Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Have you heard the one about the guy who kept hanging around musicians? He was a drummer... boom boom! Oh dear, there are stacks of bad drummer jokes, but there are stacks of jokes about banjos and accordions and their players too. But I didn't start this post to make bad jokes, I was just thinking the other day about the drummers we've played with. And what an interesting and varied bunch they are!

Let's start with the first drummer I played with, properly, in a band. This was a band we put together where I worked with various members of staff. My boss and I both had music in common and we formed the aptly named 'Mike Mucus and the Membranes' for a couple of fun gigs. Nothing too serious, a few cover songs and basically good fun. But we didn't have a drummer in the office cadre of musicians, so Mike brought in a friend of his called Follett. He was a good drummer, and although we rehearsed together, we never actually gigged with him for some reason. I remember one rehearsal where he dropped his joint behind the radiator. He spent the entire rehearsal trying to fish it out with a drumstick, and then dropped the drumstick down the radiator too. All very well, but we rehearsed in the office canteen! I hope the evidence of his shady habits were never found. Well, they must have been one day, for that building is now the headquarters of McDonald's in the UK.

Follett couldn't play for our one main gig - at a night club in London supporting some pop/punk band called Scarlet. So Mike brought in another friend of his, Bill. Now, we didn't need to rehearse with Bill because he was a 'professional'. He was amazing! He played that one night with us an we had an absolute blast. He was a quiet guy, very pleasant, amazingly talented and had longish hair and a moustache. That's about all I can remember about him - but if you want to know what he looked like when he was 'top of the pops', just look up Bill Legend - from TRex!

The next drummer we played with was Tony (pictured left) who was the drummer in our folk rock band, Aardvark and No Money. This was in the 80s and Tony had naturally curly hair whilst Bryan and I had perms! Oh yes - matching perms. Tony was a rock solid drummer - his timing was so spot on that when we recorded, whilst being mixed someone asked if he was a drum machine! He used to play in a vest top and I do remember one gig, at the Old Bull Arts Centre in Barnet, where I 'oiled him up' with glycerine to make him all shiny under the lights. Hey! It was the 80s, OK?

Tony was a great drummer, but for reasons I honestly can't remember, we parted ways and he was replaced by Kevin (pictured right), who even now still plays with Bryan in the dance band Swindlers & Gentry. Kevin came into Aardvark in, sadly, its declining years, but he stayed with us as we formed Shave the Monkey which played (and I have to say, didn't do too badly at all!) together for over 16 years.
At one time my son Alex played with us - he did a couple of barn dances when he was only 7 or 8, but he was easily good enough. He still plays now (aged 17) but exams and skateboarding and other distractions keep him away from his sticks these days.

Shave called it quits in the early part of the new millennium and it was time to seek pastures new. One gig I depped on bass for was in an ad hoc dance band in Kent. The drummer this time was a quiet chap but extremely talented, called Carlton. Turns out he was a professional too. Played with a quiet outfit called Bad Manners!
For a short while Bryan and rehearsed and recorded with a band called Fire Giants, but it never quite got going. We had an amazing drummer called Martin who was very different in style to the other guys - he had spent time in Cuba learning some incredibly complex rhythm stuff. He played all sorts of percussion too including weird African drums, shaky and wobbly things of all descriptions.

The next drummer that I played with (and still play with) was Baz - he was a friend of Penni's and we played at a few ad hoc gigs at Rougham together (more stories about some of the weirder gigs are on this blog).

As you can tell, quite a history of drummers. And all of them, without exception, excellent. I consider myself very lucky to have played with such great drummers. And, as a bass player, it's important the bass and drums 'click' to get a great rhythm section. Hopefully the drummers I've played with have enjoyed playing with me too (though I should think that Bill and Carlton probably wouldn't remember those one off gigs).

Now the other day, Kevin couldn't do one of the barn dance gigs. So Bryan called up a friend who he hadn't played with for years, but who had recently got back in touch. Full circle it seems, Bryan and his mates played a gig with Tony - but he doesn't exactly have curly hair any more, and Bryan doesn't have a perm either.

So, who do I play with now? Well, Shani, my music partner in our band Tu, is also a drummer! We can't exactly perform live with the drums though - because she plays bass, guitar and sings too. Talented as she is I think playing drums at the same time as bass or guitar is going to be a challenge... unless we change and go for a 'White Stripes' type act at some time!

What's the difference between a drummer and a drum machine? With a drum machine you only need to punch the information in once. And there's a really rude riposte to this about bass players too but, funnily, I can't remember it...
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