Hello, everyone. Welcome to the July 2019 issue. If you’re into gawking at wild and famous drumkits, then you’re going to enjoy our photo-essay on Crash, the new coffee-table book by drummer, collector, and studio sound technician David Frangioni. In addition to talking to the author about it, we couldn’t resist reprinting a whole host of its photos, as well as a couple that didn’t make the final product.
Among the drummers whose iconic kits are featured is the great Hal Blaine, who died this past March shortly after celebrating his ninetieth birthday, and who we’ll be honoring with a full tribute in an upcoming issue. I was blessed to become close with Hal, and like so many who knew him, I was heartbroken over his passing. Hal lived a pretty incredible life, and his career trajectory will likely never be repeated. He paved the way for so many drummers and musicians, and the phone calls, text messages, and emails I received on the day of his passing only emphasized just how much he was loved by musicians and music fans all over the world.
Also like so many of us, I grew learning to play “for the song” by studying and playing along to Hal’s drumming on the countless hit records he made in the ’60s and ’70s. One of the first times I saw one of his mammoth Ludwig studio kits—David Frangioni owns the original, and you can see it in our feature story—was in a photo that Hal took of George Harrison sitting behind it, when Hal was recording a Jackie Lomax album for the Beatles’ Apple Records. George loved that kit so much that he bought a set for Ringo Starr. Not being a fan of multiple toms, however, Ringo stripped it down and only kept the one extra tom. Ringo subsequently used that Ludwig maple wood kit for all of Abbey Road and Let It Be. He also used it to record his 2005 solo album, Choose Love.
“George really loved those drums,” Hal told Modern Drummer years later. “Then Karen Carpenter saw them and absolutely wanted them. I had two sets myself, identical, so that I could go from studio to studio. Producers would say, ‘We want that big set.’ The thing about my big set of drums is that I gave it all to Ludwig. I expected them to call it the Hal Blaine Super Set or something. But they called it the Octa-Plus, and it was one of their biggest sellers. I didn’t know in those days about getting a design patent.
“I did The Ed Sullivan Show with Nancy Sinatra,” Hal went on, “and I did a solo. It was the first time anyone ever saw that set, and everybody just went crazy. They were single-headed toms. That was something that I learned from using my old timbales. I used to use timbales as tom-toms. I loosened them up and they’d go boom, but then they would trail off . I would have the toms on rolling racks so that I could still just play my four-piece set, and then I could roll in four on each side and have another octave to play with.”
I purchased my own set of Ludwig Octa-Plus drums in the early ’70s after seeing them on the back of the Beck, Bogert, and Appice album. Carmine Appice was another huge influence on me, and I wanted the same kit he had—though I only wanted one bass drum. Incidentally, you can see one of Carmine’s other classic kits in the Crash feature, where you’ll also see a unique set once used by Iron Maiden’s Nicko McBrain, who appears on the cover of MD for the first time this month. Enjoy the issue!
Editor at Large