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Mean Mean Stride: The Drums Of Neil Peart

Flesh, blood, soul, and fire. All essential ingredients to music of significance, and drummers worthy of any enduring memory have it all. Insert your favorites here.

However, perhaps more than any other instrument (your loudmouth guitarist friends are going to jump up and down — let them), drummers are attached to, and driven by, their equipment. We all covet those round wood cylinders, delicious metal pies, and hardware contraptions that, through increasing space-age innovations, make our lives easier. Who doesn’t remember their first set (with either fondness or consternation), and who doesn’t feel their pulses race when they get their hands on that special new piece of gear?

For some noteworthy drummers, there is an equipment history worth revisiting. This is the first in a series of DRUM! features that will examine the different setups of some of our (and hopefully your) favorites. So who’s on first?

Neil Peart

Historically speaking, Rush’s drummer and lyricist is arguably the single best combination of rudimentary precision, mathematical meters, and Keith Moon’s ferocious bombast. Don’t confuse him with lighter-handed progressive peers: The man is rocker at heart. Take it from someone who has watched him rehearse — to paraphrase Keith Olbermann: He hits the drums, real hard.

Let’s have a look at the drums and cymbals he has so lovingly pounded into submission.

The Simmons pads changed to ddrums for Presto

Begin The Day With A Friendly Voice

For his 13th birthday, St. Catharines—native Neil Peart didn’t get a drum set. No, no. “I got a pair of sticks, a practice pad, and lessons,” he remembers, adding that his parents told him, “’Once you show that you’re going to stick with it for a year, then we’ll get drums.’ Fair enough. I’d do the same thing.”

Of course, the lad voraciously ate up his sight-reading and rudimentary lessons with Don George at the Peninsula Conservatory of Music. One year and $150 later, Peart celebrated his 14th birthday pounding to “Land Of A Thousand Dances” and “Wipeout” on his very own red sparkle beauties.

“The brand was Stewart,” he says. “It had a 20" bass drum, snare, 12" x 8" tom-tom, and one 16" Ajax cymbal. I later traded with a friend for an 18" Capri bass drum, and received a hi-hat for one birthday, and a floor tom for another, then eventually expanded to two Ajax cymbals, both set ridiculously high.”

He played, and broke, Slingerland Gene Krupa model drumsticks, and because he couldn’t afford new pairs, he simply turned them around and used the butt-end. This approach, enabling him to get more punch from lighter sticks, became a playing trademark for much of his career.

“At around 16, I got a Rogers Gray Ripple set,” he continues. At a staggering $750, the drummer of the local-roller-rink-ruling Mumblin’ Sumpthin’ (his first “real band”) delivered papers, mowed lawns, and worked for his father’s farm-equipment dealership on Saturdays to make the $35 monthly payments. This Rogers kit “grew into a double-bass-drum setup with twin 12" toms and a 14" floor tom — I was all into those small sizes back then — and my first Zildjians: 20" and 18", set way up high, with 13" hi-hats, with the stand also extended way high.”

Peart continued cutting his teeth with local bands like The Majority and J.R. Flood, and had an eye-opening trip to England in the interim, but of course we have to fast-forward this tape to 1974, when he happened upon two strapping young lads, namely Toronto-native bassist Gary Weinrib and a guitarist named Alex Zivojinovich of Fernie, British Columbia.

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