Walking And Chewing Gum At the Same Time...
Five drummers who got sick of looking at the lead singer's wiggling bum and decided that they could sing!
PHIL COLLINS: 'GENESIS'
Phil Collins was never first choice. Genesis were the Spinal Tap of prog rock, having gone through an impressive four complete drummers before Phil took up the sticks. Having failed to die in a bizarre gardening accident, or explode on stage, he survived until lead singer Peter Gabriel flounced out of the band in a cloud of makeup and chintz. Auditions were held for someone to take the mic but their desperate attempts to avoid the inevitable couldn't stop Phil, and he ended up with the job. A few Genesis albums later he went on to a succesful solo career and became the only person to play at both the UK and the US Live Aid concerts (claims that this is because people at Wembley told him to bog off to America have yet to be substantiated). Not bad for a guy who initially wanted to stay behind the drum kit: "At first I didn't like singing. I didn't think it was a respectable gig, you know. There were steps to do - ostentatious clothes - wiggle your ass a bit. It just wasn't respectable like drumming is."
DON HENLEY: 'THE EAGLES'
Don Henley, one of the founder members of the mighty Eagles, was talented to the point of obnoxiousness - he sang, drummed and wrote the songs for one of the most successful supergroups of the '70s. He's dismissive of his skin bashing skills, however, and when Modern Drummer magazine went to interview him he responded: "What does Modern Drummer want with me anyway? I'm no drummer." Indeed, he gave up the sticks and on his last few solo albums he only did duty as a singer songwriter. There's a simple reason for this: "playing the drums hurts my back." Fair enough. This probably explains why there are so few singing drummers around: "I used to have to hold my body in such a position that my spine got out of alignment. Between playing the drums and keeping my mouth in front of the microphone, it really twisted my whole body." Ouch. Nontheless, he realises that the fans like a bit of stick singage every now and then: "I think people enjoy watching me sing and play the drums. It seems to fascinate people. I don't know why."
RINGO STARR: 'IF YOU DON'T KNOW WE'RE NOT TELLING YOU'
Don Henley is full of praise for the first great singing drummer: "I don't care what anybody says about Ringo. I cut my rock 'n' roll teeth listening to him." When Pete Best was dropped by the Beatles for being, well, a bit rubbish really, they recruited Ringo who was, according to Lennon, quite the catch: "Ringo's a damn good drummer. He was always a good drummer. He's not technically good... [but] he was quite simply the heart of the Beatles". This rather begs the question, if he's not technically good what kind of good is he... theoretically good? George Harrison once said that "playing without Ringo is like driving a car on three wheels," and Sir Macca claims that Ringo remains his favourite drummer, even now, when he can work with anyone he chooses. His singing, however, was a little, how shall we put it, raspy... but we all love 'Yellow Submarine' and 'Octopus's Garden'. Anyway, he knew it wasn't his strong suit: "first and foremost I am a drummer... I played drums because I loved them... it was the love of my life." Aw, bless his little heart.
KAREN CARPENTER: 'THE CARPENTERS'
Karen Carpenter, one of the most expressive pop vocalists of all time, began her musical career as a drummer. She fell into music by accident, choosing to join the school band as a means of getting out of gym class, and then picking the drums because they seemed the softest option. She never looked back: "luckily, drumming came naturally, I started right off playin', and time signatures came naturally... I don't know how, I mean, it felt so comfortable when I picked up a pair of sticks!." Her brother, who formed the other half of The Carpenters, agreed: "boy, could she play 'em!" Richard and Karen were the best selling American artists of the '70s and she came under a lot of pressure to get out from behind the drum kit. Eventually she compromised - she drummed for the up-tempo numbers and came to the front for the ballads. The final word goes to drumming legend Buddy Rich, who once told Karen: "do you know that you’re one of my favourite drummers?" High praise indeed!
MICKEY DOLENZ: 'THE MONKEES'
The original manufactured band, The Monkees were recruited to fill set roles in a TV show designed to launch the band. According to Dolenz: "I was hired as an actor to play the role of a drummer. I had to learn to play drums." It wasn't long until the Monkees were one of the biggest bands in the world, but how many of the songs actually feature them playing their instruments is hotly debated - for their early recordings they mostly dubbed vocals onto tracks laid down by session band Candy Store Prophets. Their debut hit 'Last Train To Clarkesville' featured Mickey on lead vocals, as did 'I'm A Believer'. Drumming and singing aside Mickey has made two truly great contributions to world culture: he wrote the Monkees classic UK No 2 hit 'Randy Scouse Git' (we're not making that up, honest); he also, all hail him, co-created the TV show Metal Mickey, and for that he should be praised as a god among men.