The seeds were sown in 1966. While jazz had dom-inated the attention of progressive music fans the previous decade, rock ’n’ roll was now the place where the real avant-garde activity was going down. The Beatles’ Revolver, the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde, and Freak Out! by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention revealed that the palette contemporary artists were allowed to paint from was very wide indeed. In fact, it was wider than anyone would have dared imagine back in the ’50s, when Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino, and Elvis Presley showed the world how cool it sounded when you mashed together country, jazz, gospel, and rhythm and blues.
By ’67 the mass awakening to the infinite artistic possibilities of rock ’n’ roll was complete. Even the mythical birthplace of early rock seemed quaintly domestic when compared to the outer reaches of time and space that the new music was setting its sights on. The drummers woke up to the potential as early as anyone, and now the beats, fills, and emotional complexity that modern players were capable of, which would have seemed unimaginable a year or two earlier, were blaring out of car stereos, transistor radios, and TV sets with startling regularity.
In this special Modern Drummer feature, we take a close look at that musical revolution, through the drummers’ eyes. We sit with the Doors’ John Densmore and Vanilla Fudge’s Carmine Appice, who were right there in the thick of it fifty years ago as classic rock drumming was inventing itself. We talk with Hal Blaine, the studio legend who seemingly played on every other pop and rock hit of the day. We delve into the genre-defining recordings and drum setups of Cream’s Ginger Baker, the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Mitch Mitchell, and the Who’s Keith Moon. And we query contemporary thinkers like Steve Jordan about Ringo Starr’s revolutionary drum parts on the Beatles’ classic pair of 1967 releases, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour.
So strap yourself in, and let’s begin our trip by visiting the scene where so many musical trends have begun, the world-famous recording studios of Hollywood, USA….