Would You Agree With Ginger Baker’s Pick Of The Most Terrible Drummer?
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Every rock fan worth his salt knows how cranky a person Ginger Baker was. Arrogance is a notable facet of his personality, as he often exhibits a high level of self-assuredness that can border on hubris.
But, despite his dismissive attitude that resulted in him being ostracized by his friends and family, no one can also deny how much of a monster Baker was behind the kit. He’s a proper drum deity with rock influence reverberating to this day.
But if this 2015 Forbes interview says anything, Baker hates heavy metal.
“I loathe and detest heavy metal. I think it is an abortion,” the cranky drummer said.
And if there’s a heavy metal drummer comparable to Baker during his Cream days, there’s only one name that comes to mind: The Beast himself, John Bonham of Led Zeppelin, who pretty much invented heavy metal drumming.
Hearing about the comparison, you can probably imagine Baker scoffing in his memoir as he said “John Bonham once made a statement that there were only two drummers in British rock ‘n’ roll; himself and Ginger Baker. My reaction to this was: ‘You cheeky little bastard!’”.”
Yep, just another ordinary friendly opinion from the cantankerous Baker.
Ginger Baker just hates metal drummers
The legendary drummer looking down on another legendary drummer wasn’t really much of a surprise, knowing how hard it was to get along with him.
Even former bandmate Eric Clapton, the man he called his “best friend in the world”, finds the Baker difficult. “I really do love him as a guy, but it’s easier for me to love him when I’m not working with him.”
When asked about what he thought about heavy metal, a disgusted Baker did not hide his contempt.
“These people that dress up in spandex trousers with all the extraordinary makeup – I find it incredibly repulsive, always have. I’ve seen where Cream is sort of held responsible for the birth of heavy metal. Well, I would definitely go for aborting.”
Baker, who died in 2019 at the age of 80, shared that every now and then a drummer comes up and tells him “Man, you were my influence, the way you thrashed the drums.” And he hated how others see his drumming that way.
“They don’t seem to understand I was thrashing in order to hear what I was playing. It was anger, not enjoyment – and painful. I suffered on stage because of that [high amplifier] volume crap. I didn’t like it then, and like it even less now.”
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This hard-edged personality has often brought trouble to the drummer, coupled with his spending habits and drug addiction, his life was as wild and unpredictable as his drumming style.
However, while these negative aspects dominate his public persona, there may be more nuanced and positive elements to his personality that are less evident in the public eye.
As his daughter Nettie Baker said, his ‘wild man’ image should not take precedence over his legacy. “It is without doubt entertaining to muse over bad decision-making, itself the result of childhood trauma, sudden fame, and drug addiction, but it should be remembered that while a handful of those closest to him may have been at the ‘sharp end,’ countless others were inspired and enthralled by his music.”
The greatness of John Bonham
Much like how much of a master Baker was, Bonham’s thunder certainly also has its own charm and power. That vigor you hear from Led Zeppelin’s music was mostly the late drummer flexing his musical muscle.
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Bonzo’s drumming was characterized not just by its power, but also by its groove and innovative approach. The Led Zeppelin drummer had an exceptional ability to create intricate and dynamic rhythms that complemented the music of the band perfectly.
His drumming was not only technically impressive but also deeply musical, contributing to the overall sound and feel of the band’s music.
One of Bonham’s most notable contributions was his use of bass drum triplets, which became a signature element of his playing style. He also incorporated a wide range of dynamics, from thunderous drum fills to subtle patterns, a display of his versatility as a drummer.
His performance on tracks like “When the Levee Breaks,” “Moby Dick,” and “Rock and Roll” highlighted his exceptional skills and creative drumming approach. His ability to maintain a powerful and tight rhythm while adding intricate embellishments set him apart from many of his contemporaries.
The video essay below perfectly illustrates the greatness of Bonham:
If you ask Baker, though, about his thoughts on Led Zeppelin, needless to say, the fiery drummer did not mince his words. While he did find the band’s guitarist Jimmy Page “a good player”, they still fell short of his expectations.
“I don’t think Led Zeppelin filled the void that Cream left, but they made a lot of money. I probably like about 5% of what they did – a couple of things were really cool. What I don’t like is the heavy bish-bash, jing-bap, jing-bash bullshit.”
And as for Bonham? “There’s no way John was anywhere near what I am. He wasn’t a musician.”
Bonham himself though sees Ginger differently. In his words, “Baker was the first to come out with this ‘new’ attitude — that a drummer could be a forward musician in a rock band, and not something that was stuck in the background and forgotten about.”
Baker was one of his greatest influences, even mentioning that one of his favorite bands was The Graham Bond Organisation, the band that Baker and his Cream bandmate Jack Bruce once formed.