Andy Richardson: Drum up support and stick with the best
Oh God. Not the drummer. Not the bloomin’ drummer.
Here at Weekend Towers, we spend half our lives – or more – on the phone to Funella, Penelope and Gregory trying to bring you the best names. Half the time, we exceed the brief. David Walliams. Boom. John Legend. UK Exclusive. Ker-pow. Noel Gallagher. Splat. Paul Weller. Ring-a-ding-ding. Sir Rod Flippin’ Stewart. Yowzers. Sir Cameron ‘Billionaire West End Impressario’ Mackintosh. OMG. Anyone Who’s Ever Been On Strictly. Delightful. And Lord Nodward Holder of Sladeshire. Ladies and Gentleman, we thank you.
But occasionally we make a call and Funella says: “A Lister is busy being massaged in Mauritius on Wednesday, but we could get you the drummer.”
Drummers don’t make covers. Of course they don’t. John Bonham and Keith Moon might have been the exceptions, God rest their rock’n’roll souls. But if you’ve got the choice between Ringo and John or Paul, or between Charlie Watts and Mick or Keef, you’re always going to go with the one who holds the microphone or the guitar.
Jeremy Stacey is a brilliant, brilliant musician – and a mighty fine wearer of bowler hats and boiler suits to boot – but if there’s a cover to be designed, every single one of you would rather look at Noel Gallagher’s Mancunian face than Jeremy’s bearded mug. Which is perfectly understandable.
But when it comes to telling tales, Jeremy – like others in the stick-smashing fraternity – would have more than his fair share of tales. Because in addition to working with the talented half of Oasis, he’s also kept the beat for Robbie Williams, Sheryl Crow, Eurythmics, Andrea Bocelli, Ryan Adams, The Waterboys and lord knows who else. Imagine the stories he’s got to tell you. Imagine the things he’s seen from the back of his drum riser. Think about what he’s witnessed in the dressing rooms or back at the hotel.
Drummers are a much-maligned breed. Overlooked and under-valued, they’re viewed as the pot washer rather than the chef, the bag carrier rather than the VIP.
But while drummers might not have been sprinkled with the same celebrity stardust that frontmen and women have, when it comes to telling stories, they’re the best of the bunch. They don’t have an image to protect – man, sticks, stool, that’s them – so they’re less guarded and more likely to spill. They seldom get any attention, so they’re glad of a chat – life gets lonely when you’ve only got cymbals and a hi-hat for company. They are the three Michelin-starred chefs of chat, the Oscar-winning, Grammy-smashing bards of raconteurism.
Not convinced? Fine. Then take a couple of old-stagers who’ve been around the block so many times they’ve grown dizzy.
Clem Burke is a name familiar with 17 of you – and you’ve all got an original vinyl copy of Parallel Lines. Clem hails from New Jersey and joined Blondie in 1975. He’s never left. And when the band went into meltdown, he got himself another gig, playing with Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, Eurythmics, Nancy Sinatra, Pete Townshend, Ramones and a few reprobates in a band called the Sex Pistols. What he hasn’t seen doesn’t exist. What he hasn’t heard, isn’t worth hearing. So while the androgynous and mighty Debbie – or is it Deborah – Harry might be too busy appearing in one of her 60 films, voicing a video game or writing a book; or while Debbie might have to think ‘Hmm, that’s not cool, I’d better not say that’, Clem can spout forth on everything she’s ever done as well as providing the lowdown on the world’s best Nobel Prize-winning singer/songwriter.
Or, conversely, while the greatest of them all, David Bowie, has left as many unanswered questions as he has extraordinary music, his old drummer, Woody Woodmansey, can fill in some of the blanks. Because he was in the room when The Thin White Duke recorded The Man Who Sold the World, Hunky Dory, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and Aladdin Sane. He knows better than anyone what it’s liked to be plucked from obscurity to be dressed in a pair of platform shoes, plonked before a bowl full of cocaine and have more groupies than there are sheep in a New Zealand field gather at the dressing room door. And – because he doesn’t face journalist’s inquisitions – he’s more than happy to talk about it. Why wouldn’t he?
Drummers rock. Quite literally. They know the stories. They know where the bodies are buried, to coin a phrase. And they don’t mind the chat.
Hang on. A call’s come through. There’s a band playing at Birmingham Arena in a couple of weeks. The singer’s too busy having an Una Brennan’s Skinceuticals Facial to talk and will then have to feed his Japanese nettle jellyfish before vaping nitrogeon-dried hibiscus leaf tobacco. But they’ve offered us the drummer. . . Cool. We’re in.