Everyone has their own drum greats, their personal favourite skin bashers, who they'll fiercely argue the case for no matter what. The thing is, for a lot of those guys, the case has already been argued, and everything has already been said. The world knows them, they crop up in all time fave drummers polls with depressing regularity. Not to take anything away from them, in most cases they deserve it, but what about the other guy?
So, we thought it would be a good idea to build up an archive of profiles arguing the case for the unsung heroes of drumming. Some are dead, some still with us, but all have one thing in common – a drumming talent that deserves further recognition.
Paul Hammond – Atomic Rooster, Hard Stuff.
There's a decent chance you've heard of Atomic Rooster, but a somewhat smaller one you can recall Paul Hammond. Mention the band in drumming circles and your likely to hear something along the lines of “Oh yeah, Carl Palmer wasn't it?”
There's the problem. No sooner had the ex-crazy world of Arthur Brown pair Vincent Crane and Palmer formed Rooster in 1969, than the latter promptly went off to form, yes, you've probably guessed it, Emerson Lake and Palmer.
There's no doubt the debut self titled album that Palmer played on features some class playing, but for me, Hammond is the quintessential Rooster Drummer. He plays on their only hit singles Tomorrow night, and The Devil's Answer – top five and the most likely the first time you heard Hammond in action) and their best two albums, Death Walks Behind you, and In the Hearing of Atomic Rooster.
After In the Hearing Of, Hammond left Rooster to form Hard Stuff with then-fellow Rooster band member, Guitarist John Du Cann. He would join Crane again for a brief period of Spinal Tap-like rotating drummer syndrome however, in Rooster's 80's reform period, but the past glories were never recaptured.
There's something about 70's drummers. Most of them were taught by jazzers, and the level of skill back then was so high, it makes many of today's players in contemporary bands of relative age and experience look like oafs. Bearing all this in mind, Paul was still a cut above most. There's a strong jazz feel, but a strong rock presence too in his playing. He was creative without looking overly free-form, and was capable too of one of the most important things – keeping it simple when needed.
The best case for Hammond is to sit through Death Walks Behind You album. His playing electrifies the album and augments Crane's ivory-work beautifully throughout. There's an obvious knowledge of technique which shows through in some of the most prog sections, but a hard rock edge too
Sadly, following Vincent Crane's suicide in 1989, Paul died from a drug overdose in 1992. Only Du Cann remains from the classic line up, and we're left with a couple of albums, and whatever live footage we can find, to remember this classic line up of an underated band, and its even more underated drummer.