Response: Rick Beato’s “TOP 20 DRUM INTROS OF ALL TIME”
Posted on April 18, 2021
I still want to add some more variety to the site — I don’t want the blog to be an endless stream of sheet music. I also have a good collection of projects that I don’t want to blow through, since they take a bit of time to whip up.
So today I’m going to respond to a video published back in August of 2019: “TOP 20 DRUM INTROS OF ALL TIME”. The video was made by Rick Beato, a music YouTuber who spent most of his life as a producer, and now talks about engineering and theory. I’m a little late with this, but… why not?
Rick doesn’t define what a drum intro is and what such an intro needs to have in order to make the list. I expect a drum intro to be made up of unaccompanied drums that start a song somehow; I can’t really pinpoint how long such an intro needs to be. I guess it just needs to be a well–defined part of the tune. Rick also takes the production of the drums into consideration and seems to have been drawn toward charting hits. I give some thoughts on each one and then talk about what I think is missing, from my perspective. So, without further ado:
20. “I Am One” — Jimmy Chamberlin with The Smashing Pumpkins (Gish, 1991)
A fine intro that sets the tone of the song well… I’m just not huge on nasal grunge.
19. “Bullet in the Blue Sky” — Larry Mullen Jr. with U2 (The Joshua Tree, 1987)
Another fine groove; I feel like I’ve heard variations of this groove in a lot of pop–punk and alt–rock. It’s certainly menacing.
18. “My Sharona” — Bruce Gary with The Knack (Get The Knack, 1979)
A tom groove that sounds a bit ahead of its time, but there’s something uncanny about this band and this song. It’s equal parts catchy and off–putting.
17. “Rock and Roll” — John Bonham with Led Zeppelin (Zeppelin IV, 1972)
Not surprised, this has everything that makes a good drum intro, although the drummer in Rick’s video flubs it a bit.
16. “Take the Money and Run” — Gary Mallaber with The Steve Miller (Fly Like an Eagle, 1976)
A fun groove, not to mention quite funky (even though the rest of the song isn’t).
15. “We’re an American Band” — Don Brewer with Grand Funk Railroad (We’re an American Band, 1973)
I’m not really impressed by the cowbell as much as Rick is, but this intro has some demanding bass drum doubles; quite impressive considering those had just gotten hip. This track is also sung by the drummer no less.
14. “Scentless Apprentice” — Dave Grohl with Nirvana (In Utero, 1993)
There’s a very interesting flam thing going on with one of the backbeats (listen to the snare hit right on the “a” after 2). Rick’s drummer interprets it as a 32nd note double which doesn’t sound right to me at all.
13. “I Don’t Care Anymore” — Phil Collins (Hello, I Must Be Going!, 1982)
I hear some sort of a trippy flanging/phasing effect on the drums, but I’m not sure I hear the whole two–drummer thing that Rick talks about. The groove is quite unrelenting.
12. “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” — Stewart Copeland with The Police (Ghost in the Machine, 1981)
This is really pushing it for a drum intro, more of a pickup than anything else. I guess it stands out enough to help make a famous tune even more recognizable. Still, a better option could have been “Reggatta De Blanc”, which also pushes the definition of a drum intro.
11. “Tomorrow Never Knows” — Ringo Starr with The Beatles (Revolver, 1966)
As awesomely psychedelic as this song is, I really wouldn’t call this a drum intro. The drums and the rest of the song pretty much start at the same time.
10. “Ticks and Leeches” — Danny Carey with TOOL (Lateralus, 2001)
A fun intro, but I’m a bit surprised this made this list — not sure how much of a hit it was, so maybe it was more of an indulgence. I know I should listen to more TOOL, but their last album did not impress me. Even the rest of this song is a bad kind of strange.
9. “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” — Steve Gadd with Paul Simon (Still Crazy After All These Years, 1975)
One of drumming’s holy grails. The kind of groove we all wish we could come up with.
8. “Digital Bath” — Abe Cunningham with Deftones (White Pony, 2000)
Another intro that stretches the definition of an intro. It works, but there’s nothing too special about it. Whatever — it’s fine.
7. “YYZ” — Neil Peart with Rush (Moving Pictures, 1981)
Don’t get me wrong, this tune is a classic… but do crotales really make this a drum intro? I wonder if “Animate” would have been a better selection from Rush.
6. “Walk This Way” — Joey Kramer with Aerosmith (Toys In the Attic, 1975)
5. “Hot For Teacher” — Alex Van Halen with Van Halen (1984, 1984)
Oh, this song… it’s kind of a bad joke these days. I used to think it was cool when I was younger, but it hasn’t aged well for me. I agree with a lot of the online jokes that describe the solo as an engine struggling to turn over because it’s too cold outside. I remember growing up and reading rumors about Alex using a bit of overdubbing to get the sound. Rick seems to think Alex made use of a Simmons SDS–V electric drum kit. Who knows; the main groove is definitely more interesting to me.
4. “Superstition” — Stevie Wonder (Talking Book, 1972)
Oooo, finally, some real funk. Equal parts lumbering and slinky.
3. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” — Larry Mullen Jr. with U2 (War, 1983)
It’s got an interesting lope, but I’ve never been a fan of this drum sound; the snare in particular is very thin. A lot of people describe the groove as a military march, but… I don’t really hear it.
2. “Rosanna” — Jeff Porcaro with Toto (Toto IV, 1982)
Another holy grail. Although Rick’s drummer miffs a few of these intros, he does play this one correctly by omitting most of the ghost notes during the intro, just like Jeff did. Also, thank goodness Rick went with this number over “Africa”.
“Vital Transformation” — Billy Cobham with The Mahavishnu Orchestra (The Inner Mounting Flame, 1971)
Probably the deepest cut on this list, and the closest this list gets to featuring jazz. Another indulgence I suspect. A frantic groove for a frantic song.
“Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” — William “Benny” Benjamin (?) with The Temptations (Gettin’ Ready, 1966)
Another drum “intro” that’s not really an intro. It’s fine. I guess Rick wanted some soul on here.
I’m not sure who the drummer on the LP is. For Motown albums in particular, recording credits for the studio players can be a little hit or miss. My best guess is that Papa Zita is our man.
“Ballroom Blitz” — Mick Tucker with The Sweet (Desolation Boulevard, 1974)
It’s one of these train beat/New Orleans second–line hybrid grooves. That may sound esoteric, but it’s been done a bunch. Not sure why Rick picked this one over any other. Again, it’s fine.
“Longview” — Tre Cool with Green Day (Dookie, 1994)
The only alt song on the list. And even then, Green Day was basically post–grunge at this point. Whatever, it’s a shuffle, and I’m a sucker for shuffles.
“Billie Jean” — Leon Ndugu Chancler with Michael Jackson (Thriller, 1982)
This groove works fine, but it’s entirely unremarkable. The production is the only thing that makes it stand out in any way.
And now... the grand finale:
1. “When the Levee Breaks” — John Bonham with Led Zeppelin (Led Zeppelin IV, 1972)
Yeah, I’m not surprised. Truth be told, the key to this sound of groove is a delay effect; specifically, a Binson Echorec unit (word on the internet is that a “Baby Model” was used). Rick knows this, thankfully. Whatever, I’m not complaining.
There could be some more funk on this list: David Garibaldi’s intro on the Tower of Power tune “Squib Cakes”, which is one of my favorite moments in all of drumming. Probably too deep of a cut.
Jazz is also lacking. I know that most jazz doesn’t top the charts, but the most famous jazz tune of all time (“Take Five”) happens to start with drums. “Sing Sing Sing” could have been another option, even if many wouldn’t recognize it by name. A more modern jazz/funk favorite of mine is Snarky Puppy’s “Tarova” (the list overall is a bit dated).
“One Big Holiday” by My Morning Jacket is another modern tune that this list could have used. The hi–hat 16ths do such a good job of setting the rest of the song up.
There’s a bit of a glaring omission with the lack of Blink–182’s “First Date”. You could also consider “Feeling This”. Otherwise, there’s not much alt or pop punk.
I’m pretty shocked that “Honky Tonk Women” isn’t on here, with its uniquely disorienting lope. There’s no better cowbell than this one. And then there’s the other Stones’ tune “Get Off of My Cloud”, but that isn’t as memorable for me.
“Soul Sacrifice” has a great intro, although it’s driven more by the bongos and congas than Micheal Shrieve’s drum set. Still drums though.
Some of the commenters highlighted two omissions from Iron Maiden: “Run to the Hills” and “Where Eagles Dare”. I’d go with the former. Another classic metal possibility is “Iron Man”, but musically there’s nothing especially remarkable about it.
I’d say that Tom Petty’s “Here Comes My Girl” qualifies for a list like this.
“Little Miss Lover” by Jimi Hendrix is a classic rock/funk–rock candidate. “Fire” also has a great intro, but the whole band is playing so I wouldn’t call it a drum intro. In the same vein, the Roto Tom solo at the beginning of Pink Floyd’s “Time” is one of Nick Mason’s greatest moments, but I wouldn’t call it a drum intro since it happens a minute into the track.
So more poppy considerations include “Radio Gaga”, which I think is Queen’s best song (written by the drummer of course); and “Take on Me”, which has the distinction of being the worst drum sound in any pop song. I can’t imagine being in an era of music where people thought the Linn Drum sounded good.
Some people in the comments were clamoring for “Wipeout”. That’s another bad joke — I’m glad it didn’t make it.
Bonham is one of two drummers to make this list twice. After thinking about it, Rick was spoiled for choice when it comes to Bonham: “Good Times Bad Times”, “Moby Dick”, “The Crunge”, “Poor Tom”, and “The Rover” all have drum intros.
Well, I think that about does it. I’m sure I missed a few, but that’s what came to mind over the course of this week. I’ll probably update this if I remember anything else. In the meantime, that’s all for now.