Response: Rick Beato’s Top 20 Drum Fills

Posted on February 12, 2023

 Top 20 Drum Fills

I might have to come up with a new category of posts called “bubblegum”; the kind of low–energy articles I don’t expect people to take very seriously.

I’m finally talking about Rick Beato’s third drumming roundup video. This time, it’s the top 20 drum fills from October 2019:

We all know what a drum fill is, but the line between a fill and a solo is blurred in the video. I can’t tell if Rick likes some of these solos overall, or if there’s a specific lick he likes within the drum feature.

I’ll do my best to provide some thoughts on the selected. Honestly, I’m a bit burnt out from working on the site; my SEO go torpedoed since migrating to WordPress, so I’ve been working hard to get all of my posts up to snuff with RankMath. 

Part of that process involves redoing all of my URLs, so I’ve frantically been setting up redirects for the old links. I’ve really had to hustle since the longer I have 404s, the angrier Google will get at me (and Google already seems to hate my blog).

Alright, I’m getting off track, so let’s jump in:

20. “Sober” — Danny Carey with Tool (Undertow, 1993)

A slick fill, and probably the most palatable instance of Tool on one of these lists. I know I really should listen to these guys more. It just hasn’t happened yet.

19. “Proto–Cosmos” — Tony Williams (Lifetime: The Collection, 1975)

Our first drum solo on the list. This track actually has three solos: one in the beginning, middle, and end (it’s the closing solo that makes it onto the video). I hadn’t heard of this song until now, and it might be worth writing about in the future…

18. “Sad But True” — Lars Ulrich with Metallica (Metallica, 1990)

Meh. I don’t get it.

17. “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” — Stewart Copeland with The Police (Ghost in the Machine, 1981)

This is fine. Rick must have a special place in his heart for the drums on this song!

16. “Little Wing” — Mitch Mitchell with The Jimi Hendrix Experience (Axis: Bold as Love, 1967)

“Little Wing” is the first of several songs on this list that I’ve actually written about. It’s a pretty famous classic rock fill. I imagine it was a toss–up between “Little Wing” and “Hey Joe”, with the fill from the latter that occurs right before the guitar solo (you can learn more about that here). If it were up to me, I would go with “Hey Joe”.

15. “Black Hole Sun” — Matt Cameron with Soundgarden (Superunknown, 1994)

Number fifteen specifically comes from the drum fill going into the final chorus. Listening to the track, it’s kind of neat hearing how each fill leading into the chorus evolves. That’s tough to communicate in a video like this, so I can understand if someone would respond with “Meh. I don’t get it”.

14. “Brother to Brother” — Mark Craney with Gino Vannelli (Brother to Brother, 1978)

Another drum solo. Well, it’s a feature between the drums and the bass, with both instruments trading two bar solos.

Honestly, the drums get steamrolled by the bass on this duet and are struggling to keep up. The drumming on the rest of the track is fine, but I’m not really impressed with these licks. In fact, it has my least favorite kind of double–kick fill. 

13. “Pride (In the Name of Love)”  — Larry Mullen Jr. with U2 (The Unforgettable Fire, 1984)

This is fine part 2: electric boogaloo. 

12. “Stargazer” — Cozy Powell with Rainbow (Rising, 1976)

Rick admits that leaving “Stargazer” off of his drum intros video was a conspicuous omission. I agree. This is a fun way to start a song, but Rick’s video is missing the big guitar divebomb, which I think makes the intro. 

11. “Stratus” — Billy Cobham (Spectrum, 1973)

A pretty good example of one of Billy Cobham’s signature licks: blazing singles down giant, boomy concert toms. 

10. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” — Dave Grohl with Nirvana (Nevermind, 1991)

It doesn’t get more iconic than this, does it?

9. “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” — Steve Smith with Journey (Frontiers, 1983)

Here’s another track I’ve written about. As such, I knew right away that the recreation in the video sounded off (playing “Separate Ways” dozens of times throughout college is part of it too). 

The progression that drives this section is Em, D, C, B. The drum feature is supposed to start with a little pickup on B, but somehow the drum solo in Rick’s video starts on Em, so the progression restarts before the solo finishes!

Anyhoo, this might be the most famous 80s drum solo, competing with another song we’ll see later on the list. 

8. “Rosanna” — Jeff Porcaro with Toto (Toto IV, 1982)

Absolute studio drumming perfection. 

7. Vinnie Colaiuta at the 1989 Buddy Rich Memorial Scholarship Concert

Ah yes… this one. I feel like this moment was a tall tale for a while — a bolt from the heavens, rumored to have been captured on an obscure VHS tape that was passed around from drummer to drummer in the 90s. Footage not meant for mortal eyes. 

Thanks to the internet, everyone knows about this lick nowadays. While this is a 4 bar drum solo, I have no doubt Rick is specifically gushing over the final two beats, where Vinnie plays 16ths on his right hand and 32nd note offbeats on the kick. 

It’s a showboat fill for sure, which I normally don’t care for since showboating on the drums usually means doing silly things like contrived crossovers and stick tricks.

That being said, this lick is just nuts, and it gets the crowd riled up in an instant. Honestly though, if it weren’t for the video, I’m unconvinced that this fill would have the same impact. Off the top of my head, I don’t know if Vinnie ever used this in the studio. While I tend to regard sound as the medium of music… this lick is just nuts. 

6. “Won’t Get Fooled Again” — Keith Moon with The Who (Who’s Next, 1971)

This is a fun little drum feature, but all in all, it’s not one of my favorite Keith Moon moments. He did not like playing drum solos, and you can tell on this track. His best playing relies on the energy from the rest of the band. 

5. “Aja” — Steve Gadd with Steely Dan (Aja, 1977)

What’s this? Why it’s another song that I’ve written about! My “Aja” post is actually one of my most popular articles, which is great since this song really did change my life. 

Again, it’s hard to tell if there’s one particular phrase Rick likes, or if it’s the entirety of the drum solos. If I had to pick one chop, it would be the “Gaddamacue” triplet first heard in the second tenor sax break. But it’s tough to distill Gadd’s playing on this song into one measure of music. 

4. “She Said She Said” — Ringo Starr with The Beatles (Revolver, 1966)

There are about five drum fills in the excerpt that Rick shares and I have no idea which one the actual spot is supposed to go to. As far as 60s rock goes, this is pretty hip, but I’m not sure it deserves to be this high on the list. 

3. “Stairway to Heaven” — John Bonham with Led Zeppelin (Led Zeppelin IV, 1971)

I had a friend in high school who said this was the greatest drum fill ever played. It deserves acclaim. As a fun piece of trivia, Bonham plays the exact same fill on “Night Flight”, a tune that is rumored to be an outtake from Led Zeppelin IV (and was eventually released on Physical Graffiti in 1975).

The 2014 deluxe reissue of Zeppelin IV has an alternate mix of “Stairway to Heaven”; for years I (along with the rest of the internet) was certain how the fill was played, but for some reason the alternate mix made me think that I got it wrong — I suddenly started hearing an extra kick drum hit. I might write about this more at a later date…

2. “Tom Sawyer” — Neil Peart with Rush (Moving Pictures, 1981)

Dah dah, dah dah, dugga dugga dugga dugga chugga dugga dah dah dah dah, brrr brrr brrr brrr brrr brrr cack cunk, cuh cah, dugga dugga duggapishpish, pish pish, pish pish, dah dah dah dah, dugga dugga chugga dugga dugga chugga dugga dugga chugga chugga—

—I’m sorry, what are we talking about? Oh, that’s right. Drum Fills. Please forgive me. Moving forward…

The Honorable Mentions

“Good Times Bad Times” — Joh Bonham with Led Zeppelin (Led Zeppelin, 1968)

The final song on the list that I’ve written about happens to be my first–ever blog post! The focus here is the triplet fill going into the vocal entrance. I’ve been playing variations of this fill for years, but it surprised me that this was on the list. 

I think the most well–known Bonham fill amongst drummers is the crossover triplet, first heard on “Dazed and Confused”. Another Bonham highlight could come from “Achilles Last Stand”. 

“Green Earrings” — Bernard Purdie with Steely Dan (The Royal Scam, 1976)

Offbeat hi–hat barks are classic Purdie, but his filling on “Deacon Blues” and “Home at Last” are both more memorable to me. 

“Sunshine of Your Love” — Ginger Baker with Cream (Disraeli Gears, 1967)

I’m not huge on Cream, but this song is fun enough. What we have here is more of a drum riff than a drum fill per se.

And the top spot goes to:

1. “In the Air Tonight” — Phil Collins (Face Value, 1981)

Yeah, I’m not surprised about this. Another punchline, but I can’t deny that it’s an entraining fill. If it weren’t for the 3 ½ minute buildup beforehand, it probably wouldn’t be as fun. 

So now is the time when I’m supposed to talk about the drum fills that I think are missing from the list. Well, I don’t really have the time or energy to do so; suffice it to say those most of the songs I’ve transcribed have got fills that left an impact on me. 

I’m heading out to watch the Super Bowl, and then I’m taking next week off. With any luck, I should be done with my SEO in the next couple of days. Then I can step away from this catastrophe for a little bit. 

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