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Rock and Roll’s Greatest Drummers Step Out From Behind the Kit for New Book

A new book is casting the spotlight on some of rock music’s biggest drummers in an effort to showcase the backbone — and backbeat — behind some of the world’s most iconic bands.

CRASH,” released by publisher Insight Editions, profiles 30 legendary drummers, who reveal the nitty-gritty stories behind their most memorable on-stage performances, along with details about the kits and equipment that accompanied them there. Sub-titled “The World’s Greatest Drum Kits From Appice to Peart to Van Halen,” the book offers both a technical look at the kits — including its construction and unique characteristics — as well as a glimpse into each kit’s significance to rock history.

best rock and roll drummers drum kits crash book

Featuring images from live concerts, outdoor festivals, and private recording sessions, many captured by classic rock photographer Mark Weiss, “CRASH” spans more than 60 years of drummers and their live shows. Featured artists include Neil Peart, Ginger Baker, Keith Moon, Ringo Starr, and Styx drummer Todd Sucherman, who says it’s rare to see a book focused on the details behind the art of drumming.

“I grew up a fan of drummers, obviously,” he says, “but I also grew up with a deep love of drums and cymbals — the gear itself. There’s magic in these items of metal and wood.”

Todd Sucherman, of Styx, performs on stage at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater on Saturday, June,18, 2018, in Alpharetta, GAStyx in Concert - , GA, Alpharetta, USA - 16 Jun 2018
CREDIT: Paul R. Giunta/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Among the drum kits featured in the book is a stainless steel kit played by Carl Palmer, of the British prog-rock group Emerson, Lake & Palmer. The kit was custom made for Palmer by British Steel, pieced together from 1/2 inch thick stainless steel shells, and Palmer used it on every ELP album from “Brain Salad Surgery” to “Love Beach.

Palmer himself offers a foreward in the book. The book also features an afterword from KISS drummer, Eric Singer, who says he was excited to bring some attention back to the often overlooked art of drumming.

Singer, who has also performed with Black Sabbath, Badlands and Alice Cooper, says he grew up watching and listening to Big Band music, and, “in the early days before rock and roll, the drummer really was the driving force of the band.”

“The drummer always had his own stage or platform and often times he was the band leader,” Singer says. “Rock and roll changed all that – it was all about the guitar player or frontman.”

Kiss - Eric SingerKISS in concert at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey, America - 21 Sep 2012
CREDIT: REX/Shutterstock

Three of Singer’s kits are featured in the book, including a disco mirrorball-inspired kit he used during KISS’ joint tour with Mötley Crüe in 2012. The mirrorball kit was handmade by Fortune Drums, a family-owned shop based out of Cleveland since 1968, and featured 1/2 inch squares of glass pieces, all glued by hand. “Even the cymbals were custom made to be chrome-colored,” Singer explains.

While the kit undoubtedly sounded good, Singer says its visual impact was just as important. “I wanted the kit to look just as good from the audience’s point of view as I see it sitting in the driver’s seat,” he says.

The visual nature of drumming was something that the book’s author David Frangioni worked hard to convey. “Unlike a guitar, where you have to be fairly close to see what’s happening with the strings,” he explains, “a drum kit is so much bigger, and the visual nature of playing the drum has so much impact on what you see live.”

And while guitarists can run around on stage or swap out their axes throughout the show, “as a drummer, you only have one kit,” Frangioni says. “The drum kit has to stay on stage all night and express the visual direction of the entire band.”

Frangioni, a music industry veteran who has worked with everyone from Aerosmith to Elton John, has collected many of the drum kits featured in the book. He keeps them displayed in a private museum he owns in Florida, which he occasionally opens up to school groups and music students. 

He says “CRASH” was as much a passion project as it is a tool to inspire today’s generation to pick up a pair of drum sticks. “I set out to make a book that I would want to read myself,” he says, “and hopefully kids who love music but aren’t sure of what they want to do, will see themselves in one of these artists too.”

While the drum kits profiled in the book are unquestionably beautiful, ultimately though, it’s the drummer and not the drum that will make the performance great. “Drums can make it more fun to play on stage or easier to play,” says Singer, “but it’s all about how you express yourself. After all, the drum sticks are still in the drummer’s hand.”

“CRASH” is available now for order online on Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble.

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