By Suzi Feay of The Financial Times
Drummers get a lot of stick (sorry!): remember the quip about Ringo? “Not even the best drummer in the Beatles.” Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Clem Burke of Blondie and Drummie Zeb of Aswad are among the interviewees in Sky Arts’ The Art of Drumming, a series that claims you’ll never listen to music in the same way ever again. Dapper presenter Steve White of The Style Council skilfully takes us through the basics, beginning with the back beat, the Bo Diddley, the Billie Jean, and the magic that happens when swing meets straight, as in John Bonham’s magisterial tapping on “Whole Lotta Love”.
Some names are probably only familiar to the cognoscenti, such as Earl Palmer, “the architect of rock and roll”, who worked with Little Richard. We learn how African beats permeated the system via New Orleans: Bernard Purdie is possibly the smuggest cat on the block as he demonstrates the “Purdie shuffle”. Clyde Stubblefield’s drum-break on James Brown’s “Funky Drummer” has been sampled thousands of times, by such diverse talents as Ed Sheeran, Emeli Sandé and Public Enemy. Gary Powell of the Libertines explains the groove on The Specials’ “Ghost Town”, and Drummie Zeb outlines reggae’s revolutionary “one drop” rhythm. As for the programme’s bold initial claim, you certainly won’t listen to Toto’s “Rosanna” again without tipping your hat to the late Jeff Porcaro’s “lovely little grace notes” and complex patterns, which obsess drummers to this day.