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The Rhythmic Mastery Behind Eight Classic Rock Anthems

by Madonna

Classic rock music has left an indelible mark on the world of music, and behind the iconic guitar riffs and unforgettable lyrics, there’s often a lesser-recognized hero: the drummer. In this exploration, we delve into the captivating drumming that defined eight classic rock songs and their impact on the music world.

Led Zeppelin: “When the Levee Breaks” (1971)

“When the Levee Breaks,” the thunderous finale of Led Zeppelin’s “IV” album, showcased John “Bonzo” Bonham’s drumming prowess. Guitarist Jimmy Page, who had collaborated with Bonham for three years, was astounded by his consistency throughout the 7-minute and 8-second track. A critic aptly noted, “The relationship between the hi-hat, kick, and snare is where the magic of ‘When the Levee Breaks’ occurs. The kick drum propels the hi-hat, creating a sense of building tension.”

Page, serving as the producer, envisioned a sonic representation of the 1927 Great Mississippi Flood’s chaos. An unplanned drum experiment in the Headley Grange studios led to the iconic drum sound, influencing not only rock but also hip-hop, with artists like Bjork, Eminem, and Massive Attack sampling it.

Silverchair: “Straight Lines” (2007)

Silverchair, though a more recent addition to the classic rock pantheon, earned a special place in Australian music history. Their album “Young Modern” was initially intended to be a solo project by guitarist and singer Daniel Johns, but when the band reunited for a tsunami relief benefit, they rekindled their collaboration.

Inspired by The Beatles’ “White Album,” Silverchair’s approach demanded dry drum sounds. Drummer Ben Gillies adapted to the song’s intricate structure, utilizing his drumming finesse to add depth to the track, making “Straight Lines” a standout in their repertoire.

The White Stripes: “Seven Nation Army” (2003)

Meg White’s drumming in “Seven Nation Army” might be divisive in the eyes of critics, but her unique style added character to The White Stripes’ music. Her simplistic yet effective approach complemented Jack White’s captivating guitar riff, creating a powerful and catchy track.

Meg’s use of a steady 4/4 beat layered with kick drum, high tom, hi-hat, and occasional cymbal swishes added to the song’s energy. “Seven Nation Army” remains an enduring rock anthem, despite Meg’s later withdrawal from the music scene.

The Beatles: “Come Together” (1969)

The Beatles’ “Come Together” initially had a more upbeat tone, conceived as a campaign song for Timothy Leary’s gubernatorial run. After a legal challenge regarding its resemblance to Chuck Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me,” the song took a slower, swampy feel, with Ringo Starr’s clever use of tea towels on his toms adding a mysterious atmosphere.

The Rolling Stones: “Street Fighting Man” (1968)

“Street Fighting Man” by The Rolling Stones became a symbol of the anti-Vietnam War protests in the late ’60s. The song’s raw energy and lo-fi recording approach, featuring Keith Richards playing an acoustic through a cassette player, gave it its electric edge. Charlie Watts contributed with a vintage toy drum kit, the London Jazz Kit Set, creating a distinct and infectious sound.

Nirvana: “Come As You Are” (1992)

Dave Grohl’s drumming in Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” contributed to the band’s iconic grunge sound. The live treatment of Grohl’s Tama Artstar II kit, paired with Krist Novoselic’s bass groove, resulted in a distinct and melodic rhythm. Classic microphones, including an AKG D12 on the kick, an SM57 on the snare, and Sennheiser 421s on the toms, helped shape the song’s unique drum sound.

Metallica: “One” (1989)

“One” from Metallica’s “…And Justice for All” features Lars Ulrich’s machine gun-like drumming, contributing to the song’s intensity. Ulrich’s Tama Granstar kit and his powerful playing style, using a double bass drum, added a unique dimension to the song’s aggressive sound.

Cream: “White Room” (1968)

Cream’s Ginger Baker was known for his intricate jazz rhythms and explosive style. His double bass drums, carefully tuned to replicate the sound of timpanis, added depth and complexity to “White Room.” Baker’s dynamic approach, alongside his Ludwig Silver Sparkle drum kit and Zildjian cymbals, set the stage for a remarkable classic rock anthem.

These classic rock songs owe much of their enduring appeal to the drummers who provided the rhythmic foundation for the music, making them indispensable figures in rock history. Their contributions continue to inspire and influence musicians across genres.

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