June 1 – Joyce Fans First Choice…Even If Not Moz’s

Well, he’s probably not getting a card from Stephen Morrissey today but we don’t care – we’ll wish Mike Joyce a happy birthday! The drummer from The Smiths turns 61 today.

Joyce, like the rest of the band, grew up in Manchester but like Andy Rourke, he wasn’t friends with Morrissey and Johnny Marr initially, which may have led to some of the famous discord within the remnants of the band later on. Marr and Morrissey actually used a drummer called Simon Wolstencroft on their first recording session; lucky for Joyce, Wolstencroft didn’t want to join the band. He’d later go on to be a member of The Fall. Which meant auditions for a new drummer, and Joyce was the pick. He was a full Smith in time for their first actual recording session when they had a contract and was thus the only drummer in their discography. As Music Radar correctly pointed out, “he wasn’t a flashy player, but his bits were absolutely vital to the music.” And he learned on the job, so to speak. He says, “when I started playing, I had three styles of playing : fast & loud, faster & louder, and fastest & loudest. (being in) The Smiths was a shock.”

Even though the band broke up in 1987 with a lot of acrimony between the two front men, Joyce remained on good terms with Morrissey… briefly. He actually played on a couple of Moz’s singles, including “The Last of The Famous International Playboys.” But Morrissey got irked, and said of Joyce as well as Andy Rourke, “the unhappy past descend(ed) on me each time I hear their voice” so he stopped using them on his records. And that was before the courts got involved.

Not employed by The Smiths nor Morrissey, Joyce did some work on Julian Cope’s successful album Peggy Suicide, and drummed for the Buzzcocks. But then he, and his pal Andy Rourke, went over some bank statements, it would seem and decided they were being ripped off by the two front men of The Smiths. They sued, with Joyce seemingly being the most determined and aggressive in the battle. They sued Marr and Morrissey for an equal share of performance royalties (which differ from the songwriting ones) and won. Marr paid Joyce something in the range of 475 000 pounds (about $1.5M today) and that was that. Not so the Moz, who paid Joyce some, then appealed. He lost and then failed to show up for court when Joyce added another suit, and the drummer ended up getting over 600 000 pounds from the singer. Last decade Morrissey complained that “because of the default judgments, he continues to take my royalties.” Showing once again, a good business lawyer can be as vital to a band as a good drummer or record producer.

Joyce has been in a few bands this century including one called Vinny Peculiar, with Bonehead, ex-of Oasis in it, and hosted live music nights at Manchester bars for some time. But now he is married and says “my clubbing days are pretty much over.” He watches his beloved Manchester City football games and works as an online radio host. He also loves to cook and has appeared on British food shows. His particular favorite, Indian vegetarian meals. He recommends The Sanskruti restaurant should you ever end up in Manchester.

Oh, and is favorite band from his city? Hold onto your hats… it’s not The Smiths. He picks The Buzzcocks, “my reason for wanting to play the drums in the first place.” He says he was “fortunate and honored” to play with them.


May 1 – Mick’s Financial Mayday

The old adage “be careful what you wish for, you might get it” seemed to ring true for Mick Fleetwood this day in 1984. It took a decade, but the band he started and at times even managed, Fleetwood Mac, had conquered the world by 1977, when their Rumours album came out and became one of the pillars of modern rock music. It sold ten million copies in its first year, produced four huge singles, spent a remarkable 31 weeks at #1 on American charts and vaulted the group into a headlining touring act that would sell out football stadiums. So you’d think the members would be pretty well set for life wouldn’t you? Turns out they weren’t, as Fleetwood himself filed for bankruptcy on that day 39 years back. The court papers showed he listed assets of about $2.4 million but debts nearing $3.7 million.”There’s not enough money coming in to keep the boat floating,” he stated matter-of-factly.

Of course, perhaps he had expected the Rumours-level success to carry on indefinitely; as we know the follow-up, the over-the-top double album Tusk sold only a fraction of its predecessor but cost more to make (although both it and the ’82 album Mirage have sold over five million copies, which isn’t half bad) and spent accordingly. He apparently got huge advances from Warner Bros. before each of those two albums which meant he ended up getting little or no royalties from them when they came out. That was heightened by the fact that he wrote almost none of their songs at all (“The Chain” is actually the only one for which he has even a co-credit on) so he got a little less in royalties than the other members. But the bottom line was Mick made a few dumb monetary decisions.

During the Rumours era, the band was notorious for their excessive cocaine use, and according to Famous Daily, his “party lifestyle and cocaine addiction” played a big part in his financial troubles. They say he admitted to spending some $8M on coke. His lawyer however, disputed that saying “Mick loves great drums, beautiful women, and magnificent pieces of real estate. But he is not on the classic sense on the Beverly Hills diet – champagne and cocaine.”

Whether or not he was, it was also undeniable that he’d bought real estate inopportunely. He bought a house in Australia only to find it “unmanageable, impractical and too … far away”, and sold it for a fraction of what he’d paid for it. He bought a huge Malibu house, which he dubbed “the blue whale”, at an exorbitant 17% interest rate. And he’d put over half a million dollars into an oil well which produced nothing. Perhaps Mick expected Rumours to keep selling ten million a year and that royalties just “Don’t Stop.”

So a trustee came in to “take possession of everything Mr. Fleetwood owns and sell it and make a distribution to creditors and the tax people.” Years later Mick said “you pay off what debts you can, you do what you’re told by your accountant. I carried on like nothing happened. “

Happily for him, he’s by all accounts kicked his cocaine use and has stayed fit enough to keep drumming and touring until the recent death of Christine McVie, with him now 75. Just goes to show, even the rock and roll fantasy life is reined in by the realities of everyday life. And that might make you a bit better if that credit card company is calling you to tell you you’re late with your $100 payment!

April 27 – Drum God? Who Are We To Argue With Modern Drummer?

We’ve previously talked of perhaps the greatest session drummer of all-time, Hal Blaine of the informal “Wrecking Crew” in L.A. He played on thousands of hits in the ’60s and ’70s and was one of the most respected men in the biz. If anyone could have been said to take over the “studio king” crown from Blaine, it would be today’s birthday boy, Jim Keltner. Keltner turns 81 today…but don’t bet against him doing a little jam behind the kit nonetheless! How else would a drummer who was friends with three out of four Beatles and has worked with everyone from the Rolling Stones to Diana Kraal celebrate?

Jim was born in Tulsa but like so many other mid-century musicians, moved to California as soon as he had a chance. Unlike some, his passion as a youth was jazz music, but by the time he started being paid to play, jazz wasn’t that big anymore. Rock and pop were the way to go, so there went Keltner. His first session was in 1965 for Gary Lewis & the Playboys. Soon after that he joined a psychedelic rock band, the MC Squared. Although they got to play on the short-lived Playboy After Dark TV show, their career didn’t amount to very much. So, wisely it would seem, he turned his attention to being a session drummer for better-established artists.

Luckily for him, he was friends with fellow Oklahoman Leon Russell. Russell opened a few doors for Jim… but a friend like that will only get you in for a coffee. It was clearly Jim’s talent that kept him there and opening more.

He got on Joe Cocker’s 1970 tour, and that along with his friendship with Russell drew George Harrison’s attention. Harrison brought him in for the Concert for Bangladesh, in which he split drum duties with another pretty good one – Ringo Starr! He did well enough that Harrison would call on him again and again, including on the Living in the Material World album and even playing the judge in a video he made for “This Song” and later when Harrison became a Traveling Wilbury. Keltner played on a number of their songs under the pseudonym Buster Sidebury.

Apparently Ringo took note too, because he used Keltner on his self-titled album (the biggest of his career) and hired him for the All Starr Band at times. And not to be left out, John Lennon also used Keltner on records including Walls & Bridges and his #1 hit song “Whatever Gets You Through the Night.”

All that attention from Beatles couldn’t help but increase his profile and it seemed like he showed up on the Who’s Who of California musicians and Cali-made records in the ’70s. Carly Simon, Bob Dylan (including “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”, a song for which he remembers “the first time I actually cried while playing”), Barbra Streisand, Canadian folkies Valdy and Bruce Cockburn, the Buckingham Nicks album that got those two into Fleetwood Mac, Bill Withers, five Joe Cocker ones, Steely Dan (he added some percussion via garbage can lid to “Josie”) even Tom Petty & the Hearbreakers Damn the Torpedoes. That continued into the ’80s, with him working on albums by the likes of Don Henley, Jackson Browne, Crowded House, Marshall Crenshaw, Roy Orbison, the aforementioned Wilburys, the Beach Boys big “comeback” and more. The ’90s meant working with Melissa Etheridge, Indigo Girls, Neil Young and touring with him and later a re-formed CSNY. In 2016, he helped aging Charlie Watts along some on the Rolling Stones Blue & Lonesome. To this day he’s kept himself busy, in 2020 (at age 78) he did the percussion for a Japanese manga movie!

Despite his low-profile, he’s been noticed by people in the know. Even Forbes magazine mentioned him, calling him “one of the best studio drummers in the world.” Rolling Stone had him at #38 on their list of greatest drummers of all-time, noting he’d been on literally “thousands of records”, making it seem easy with his “easy-going feel and jazz schooled subtlety” to which he replied “there’s so many different ways to play the drums, just like guitar.” Modern Drummer also have him on their list of the best, calling him one of the “greats” – “inarguably a true studio drum god” working with “simple but magical performances” and occasionally using “kitchen utensils”. Their summary of him is a perfect way to finish here – “”a rare music legend who is as vital today as when he first made his mark.”

March 3 – Ant Music Apparently Had A Pretty Good Beat

Focusing on the “oldest” form of music – drumming – and the “newest” (electronics) has long been the passion of today’s birthday boy, Chris Hughes. The Brit turns 69 today.

His interest in drums and percussion started early on, when he was a youngster and loved The Beatles and Rolling Stones, like so many of his counterparts. He got himself his first drum kit at 13 and a couple of years later he took a job in a record store, which exposed him to more music… and gave him money to build his own recording studio in his bedroom. Around that time his fascination with electronics in music began to take root.

He had his first job playing doing some drums for a solo Alex Chilton record in 1978. That caught the attention of CBS Records who thought he’d be perfect as a member of Adam Ant’s band after the first group of “Ants” had left for other pursuits. Adam agreed grudgingly and soon Hughes was on board to drum on and produce their two big albums, Kings of the Wild Frontier and Prince Charming. Although Adam didn’t keep him around when he went solo, his work had earned him a big reputation in the British new wave field. He worked with Tears For Fears, producing their stellar debut The Hurting and then came back for their next, the smash Songs from the Big Chair. Not only did he produce the album, and add percussion to several tracks, he co-wrote the hits “Head Over Heels” and “Everybody Wants To Rule the World,” a song he had to convince Roland Orzabel to keep on the disc!

After personality conflicts led him away from Tears for Fears, he kept busy in the ’80s contributing to hits for Wang Chung (where he co-produced their breakthrough, Points on A Curve), Propoganda, Ric Ocasek and Howard Jones. He added percussion and produced Jones two late-’80s hits, “The Prisoner” and “Everlasting Love.”

His workload has slowed since then, but he has at times still worked with some of those artists as well as Paul McCartney and has dabbled in his own brand of music with two albums. the first, 1994’s Shift won good reviews, but falling somewhere between classical, new age and electronica, failed to find a commercial niche.

Little’s been written about his life outside the studio but he apparently still resides in Britain, with three kids.

February 3 – Being Fired By Friend The Cure For Problems? Maybe, Lol

Happy birthday to one of the creators of some of rock’s gloomiest music. One who happens to be fairly upbeat and “peaceful” – Lol Tolhurst turns 64 today. If Robert Smith is the face and most of the brains behind The Cure, Tolhurst was for years his right hand, being one of the band’s founders, original drummer and frequent assistant producer.

Laurence Tolhurst grew up in Surrey, England and met Robert Smith on, or around, their first day of school when both were five. They became lifelong friends. Almost. By 1973, when they were just 14, they’d formed their first band, Obelisk. That had some members come and go, and changed to a punk outfit called Malice briefly, before heading towards a then-new Goth sound under the name The Easy Cure…which was a title of a song Tolhurst wrote. They got signed to a division of Polydor, Fiction Records, dropped the “easy” from their name and were on their way, putting out their first album, Three Imaginary Boys, in 1979. It wasn’t a smash but along with the controversial debut single “Killing an Arab” (written about a dark novel by Camus, although interpreted incorrectly by a number of people as being anti-Islamic) it got them noticed and by 1980, their second album, Seventeen Seconds made the British top 20 and they began a string of singles that did well there and in New Zealand, including “Boys Don’t Cry” and “Let’s Go to Bed.” In the early days of the band, Lol co-wrote most of the songs and played drums; but by 1984 – when their popularity was really taking off – Lol had been put on keyboards and Smith had taken over almost all the writing. Perhaps this was the beginning of a problem, as recently Tolhurst told a journalist “in the end drums are my true loves, because they are so visceral.” It also probably didn’t help that they’d gone from playing small nightclubs to soccer stadiums (soon they’d be selling out 20 000 seat venues even in North America); he says he feels most comfortable in 1000-2000 seat venues. “Too small gets scary, where the people are very close,” but he didn’t like playing hundreds of yards away from the faceless crowds either.

Whatever the reason, he became disgruntled and turned to the bottle and 1987’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me was the last album he really contributed to. He began the sessions for 1989’s Disintegration, but was said to be so argumentative and drunk the other members gave Smith an ultimatum – he goes or we do. Tolhurst was thus fired and replaced by Roger O’Donnell, who’d been with the Psychedelic Furs, and apparently the mood changed. “I remember very clearly laughing and joking around and fooling around in the control room,” O’Donnell said about the Lol-less recording sessions. Disintegration went on to be their biggest album, and although Tolhurst was still listed in the credits, it’s reported that he only contributed to one song.

Being fired by his lifelong friend sobered him up though, literally. He began another band, Presence, which put out an album in ’93 but basically didn’t sell, sued Smith and Fiction Records unsuccessfully over alleged royalty shortings from the Cure records

but seemed to settle down and get to a better mindset. He moved to California, married his hairdresser Cindy Levinson, and started a band with her, Levinhurst. Although not overly successful commercially, they’ve had decent reviews over the course of their three albums and two EPs. Cindy is the vocalist while he plays most of the instruments and does most of the writing; of late their son Gray has been added as a guitarist. He says “I feel the years after The Cure have been most important because they represent me growing up into real life.” He did reconcile with his old friend though, and played a few concerts with the Cure again in 2011.

Along the way he wrote a book, Cured – the Tale of Two Imaginary Boys – about his Cure years and has started a podcast about post-punk rock, Curious Creatures. As for what lies ahead for him, he says “so many things on the horizon! Books, albums, films, TV,” but adding “I have a good existence now. Peaceful with my wife and son.”

Sounds like he found the cure for bleak gloominess.

January 25 – Green Kept Busy After Split From Enz

Happy 70th birthday to one of the drumming world’s anonymous greats – Malcolm Green. Green is mostly remembered for his time with Split Enz, but has done quite a bit more although, unfortunately for him, seems like he’s always been “one step ahead” (to borrow from one of the bigger hits he worked on) or perhaps behind in hitting it big.

Green’s British, but his most successful period was spent Down Under, in Australia. He began drumming professionally at age 16, and was in several British bands that did OK, but seemingly just after they’d peaked. Notably, The Honeycombs and The Love Affair, who had a #1 song there with “Everlasting Love” (later an American hit for Carl Carlton). It’s unclear when he was with them, but his name isn’t on the credits for that single.

Split Enz seemed to go through drummers something short of Spinal Tap’s rate but more frequently than most groups, and when they went looking again in 1976, the Finn brothers knew of Green and invited him. He moved to Australia and took the job and was the guy behind the kit for their growth years, in which they went from small-time Aussie successes to international stars. Particularly the 1980 True Colours album, with the single “I Got You.” The album was their first top 50 hit in the States and the UK, their first top 10 in Canada and their first chart-topper at home, both in Australia and New Zealand. He was given co-writing credits on one song on it, the instrumental “The Choral Sea”, but wanted more input. But Tim Finn had a problem with that, so after one more album (’81’s Waiata), he was fired unceremoniously.

After a seemingly half-hearted attempt to go solo, he bought a new house in a beautiful neighborhood of Sydney and built a studio in it – Green Sounds Music. It’s unusual in that it’s said to be entirely “wired to optimize utilizing different acoustic spaces”. Basically, you could play and record in any room! He then concentrated on producing artists in his home, though he did rejoin Split Enz briefly, for their 2005 induction into the Australian Music Hall of Fame and a few concerts the next year.

Green keeps a low profile these days. He seemingly is a spokesman for Roland drums, but he sold his studio to return to Britain in 2014.

So cheers to Malcolm. Not a Ringo Starr or Dave Grohl, but one of the many minor names that collectively are what keeps much of our music alive and kicking.

December 26 – Lars Raises A Racket On The Courts And Stage

Happy birthday to someone who helped shape popular music’s sound, and how we get to hear it – Lars Ulrich. The founder of Metallica turns 59 today…and came fairly close to being celebrated on a Tennis Day blog (if such a thing exists) rather than a music one.

Ulrich was born in Denmark, to an athletic family. His dad and grandfather were both fairly successful pro tennis players, and little Lars took after them. He was good – very good in fact. He quickly became one of his country’s finest players as a teenager, so he was sent off to southern California to study the sport at an academy. However being a top 10 in Denmark didn’t equate to being tournament-winning good in the U.S., so he had to give up his hopes of becoming a Wimbledon champ.

The other thing which really shaped Lars’ life was his dad taking him to a Deep Purple concert in Europe when he was just 9. Apparently this got him thinking about being a musician right then and there, and by 12 he was given a drum kit and started practicing making a racket as well as hitting balls with one! As luck would have it, he eventually got to be the one to induct Deep Purple into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Ulrich continued to live in California and listen to Deep Purple and their semi-soundalike, Diamond Head and play drums. In 1981 he placed an ad in a local paper saying “Drummer looking for other metal musicians to jam with.” Among those who responded was guitarist James Hetfield, with whom he started Metallica.

Hard rock bands were a dime a dozen then in California, but Metallica stood out. They were a little louder, a little faster, a little more menacing sounding. As the Rock and Roll Hall (into which they were inducted in 2009) note, “thrash metal would’ve remained a roiling underground phenomenon had it not been for Metallica… which favored head-banging riffs, soaring vocals and jackhammer drumming (and who) bent the mainstream to their will.”

That they did, despite early lack of airplay, they built a large and loyal fanbase in the ’80s with albums like their 1983 debut Kill ‘Em All and Justice For All and blew up as one of the biggest bands around with their self-titled 1991 album. That one, with a slightly more commercial and at times less frantic sound, went diamond status in both the U.S. and Canada and spawned their first real radio smashes, “Enter Sandman” and “Nothing Else Matters.” Although the band has surprisingly put out only 10 studio albums through their 35 years of recording, each of them has hit platinum status at home and thanks to their energetic shows, they remain one of the biggest concert draws around. A new album is scheduled for early in 2023, which would be their first in seven years.

Ulrich is certainly a competent drummer, and he was noted for being unusual in the band’s early days by using a nine-piece kit, two more than many, which included a double bass. Modern Drummer rank him as the 42nd greatest drummer ever (for the record, they consider Buddy rich best, followed by John Bonham) saying he “helped to create the thrash style of drumming.” However, his impact on – some would say service to – the music biz is well beyond that.

Say “Lars Ulrich” and the non-fan is probably going to think “Napster.” Because Metallica was the band which spearheaded the legal movement against that website in 2000, and Ulrich was their official spokesman. For those too young to remember, Napster was a website which sprung up in the ’90s and allowed people to post and share music files (mp3s) for free. Millions of people began downloading hundreds of millions of songs for free. Most artists were outraged, seeing their record sales dwindling. The industry took Napster to court, suing for copyright infringement, with Ulrich being their public face and even a witness testifying to the U.S. Senate. Metallica won an out of court settlement with the website, thousands of users were booted offline with some of the more egregious users being sued themselves (including a number of relatively poor college students which didn’t play out very well for the musicians in the public media) and Napster went bankrupt in 2002. It has since rebooted as a legitimate, paying service with about two million users who pay for their tunes.

Ulrich says he’s proud of the stance they took but acknowledges they might have been flogging a dead horse. “We didn’t know enough about the grassroots thing… we were just too stuck in our controlling ways of wanting to control everything that had to do with Metallica.” Like many others, they didn’t understand the field was changing and a whole generation was quickly being groomed to expect to be entertained for free… and the internet was a perfect vehicle for that to happen. The most successful would be those who manage to use that new reality to their own advantage.

When not hitting the skins, Ulrich likes to listen to jazz (surprisingly) and his friend Noel Gallagher’s Oasis, and watch soccer.No word on if he still follows tennis though. He also has a fine art collection many galleries would be envious of.

December 19 – When The Guitarist Married The Drummer

It’s a happy day for Carlos Santana; today marking his 12th anniversary. He was married for the second time on this day in 2010 in Hawaii, which isn’t so unusual. What was more unusual was he married another star musician, Cindy Blackman. Although in terms of celebrity cachet, the groom definitely outweighed the bride…unless you were a big jazz fan.

Carlos was at the time 63 and needed no introduction. By then he’d already put out 21 studio albums (under the Santana band name and his solo ones), 11 of which had been top 10 hits and included the 15X platinum Supernatural. He was widely regarded as one of the best and most innovative rock guitarists and already enshrined in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which lauded his “fusion of jazz, rock and Latin influences, built…into a hugely successful and lasting reign in the world of rock.” His first wife, Deborah had divorced him in 2007 after a 34 year marriage, citing “irreconcilable differences.”

Blackman was 51 and by that time a very well-respected jazz musician, being a drummer instrumentally but also a band-leader and producer. She’d received accolades in several jazz outfits but had made a bit of a name for herself in the rock world working with Lenny Kravitz. Although she only appeared on one Kravitz album (his 5 which included “Fly Away”) she’d been his regular touring drummer since 1993. Happily for the couple, Santana thought to add her to his touring entourage for a lengthy 2010 tour.

She seemed ideally suited to him, both with her somewhat diverse musical range and her personal beliefs. Like Santana, she is a very “spiritual” person, though not necessarily tied into one particular religion. At various times she’s identified herself as Baptist, Bahai and Kabbalah Jewish. “I believe that music is so sacred that once you’re playing, you are doing the work of prayer, whether you are conscious of it or not,” she says.

They obviously hit it off quickly, and about five months into the tour, he proposed to her on stage at the Hollywood Casino in Illinois, right after she finished a drum solo. As the tour wound down, they went to Maui to marry, getting hitched on this day that year at the Ritz Carlton. Originally scheduled to be an all-outdoor ceremony, Santana shifted it indoors because “the weather was kind of iffy and no matter where we did it, the sun was shining.” They and their 180 guests including Herbie Hancock (who’d worked with both in the past) shifted outdoors to release doves in the rain, of which she said “rain represents mercy. It couldn’t have been more beautiful.”

Clearly they love each other, but perhaps they figure the best recipe for success in matrimony is not being too involved in the other’s work. Although they quickly held an auction of some of his guitars and her drums to raise money for the children’s charity the Milagro Foundation, which he had begun, Carlos got his old touring drummer Dennis Chambers to do his next tour, although she contributed to his 2014 album Corazon. Meanwhile she’s kept busy working on various jazz album’s like her 2012 Spectrum Road, a tribute to drummer Tony Williams, in which she put together a foursome including bassist Jack Bruce (of Cream fame.)

When it comes to her unusual stature in jazz as a female band-leader, she says “if you let somebody stop you because of their opinions, then the only thing you’re doing is hurting yourself.” A philosophy her husband, a trail-blazer in music if ever there was one, would be sure to embrace.


July 14 – The Great Records And Troubled Times Of Jim

Hey, it’s your 77th birthday Jim Gordon, so in rememberence of all the great music you’ve given us, I suppose it’s appropriate enough to say “happy birthday”.

It’s a safe bet to suggest Gordon is an unknown name to a good percentage of readers, but a safer bet to suggest you know a number of the great records he’s played on…until 1983. Jim could just kill it with the drums, and with…well, we won’t go there. Suffice to say for a long time he was probably the second most in-demand session drummer in the U.S., behind only his friend and mentor Hal Blaine.

Jim was born and raised in the L.A. area, and learned drums and piano at a young age. He was actually offered a scholarship to UCLA for music, but declined so he could drop out of school and concentrate on being a professional musician. Which might have been an iffy idea, but in his case, worked out very well. Soon after that happened, he signed on to be the drummer for the Everly Brothers on a tour of theirs. He learned more from Hal Blaine in the studio and became a member of the unofficial, but prestigious “Wrecking Crew.” He got a few choice gigs in the ’60s, including working with Blaine drumming on the Beach Boys Pet Sounds.

His big break however, was likely touring with Delaney And Bonnie in 1969. With them he met Eric Clapton, who of course knew everybody in rock, it seemed, and was putting together a new band – Derek & The Dominos. He invited Jim to be their drummer, and Gordon did indeed play on their famous Layla, and Other Assorted Love Songs album…and is credited with co-writing, with Clapton, the timeless hit from the album, “Layla.” While “Slowhand” came up with the lyrics and striking guitar bits that open the song, Gordon’s said to have created the counter-melody that runs through the song and comes to the forefront with the piano work (played by Jim) towards the end of the song. He certainly played it on the piano, but there is dispute over who really wrote it. Though officially credited to Gordon, many people swear they’d heard his then-girlfriend Rita Coolidge play that on piano long before Derek & the Dominos came around. Perhaps she gave him that hit. As we find out later, he also could give her a hefty “hit.”

The work with Clapton and Derek & the Dominos led to all kinds of calls for him to work with other artists. One review suggests it’s easier to list stars he didn’t play with in the ’70s than those he did. They may not be far off, especially when it comes to records made in California. He was, at the time, reliable and had a distinctive style. As Daily K-os puts it, “what distinguished Jim’s sound was not so much the notes he played but the spaces between those notes. There is always this distinct silence between one stroke and the next.” He got called in for Bread’s debut album, and Helen Reddy’s feminist anthem “I Am Woman” , and Seals & Crofts for their classic “Summer Breeze”.

Add in Nilsson (playing the drums and other odd percussion instruments on the quirky “Coconut” among other songs), Albert Hammond’s hit “It Never Rains in Southern California”, Jackson Browne, Randy Newman, Gordon Lightfoot…not to mention George Harrison’s fantastic All Things Must Pass. And another ex-Beatle, John Lennon on his “Power to the People.” Oh, and he played on a Yoko Ono record for good measure too. From Tom Waits to Tom Petty he was the “go-to” guy when L.A. Studios needed a drummer for top acts on short notice.

So, it might seem he was a great guy with a huge future. Sadly though, such wasn’t the case. His relationship with the lovely Miss Coolidge early in the ’70s? It ended very quickly one night in a hotel hallway. Rita thought he was preparing himself to propose. Instead he hammered her with a punch that “hit me so hard I was lifted off the floor and slammed against the wall on the other side of the hallway”. She was knocked unconscious. But no one said or did much about it, other than tour staff (they were touring together at the time) who worked as makeshift bodyguards to physically keep him apart from her.

Turns out he was schizophrenic. By 1978 (but probably earlier) he said he was hearing voices in his head which urged him to do things like avoid sleep, not eat, and quit playing drums. He listened. In 1983, they told him to kill his 72 year-old mother, so he obliged them, bludgeoning her with a hammer and stabbing her to death. He was found guilty of murder. The court refused his insanity plea, because while they agreed he probably was mentally ill, evidence suggests he was aware of what he was doing. He got sentenced to 16 year to life, and has been refused parole ten times so far because doctors deem him to be still schizophrenic and a danger to society. He remains in a prison hospital in California to this day.

April 26 – Taylor Tailored Drumming After Thompson & Thompson

What’s more coincidental than being a famous drummer with the same name as another famous drummer? Maybe having the same last name as two of your bandmates but not being related to either of them. Both apply to Duran Duran’s “quiet one”, Roger Taylor, whom we wish a happy 62nd birthday to today.

Roger was born near Birmingham, and like many other British lads of the ’60s, growing up he had two big loves -”football” (which is soccer to us North Americans) and rock music. His early ambition was to be a professional footballer for his favorite club, Aston Villa, but when that became increasingly unlikely, he turned his attention to music. He saved up his allowance for months to buy himself a drum kit at age 13, and then taught himself to play, practicing relentlessly, copying the drums on records he loved. “I had very good neighbors,” he joked in a recent interview. “I used to come home from school every day at 4:00 and practice until 6:00.”

One could imagine that with his name, he’d have been a big fan of the other Roger Taylor, Queen’s drummer. But he gives no indication of that being the case. Instead he said the main influences on him were Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones, Paul Thompson, Roxy Music’s main drummer in the ’70s, and Tony Thompson of Chic. He also liked one more drummer. “Ringo was doing exactly what was required for the Beatles. I’ve always gone towards more song-oriented players.”

He joined a local punk band called Scents Organs in the late-’70s, but they didn’t last long. But it was long enough to get invited to join Duran Duran (along with unrelated Andy Taylor and John Taylor.) His influences worked out well since Duran Duran drew heavily on both Roxy Music and Chic for inspiration. Soon after beginning their career, they went to New York and met Thompson, Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic. “They were like gods to us…they taught us so much about playing and production.”

As we know, Duran Duran took off quickly, becoming bigger than Roxy Music or Chic for several years in the early-’80s. Which Taylor enjoyed…for awhile. But soon, “we had people camping outside our front doors…it was very difficult to live a normal life.” So, after playing in front of hundreds of thousands of fans at Live Aid, on the same day their single “A View To A Kill” hit #1 in the U.S., he quit the band and “retired” to a 150 acre farm. But not before helping out a little on side-projects. Even the others were seeing “the fame and celebrity of Duran Duran kind of overtook the music,” he recalls, and they decided to take a break. He joined Nick Rhodes and Simon Le Bon of the group on the new band Arcadia, and also played drums on one song for the other spin-off band – Power Station with the two other Taylors. In so doing he was the only person to work with both.

After that, it was to the farm. The UK’s Sun dubbed him a “hermit” but he says “I needed to get some space. It sounds like a cliché, but I needed to get to know myself.” After a few years he did so, it seems, married and got back into music in a small way, joining a band called Freebase which had a European dance hit with their take on Sweet’s “Love is Like Oxygen.” He did a couple of tracks for Duran Duran and one TV appearance with them in ’94 and finally rejoined them again in 2001, staying with them since and no doubt enjoying their more relaxed work schedule.

As well as new technology. Surprisingly perhaps for a “new wave” band, Roger was pretty conventional when it came to his instruments. Back in the day he used a normal drum kit and they used to record his drumming in real time. “We even used to record our 12” dance mixes live…it the track was ten minutes long, you had to play the whole thing (in one take).” Now he mixes old with new, saying he uses a conventional Tama acoustic drum kit with a V-drum TD20 drum machine to his left, and adds in a sampler. Duran Duran put out their 15th studio album, Future Past, late last year.