Some drummers are well known for their percussive ability. Drummers such as Neil Peart, Keith Moon and John Bonham are held in high regard for their ability behind the kit but there are some drummers I feel that get less credit than what they truly deserved. Here are my top 15 underrated drummers.
*Disclaimer- drummers well-known for their ability are left off the list so there’s no place for the three drummers mentioned above plus the likes of Stewart Copeland, Travis Barker and Mike Portnoy. This list is solely my opinion.
15. Pete Finestone (Bad Religion)
Could’ve gone for Brooks Wackerman here however he is well-known, even better now as he’s the drummer of Avenged Sevenfold but I’ve gone with Pete Finestone here as when Bad Religion was starting to attract more attention, it was Finestone behind the kit playing those fast hardcore punk grooves on Suffer, No Control and Against The Grain, considered by many to be Bad Religion’s finest works. Now composing film score, Finestone still plays drums having kept a lower profile in recent years.
14. Alan White (John Lennon/Yes)
There is more than one drummer called Alan White but we’ll go for the one in Yes. Though Bill Bruford was arguably the more technical of the Yes drummers, White outlasted Bruford in Yes by 42 YEARS!!! and is still a member despite not touring due to ill health. White’s drumming is often overlooked by some Yes fans but he still manages to pull of a bass/drum solo with Chris Squire and tracks like “Cinema”, “I’m Running” and “Tempus Fugit” are no dawdles when playing drums. As well as Yes, White had also played drums for John Lennon (as a solo act) and The Plastic Ono Band.
13. Topper Headon (The Clash)
The Clash’s longest-serving drummer. The Clash defied all punk stereotypes and drummer Nick “Topper” Headon was no exception. Topper highlights include the groove in “Train in Vain” as well as the intro to “I Fought The Law” as well as the Copeland-inspired “Lost in the Supermarket”. Author Scott Kenemore stated about Headon, “his contribution to the music was tremendous, and his drumming remains an undiscovered treasure for too many”. Can’t say I disagree.
12. John Otto (Limp Bizkit)
John Otto is a truly brilliant drummer, shame the band he plays in gets a bad rap from the press. Otto plays more than just nu-metal having being influenced by Afro-Cuban music to jazz funk. Some of John Otto’s drumming highlights “My Generation” (no, that’s not another Who cover!), “Livin’ It Up”, “Phenomenon” and “Head For The Barricade”.
11. Daniel Adair (3 Doors Down/Nickelback)
Nickelback’s longest-serving drummer, Dan Adair has been with Nickelback since All The Right Reasons an album in which Adair’s was shown from the start with the mini-solo on “Follow You Home”. Other Adair highlights include “This Means War”, “Feed The Machine” and “Fight For All The Wrong Reasons”. Adair has the same problem as John Otto in which the band he plays with aren’t too popular with the media, which should never take anything away from a musician’s playing ability.
10. Steve Jordan (Blues Brothers/John Mayer Trio/session)
The drumming third of the John Mayer Trio, like bassist Pino Palladino, Steve Jordan has also played with many different bands/artists as a session player including Blues Brothers, Keith Richards and Neil Young. While not well known as an over-the-top virtuoso drummer, he is known for mainly just keeping a groove, like in the John Mayer song “Vultures” where the song is argued to built on a simple Jordan rhythm, Jordan’s drumming can be heard on the Booker Ts and M.G.s album That’s The Way It Should Be as well where he pretty much does what Jordan does best.
9. Bill Berry (R.E.M.)
I’ve never heard anyone talk about Bill Berry as much as the rest of R.E.M. and it baffles me slightly because I feel his energetic style of drumming on debut album ‘Murmur’ certainly influenced me whenever I played the drums and contributed as much to R.E.M.’s alternative sound as much as Stipe, Buck and Mills. Berry highlights include tracks such as “Laughing”, “West of the Fields” and “Begin The Begin”.
Not just a drummer as well, like Mike Mills, Berry is a multi-instrumentalist, contributing guitar and bass guitar on some R.E.M. songs.
8. Brad Wilk (Rage Against The Machine/Audioslave/Black Sabbath/Prophets of Rage)
In my bassists’ version of this list, I mentioned how Rage Against The Machine were a band in which the vocalist/guitarist steal the show. I feel that drummer Brad Wilk is even less-talked about than bassist Tim Commerford. Wilk is a very versatile drummer combining perfectively the band’s bland of metal and funk, some of his percussive highlights featuring in songs such as “Freedom” and “Township Rebellion” as well as drumming on Black Sabbath’s last album 13, and that wasn’t because he hasn’t a similar name to Bill Ward!
7. Dave Abruzesse (Pearl Jam)
Controversially left out of Pearl Jam’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. Many Pearl Jam fans argue that Abruzesse was their best drummer. The amount of YouTube comments I’ve seen with ex-Soundgarden member Matt Cameron on drums with “get Dave back” is countless, mind you, Pearl Jam’s first two drummers are both called Dave, so they might actually want Dave Krusen back, who could’ve also been on this list but we’ve gone with Abruzesse as his energetic style of playing many argue suits Pearl Jam more than the more jazz-influenced Cameron.
6. Matt Cameron (Soundgarden/Temple of The Dog/Pearl Jam)
In Abruzesse’s part, you could argue I was just stating how he should still be in Pearl Jam instead of Matt Cameron, however, Cameron is a very versatile drummer. The band MC really made his name with was with Soundgarden. Influenced by a lot of jazz and prog rock, In his time with Soundgarden, Cameron made use of alternate time signatures, as well as grooves on the toms and tribal patterns on tracks like “Spoonman”. He has also worked with artists varying from The Prodigy to Queens of the Stone Age to Geddy Lee. Hey, if Geddy Lee wants you to play drums on his solo album, you must be doing something right!
5. Reni (The Stone Roses)
Alan Wren a.k.a. Reni is regarded by some as the “best drummer in indie”. The Stone Roses were seen as one of the big players in the Madchester movement and from this movement, one key characteristic was “the funky drummer”, which Reni demonstrated on songs such as “Fools Gold” and “Waterfall”. Other highlights of Reni’s drumming include the single “Elephant Stone”. Joy Division/New Order bassist Peter Hook stated of Reni’s drumming, “Reni’s drumming lent such a character and identity to the songs. Ian and John had got it with the melodies and lyrics but they were lucky to get Reni because he took them from being a traditional, normal rock band into the stratosphere with other great groups”.
4. George Daniel (The 1975)
One really serious contender to Reni for the “best indie drummer” could be The 1975’s George Daniel, only one thing though – I consider The 1975 to be more pop than indie. Drummer George Daniel has a unique style of drumming when it comes to grooves and fills. He strikes me as someone who studies the kit closely and writes his own parts in a way a lot of drummers today don’t which makes him stand out in my opinion.
3. Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters)
Drumming in a band where the frontman was the drummer of a Nirvana and replacing a drummer who’s parts got scrapped because they weren’t the way Grohl wanted them is a very difficult task but 21 years later and Taylor Hawkins is still behind the kit which shows just how good of a drummer he is. His energetic stage presence as well style make him a perfect fit for Foo Fighters. Drumming highlights contain two short drum solos on “Rope”, “Bridge Burning”, “Feast on the Famine” as well as the solo he does at the end of “Monkey Wrench” live.
2. Dominic Howard (Muse)
Personally, I think all of Muse are underrated in terms of ability and drummer Dom Howard is no exception. Tracks like “Assassin”, “Map of the Problematique” and “Resistance” show his busy but energetic style of drumming, even in songs were the beats are simpler like “Psycho” and “Supermassive Black Hole”, the drums are still a key part in making those tracks. Put that together with Matt Bellamy’s vocals and guitar melodies and Chris Wolstenholme’s distorted bass grooves and you get a really talented alt-rock trio!
Before I reveal the top pick, here are some honourable mentions-
- Paul Cook (Sex Pistols)
- Steve Jocz (Sum 41)
- Mike Joyce (The Smiths)
- KJ Sawka (Pendulum)
- Matt Tong (Bloc Party)
- Omar Hakim
Omar Hakim has played drums with many artists as a session drummer, including Bowie, Kate Bush, Miles Davis and Dire Straits, where he played on the Brothers in Arms album. Essentially a jazz drummer, one song which features Hakim’s drumming sticks out for me though and that’s Daft Punk’s “Giorgio by Moroder”. The song featured a star-studied lineup from different genre backgrounds, Hakim on drums, Paul Jackson Jr. on guitar and the voice of Giorgio Moroder but Hakim’s drumming stuck out, with an energetic mixture of jazz and breakbeats which could also be heard on another Daft Punk track “Contact”. If Daft Punk ever do a tour with a live band, they MUST get Hakim behind the kit!
So, that wraps up this blog, what are your drummers who you consider to be underrated? Leave a comment and let me know. If you’ve enjoyed this blog leave it a like, leave it a share and tune in next time for underrated vocalists!