Hotlicks: The Beats That Drove The British Invasion

The influx of English bands in the early to mid-1960s was more than just a new style of music; it was also a cultural revolution that ultimately would influence fashion, sexuality, and politics. Think Austin Powers, and you’ll get the idea, baby. Bands like the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, and The Who made great music during the period that has passed the test of time and continues to have a profound effect on the music we listen to today. Lots of the drummers of the era had backgrounds in jazz, and some had trouble adapting to the straight eighth feel of rock, which is why much of the music has a subtle swing. Since rock was still in diapers, there also weren’t as many clichés for drummers to rely on, forcing them to often approach the music more creatively than many of today’s drummers (no offense, guys). There were many great bands and drummers who were a part of the British Invasion, but the scope of this article unfortunately limits the number that we can cover. And if we happened to omit your favorite drummer, feel free to direct all complaints to the editor, and away from me.

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“The House Of The Rising Sun”
Band: The Animals
Drummer: John Steel

This cover song about a famous house of prostitution in New Orleans was one of the Animals’ biggest hits, and they recorded it in just one take during a stop while touring. John Steel’s simple drum part provided the pulse the tune needed. The recording doesn’t favor the bass drum, so it might vary slightly.

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“Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”
Band: The Animals
Drummer: John Steel

Steel plays a very simple linear groove in the verse that’s pretty unusual by today’s standards.

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“Bits And Pieces”
Band: Dave Clark 5
Drummer: Dave Clark

Dave Clark played on some Dave Clark 5 tracks but would also use studio drummers so he could be in the control room helping produce the songs. Recording technology was very different then. Songs were often played in a single pass, unlike multitrack recording today that allows drummers with bad time or vocalists with poor pitch to be Pro Tool’ed into perfection. This track has the big, dramatic drum intro shown here.

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“Glad All Over”
Band: Dave Clark 5
Drummer: Dave Clark

“Glad All Over” proved a threat to The Beatles’ chart dominance, knocking the Beatles’ “I Want Hold Your Hand” from Billboard’s #1 slot in 1964. Here we see the intro fill and groove used for much of the song. Clark’s drumming has a definite pre-punk-rock flavor.

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“Carrie Anne”
Band: The Hollies
Drummer: Bobby Elliott

Bobby Elliott was considered one of the best drummers of the era. His drumming on this catchy song is simple and supportive, leaving plenty of room for the steel pan solo. Matrix actress Carrie Anne Moss was named after this infectious chart topper.

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“Bus Stop”
Band: The Hollies
Drummer: Bobby Elliott

Here’s another simple drum part from the always-supportive Elliott. This song was written by Glenn Gouldman, who later was a member of the band 10cc. Elliott still tours with The Hollies as one of the two original members.

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“You Really Got Me”
Band: The Kinks
Drummers: Mick Avory, Bobby Graham

Ghost drumming is nothing new. Mick Avory had just joined the Kinks when this tune was recorded, but the producer had doubts he could pull it off, so he got session drummer Bobby Graham to provide the drum track for the song while Mick Avory played the tambourine part. Graham is an unsung hero of the British Invasion — a session drummer who recorded somewhere up to 15,000 songs for many popular bands of the era. Brian Epstein asked him to replace Pete Best in The Beatles, but he declined, so they got Ringo Starr instead. Ouch.

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“For Your Love”
Band: The Yardbirds
Drummer: Jim McCarty

The Yardbirds began as a serious blues band and had three incredible guitarists in succession: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page. “For Your Love” was one their biggest hit and like The Hollies’ “Bus Stop” was written by Glenn Gouldman. It also drove the serious blues guitarist Clapton to leave the band. Studio musicians played much of this track, including the bongo part, which is most easily played with a sticking of R LL R L R L R L. McCarty plays a twist beat during the verse, but it’s his big drum break at the tempo change that really stands out.

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“I Can See For Miles”
Band: The Who
Drummer: Keith Moon

Keith Moon was the original wild-man drummer, destroying countless drum kits, hotel rooms, and tragically, eventually himself. There will never be another drummer like him. On “I Can See For Miles” Moon takes his familiar role of playing lead drums, peppering the intro of this song with tom hits and snare crescendos. His innovative and unusual approach to the instrument helped establish The Who as one of the British Invasion’s most interesting and rebellious acts.

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“Get Off My Cloud”
Band: Rolling Stones
Drummer: Charlie Watts

The Stones had just had a huge hit with “Satisfaction,” and their record company was banging on their door wanting another single. This song was their response and ironically also became a #1 hit in the U.S. The transcription has excerpts from the verse and chorus showing how well Charlie Watts drives the tune.

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“Paint It Black”
Band: Rolling Stones
Drummer: Charlie Watts

The Rolling Stones had a grungier sound than some of the other bands of the era. Charlie Watts plays a double-time tribal tom pattern that suits the Middle Eastern vibe of this song perfectly. The bass drum is hard to make out in that section and may be quietly thumping quarter-notes.

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“In My Life”
Band: The Beatles
Drummer: Ringo Starr

Here we see an interesting example of Ringo’s drumming. He plays a cool linear groove that is a great example of simple, creative drum set orchestration.

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“The End”
Band: The Beatles
Drummer: Ringo Starr

Here is Ringo’s drum solo from the post-Invasion years. If it seems surprisingly difficult to play, remember that Ringo is left-handed but plays a right-handed kit, so lots of the patterns begin with his left hand.

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“She’s Not There”
Band: The Zombies
Drummer: Hugh Grundy

The Zombies were a great band that broke up too soon. Drummer Hugh Grundy played some really interesting parts that still sound fresh today — his contribution to drumming should be better known. On “She’s Not There,” he plays a linear groove for the verse that sounds like a rim-click played with his left hand, while the snare note on count 4 and the hi-hat note that follows it is played with his right hand. It’s a great groove with a hint of a Latin flavor. This song reached #1 in the U.S.

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“Time Of The Season”
Band: The Zombies
Drummer: Hugh Grundy

This is one of the great radio songs of all time, but tragically became a hit after The Zombies had disbanded. Written by keyboardist Rod Argent, who also penned “She’s Not There,” this song and album wouldn’t have been released in the States if Bob Dylan’s keyboardist Al Kooper hadn’t badgered the record company to release it. After they reluctantly did, it promptly sold two million copies in the U.S. The recording quality of this song still sounds amazing, and it features another linear pattern that this time includes a handclap and vocal “ahhh” bathed in reverb. Those parts are written within the verse pattern because they’re inseparable and essential to this great groove. The chorus features another clever Latin-tinged Grundy groove.

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