Although there’s never been a better time to work on your drumming technique and vocabulary while the world is on lockdown, there’s more to life and music than just busting chops all day. Our recommendation? Take a break from annoying the neighbours to feed your spirit with some rhythmic reading.
Assembled here are twelve titles to keep your mind stimulated and to provide an invaluable alternative to bingeing Netflix. The selection spans biographies of drummers whose careers lasted lifetimes, to others that were over when they’d barely begun, alongside tales of adversity and addiction, some that end in tragedy, others in triumph. Order a copy or download to your eReader and get stuck in!
Notes And Tones – Arthur Taylor
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In the 1960s and early ‘70s drummer Arthur Taylor set out to interview the biggest names in jazz, recording their thoughts on everything from racism to free jazz, drug use and the Beatles. All the interviews are fascinating but whenever Taylor sits down with another drummer, he provides rare insights exploring the personalities and musicianship of Philly Joe Jones, Max Roach, Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, Kenny Clarke, and Art Blakey.
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Hellraiser: The Autobiography Of The World’s Greatest Drummer – Ginger Baker
Whether or not you agree with the subtitle of Baker’s biography, there’s no denying he lived a life packed to the hilt with mayhem and music. It’s all here, from backstage brawls and his ceaseless feuds with Jack Bruce, through to all the money he blew on polo ponies and heroin. Who else would have moved to Lagos in the 1970s, under a military junta, to open a recording studio?
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Ghost Rider: Travels On The Healing Road – Neil Peart
Far from tales of rock ‘n’ roll excess, Neil Peart’s Ghost Rider is his very personal account of coming to terms with the death of his daughter and wife, less than a year apart. Searching for some meaning in staying alive, he got on his motorcycle and set off with no particular itinerary or destination. Much more than a book about drumming, this is a story about life after grief.
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This Wheel’s On Fire – Levon Helm with Stephen Davis
Levon Helm and The Band epitomised the sound of Americana long before anyone coined the term. A drummer, singer, multi-instrumentalist and later an actor, Helm’s biography takes him from rural Arkansas, catching his first break with Ronnie Hawkins, to backing Bob Dylan, and beyond. “My story is recalled and written from my perspective on the drum stool, which I’ve always felt was the best seat in the house,” he says.
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Hit Hard: A Story Of Hitting Rock Bottom At The Top – Joey Kramer
Sure, there’s sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll in this biography from the Aerosmith star, but Kramer’s book takes an unflinching look at his lifelong battle against the twin demons of depression and addiction. All of Aerosmith’s success was never enough to lift Kramer out of the shadow of his abusive childhood but Hit Hard follows the drummer on the tough road to sobriety and making peace with his past.
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Dear Boy, The Life Of Keith Moon – Tony Fletcher
No one before or since has epitomised the wild, hedonistic rock ‘n’ roll drummer more than Keith Moon. Tony Fletcher’s book succeeds in painting a portrait that goes deeper than the superficial image of Moon The Loon throwing televisions out of hotel windows. Dear Boy brings Moon to vivid life without shying away from his dark side – he could be violent and cruel – while celebrating his musical legacy.
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Buddy Rich: One Of A Kind – Pelle Berglund
Swedish author Pelle Berglund offers the first detailed account of the life and times of a drummer with precious few equals. One Of A Kind draws upon extensive archive interviews and Berglund’s conversations with the musicians who played with the master. Rich’s temper has become the stuff of legend thanks to the notorious bus tapes, but Berglund provides a welcome reminder that the man possessed humour, wit and warmth too.
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The Drum: A History – Matt Dean
Matt Dean’s mammoth, 400-plus page tome is a lovingly detailed history of the drum in all its multifarious incarnations. Dean plots the instrument’s evolution from its early ceremonial and religious roles through to the modern drum set, charting a course that spans continents and centuries. If you’ve ever wanted to know more about the world of membranophones beyond the contemporary Western drum kit, this is the perfect place to start.
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The Girl In The Back: A Female Drummer’s Life – Laura Davis-Chanin
In the 1970s as New York buzzed to the sound of punk rock, teenager Laura Davis-Chanin’s band, Student Teachers, caught the ear of Blondie’s Jimmy Destri and David Bowie, landing a spot opening for Iggy Pop. Then she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, forcing her to re-evaluate her life and dreams. The Girl In The Back is a glimpse into New York’s punk scene at its glorious if short-lived pinnacle.
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Hit So Hard – Patty Schemel
It was Kurt Cobain who convinced Courtney Love to audition Patty Schemel to be the drummer in her band Hole. While joining Hole elevated Schemel’s drumming career as grunge took over the rock world, she fell prey to drug addiction. Hit So Hard tells her story, from the success of Live Through This through being forced out of the band and ending up homeless before fighting her way to sobriety.
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Women Drummers: A History from Rock and Jazz to Blues and Country – Angela Smith
Inspired by the trailblazing jazz drummer Viola Smith, Angela Smith celebrates the women who’ve defied convention and disapproval to prove that drumming is not just a man’s game. In addition to a historical perspective on women and sacred drumming, the book features interviews with more than fifty drummers from jazz players like Allison Miller, through rockabilly queen Liza Pankratz, to rockers like The Bangles’ Debbi Peterson and Vixen’s Roxy Petrucci.
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Not Dead Yet: The Autobiography – Phil Collins
“My name is Phil Collins and I’m a drummer, and I know I’m not indestructible. This is my story.” With a relaxed, amiable style, the drummer, singer, and actor offers a candid account of his life. Despite the jovial tone, Collins doesn’t flinch when chronicling his slide into alcoholism, and there’s plenty to enjoy about Genesis, his solo career, Brand X, and even the disastrous Led Zeppelin Live Aid performance.
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