinand went into world domination mode, I was at a fancy CMJ party in some New York basement full of posers leaning on the wall and ignoring everything the DJ played. ‘Take Me Out’ came on and every man, woman and transvestite lifted their Calvin Klein covered asses from the plush sofas and boogied their NYC booties to that Glasgow indie beat. Far away from home it felt good to be Scottish, thanks to Paul’s rocking groove.
Recommended indie beat – ‘Take Me Out’ by Franz Ferdinand
4. Ben Johnston – Biffy Clyro & Marmaduke Duke
If Dave Grohl was the inspiration to a young Kilmarnock lad looking to play music for a living, Ben Johnston (pictured above) is the inspiration to a new generation of players who understand that being a great drummer is not all about hitting the drums hard. Drumming is about timing, dexterity and deftness of touch, and when coupled with power, passion and imagination it makes Ben Johnston the best drummer of his generation.
Recommended pummelling of a drum kit: ‘Get Fucked Stud’ by Biffy Clyro
5. Adrienne Giudici – Popup
Popup were supporting Babyshambles in Inverness and I noticed a group of metal kids in the corner during popup’s set who looked terribly out of place. So I ambled over to ask them why they were at a Babyshambles/popup gig and their answer was, “The fecking drummer man! She’s hot!”
Now it would be easy for misogynistic music snobs to reduce a girl drummers sole contribution down to, “being hot”, but perfect timing and a musical aptitude beyond most, means Scotland’s Meg White can not only hit the skins as hard as the ugliest metal drummers but her innovative beats and grooves are what makes popup one of the best indie bands in Glasgow.
Recommended misogynistic bashing – ‘Chinese Burn’ by Popup
Other Scottish Bang Gang members:
Martin Bulloch – Mogwai
You seldom see much promotion for Mogwai, yet they can be quoted in Nick Hornsby’s High Fidelity or featured in the music for a film on Zidane. It is hard to be innovative in music but Martin and the band consistently push the musical barriers. In September 2007, Martin auctioned his old pacemaker on eBay and donated the proceeds to the British Heart Foundation. We hope his new one keeps the beat for many years to come.
Recommended musical landscape: ‘Like Herod’ by Mogwai
Sebastian “Seb” Rochford is from Aberdeen and a drummer who spans many genres of music. His father, Gerard Rochford, is an accomplished poet. Seb won the BBC Jazz Award for best newcomer in 2004, and has been nominated as best musician in 2006. He has also been nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2005 and 2007 with his eclectic project Polar Bear.
Dougie Vipond – Deacon Blue
Ever met a man you want to scream “lucky bastard” at? Not only has Dougie been able to tour with Deacon Blue for 25 odd years but the handsome dude is now a sports presenter, so all together now, “LUCKY BASTARD!”
Recommended stick clicking: ‘Chocolate Girl’ by Deacon Blue
Robbie McIntosh – Average White Band
Founder-member of the Average White Band and drumming genius who died of a heroin overdose and still leaves you wondering what if?
Recommended: The most obvious piece of funky Dundee drumming: ‘Pick up the Pieces’ by The Average White Band
Paul Savage – The Delgados
It is a little known fact that other than playing drums for The Delgados, Paul has been the engineer and producer of some of the finest records to come out of Lanarkshire’s Chem 19 Studios, including The Twilight Sad, Arab Strap, Mogwai and The Phantom Band.
Best record to prove twee as fuck drumming can be cool as fuck to waltz to: ‘American Trilogy’ by The Delgados
Brendan O’Hare – Teenage Fan Club, Mogwai and a number of other cool Glasgow bands
Often or not you will find Glasgow legend Brendan in the 13th Note tweaking sound knobs for young bands and unceremoniously passing on years of experience with a smile or a grimace but never without passion.
Best drum roll intro – ‘Tell Me What You See’ by Teenage Fanclub
Richard Colburn – Belle & Sebastian
Playing pop well and making it look effortless is an art and, not content to be in one of Scotland’s biggest bands, Richard drummed on early Snow Patrol sessions and is one of the founding members of The Reindeer Section.
Recommended twee high hats: ‘The Boy with the Arab Strap’ by Belle and Sebastian
Darrell Sweet – Nazareth
If you know drummers, you know that they have far too much energy. Not content to power house the band from the drum stool for years, Darrell was also Nazareth’s manager, (this will sound familiar to many drummers).
Recommended Southern Fife blues beat: ‘Bad Bad Boy’
Iain Bayne – Runrig
When I lived in Germany I was amazed that this Scottish band, who I had never really heard of, was playing to thousands in Berlin. Sadly what I know about Runrig you could write on a piece of “Berlin Wall” that a tourist will pay 50 dollars for, but what I do know is that they are loved by many and the best at what they do!
Recommended Nationalist stirring by a tom: Loch Lomond by Runrig
Mark Brzezicki – Big Country
Not a Scot by birth but deserves an honouree mention for devoting his early life to providing the base for Dunfermline’s finest export.
And finally, a shite drummer joke:
Drummer goes into a shop and says “I need 2 skins for my snare and large tom”. Shop owner says “cannae help you”. Drummer says “why no?”. Shop owner says “because this is a chip shop”.
Guest Picks: John Disco (Bis)
Guest Picks: Paul Carlin (Dananananaykroyd)
I ought to know about drummers… my band’s gone through about 14… however, I’d have to say my vote for Scotland’s Greatest Ever Drummer would go to Ben Johnston of Biffy Clyro. The guy is a machine. Seriously. I’ve got a lot of time for drummers who can be a total powerhouse but also technically gifted. I think part of the reason Biffy are so big is because they can all play SO well. Your band is only as good as your drummer and Biffy Clyro basically have a stick of dynamite behind the kit! Also, I’m pretty sure he used to sing in a Rage Against The Machine covers band and that’s pretty radical.
Photo Credit : ascotinmpls