Though Brian May and Freddie Mercury may well have taken the spotlight for Queen with their swashbuckling performances and unique viewpoints, there can be no doubt that Roger Taylor, the band’s drummer, was the backbone of the group. A dynamic performer and a solid sticksman, Taylor was never one to try and aggressively grab the spotlight, unlike many of his biggest drum influences.
Taylor talked with the Express earlier this year when he noted down three drummers who have been inspirations in his life and influenced his performances with Queen. Given the calibre of performers on show, there is no doubt that this is a seriously potent list of percussionists. Taylor may not necessarily be the coolest drummer of all time, but he certainly has great taste.
During the interview, Taylor notes that three performers, in particular, influenced his playing and inspired him on to great things. First up, and one of the lesser celebrated drummers of the huge rock explosion of the sixties is Mitch Mitchell. A noted percussionist, Mitchell found fame as part of Jimi Hendrix’s band The Experience. With such a mercurial frontman, Mitchell operated in the shadows but still delivered some notorious fills.
Taylor was quick to point out just how talented he was: “I was blown away by his playing, everything was tight and so perfect, and he always played for the song…his fills were just fantastic, and he was so fast with those jazz chops that you barely saw his hands. ‘Fire’ and ‘Manic Depression’ — from [debut album] Are You Experienced? — are still two of my favourite drum tracks.” Both are impressive displays of Mitchell’s colossal talent.
A similarly talented but much more widely celebrated drummer was John Bonham, a musician who Taylor also expressed a great deal of admiration for, remembering the first time he saw the drummer behind the kit: “Another drummer that blew me away when Freddie (Mercury) and I first saw (Led) Zeppelin play live was John Bonham. He sounded like thunder!”
It’s a similar description as most audience members of the time would have given. “He was pure rock,” continued Taylor, “He had speed, power and wonderful technique. Then there was his drum sound — massive and natural — and that became the benchmark that so many drummers strived for. He hit hard, but he knew how to hit right. I loved his drumming, and that big sound of his was a big influence on me.”
To conclude the triumvirate of impressive drummers, there could be only one man, the animal himself; The Who’s noted loon, Keith Moon. Taylor was again open about the drummer’s sincere influence on his career: “Keith Moon was another big influence on me, He was just phenomenal at what he did, and he was another drummer with a great sound. Those tympanic toms were quite revolutionary, and his phrasing was just so natural, untutored and brilliant.”
It’s fair to say that Taylor took all of these styles into account when perfecting his own sound. One thing that connects them all, however, is performance. Taylor may well have been the band’s shadowy backbone of the band, but he still gives his all every time he gets on stage.
Roger Taylor’s 3 favourite drummers of all time:
- John Bonham
- Mitch Mitchell
- Keith Moon