…not to the music or you, dear reader, but just to the tools of the trade. On the eve of this sale, parting is such sweet sorrow. There is a flicker of sadness in seeing it all go. I was never much of a drum geek, funnily enough, considering I got through a lot of kit in my time, but I never felt much allegiance to it. I needed it to stand up, not fall over, and stay in the same place, but beyond that, my requirements were modest.
In the early 70s I travelled with my drums, because we were in a van and it was easy to do so. In the US air travel was cheap and easy and we’d stuff the drums in the belly of the plane for peanuts and fly them to the next gig. Then air travel and shipping became more expensive, and drum rental companies started to appear, making it a tough decision – fly them or rent? Then the manufacturer played his part. I was expected to play the latest in the range, so at rapidly diminishing intervals I was effectively told that I wasn’t playing this kit any more – the one I was just getting used to – I was playing this shiny new one. The huge upside of an endorsement arrangement like that was that an international firm like Tama drums from Japan was then prepared to ship a kit to my specifications to wherever in the world it was wanted, effectively a sponsorship of the arts.
Through all this I was obliged to forego the idea of having a passionate love for a single instrument or group of instruments – such as the violinist does for her Stradivarius. I had to adopt the pragmatic approach of ‘just get on and play it, you can make it work’. Closest I came to any such love, I suppose, would be the yellow and black Tama Star Classic kit I used with King Crimson in the mid-90s (Lot# 1). We got on great together, and while recorded sound has dozens of variables only part of which is the kit, one of my favourite drum sounds to this day is with that kit on King Crimson’s ‘On Broadway: 1995’ (DGM Club 5-6).
More important than the drum, I think, is the drummer, and I’m still very much around. Perhaps more important than the individual drummer is any contribution she might or might not make to the music she serves, and I have plenty of audible evidence as reminders of the wild leaps, considered thinking, missed opportunities, passionate thrashing and spatial awareness that peppered my efforts and make me smile to this day. I don’t need the instruments to remind me of that, but I do need the recorded evidence.
Manufacturers try to persuade you that his drum is better than her drum, that it has ‘greater warmth’, or ‘better cut and clarity’ or a ‘sparkling low-end’ or whatever, but personally I could never really hear the difference. Had you put Tony Williams or Mark Giuliana on comparable kits from any four of the leading brands, and had them play a little on each, the huge difference in the sound quality between Tony and Mark would be everything to do with their touch – how, when and where they chose to strike the instrument – and little to do with the instruments themselves.
Massive thanks go to Graham Russell at Graham Russell Drums for making all this happen. It took him and his people days to sift and sort this lot. Just to confirm: every Lot in the auction has been used by me in public performance in some place or another, with some band or another, during my time in the spotlight. With the possible exception of the drum cases, but even then, I’m not sure.
I have kept the smaller drums in a Tama Starclassic Bubinga kit in Dark Cherry Fade that you see around on this website and my Facebook, for personal use. Maybe I’ll take up drumming again seriously when I’m 80! The larger sizes – the other half of the kit – are available as Lot# 2.
So many stories and memories: Lots# 160-166: brass and aluminium plates for ride cymbal ‘substitutes’, used all over King Crimson albums 1972-1974; Lot# 177, the ratchet that pops up in the hole in the groove (third beat of every measure) of Allan Holdsworth’s hair-raising guitar solo in UK’s ‘In the Dead of Night’; Lot# 86, the Paiste Percussion Rack in use on Earthworks’ ‘My Heart Declares a Holiday’ and in the accompanying picture here, in concert with Michiel Borstlap; Lot# 48, the six acrylic Dragon Drums that Robert Fripp, never a big fan of ride cymbals, enjoyed so much on KC’s ‘Elephant Talk’ and ‘Frame by Frame’; Lot# 80, the first tom I ever bought around fifteen years of age, and promptly painted black; lots of antique electronic pieces like programmable stereo mixers, midi ‘Mappers’ and my old Yamaha DX11 synth which produced all the pitches for early Earthworks, all so evocative of the early 80s and the excitement and promise of early hybrid kits.
It’s a feast. Get stuck in, enjoy, but don’t eat too much!