See who makes number one in our countdown...
GIGWISE
16:13 29th May 2008

Following in the hallowed footsteps of Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie – who were crowned the greatest guitarist and frontman respectively – Gigwise is now unveiling who we think is the Greatest Drummer of all time! Click through to find out who is number one…

Photos by wenn/ press

  • Brian Chase of Yeah Yeah Yeahs - With YYYs, raw, lo-fi punk and only Nick Zinner's thrash and Karen's caterwauling to accompany him musically, you'd expect Long Islander Brian to be pretty up on his game. Able to move swiftly from back to centre stage with his work- compare -Maps with Pi- Chase's pounding, emotive drumming is one of the founding characteristics of one of the greatest indie triumvirates.

  • Mike Joyce of The Smiths - Just like Johnny Marr's equally brilliant guitar work, Joyce's rhythms were very much the backbone of the influential Manchester band. Morrissey may well have been the front and voice-piece of The Smiths, but without his band behind him, many of the tunes would have lacked their radiance and musical brilliance.

  • Al Jackson of Booker T & The MGs - Memphis born Jackson didn't get the moniker "The Human Timekeeper" for nothing. The founding member of Booker T & The MGs, he was legendary for his impeccable knack of keeping a beat. Sadly, he was shot dead by intruders at his home in Memphis at the age of 39. His death has left many speculating what else he could have achieved in his life.

  • Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth - Sonic Youth wouldn't have been the same without him. Famously experimental, Shelley worked with mallets, brushes, gongs, bells and even blades to create the ethereal darkness he, Moore, Ranaldo and co are famed for. Did they get to grunge first? Shelley's scratchy, awkward style may be the clincher.

  • Meg White of The White Stripes - The other White Stripe may not enjoy the accolades, column space or celebrity relationships of Jack. She may also be left at home while Jack goes gallivanting off with his Raconteur chums. Yet Meg is undoubtedly the queen of lo-fi drumming today armed with an unconventional, slightly messy but highly effective style.

  • Ian Paice of Deep Purple - A fan of the violin when he was a teenager, Paice turned to drums when he was 15 - and what a good decision that turned out to be. Despite being a rock drummer, Paice's influences come from the world of jazz. To this day he still holds the record for being the only constant member of Deep Purple.

  • Chad Smith of Red Hot Chili Peppers - He may look like the spitting image of Will Ferrell, but look-alikes aside, there's no doubting Smith's skills at knocking out funktastic rhythms for the Chili Peppers. Together with Flea, they make a formidable pairing in the rhythm section.

  • Ringo Starr of The Beatles - When asked if Ringo was the best drummer in the world, John Lennon quipped: He's not even the best drummer in The Beatles. As seemingly the weak link in a band of unrivalled talent, Ringo quietly went about his business, solidly supporting in one of pop's most varied catalogues of songs. His work on ''Come Together'', amongst others, shows an underrated craftsman at work, and a key ingredient in the band's success.

  • Tommy Lee of Motley Crue - While he spends most of his time in the limelight for his debauched antics, dodgy tattoos and that infamous sex video, it's all too easy to forget that Tommy Lee is a damn fine musician. Such is his dominance in Motley Crue, that he is a more eminent figure than the band's frontman Vince Neil.

  • Glenn Kotche of Wilco - The sticksman and solo artist is widely perceived as an indie legend, not just due to his work with Wilco but his solo work and collaborations with Jim O Rourke. Ever creative, Kotche has been described as having unfailing taste, technique and discipline, and this certainly translates to Wilco's brand of Americana.

  • D.J Fontana - The legend was the sticksman for Elvis Presley for 14 years. Fontana, the King and two other musicians were known collectively as The Blue Moon Boys and during their time together in the 50s they recorded some of Elvis's most infamous hits. Although the group eventually disbanded, Fontana and Elvis maintained their working relationship.

  • Dominic Howard of Muse - Any of the Muse trio could make it on to a list of top musicians, such is the sheer complexity and referenced beauty of each track. Particularly of note must be Howard's work on debut album ''Showbiz''- highlighting his strengths with both the hard-hitting drum work which characterised rock tunes like ''Muscle Museum'' and ''Uno'', and the subtly jazz-influenced contemplation in ''Sunburn'' and ''Unintended''.

  • Larry Mullen Jnr of U2 - U2 were initially called %u2018The Larry Mullen Band%u2019, showing Mullen%u2019s fantastic gift for modesty. During the band%u2019s %u2018Pop%u2019 era, Mullen%u2019s renowned hard-hitting drum work retained the band%u2019s rock roots. However an untimely back problem and tendonitis led Mullen to allow The Edge his hip-hop and dance-inspired LP with a dominance of drum machines. Surely no lasting back damage was worth losing that fight, Larry.

  • Jon Theodore of The Mars Volta - Theodore%u2019s dynamic and unique drum style categorised so much of The Mars Volta%u2019s songs. After 10 years wild Golden, Theodore joined The Mars Volta in 2001 %u2013 staying with them until 2006. Currently it%u2019s understood that the drummer is working on his own solo album.

  • Rick Buckler of The Jam - In 2006, Q reported that Buckler had slated his ex-Jam colleague Paul Weller's jazz-influenced Style Council repertoire. Not ones to take themselves too seriously, the two mods refused to speak to each other for over 20 years. Lately Rick has been hauling his crisp drum rolls and viral punk style across the country with follow-up group The Gift, a nod to the final Jam album, and even today Buckler and friends refuse to let the old times go, regularly playing Jam sets on tour.

  • Steven Adler of Guns n%u2019 Roses - Adler is undoubtedly best known for his work with Guns N Roses between 1985 and 1990. During those five years he performed and recorded with the band, perhaps most famously on their pioneering album %u2018Appetite For Destruction%u2019. Adler has gone on to drum with, and form, a number of other bands but none that have captured the same spirit that was present during his Guns N Roses days.

  • Chris Adler of Lamb of God %u2013 He has been the sticksman for Lamb of God since their conception in 1994. In that time he%u2019s become famous for his double bass work and using strong symmetry in his drum patterns %u2013 a talent that%u2019s even more impressive when you learn that he%u2019s a left handed drummer who uses a right handed set.

  • John Densmore of The Doors - The drummer provided the fantastic rhythms of The Doors from 1965 to 1973. With Jim Morrison and co, Densmore helped to craft some of the band%u2019s most iconic numbers up until their dissolution. In his own book, Densmore claims that he once left the band because of Morrison%u2019s destructive behaviour bust joined again the next day. Now there%u2019s a short break-up!

  • Mitch Mitchell of The Jimi Hendrix Experience (far right) - Mitchell's Experience days saw him combine complex jazz arrangements with the rock n' roll abandon of contemporaries like Keith Moon. Mitchell also played in the 60s starriest supergroup, The Dirty Mac, which saw him take to the stage with Lennon, Clapton and Richards. Not a bad line-up by anyone's taste, surely?

  • Nicko McBrain of Iron Maiden %u2013 Hailed by a drummer magazine as a %u201Clived-in legend%u201D, this may be one of the understatements of the century where Iron Maiden are concerned, but calling him one of rock%u2019s greatest drummers certainly isn%u2019t. Steve Harris said McBrain %u2018drives the whole thing along,%u2019 perfectly summating his skill- ably coping with even the most complex of IM%u2019s glut of time signatures.

  • Topper Headon of The Clash - The Clash%u2019s Headon, called %u2018Topper%u2019 because of his resemblance to the popular cartoon monkey, battled years of heroin addiction to become known as one of rock%u2019s most influential drummers. Until the band kicked him out in 1982, Headon%u2019s snare-heavy work personified the reggae-influenced punk that Simonon, Jones and Strummer took most of the plaudits for, and he was named %u2018the human drum machine%u2019 for his flawless skill.

  • Stephen Morris of Joy Division %u2013 Amongst all of the innovation in Joy Division%u2019s post-punk genius, Morris%u2019 combining of synth with live drumming produced an echoed, haunting sound that at times made the band feel from another, altogether more barren planet. See the peerless %u2018She%u2019s Lost Control%u2019 for a great example. Dubbed %u2018daft as a brush%u2019 by Peter Hook, Morris has always managed a degree of madness within the band%u2019s huge collective ego.

  • David Lovering of Pixies - According to famously steady and constant punk drummer Lovering, the only difference between a musician and a magician is %u2018a few letters%u2019- and following the Pixies%u2019 split in 1993, Lovering actually took to pulling rabbits from hats full-time. Nowadays though he%u2019s busy with old friend Black Francis/Frank Black again after the band reformed in 2004.

  • Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones - Though a constant member of one of the world%u2019s biggest bands, Watts%u2019 work outside the Stones focuses on jazz, playing with British jazz supergroup Rocket 88 in the 70s and organising a Charlie Parker tribute quintet. He has said he plays %u2018march-drum style%u2019, and his fantastically tight work translates into his love of smart suits and sketching hotel rooms. Not quite the TV-out-the-window-man, is Charlie.

  • Phil Selway of Radiohead - Watch Radiohead%u2019s 2003 Glastonbury performance of %u2018Idioteque%u2019 for scarily brilliant drumming from 41-year-old Phil, who is renowned for his mathematical precision in one of the planet%u2019s most diverse acts. His colleagues have hilariously dubbed him %u2018baldmember%u2019 (like %u2018band member%u2019, but bald-geddit?). Who says Thom Yorke hasn%u2019t got a sense of humour?

  • Vinnie Paul of Pantera - Currently drumming for Hellyeah, heavy rock drummer Vinnie Paul made his name in Pantera. He caught the hearts of many a music fan through his prolific drum patterns that formed the foundations of some many of Pantera%u2019s best hits. Paul is the son of country music star Jerry Abbott.

  • Mike Portnoy of Dream Theatre - As progressive metal drummers go, they don%u2019t come much better than Portnoy. During his career he%u2019s won a huge tally of 23 awards for his drumming, which goes to show just how talented he is. Rush drummer Neil Peart is apparently Portnoy%u2019s biggest inspiration %u2013 but you can%u2019t argue with the fact that the Dream Theatre man has managed to create his own unique metal style.

  • Brann Dailor of Mastodon %u2013 One of Dave Grohl%u2019s favourite drummers (an extremely impressive plaudit), Dailor is at the forefront of experimental heavy metal drumming. As well as musicians, several specialist drumming magazines have heaped praise upon Dailor for his concise and rhythmic style.

  • Bill Ward of Black Sabbath - Ward is renowned in the metal world for his fast-paced rhythm, which produced a combined effect with the guitar riffs in Black Sabbath. Even when Ronnie James Dio replaced good ol%u2019 Ozzy as the band%u2019s frontman, Ward kept his indomitable groove with the rockers. Ward suffered a heart attack whilst rehearsing for Black Sabbath%u2019s 1998 tour, just after Ozzy had rejoined the group, but he continues to smash the skins to this day.

  • Roger Taylor of Queen - Taylor forwent the epic camp of Mercury and that hairdo to maintain a modicum of normality in the bohemian behemoths. But he also provided the group with several of their greatest hits, including Radio Ga Ga%u2019 and %u2018Kind of Magic%u2019, being both showman-like and measured in his approach. Kudos indeed, so we%u2019ll forget him producing hits for, ahem, Jimmy Nail.

  • 20. Joey Jordison of Slipknot – Behind the novelty Slipknot mask lies an accomplished and formidable musician. One of the original members of the shock-rock outfit, Jordison (who wears a white Japanese Kabuki mask often splattered in blood) is widely heralded as one of the fastest drummers in rock music.

  • 19. Dave Lombardo of Slayer – Cuban Lombardo met future Slayer cohort Kerry King when he was delivering pizzas to fund his first drumkit. That was just about the last cheesy product Lombardo would deliver (ouch), as Slayer went on to produce some of the most ear bleed-inducing music ever heard. Known as ‘The Godfather of Double Bass’, Lombardo uses two bass drums rather than the standard double kick, citing the fact that he’s ‘not letting [the drums] breathe.’ Heavy indeed.

  • 18. Tommy Aldridge - When it comes to drummers, it’s not hard to see why Tommy Aldridge is one of the greatest ever – and not just because he’s drummed for everyone from Ozzy Osbourne to Whitesnake either. Aldridge, who was inspired by the likes of Led Zeppelin and Cream, is best known for pioneering double bass drumming. A fantastic achievement considering he was completely self-taught.

  • 17. Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters – As well as manning the skins for the Foos, Hawkins also fronts the dubiously titled ‘Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders.’ Apparently sporting one of the most impressive drum collections in the states, Hawkins was voted Rhythm magazine’s ‘Best Rock Drummer’ in 2005. The impressive CV aside, watch the video for the Foos’ ‘Learn to Fly’ for Hawkins his greatest moment as a cross-dressing air stewardess.

  • 16. Dave Grohl of Nirvana - Nobody hits the drums harder than Dave Grohl. His status as a legendary drummer was earned during his years providing the backbone to Kurt Cobain’s angst and melody in Nirvana. Since then, he has lent his considerable skill behind a drumkit to the likes of Queens Of The Stone Age and Tenacious D, while finding time to be a full-time rock god in his own group Foo Fighters.

  • 15. Bill Bruford of Yes – One of the founding member of progressive rockers Yes, Bruford took his influence from a variety of jazz drummers and added his own imprint. His drumming on the early Yes albums quickly garnered him acclaim from music lovers and musicians alike for his abrasive polyrhythmic style.

  • 14. Lars Ulrich of Metallica - Denmark-born Lars moved to LA when he was just seventeen to pursue a budding tennis career. So millions of metallers the world over have the sport to thank as the reason Ulrich met James Hetfield and decided to form one of the greatest bands in rock history. Early hits unearthed him as the emerging talent of thrash drumming, his name having been cemented in the annals of drumming innovators.

  • 13. Ginger Baker of Cream - The Cream of Lewisham’s crop, Baker wasn’t always happy letting the limelight go to Clapton and Winwood, playing with bombast and flamboyance. A penchant for African rhythm was also evident in much of his solo work. The prolific and influential 68-year-old has also worked with Hawkwind, Atomic Rooster and Public Image Limited.

  • 12. Stewart Copeland of The Police - Ominously for The Police, Copeland spent his early years living in Beirut where his father was a professional musician, soaking up the atmosphere before settling in Enlgand before finding a certain Gordon Sunmer to play bass in his jazz and funk influenced band. As well as all this, Copeland has released his own work under the moniker Klark Kent, as well as providing soundtracks for films such as Ford Coppola’s ‘Rumblefish’.

  • 11. Terry Bozzio of various – The 57-year-old’s big break came in the 1970s when he began recording and touring with Frank Zappa. Such was his musical excellence; his drum work became the cornerstone of some of Zappa’s songs - most notably The Black Page. As his career has progressed with other projects, so has his music prowess and experimentation, including creating orchestral compositions on his drum set.

  • 10. Phil Collins of Genesis - Bringing his stark, futuristic drumming to Genesis helped make them the prog-giants they still are today, and his work with percussion of myriad forms on 1981 solo debut ‘Face Value’ brought him true superstar status on both sides of the Atlantic. But everyone knows that chocolate ad gorilla was miles better.

  • 9. Gene Krupa – One of the most influential people on our list, the Jazz and Big Band drummer was notorious in his day for his rapid movement with the sticks and off-kilter technique. Born in 1909, throughout his life the American always strove to push the boundaries forward. The likes of John Bonham, Keith Moon and Neil Peart have all cited Krupa as an influence.

  • 8. Carl Palmer – Upon Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s demise in 1978, Carl promptly turned out for prog giants Asia, where Palmer was yet again famed for his lightning fast solos, at times upstaging his more than illustrious band mates. According to an interview with People magazine in 1982, Palmer claimed that, aged 14 and having only played drums for three years, he was ‘halfway there.’ Hindsight’s a wonderful thing.

  • 7. Rick Allen of Def Leppard - In our countdown, Allen is totally unique. Whereas most drummers have had to overcome arrogant frontmen during their careers, Allen has continued to drum with just one arm. Allen had to undergo a complete amputation of his left arm following a car accident when he was 21. Through the adversity, however, he's gone on to become one of rock?s truly special sticksmen.

  • 6. Buddy Rich – Born to a vaudevillian couple in 1917, the young Buddy was reportedly the second-highest paid child entertainer of his day. A truly awesome jazz drummer, he went on to work with such greats as Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald. One of the first to master the one-handed roll on both hands, Rich has been revered for decades by drummers of all genres for his ultra-smooth execution and showmanship.

  • 5. Jimmy Chamberlin of The Smashing Pumpkins - As The Smashing Pumpkins’ drummer, Jimmy Chamberlin has had to deal with the walking ego that is Billy Corgan for 20 years. But he has also had to compete with him musically, bringing his jazz background into the Pumpkins heavy, melancholic sound. He is renowned for his lightning quick hands as well as his incorporation of different styles into the rock arena. A true legend of the sticks.

  • 4. Neil Peart of Rush - One of Peart’s perks is to use the bottom end of his drumsticks, apparently relating to when, many years back, his sticks broke and he couldn’t afford new ones. Epic solos and his 360degree kit have marked Rush’s lyricist out as one of the most respected percussionists in rock history. Peart has made use of a plethora of instruments to create as eclectic a sound as possible, including tubular bells, temple blocks triangles, timpani and drum machines.

  • 3. Danny Carey of Tool – Like many heavy metal drummers on the list, Carey’s roots lie in jazz drumming for which he undertook training in the Seventies. After honing his musical skills and developing a fascination with the occult (hence Tool’s symbols), Carey went on to form Tool in 1990, one of the most celebrated and enigmatic bands of recent times. Another drumming legend.

  • 2. Keith Moon of The Who - The ultimate rock and roll hellraiser, Keith Moon’s drumming style was a reflection of his wild antics on and offstage. Regularly ignoring accepted rules of timing, The Who’s sound is punctuated by Moon’s offbeat rhythms, reckless abandon and self-assurance with the sticks. He smashed up as many drumkits as hotel rooms, but his iconic status owes as much to his ability as his untamed lifestyle.

  • 1. John Bonham of Led Zeppelin – What is there left to say about John Bonham that hasn’t already been said? Very much the heartbeat of the greatest rock act to have walked Planet Earth, his sheer dexterity, speed and sense for a groove has rarely been paralleled in the music world. More importantly, Bonham is the benchmark for any aspiring rock drummer to follow. Despite it being almost three decades since his death his legacy still remains.