21 greatest drum intros
DRUM EXPO 2014: As drummers, nothing excites us more than a band opening up a song with a killer drum intro. From Toto's Rosanna to Iggy Pop's Lust For Life, there are so many examples of great drum intros we simply had to pull together this list of our favourites.
But what defines a great drum intro? It's subjective but, for the purposes of this feature, a great drum intro is something that's instantly recognisable and considered a drum 'riff' or key motif in the song. A great drum intro can also be musically and technically brilliant, or simple yet iconic. The really great drum intros have all of those elements.
Rhythm magazine are joining in on the greatest drum intros fun by launching a poll so that you can help them decide what is the greatest drum intro ever! You can find details of the poll at the end of this feature - make sure you vote.
For now, things are about to get real 'fiery' as we walk you through our picks for the 21 greatest drum intros...
Fireball - Deep Purple
On this 1971 classic, Ian Paice lights some fires of his own with a heart pounding eight-bar drum solo. Kicking off with a single stroke double kick pattern and some syncopated snare drum hits, before one of Ian's signature single-stroke rolls, played as sixteenth notes and clocking in at 240bpm, brings in the rest of the band.
Sing, Sing, Sing - Benny Goodman Orchestra
Nearly 80 years after Gene Krupa played the opening bars, his intro to Benny Goodman’s version of Louis Prima's Sing, Sing, Sing (With A Swing) remains the archetypal big band tom pattern. The alternating accents march the tune along, making it a must-learn for budding jazzers.
Dr Feelgood - Mötley Crüe
Tommy Lee kicks off the title track of the LA hellraisers' 1989 album with a stunning groove, hooking headbangers in with open hats on the ‘and’ of 1 and on beat 3, while the kick drum bounces along with Nikki Sixx’s rumbling bass line.
Superstition - Stevie Wonder
Few people are aware that Stevie was the talent keeping it loose and funky behind the drums on this 1972 smash. Switching between straight and swung feel, it's the organic nature of the beat that makes it so hard to replicate, as well as the right hand chops you'll need to keep the shuffle going on the hats.
You Could Be Mine - Guns N' Roses
Semiquavers played between the bass drum, toms and snare kick off Matt Sorum's most famous drum part before he busts out a classic punk dum-dum-cha-da-da-dum-dum-cha beat. Learn it, then get a tiny motorbike and pretend you're being chased by a robot from the future.
Two Princes - Spin Doctors
If you're only going to be mostly remembered for one track, it's best to make it a corker like Two Princes. Aaron Comess' precision, Gadd-esque snare drum intro is a thing of percussive beauty with subtle ghost notes and a thumping kick drum pattern.
Lust For Life - Iggy Pop
Who'd have thought the lizard-like godfather of punk would have his biggest hit shaped by Motown? Lust For Life borrows its famous beat intro from The Supremes' You Can’t Hurry Love. Regardless, the stomp and feel is all Hunt's.
The same beat has since been recycled by Jet on Are You Gonna Be My Girl.
Painkiller - Judas Priest
The 1990 arrival of former Racer-X drummer Scott Travis helped bring a modern thrashier sound to the Priest. Out were the keyboards, in were the double kicks, starting with the first notes on the album.
It's a barrage of sixteenths on the feet, accenting the down and up-beats with the snare and crashes before settling into a busy thrash groove.
Rock and Roll - Led Zeppelin
Bonham was the drum intro king, and this is one of his most celebrated and debated beats, inspired by rock 'n' roll legends such as Little Richard and Chuck Berry. The big misconception is that the first snare hit is on beat one when in fact it begins on the 'and' of beat three.
Pile some of that dirty Bonham funk on top and you have a classic on your hands.
My Sharona - The Knack
Legend has it that the famous beat was already conceived by guitarist Berton Averre. However, it's Bruce Gary's tight groove between the toms/kick and snare that gives My Sharona its driving pulse. Run DMC criminally left the drums out when they borrowed the riff for It’s Tricky in 1986.
Rosanna - Toto
Jeff Porcaro's sublime touch can be heard on hundreds of tracks, but Rosanna's opening is his finest hour. Beginning with a basic half-time shuffle with the backbeat on '3', the ghost notes were inspired by Bernard Purdie's shuffle on Steely Dan's Babylon Sisters, while the kick and snare pattern are given a Bo Diddley-type syncopation.
Billie Jean - Michael Jackson
Bass drums on one and three, snares on two and four with a constant eighth-note hi-hat pattern might sound easy, but to play simple grooves with enough pocket to satisfy Michael Jackson on one of his biggest hits takes skill. Play it and they will dance.
Wipe Out - The Surfaris
The intro to this surf classic has become a staple primer for developing single stroke accents. Played as single-stroke sixteenth notes, the first bar is played straight, accenting the downbeats, but it flips in the second bar, accenting the off-beats of beats one and two.
My Hero - Foo Fighters
A powerful, tom-heavy track and easily one of Dave Grohl’s drumming career highlights. And that’s saying something. The thumping backbeats and the toms were recorded separately and panned slightly off centre to give each their own weight and distinction. We reckon it worked a treat.
50 Ways To Leave Your Lover - Paul Simon
Steve Gadd's technical vocabulary and command take centre stage here as he mixes up singles, doubles and flams. It also features some subtle work between his left hand and foot on the hi-hat, all with the tonal characteristics that make Gadd great.
Hot For Teacher - Van Halen
Arguably one of the most iconic drum intros in rock, and playing it is a holy grail for a lot of drummers. Alex Van Halen steps out of his brother Eddie's shadow to shine with a blistering drum solo before kicking into a furious double bass shuffle in a flurry of kick drum notes.
Reggatta De Blanc - The Police
The opening bars of Reggatta De Blanc is classic Copeland distilled. The complex interplay between the hi-hat and cross-sticking is made even trickier by a short delay courtesy of Copeland's Roland Space Echo producing a dotted eighth-note.
Check out Can’t Stand Losing You and Walking On The Moon for other examples of Stewart Copeland's delayed drum lines.
Sunday Bloody Sunday - U2
The spotlight shines bright on Larry Mullen Jr as he kicks off this military-style intro that complements the song’s political overtones. A classic hand-to-hand 16th-note feel played between the hi-hats and snare and driven by four-on-the-floor on the bass drum. It’s simple but Larry nails it.
Walk This Way - Aerosmith
One of the most recognisable drum intro’s ever, the stabbing open to closed hi-hats on beat 1 of the bar, together with the funky 16th note bass drum pattern made it an instant classic. Run DMC’s 1986 cover sent Aerosmith’s career stratospheric.
Looking For Love - The Babys
How do you make a tired 6/8 groove sound more interesting? Simple: add cowbell on the second, third, fifth and six (‘and-a-two-and-a’) eighth notes. Before that, though, you do like The Babys' Tony Brock and smash out an intro containing tight five-note groupings, concert toms and pump the whole lot through a flanger. Magic.
Stargazer - Rainbow
Most bands would run a mile from any drummer suggesting a four-bar drum solo to kick off a track, but when your drummer is Cozy Powell you needn’t worry. Blistering, flourishing fills and a relentless, thrilling sense of forward propulsion pushes the listener toward the opening riff.
Vote in the greatest drum intros poll
The 21 greatest drum intros you've just read about are the Drum Expo 2014 team's favourites, but the guys at Rhythm Magazine are putting together their own list for a future cover feature and they want your input.
Have your say now by voting in their Greatest Ever Drum Intros poll!