12 drummers that became frontmen
5th Aug 2014 | 11:00
When drummers go solo
Phil Rudd this month releases his debut solo album, and he is far from the first drummer to move into the limelight and release their own album. Here we round up 12 more sticksmen who have gone solo – the good, the bad and the bloody awful.
Surely the ultimate example of a drummer stepping out from the kit and having a crack as a frontman. After Kurt Cobain's death Grohl almost took the gig as Tom Petty's drummer, but instead decided to pursue his own project. Not a bad decision, we'd say. Twenty years and seven (soon to be eight) albums later and Grohl now fronts possibly the biggest band on the planet and has penned some of the most enduring rock tracks of the past two decades.
The former Guns 'N Roses drummer managed to overshadow his own solo career by releasing his first album, Hollywood Zen, just a week before his then new band Velvet Revolver unleashed their own debut. It took Sorum ten years to record the follow-up, Stratosphere, which finds the sticksman sounding like Matchbox20 fronted by Primark version of Mark Lanegan.
In the midst of her monumentally successful work with Prince, Sheila E began what would be a long a fruitful solo career. Her 1984 debut, The Glamorous Life, saw E take on percussion and vocal duties. The album hit the US Top 30, and has since been followed by six more albums.
Burrows first showed his solo credentials as he co-penned hits America and Before I Fall To Pieces. Before he had even quit the band in 2009, Burrows released The Colour of My Dreams in 2008 and he then founded the ELO-ish I Am Arrows. Since then he's won critical acclaim for his work soundtracking The Snowman and the Snowdog and even got back behind the kit for David Brent.
Hang on a minute, Grohl, Collins hasn't done too bad for himself as well, you know. Collins' solo career has proven a huge bone of contention amongst Genesis fans down the years as he went from progressive drum superstar to chart-topping crooner. Early solo hit In The Air Tonight did, of course, feature one of the most iconic pieces of drumming ever recorded, but pop pap like Easy Lover and Two Hearts was a million miles away from Nursery Cryme, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway et al.
We wonder where Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins got the inspiration to go solo from. To be fair though, Hawkins most definitely has the pipes to pull off his solo escapades, as you can tell from his two Queen-inspired Coattail Riders albums and the Rush-tastic 2014 Birds of Satan project.
Cozy enjoyed a successful solo career, but unlike the other drummers on this list, he did it without singing a note. Even more astounding, Powell scored a top ten single with the drum solo Dance With The Devil, something that is pretty unthinkable today, right? The Whitesnake/Rainbow drummer released three solo albums between 1979 and 1982, and – Over The Top, Tilt and Octopuss.
No matter what John Lennon had to say, Ringo most certainly was the best drummer in The Beatles, and you know what, he's not bad a bad solo career as well. Starting with 1970's Sentimental Journey, Starr has put out an impressive 16 solo albums, 12 live sets and a handful of compilations. In Photograph and You're Sixteen he scored back-to-back US number ones, although top spot in the UK has eluded him (unless you count his part on the 2009 Children In Need medley in which he voiced Thomas The Tank), with Back Off Boogaloo being his biggest hit on this side of the pond.
With Motley Crue, Tommy Lee established himself as not just possibly the greatest drumming showman, but also as an innovator. So when he launched a post-Motley solo career at the turn of the century we waited with baited breath to hear the boundary-testing sounds that Lee had come up with. What we got was a god-awful rap-rock mish-mash released under the Methods of Mayhem banner. Lee followed this up with a pair of passable singer-songwriter offerings released under his own name (Never a Dull Moment and Tommyland: The Ride) before he returned to Methods for the sonically abhorrent A Public Disservice Announcement.
Perhaps one of the most pleasantly surprising drummer-turned-frontman moves of recent years is that of Radiohead's Phil Selway. Selway released a thinking man's record in the shape of Familial in 2010 and he's just returned with his second solo album, Weatherhouse. The former saw Selway bring in an outside sticksman to track beats, but he's back at the kit on the latter.
The late, great Levon Helm was a rare case of a man who's incredible vocal talents were matched by his supreme skills at the kit. It was as drummer and often also singer for The Band that Helm made his name, but he also released numerous solo albums, including the Grammy-winning Dirt Farmer. Helm sadly passed away in 2012, aged 71.
In any other band, Roger Taylor would have been head and shoulders above his bandmates in terms of songwriting ability. But, with Queen Taylor had to make do with being one of four supremely talented musicians. As well as penning tracks like Radio Gaga and A Kind of Magic, Taylor went solo, releasing his first single, I Wanna Testify, in 1977. Since then he's released five solo records, the last of which was Fun On Earth, released in 2013.