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© Andy Clark /Reuters/Corbis
“As a kid, I only listened to albums for the drums," says legendary sticksman Stewart Copeland. "I never paid attention to the vocals. I was really into guitar and bass, though. But growing up, it was really all about the drums. In fact, we can take that up till yesterday – or tomorrow."
Asked by MusicRadar to compile his list of 10 essential drum albums, Copeland immediately expanded the concept to 16 records but also took exception with the notion of the word 'essential.' "That takes all of the fun out of it," he says. "In fact, to me, this should be just that – fun drum albums. These are all the bad influences, albums that drummers, if they want to make a living out of playing the drums, shouldn’t listen to."
He then quickly points out the obvious: "Of course, I’ve listened to them, so somehow I managed to escape unscathed."
In Copeland's view, slavish devotion to copying and emulation is the death of musical creativity. "When I was in college," he says, "there would be the guy who would break out a guitar and play Working Class Hero, and all the chicks thought he was great. Then I’d pull out a guitar and start twangin’, and they’d look at me funny and say, ‘But I don’t know that song.’ And I’d say, ‘Well, of course you don’t – I wrote it.’ That whole thing of replicating what others do is a siren call. The sirens lure you to the rocks of unoriginality."
What follows on these pages are Copeland's picks for, as he calls it, "the bad medicine for drummers, the fun stuff." But he adds the following bit of caution: "Fun can also be bad for you. So many seminal musicians did a lot of damage. Jimi Hendrix with the wah-wah pedal – ahhh, fantastic! But his progeny are heinous. Those practitioners of the wah-wah pedal who are not Jimi Hendrix fuck it all up.”
In other words, listen, learn and have a blast, but don't let those sirens draw you in, no matter how beautiful they may appear.