Aug 262010

Jody Stephens (center), join the club!

Bev Bevan and Rick Buckler have been raked over the coals in this long-suspended series already. Today a Townsperson other then E. Pluribus Gergely finally called bullshit on the drumming of Big Star’s Jody Stephens. In honor of cdm‘s candidness, let’s open the floor to other drummers who suck* despite powering the rhythms of bands we love!

*A point of clarification: By “worst” or “suck” I’m not really asking for a list of the technically worst drummers in rock, if any of us are even capable of assessing that, but drummers whose playing you find necessary to overlook (overhear?) while listening to a favorite artist.


  39 Responses to “Is There a Drummer in the House: The Worst Drummers in Bands You Like”

  1. buddy whelan

    and no dissing on Ringo allowed

  2. My bandmate and I have had many a conversation about Jody. He’s a super nice guy, but jeez, I couldn’t imagine trying to play along with him.

    It even came up again during our recent drummer search. The reality that we might get to play with him was set up by a real connection to Ardent. We decided that we probably wouldn’t enjoy those herky jerky fills as much as we enjoy listening to him.

    I don’t think he’s a bad drummer. But, I do think it’s safe to call BS on his drumming.

    If the Anthology tracks are any indication, Pete Best had to go.


  3. Mr. Moderator

    Excellent point, buddy! We’re not holding rock drummers up to standards of Billy Cobham.

  4. 2000 Man

    Much as I love The Replacements, Chris Mars is just so mediocre. I can’t think of one song where I think, “man, that guy has something there” drumwise with them. Even his general sound isn’t anything special. But he seems competent.

    I guess it’s like that Steak and Shake Commercial – No one ever says, “Wow, the drumming on that song is really competent.

  5. machinery

    Sorry but Jody Stephens is possibly the best part about Big Star. I would posit that it’s harder and more special to lope about the beat then merely stay on it. The guy’s perfectly timed fills make the sad songs sad and the rock songs rock. I have to say I am totally amazed that anyone in these hallowed halls would call his drumming into question. Truly amazed. I might turn in my membership.

  6. misterioso

    Yeah, man, if only Big Star had a better drummer, they might’ve made a couple of good records. Probably they shoulda hired Carmine Appice.

  7. misterioso

    And if The Jam had had Steve White they might’ve rocked as hard as The Style Council, I imagine.

  8. hrrundivbakshi

    Misterioso said:

    Yeah, man, if only Big Star had a better drummer, they might’ve made a couple of good records. Probably they shoulda hired Carmine Appice.

    I say:


  9. hrrundivbakshi

    Rick Buckler is a good call for sure. RTH Labs have a project in the works to illustrate the Buckler Challenge!

  10. Misterioso,

    I agree with you completely. Big Star definitely needed a better drummer. As a matter of fact, they needed a better everything. Package “In The Street”/”17″/”September Girls”/”India” into a greatest hits EP and drag the rest to the curb. They are thee most overrated act of all time.

    E. Pluribus

  11. Bill Ward from Black Sabbath and Ralph Molina from Crazy Horse are pretty incompetant, but i guess they get the job done

  12. hrrundivbakshi

    “The India Song”?! You are a strange one, E! I swear, I’ll never figure you out.

  13. It’s laughably awful which is why I love it to death.

    E. Pluribus

  14. BigSteve

    I don’t get what’s wrong with Jody Stephens. Back of a Car is my all time favorite Big Star song, and it’s full of glorious drum fills.

    Maybe he’s too Southern for you guys. 😉

  15. Mr. Moderator

    Hey, a few people who like Big Star don’t dig Jody Stephens. I don’t have a big problem with him. No one’s asking you to either. I don’t think it’s right for some of you to tear apart other people’s opinions, man. Not really, but Ralph Molina really sucks. Does Neil Young’s music even need a drummer and bassist? Isn’t he touring solo, accompanied by nothing but his electric guitar? I bet it doesn’t sound too different than him with Crazy Horse:)

  16. misterioso

    E. Pluribus wrote: “[Big Star is] thee [sic] most overrated act of all time.”

    And on top of that they had way fewer Top 40 hits than Herman’s Hermits.

  17. trigmogigmo

    For me, what fits the bill is:

    BAND: Tom Petty
    DRUMMER: Jeff Lynne’s programming or over/underdubbing or sampling or quantizing or whatever the hell he did, on the “Full Moon Fever” and “Into the Great Wide Open” albums.

    Both albums exhibit this throughout. (Phil Jones and Stan Lynch are credited, respectively, but it ain’t them doing wrong here.) The drum tracks just suck the rhythmic life out of too many of the songs. The drums are too perfect timing-wise, and lifeless. Somehow the songs still succeed (the better ones), sometimes powerfully, but those would be positively epic with a decent real drummer. I’ll give you a couple of examples from each album, where I feel it the worst:
    “Runnin’ Down a Dream” / ” I Won’t Back Down”
    “Learning to Fly” / “You And I Will Meet Again”

    “Runnin’ Down a Dream” is one I dearly love. It rocks, great riff, Mike Campbell gets a deserved minute-and-a-quarter-long wailing solo to the fade out, etc. But it misses reaching the last 2% to all-time awesomeness due to the clockwork tick-tick-tick drum track.

  18. mockcarr

    Bill Berry of REM. He often drags, and not in a behind the beat way, plays some inappropriate, clanky fills, some of his patterns are bad choices like that discoey thing in the verses of HarborCoat that sets my teeth on edge, for instance.

    He goes whole songs without adding the extra kick drum hit, making the band sound like they’re doing a slow polka.

    I enjoy the drumming on Big Star albums, it pushes the question how far can you go off the beat and still move the song forward another notch.

  19. I adore Jody’s drumming. It’s PERECT for Big Star. But it is odd and awkward, just like the entire band. It fits just right.

    I, personally, couldn’t play to it.

    Keep in mind, I also took years to decide if Keith Moon was GREAT. So what do I know?

    I’ve always thought Bill Berry was accurate. He doesn’t astound, but he plays in all the right places. The drummer for Queen is like that for me, too. Precise drumming.


  20. bostonhistorian

    “I adore Jody’s drumming. It’s PERFECT for Big Star. But it is odd and awkward, just like the entire band. It fits just right.”

    I think this hits the nail on the head. My wife did movie p.r. for a while and worked with an actor who had been nominated twice for an Academy Award but who had also been in some really terrible movies. When asked about the dichotomy, he said he was always happy if the film “worked on the level for which it was intended”. That may seem like a cop out, but it’s the way I always think of Jody Stephens’s drumming. It’s certainly preferable to Jeff Lynne’s human metronome style of production.

    And E. Pluribus, if you sub in “Oh My Soul” for “The India Song” on that EP, I’ll take that over the entire Rolling Stones catalog any day of the week, and that’s not hyperbole.

  21. 2000 Man

    Something really traumatic must have happened to you to think a Big Star ep would even measure up to a Rolling Stones B side (and I like Big Star a lot). I’ll pray to Elton John for you.

  22. BigSteve

    Buddy Miles in Band of Gypsies.

  23. I take issue with including Chris Mars. In the early thrash days, he holds a rapid tempo and doesn’t get much space to show off. For later stuff, I think he handles shuffle beats (Kiss Me on the Bus) and brushes (Nightclub Jitters) pretty well. Westerberg was not above kicking someone out of the band who couldn’t hack it.

    Both Berry and Stephens were pretty idiosyncratic and sometimes Stephens is kind of awkward.

  24. And I have one – actually two. Both Mickey Finn and later drummer Will Legend do nothing for T. Rex. Finn’s bongos on their cover of Summertime Blues are awful. And Legend’s entrances into even well-known songs like Jeepster and The Slider are clunky. It says something when a band’s best percussion moments are handclaps.

  25. misterioso

    What all of this seems to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, in case it needed further proof, is that a band can have a sub-par drummer or bassist or whatever and still be a great band providing the material and the overall je ne sais quoi is on a very high level.

    The obverse is also true. A band can consist of players who are individually beyond reproach as musicians and still completely suck.

  26. Agree with the Rick Buckler choice and I always liked Mitch Mitchel WAY more than Buddy Miles–whenever you hear Mitch even tap a drum, you know it’s him. Which is why I like Ringo too, his style is so distinctive. But I digress….

    My Pick: now I’m not a big Nirvana fan but all I can say is I’m glad Dave Grohl has moved on to guitar. I find his drumming irritating because it’s so precise. He sounds like a damn machine with hardly any fills. Ick.

  27. alexmagic

    My wife did movie p.r. for a while and worked with an actor who had been nominated twice for an Academy Award but who had also been in some really terrible movies.

    Ben Kingsley?

    The obverse is also true. A band can consist of players who are individually beyond reproach as musicians and still completely suck.

    Oats and I led a loud, probably obnoxious discussion that hinged on this point recently regarding which members of the supergroup Chickenfoot were the worst to least worst, and I had some support that Joe Satriani was the worst because of the theoretical talent-to-output ratio. I believe the metaphor we settled on was “imagine someone was a brilliant surgeon, and yet every patient they ever operated on died on the table.”

  28. machinery

    All this Big Star debate allowed me to go back through the entire catalog and listen from start to finish. Except for maybe one or two awful songs, I think their batting average is astonishingly high. (And the drumming is seriously amazing.) I can’t say that for almost any other band. I mean consider the filler on a typical Stones album. I guess it’s good they ended when/how they did. Except for Bach’s Bottom, I can’t stomach Solo Chilton may he RIP.

  29. The power of RTH in that it can encourage one to go back and enjoy the music they love OR introduce one to something new.

    I recently revisited Fleetwood Mac, thanks to a recent thread, and damn near rewrote “Go Your Own Way”. Luckily, I caught myself.

    Like Flies On Sherbert is a weird trip.


  30. I agree about Big Star’s batting average. Almost everything from their first two albums and about half of the third album is outstanding in my book.

    And some of Jody’s ideas are good, but some just sounds like the kind of overplaying that you expect to hear from a novice player who still hasn’t figured out when to hold back a bit. Also, his time keeping is very dodgy. Play September Gurls and then immediately hit replay and listen to the difference in tempo.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want some kind of robotic, Max Weinberg-esque, drum machine behind the kit. I want some feel to the drumming. But I have my limits.

    When I saw them in Brooklyn last fall, it was shocking how amateurish his drumming sounded. I don’t expect or want Steely Dan caliber drumming from most bands but he is particularly inconsistent.

  31. Peter Criss was pretty mediocre.

    Wait, all of KISS is pretty mediocre…

  32. Mr. Moderator

    I like a my share of Cream, but to this day I have trouble figuring out whether Ginger Baker is half as good as long advertised and, more importantly, whether my not liking his drumming has more to do with his playing, which is loaded with sludge, or the production of his drums, which is loaded with even more sludge.

  33. Stewart Copeland is the most overrated drummer in one of the most overrated bands to ever set foot onto a stage. People act as if this guy’s a rhythm god, but his sense of time sucks. Just because he has a billion drums and other percussion doo-hickeys surrounding him, it doesn’t mean he knows how to use them to any great effect.

    Larry Mullins in U2 sounds like he’s been playing virtually the same drum part on nearly every song since that band’s first record.

  34. Oops! “bands you like”…Missed that part. Sorry. Shouldn’t post things at 5:30 am.

  35. Alex Van Halen ruins most of Van Halen’s song when Sammy isn’t already. His monotonous cymbal squashing sounds like some neanderthal with no sense of dynamics. His snare sounds like a sorely beaten misplaced tom. Mr. Moderator might you start a similar thread @ bands whose vocalist suck with suggestions for replacement-for example- How much better Rush would sound if Geddy Lee stuck to just bass and let Ric Emmet take the mic?

  36. Mr. Moderator

    Ahoy, capt, mydnyte! I’m not a big fan of Van Halen, but your critique of Alex’s drumming sounds right to me. Good point, too, about the vocalist thing. We might have to run that thread, if we haven’t done something similar in the last years (for some reason I’m imagining a slew of Townspeople claiming that The Doors would be much better without Jim Morrison, whom I’ve come to believe was just right for that band).

    Don’t be a stranger, my friend!

  37. Ooh, gotta take issue with the Stewie Copeland. I don’t know from god of rhythm, but he’s got an idiosyncratic style and good coordination. A really nice, minimalistic and melodic drummer.

    My all time nemesis of drums is that dude from Primus.

  38. Not a band, but if anybody is familiar with David Garza, his second major-label album, Overdub, has some totally shitty drumming. I don’t know who decided the the drummer from Living Colour would be a good match, but the guy plays so many stupid little cymbal bell “ding-a-lings” and half-open-hi-hat things (over here, we call these invasive drum doodlings “Weckling,”). I am a drummer and I hate hate hate that shit.

  39. hrrundivbakshi

    Oh, MAN. I just realized who the absolute worst drummer in an otherwise great band is: Snowy White from the Easybeats.

    There’s been a lot of mudslinging around here about Jody Stephens and his supposed inability to keep a beat, but — let me tell you — that is absolutely true as far as Snowy was concerned. He was TERRIBLE.

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