This past weekend I saw The Who on their Quadrophenia tour. It was my second time seeing them, the first time being over a decade ago during John Entwistle’s last tour. They are amazing live, and I was happy that they really did pull off a great show again. I was impressed by their performance at the 121212 show for Hurricane Sandy relief in December 2012, so I was thrilled to be able to see them again. I was talking about the concert with my family the day before I went, and I mentioned that Ringo’s son was still drumming with them. My mom commented that she never thought Ringo was anything special as a drummer—and she said this as a huge Beatles fan!—and I responded that the drums were not really a focus in Beatles songs (though he does a mean little solo in “The End”!).
This got me thinking about who was the first drummer who made a real impression on his band’s sound. When did the drums became really important, really noticeable in rock music? I did some quick research online about this topic and found nothing. I think this is an interesting question about the evolution of rock music. How many pre-Ringo rock drummers can you name? I am interested in hearing what everyone thinks about this. I’m not asking who anyone’s favorite drummer is, or who they think the best drummer in rock history is, and I’m not even talking about fucking brilliant drum solos. I am asking who was the first rock and roll drummer who was really noticed as an integral part of the band’s sound. I am thinking of The Who as one of the first bands who had sort of a superstar drummer. The backbeat is the essence of rock music—at least, that’s how it used to be—so the drums have always been necessary. But when did the drums become their own entity within the song?