When it comes to rock and roll, we’ve always had drummer jokes.
Even back in the days when the drummer came to the fore, it’s hard to shake off the Spinal Tap cliché that the drummer is either the dumbest or the most reliable member of the band. If all you needed to get by was a decent drummer, rock wouldn’t have survived as long as it did.
Since the British invasion, the world’s best artists have benefited from an expert behind the skin. From manic tom fills to instantly catchy drum parts, these guys had the ability to tear up a drum kit if given the right opportunity.
That’s not the point of the drums though, and most of these musicians understood the power of building a classical part, whether it’s crazy filling or staying in the groove.
Note the mention in the title. This is going to be just in the rock category, and the metal world is going to have to be booked for another day (Sorry Danny Carey …. and not sorry Lars Ulrich). If we stick to standard rock and roll, we have an absolute treasure trove to go through. While the singer might be the voice of the band, it’s the guys who make the heart beat faster.
The idea of playing drums for a mainstream rock band increasingly seems like a thankless job.
I mean, since someone like Meg White could make their way into the public eye by just hitting a few snares and cymbals, that should be a walk in the park, right? The beauty of being a drummer is all you can do with just the little bits of percussion in front of you.
While most people come to U2 for the distorted sounds of Bono’s Edge and upper register, they couldn’t have reached half the heights they could without Larry Mullen Jr. in the background.
Aside from his incredible sense of timing, there are plenty of unique tom fills dotted around their back catalog, like the iconic Bullet the Blue Sky opening and the Pride model, which involved Larry completely reworking his kit to give to the song its heavy sound ringing.
Larry also doesn’t get credit for his willingness to experiment with other types of rhythmic approaches. You very rarely hear him playing the standard 4/4 beat, as he puts more modern patterns into the mix and also finds time to flirt with the electronic world on later albums like Achtung Baby and Zooropa. He may have been in the game for a while, but Larry is definitely aware of the changing trends unfolding around him.