Check out this great piece by our in house writer Douglas Shanks:
If the later seventies and the eighties saw musical shifts arising from the development of the synthesizer, the sixties and early seventies heralded the rise of the drummer in importance. Rival for drumming GOAT Stephen Morris (Joy Division/New Order) represented the shift from acoustic drumming to the ubiquitous drum machine of the eighties by creating the sound acoustically. The most important drummer of the sixties is Ringo Starr partly because he wielded his sticks for that minor rock phenomenon The Beatles, but also because he represented, as Stephen Morris was to do a decade later, the link between the past and future. When Ringo Starr was recruited to The Beatles it wasn’t just because he could comb his hair forwards and could stay sober long enough to turn up to rehearsals on time. Ringo Starr was a highly regarded jazz oriented percussionist in his own right. And can the next person who buys into the myth that Ringo Starr couldn’t drum, and who tells me Paul McCartney did the difficult bits, please do me a favour and take a pill and lie down in a dark room with the “Abbey Road” medley on a half decent Linn/B&W system until the mood passes. Ringo Starr drummed from an age when the percussion was rooted in the rhythm section and by not straying made sure the rest of the band didn’t stray either. You don’t get to be The Beatles and have a mediocre drummer. By the way, for Ringo Starr and The Beatles you can also read Nick Mason and Pink Floyd and listen to the “Ummagumma” version of “A Saucerful Of Secrets”.
By the end of the sixties Rock had developed exponentially and with hindsight we see “The Velvet Underground And Nico” if not as a defining moment then certainly representing a seismic shift. Of course Mo Tucker’s vocals as well as her drumming were seminal, and Mo Tucker herself must be seen as part of a new more flamboyant drumming movement with more to say for herself than staggeringly innovative and beautiful off-key vocals and the gentle art of keeping time. By the end of the sixties the big three had emerged, Keith Moon, John Bonham and Ginger Baker, and without splitting too many hairs, and accepting they were all geniuses, probably in that order – perhaps if only because you might rank the bands that way too. And as Moon & Co were hitting the headlines a young Guy Evans was making his name with the legendary students of all dark matter Van Der Graaf Generator.
If you were looking for a definition of what the great Prog Rock bands had in common, which in fact wasn’t much, it being the loosest of all federations, they all had fabulous drummers, including of course Carl Palmer Phil Collins and Ian Wallace, who went on to become Dylan’s drummer when King Crimson split up, thus materially helping to create Dylan’s own masterpiece “Street-Legal”. Indeed the drumming on “Street-Legal” is so integral to the sound that I’m surprised Wallace doesn’t get a writing credit. Chatting to Guy I was interested that he cited Ian Wallace and “Street-Legal” before I’d even mentioned it, although I did have it in my notes to discuss with him. Guy’s high opinion of Mitch Mitchell is hardly surprising as Mitchell did for The Jimi Hendrix Experience what Evans himself did for Van Der Graaf Generator. I was interested in Guy’s comments in praise of John Bonham, no more controversial than Mitch Mitchell, but Led Zeppelin were really quite a different act, moving us towards Heavy Metal in a way that Van Der Graaf Generator couldn’t if they’d wanted to, hardly ever using the guitar.