Top 10 Most Overrated Drummers of All-Time

I’ve read so many “best of all time” musician lists online, and 90% of them are total bullshit. I’m sure you’ve run into a few yourself, where you’ve felt the same way. A word of advice: At the very least ignore anything originating from Rolling Stone magazine, as they don’t know their asses from their elbows.

I was watching an interesting new video a few days ago created by my amigo Elmo Karjalainen, in which he expresses his well-informed opinions regarding the “Top 10 Guitarists Ever” (included with his permission at the bottom of this post). Inspired by that, I decided to make a list of my own.

But, I used another approach, that being the most overrated.

I also instead chose drummers as my subject, since that’s been my primary instrument since 13 years of age. I would hope that qualifies me as a reliable source. Perhaps I belong on the list too, but I’m just some amateur off the street, not a drummer playing in a well-known professional band.

At any rate, this is basically off the top of my head. I’m sure there are many more I’m forgetting that may be even more deserving.

Without further ado, and in no particular order…


Tommy Lee (Motley Crue)

Tommy Lee - Stuck
Someone save this guy from himself, and fast!

Besides a few other choice names, I like to call him, “Mr. Gimmick”.

It seems what defines Lee are his on-stage antics, such as constantly twirling drumsticks like a cheerleader wielding a baton, spinning and roller coaster drum risers (including one which got stuck upside-down during their final show in 2016, necessitating a Roadie rescue), a 42″ bass drum, and plenty of pyro. Motley Crue fans ate it up, to the point where none of them really noticed or cared about his playing. His beats and fills are simplistic at best, so it’s too bad he didn’t spend nearly as much time working to master his chosen instrument as he did with all of that other horse shit.

Tommy also has what seems to be a rather large psychotic side to his personality. Putting the wife beatings and heavy drug use aside, here’s some classic proof of his mindlessness. In an open letter to his fans regarding them asking for selfies when they happened to run into him in public, he wrote:

“It irritates the fuck out of me when people say, ‘You owe it to your fans, they put you where you are.’ I certainly don’t owe anybody anything!'”

Just where the hell does this guy think he’d be without the fans of Motley Crue? Probably lying in a gutter somewhere, with a used syringe sticking out of his arm.

However, I did thoroughly enjoy his home video with Pamela Anderson. It was the highlight of his career, as far as I’m concerned.


Peter Criss (KISS)

Peter Criss
“The Catman”

This should be pretty obvious, but my main knock on Criss is simply that he played in KISS, who ironically are one of the most overrated bands of all time.

In all fairness, Gene Simmons (once again, unsurprisingly one of the most overrated bass players of all time) pretty much runs the band, so in Peter’s defense any sort of creativity which may have emerged from him as far as drums are concerned was quickly stifled under Simmon’s boot. They’re big ones too, with cool dragon heads, whee!

In the end, they fired him anyway.

One more thing: If I hear the song “Beth” just one more time, I’m going to puke all over my Reeboks.


Stewart Copeland (The Police, et al.)

Stewart Copeland
Right up there with John Bonham? Um, no.

Copeland is a hard hitter who breaks a lot of sticks (I can relate to that, me too), although he maintains good syncopation and fills. His melding of rock, jazz, reggae, and other genres are often viewed as unique, but that’s simply not so. Uncountable drummers had done the same thing long before he came on the scene.

This is what really gets me: Believe it or not, this guy is often placed among some of the best drummers who have ever walked the face of the earth, such as Gene Krupa, John Bonham, and Keith Moon, all of which actually did have truly unique styles of playing. I really can’t imagine why this is, because on my opinion he’s not even worthy of washing the aforementioned drummer’s BVD’s.

For God knows what reason, he’s even wandered into the realm of opera and ballet, but those efforts pretty much all wound up bombing. Have you ever even heard those productions? I didn’t think so, me either.

If you want a great example of a Rock drummer stepping out of his comfort zone and very successfully delving into a totally different music genre, just watch any of Neil Peart’s Big-Band Buddy Rich tribute concerts. They’re amazing.

I must confess, I suppose my opinion of Copeland was biased from the start, since personally I hate the fucking Police. So please, don’t stand, don’t stand, don’t stand so close to me.


Mick Fleetwood (Fleetwood Mac)

Mick Fleetwood
Charlie Manson, on the skins!

As if having to listen to Stevie Nicks sing like she’s got an entire box of Kleenex stuck up her nose isn’t bad enough, having to watch Mick’s Charles Manson facial imitations are enough to drive anyone to drink.

I do have to give him some credit for founding and holding the band together for a very long time, although that’s now history as well. Banging Lindsey Buckingham’s old lady (good ‘ol Stevie) must have certainly created more than a little friction regarding their break-up. But, I digress…

My thoughts are, the main reason Fleetwood Mac held together for so long with their final line-up was really due to the other awesome musicians, singers and songwriters in the band, especially Buckingham and Christine McVie.

Actually, there’s little at all to say about his ability as a drummer, except that he’s certainly not anything special. Nothing more to see here, move along…


Nick Mason (Pink Floyd)

Nick Mason
Mason in the film, “Live at Pompeii”

Progressive Rock is absolutely my favorite genre of music, and there’s no doubt Pink Floyd are legendary in that musical category. However, anyone with 3 drum lessons could sit in for Nick, and no one would be the wiser.

Their “Live at Pompeii” movie is a wonderful example. Sloppy playing, dropping drumsticks (we’ve all done it, but it’s hilarious they left it in the production), and I suspect even overdubbing in spots as they don’t seem to match the action in the film.

Notice how David Gilmour almost immediately ditched Mason when he went solo? There has to be more than one reason for that, besides the fact that he’s mediocre at best.


Ginger Baker (Cream, et al.)

Ginger Baker

If you like triplets, you’ll be happy to listen to Baker all the live-long day, as apparently that’s about the only fill he’s capable of.

He’s sometimes credited with introducing the use of two bass drums, which is a pile of dung since Jazz players had originated that practice way back in the 1940’s.

As icing on the cake, he may just well be the biggest asshole in Rock (quite the achievement, since there’s so many). Granted, that doesn’t affect his ability as a drummer, or does it? His narcissism certainly runs very deeply, yet his performances are totally forgettable.


Charlie Watts (The Rolling Stones)

Charlie Watts
Drum rudiments seem to escape Charlie.

Hey, I absolutely love the Stones. In fact, they were my very favorite band in my younger days. I even played in a band that performed almost nothing but Stones covers back then.

The problem with Charlie is coordination. He can’t even play the snare and hi-hat in syncopation, but instead pauses the opposite hand while striking each. Just have a look at any live Stones performance, and you’ll see what I mean. It’s something that’s made me cringe for years, and I can hardly bear to watch it. Thankfully, I don’t have to when I’m listening to their studio recordings.

The claim is this “technique” (if you can even call it that) results in a more powerful hit to the snare drum. If you believe that, I’ve got a statue sitting in New York Harbor that I’ll sell you, really cheap.


Lars Ulrich (Metallica)

Lars Ulrich 2
The sole drummer that is easily the equal to Tommy Lee and Ginger Baker, in asshole-dom.

I’ll give Lars this, he sounds pretty good on studio recordings, although playing for speed and seemingly nothing else is completely soulless as far as I’m concerned.

Curiously, he can’t seem to even approach duplicating those performances in concert.

I suspect there’s more than a little studio recording trickery afoot there, like maybe eleventy seven takes, along with a shitload of comps. Good thing we don’t use tape anymore, because Ulrich probably roasted enough of them during overdubs in the past to potentially burn the entire fucking building down.

When it comes to Lars, my all-time favorite will always be his confrontation and lawsuit against Napster back in 2000, when the Internet was still in its fledgling stages. The following video explains all of that better than I ever could.


Phil Collins (Genesis, and solo)

Phil Collins
I can feel it coming in the hair tonight… Oops, he doesn’t have any.

I’ve seen quite a few drummers step out from behind their kit with egotistical fantasies about being “front men”, when they should have stayed right the fuck where they were. I guess I can relate to that a bit, as no one usually pays much attention to those of us who bang the skins, situated way back there on the stage.

Phil’s claim to fame is perhaps being 2nd only to Ringo as far as being overrated goes. The drums on his most popular solo song, “In the Air Tonight” are so boring, it’s actually hard to stay awake listening to the thing. Seriously, I suppose that’s what it feels like to swallow a handful of Valium 10’s.

Here’s a personal experience of mine that’s a good example of this phenomena: I once mixed live sound for a band who shall remain nameless, where a drummer-to-front-man tranformation occurred. The result: One of the shittiest singers I’ve ever heard in my life who couldn’t even remember lyrics to songs half the time, and tried to make up for it by frequently dressing in women’s clothing. Oh, almost forgot… He was replaced on drums by one of the shittiest drummers I’ve ever heard, to top the whole thing off. Needless to say, they’ve all been swept under the Rock and Roll rug, long ago.

Anyway, back to Phil. Genesis should have given him the boot long before he exited the band himself, and left percussion to the likes of Bill Bruford and other excellent drummers that were in the group at one time or another.


Ringo Starr (The Beatles)

The Beatles
Paul: “Hey Ringo, the drums are down and to your right, man.”

It’s a complete mystery to me why some people feel Ringo is so good, but I suspect the answer is simply because he somehow managed to hook up with three geniuses to form a completely legendary band called The Beatles. The explanation I usually get is his precise timekeeping, but that alone certainly does not a great drummer make. It’s keep-the-beat, play almost no fills, and that’s about it.

A bit of trivia: John Lennon was supposedly asked if Ringo was the best drummer in the world during an interview, to which he replied, “Ringo isn’t even the best drummer in the Beatles”. This has been debunked as being written by Geoffrey Perkins as part of a spoof interview, but entertaining nonetheless.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not convinced that the statement itself is untrue. A few examples are Paul McCartney’s drumming on “Back in the USSR”, “The Ballad of John and Yoko”, “Martha My Dear”, and others.

Then, there’s the claim by people close to the band and supposedly in the know, that Beatles assistant Mal Evans actually sat in on drums for “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”. Obviously, he wasn’t even in the band.

Ringo famously (and temporarily, as it turned out) quit the band during the recording of the White Album, which I consider their finest effort. Here’s what he had to say about that:

“While we were recording the ‘White’ album we ended up being more of a band again, and that’s what I always love. I love being in a band. Of course, I must have moments of turmoil, because I left the group for a while that summer. I left because I felt two things: I felt I wasn’t playing great, and I also felt that the other three were really happy and I was an outsider.”

He then flew to the Mediterranean, where he spent two weeks on Peter Sellers’ yacht. Nice.

It makes one wonder how many other occasions there were with Ringo in absentia. Judging from the songs I’ve pointed out, it seemed to become more prevalent in their later recordings.


Elmo’s video, the inspiration for this blog post.


So, like many others on the web, is my most overrated list bullshit too? Or, perhaps I’ve forgotten someone that’s more deserving?

Rather than getting pissed-off at what I’ve had to say in this rather long post, I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments section below. But, please don’t forget to back them up with the reasons for your opinions.

As always, thanks for reading!

13 thoughts

    1. There’s no doubt that music is one of the most subjective things in the world, and that certainly includes drummers.

      That said, I have to disagree with you. Moon had a very unique style, especially on fills, and I love how he often hits crash cymbals on off-beats (the song “Who Are You?” is a great example of this). You certainly don’t get inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame for nothing… He was only the second Rock drummer to be chosen, just behind John Bonham, who is by far my all-time favorite.

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  1. I really am that annoying old guy who saw all the best bands, live! I love contrary opinions, but for me, it’s always the rhythm section that makes the “feel” of the band.
    Baker/Bruce; (in truth, Bruce and anybody); Bonham/Jones; Hart & Kreutzmann/ Lesh; Moon/Entwhistle, and more recently Clifford/ Terebecki (White Denim) have all made me go home with a smile on my face and then to repeat it by playing the albums.
    As for Copeland, I get the reviewer’s expert comments, but Police were a drummer’s band and that’s what makes them listenable to me.
    Keep up the good work, here!😁👍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello ULYSSES!

      Hey, I can definitely relate… I’m one of those old guys too. I’ve so many great memories of so many concerts, but ironically can’t even come close to remembering them all.

      My topper is definitely Rush though, who’ve I’ve seen 23 times including 1st and 2nd row seats for their final two concerts. Watching Geddy from 10 feet away was beyond amazing, and luckily at the second one I was right in front of Alex, so I got the best of both worlds.

      The concert that broke my cherry at 16 years old was Grand Funk Railroad at Madison Square Garden, who were Gods back then. I damned near wore my record needle down to the nub listening to their double live album, so it was a dream come true for me. Best of all, a t-shirt was only five bucks! Oops, there I go dating myself back to the stone age again.

      I agree with you 100%, the backbone of any great Rock band is the rhythm section, that of course being bass and drums. I very much enjoy playing them both, more than any other instrument. To date myself even further, my primary is indeed drums, which I’ve been playing for some 45 years now. But, while I certainly appreciate the compliment, I still don’t consider myself any sort of “expert”. There’s simply just too much to absorb, it’s a never-ending process.

      Music is probably the most subjective thing in the world, at least to me. You’ve named a few of my favorites, except obviously for Baker and Copeland. Speaking of overrated, I always felt that The Police as a whole were as well, but whatever trips your subjective trigger is naturally perfectly fine for everyone!

      Even though I’m such a huge fan of Rush, Bonham will always be my #1, with Peart running a close 2nd. Both were so innovative, and Peart often cited Bonham as one of his major influences. Hell, ask any Rock drummer that, and they’ll more than likely rate Bonham as the best ever. You might enjoy this article about him, which contains a fantastic video:

      https://cygnusstudios.blog/2017/08/01/what-makes-john-bonham-such-a-good-drummer/

      Anyway, sorry for the long reply, and I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog. I just wish more readers like you would leave comments, as good or bad they’re always very much appreciated. If you have any questions or feedback for me, don’t hesitate to ask, as I’m very responsive. You can always go with the “Contact” link in the top menu, if you’d prefer to keep it private.

      All my best to you and yours, stay safe out there during this crisis!

      • Craig

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  2. I’d disagree with Nick Mason. For some odd reason he had some truly embarrassing moments with Pink Floyd, but in other albums with other bands and as a solo artist, he was much better. My theory is that he struggled to keep time on a good portions of those Pink Floyd songs, soaked with echo/reverb, filled with samples, probably mixed very roughly without guitar/bass/vocals to groove to, so his playing just got very simplistic because he struggled enough with simplistic beats. The fact that he had some cool fills on Time should probably earn him more respect than he gets. You can hear something similar on shoegaze tracks, like on You Made Me Realize where the drummer keeps losing his time, correcting himself, doing a fill, then keeping time for a bit then losing himself and repeating the process.

    I’d say that Carl Palmer is probably one of the most overrated drummers ever. The guy just couldn’t keep time well. Listening to his drum tracks is like listening to a guy who can play every note in Eruption, but every note is off-time, and you can hear a number of mistakes that guitarists make when they dive into the flashy stuff without practicing the boring stuff (you know, tapping before picking. Double-bass beats before four-on-the-floor beats. That kind of thing. Listen to a Poison solo, preferable a live solo, for an example.).

    Also, Meg White. I don’t see on her lists anymore, but she used to be near the top of a lot of them. It always seemed like she was just there because they wanted at least one female drummer on their list, and people forgot about Karen Carpenter.

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  3. Hi Gerry, and thanks for taking the time to add your input. Comments are always encouraged and much appreciated here!

    Since drums are my primary instrument, I have to agree with some of your points regarding Mason. It’s also my opinion that Progressive Rock is the most difficult genre to play on drums time-keeping-wise. When I look for an absolute master there, no one even begins to approach the talent of Neil Peart (RIP), except for maybe Mike Portnoy.


    A small anecdote:

    Long ago, I used to prep for cover songs by initially loading the original on a reference track, then recording drums first while monitoring that. I quickly found that in the case of nearly all artists, it’s impossible to set a solid click track (metronome BPM) as they tend to drift all over the place. That said, my practice nowadays is to set up the metronome in my DAW, record all other instruments while monitoring that, and I now actually record drums last. Not only does this work out better in allowing me to keep time, but it feels much more natural, like playing with a full band.


    With Carl Palmer, same deal. That’s especially true of when he was in ELP. They pushed the boundaries of Prog to new heights, almost to the point of playing Classical music using Rock instruments in many cases. When I listen to a piece like “Karn Evil 9”, there are so many time signature changes, it’s simply insane. They’re extremely difficult songs to play on drums, most definitely not “just keep the beat” affairs. That said, I have to disagree with you there, but beauty is in the ear of the listener and that’s just fine. ;^)

    As far as female drummers go, there are so many out there who are FAR superior to Meg White, it’s ridiculous (not to mention I’m certainly no fan of The White Stripes). IMHO, she’s a perfect example of a drummer just keeping the beat, with a few fills thrown in here and there.

    If I had to pick one favorite, without a second thought it would be Sheila E, and it’s no small wonder that Prince chose her for his band. Check out this performance as one example:

    BTW, I’m also with you about Karen Carpenter. I think most folks overlook her talent on drums because of her performances on their biggest hits. Those were nothing special, but that was just the nature of the beast. However, she also had another, completely different side. Give this a look, crazy!

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    1. Cool that you replied to me, I wasn’t expecting that.

      I think I should clarify that with Carl Palmer’s drumming I’m moreso referring to what he did outside of ELP (like Asia) where he did play more simplified songs that required him to keep a groove, and he seemed to struggle with playing to a metronome. It kind of makes the intro of Heat Of The Moment difficult to listen to. It’s like, he’s the guy who played Karn Evil 9, why is he struggling to keep time with a basic hi-hat beat?

      I mainly play guitar, and in the past I used a lot of reverb/echo. Drummers would complain that they struggled to keep time with me because the echo would throw them off. I don’t know if that happened to you or not, but hearing that made me think about other drummers going through the same struggle with a similar effects-heavy guitarist. It definitely made me sympathize with the Slowdive drummer who seems to struggle with keeping time in the live videos I’ve seen.

      I’ll definitely check out Sheila E. Thanks for the recommendation.

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      1. No problem at all, and I get ya. 😉

        Rest assured, I reply to every comment posted on this blog, and there’s always the “Contact” link in the main menu if you want to keep things private.

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  4. Bro you know nothing about drumming. Baker, Charlie, and Ringo were some of the greatest drummers of all time. You’re clearly a “banger” that has no sense of melodic playing. Also, your take on Stewart Copeland having a generic sound is laughable. He literally has one of the most unique drum sounds of all time. People like you just don’t “get” the whole drumming thing.

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  5. Bro you know nothing about drumming.

    Really, because you happen to disagree with 4 out of my 10 picks? That’s quite the leap there, Mr. Knievel.

    Baker, Charlie, and Ringo were some of the greatest drummers of all time.

    I’ve obviously already presented the reasoning for my picks in detail, while you’ve provided jack taco to support what you’ve put forward in that totally blanket statement.

    Guess you skipped right over this, at the end of the article:

    “I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments section below. But, please don’t forget to back them up with the reasons for your opinions.”

    If I had to further summarize these three, simply being surrounded by great band mates does not a great drummer make.

    You’re clearly a “banger” that has no sense of melodic playing.

    I’m not even going to bother pondering how you came to that conclusion. However, I do find it slightly amusing considering Bonham will always be my #1, with Peart a very close second (only because you have to put the cart before the horse).

    Everyone knows those two guys never had any sense of “melodic playing” whatsoever, especially music aficionados like yourself (ahem). You might want to have a look at this:

    and this…

    Also, your take on Stewart Copeland having a generic sound is laughable. He literally has one of the most unique drum sounds of all time.

    Hmm, I can’t seem to find where I used the word “generic” (or even implied it for that matter), so you might want to head back for another read.

    What’s most “laughable” about Copeland is that some seem to think he ranks right up there with the likes of Bonham, Moon, and even Gods like Krupa and Rich. Drugs are bad.

    People like you just don’t “get” the whole drumming thing.

    How very profound…

    Thanks for providing your unquestionable insight to everyone here, although that’s 10 minutes of our lives we’ll never get back.

    Like

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