Feb 152013

We received a note from Steve Gadd‘s people informing us that he was a little bummed to have received no consideration, to date, in our ongoing discussion to determine—once and for allRock’s Greatest White Afro. The final paragraph of the note is worth sharing with our readers:

Although Steve would have been honored by the Hall’s consideration, he understands he would have been no match for his fellow drummer (and his personal selection) Sib Hashian. On Valentine’s Day, may we suggest that you run another thread to settle—once and for all—another age-old question: Rock’s Most Essential Drum Intro; that is, the one drum intro that is most essential to the success of the song that follows. Steve’s intro to Paul Simon‘s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” has got to rank among the Top 5 most essential drum intros in all of rock, possibly only challenged for the top spot by the intro to The Rolling Stones‘ “Honky Tonk Women.” Another Stones song to consider might be “Get Off My Cloud.” Would that song ever get off the ground without that intro? We ask that you bring this topic to your readers for them to determine—once and for all!

So there you have it, without the aid of an RTH People’s Poll, let’s determine—once and for all—the Most Essential Drum Intro in Rock, beginning with “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” and “Honky Tonk Women.”

What is rock's most essential drum intro?

  • The Ronettes, "Be My Baby" (29%, 12 Votes)
  • Led Zeppelin, "When the Levee Breaks" (17%, 7 Votes)
  • The Rolling Stones, "Honky Tonk Women" (17%, 7 Votes)
  • Iggy Pop, "Lust for Life" (14%, 6 Votes)
  • Sweet, "Ballroom Blitz" (12%, 5 Votes)
  • Paul Simon, "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" (7%, 3 Votes)
  • Elvis Costello & The Attractions, "This Year's Girl" (2%, 1 Votes)
  • The Clash, "I Fought the Law" (2%, 1 Votes)
  • Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, "Going to a Go-Go" (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 42

Loading ... Loading ...

Previously, you may recall, we suggested “50 Ways…” is a recipient of a Most Valuable Drum Part (MVDP) award.


  43 Responses to “Once and For All: Rock’s Most Essential Drum Intro”

  1. “Train In Vain”


  2. “Rock and Roll” JHBonham


  3. Going To A Go-Go by Smokey & The Miracles featuring the immortal Benny Benjamin!


    Benjamin & James Jamerson may not have had a lot of creativity when it came to names but this opening gets my vote for the greatest opening of any song any time anywhere.

  4. Canned Heat, “Let’s Work Together”. End of.

  5. alexmagic

    Gotta throw “Be My Baby” and “Hot For Teacher” into the mix.

  6. diskojoe

    I’m voting for “Jailhouse Rock”

  7. misterioso

    “Like a Rolling Stone” and “When the Levee Breaks.”

  8. hrrundivbakshi

    For some reason the intro to “Revolution Rock” is the one I always tap out on the desk during boring work meetings.

  9. mockcarr

    I bet the one the most people have done is Queen’s We Will Rock You. As a young impressionable child at a sporting event you are encouraged to stomp and clap that one out before you even have a choice!

  10. mockcarr

    Dunno if I’d vote for it but Grand Funk’s We’re An American Band has to be in there I’d think.

  11. That may jump into the lead. That song is NOTHING without that beat.

  12. bostonhistorian

    I’m not sure who invented that beat, but yeah, it’s essential.

  13. BigSteve

    I thought that was handclaps and stomping feet or something? That sound is made by drums?

  14. bostonhistorian

    Bobby Fuller Four’s “I Fought the Law” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgtQj8O92eI does it for me, but the Clash’s intro might be even better: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsS0cvTxU-8

    And check out the funky beat on the Cricket’s original: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTZO1F0kfzw

  15. pudman13

    The most esssential drum intro ever is “Be My Baby.” All of rock and roll was spawned right there. As to personal choices, “Lust For Life” and “Do You Remember Rock N Roll Radio” were big ones in my punk youth but my pick for best is XTC’s “Travels In Nihilon.”

  16. BigSteve

    Elvis Costello & the Attractions had the good sense to take the drumbeat from Ticket To Ride and make it the intro to This Year’s Girl.

  17. bostonhistorian

    And don’t forget any Cheap Trick live version of Ain’t That A Shame…. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ye4U7Qp5sNU

  18. saturnismine

    I call “lame” on We Will Rock You as an entry. Those aren’t drums. They’re foot stomps and claps, multiple tracks of them, which Brian May then gave various reverb times based on an algorithm. It’s not a drum intro. It’s a hell of an intro, but it’s not drums.

  19. saturnismine

    I like “Little Miss Lover” as a fantastic drum intro.

  20. BigSteve

    Which reminds me that we can’t forget Peggy Sue. Even though there are guitar chords too, that reverb cutting in and out on the drums in the intro is classic.

    I don’t see how you can beat Be My Baby for iconic though.

  21. The rat-a-tat-tat intro of “Sunday, Bloody Sunday”


  22. And along the lines of “song is nothing without that beat,” I dismissed it after consideration as being not so much an intro but the song itself. Sort of like voting the strumming of “My Sweet Lord” as an essential guitar intro. Undeniable and indelible? Yeah! Essential drum intro? Not for my vote


  23. bostonhistorian

    I can’t think of any earlier examples of that Be My Baby intro…it might just be the Ur beat….

  24. mockcarr

    See, even you are used to the crowd version!

  25. I had not considered that. The intro to “We Will Rock You” is DISQUALIFIED! Shame on me for getting behind it!

  26. And their doing that has subjected me to a lifetime of having my dear old friend and bandmate Andyr suggest we use that beat to kick off almost EVERY SONG I have ever brought to our band to learn!

  27. Yes, the Phil Spector beat kicking off “Be My Baby” has to be in the running.

  28. Suburban kid

    With so many Clash songs mentioned, might as well thrown in Janie Jones and Jail Guitar Doors.

  29. Suburban kid

    When the Levee Breaks

  30. Bronzed Nordic God

    You gotta admit the intro to The Shaggs: My Pal Foot Foot really sets the stage for what follows.

  31. “My Sharona”


  32. “Superstition”


  33. You know, I was vaguely aware that Sonny Curtis played with the Crickets and I definitely knew he wrote that song, but I had NO IDEA the Crickets recorded it before Bobby Fuller Four! Weird to hear the song without that rolling beat.

    I was just watching a tv show to which Curtis made a MAJOR contribution. Here’s a Curtis single of the show’s theme song that was supposedly released in 1970 and that the YouTube poster taped off my hometown’s beloved AM radio station, WFIL:


  34. “Surrender” too!


  35. machinery

    I am MORTIFIED that no one has mentioned Ballroom Blitz.

    Sets up the whole song as well as the fun shout out intro.

    Oh the shame …

  36. That’s a great one. I think we’re ready to pare down entries and post an RTH Poll. Stay tuned.

  37. hrrundivbakshi

    “Low Rider” by War.

  38. Actually, let’s blame its oversight on the fact that it’s a full percussion-section introduction.

  39. 2000 Man

    That was the first thing that came to my mind. Honky Tonk Women seems more like most essential cowbell to me. But the drums at the beginning of We’re an American Band were designed to give you enough time to turn up the volume before the guitars started, for maximum Lunkheaded effect.

  40. I’m convinced by the Ronettes arguments, but I originally thought of “Bell Boy” and Keith Moon’s intro to his own character song on Quad.

  41. Suburban kid

    I voted for Lust for Life, but I could just have easily gone for When the Levee Breaks or Be My Baby..

  42. And you know, at the last minute I changed to Be My Baby. Go-Go is still the best but if the title is “essential” I had to change.

Lost Password?

twitter facebook youtube