Carmine Appice is one of the most influential drummers of all time. Influenced by the legendary jazz drummers Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa, Appice managed to infuse their dextrous jazz style with a power that the world had never seen before. Perhaps not as technically gifted as his contemporary Ginger Baker, but Appice had skills that very few could boast. Without his contributions, modern music would sound very different.
Appice’s playing had and unrelenting energy that would set a precedent for all the harder forms of rock moving forward, including punk and metal. His influence can even be heard in modern rap beats. You can only imagine what it must have been like hearing his thunderous bass drum work on Vanilla Fudge’s 1967 cover of The Supremes song ‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On’ for the first time.
The number of drumming legends that Appice has inspired is truly dizzying. Roger Taylor, Phil Collins, Tommy Lee, Dave Lombardo, John Bonham, Ian Paice and Eric Singer are just a handful of rhythmic virtuosos that have cited Appice as an inspiration. Considered to be one of the greatest by those with the most glittering of CVs, Appice’s work with Vanilla Fudge, even today, 50 years after their heyday, is astonishing.
Aside from actually playing the drums, Appice also helped to bring drumming to a wider audience through the sharing of his knowledge. Appice published his guide, The Realistic Rock Drum Method, in 1972, which has been revised and republished many times over the years and is now sold as The Ultimate Realistic Rock Drum Method. Covering basic rhythms, and more intermediate subjects such as polyrhythms and rudiments amongst other exercises, Appice’s work helped create the modern rock drummer.
After first making his name with New York psychedelic heroes Vanilla Fudge during the mid-late 1960s, Appice would go on to enjoy an extensive and varied career. Despite his success, Appice left the band after five albums to form blues-rock outfit, Cactus, in 1969 alongside Fudge bassist Tim Bogert. In 1972, the duo would depart Cactus to form the power trio Beck, Bogert & Appice alongside English guitar hero Jeff Beck.
Then, refusing to stand still again, in 1977, he joined ex-Faces frontman Rod Stewart and co-wrote hits such as ‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?’. The following year, Appice joined KISS frontman Paul Stanley for his eponymous solo effort.
One huge element of Appice’s career is the effect that he had on John Bonham, and by proxy, many drummers who didn’t realise that what they were actually hearing was the work of Appice. In a 2020 interview with The Freewaves WUNH, Appice revealed that Bonham appropriated his Vanilla Fudge-era style, explaining: “I did a lot of things with twirling and grabbing,” Appice recalled. “When I met Tommy Lee, he said, ‘So where’d you get that? I got it from John Bonham’. I said ‘John Bonham got it from me’. He didn’t believe me. When we got home, he came to my house, I played The Ed Sullivan Show with Vanilla Fudge in 1968, where I was doing that, and Led Zeppelin wasn’t even out yet. He said, ‘Dude, I can’t believe you were doing it first.'”
Appice continued: “You know, when (Bonham) was coming up and we toured with him, we did that very first gig – they opened up for Vanilla Fudge, and we became friends. He would do something, look at me like, deliberately, and do one of my fills, and we both laughed. Who knew that those fills were going to become associated with him?”.
So, next time you’re listening to John Bonham, try and listen out for Carmine Appice because his influence is undoubtedly there. It’s particularly clear on the first three Led Zeppelin records, but admittedly, afterwards less so. Carmine Appice’s hard-hitting style is one of the most important to have ever graced the world of music. If you were to delete his input, the volume of subsequent music that would disappear is absurd. It’s no coincidence every drumming legend cites him as an influence.