….By which I mean the kind of rulers you can use for drumsticks if you don’t have real drumsticks….or drums.
I’ve heard there is such a thing as “air-drumming” which I guess is kin to air guitar, but, while I used to play occasional air guitar (like everybody, I hope, who doesn’t play actual guitar), I never could get the point of air drumming. I honestly hope it was all a misunderstanding and it’s never really been a thing.
And, just to be clear, I don’t do much “drumming” of any kind anymore and by “not much” I mean I can’t remember the last time I even held a ruler, let alone broke one.
But I used to do it a lot. I liked to play steady rhythm on the parts of the legs that are just above the knees, though I usually tried to keep a shelf or a wall or a chair handy for the rolls and flourishes.
Because of the knee-and-thigh element, a heavy wooden ruler was not really a good option. I imagine it would have been the same for an actual drumstick (which I wouldn’t have wanted to risk breaking anyway). I wasn’t a masochist, so beating myself black and blue held no appeal. Light plastic rulers were generally useless because they broke too easily. One good session with any of the acts I’m about to mention and, boom, crack, shatter, it was time for a replacement.
That left hard plastic. Something like this…
Handy. Because, back in my impetuous youth, just singing, or shouting, along wasn’t always quite enough, and the pain and pleasure (i.e., the amount of damage done to me and the ruler respectively) had to be kept in a sensible balance even if I was temporarily out of my fantasy drumming head.
And, so (with apologies to Keith Moon and the Surfaris, who I could never keep up with though I sure had a lot of fun trying, and to Dino Danelli, who always lost me at the twirl), my top six ruler-breakers–the six that couldn’t be left off–in reverse order.
Drum roll, please….
#6 Artist: The Rolling Stones (1969)
Song: “Gimme Shelter”
Drummer: Charlie Watts (Honestly, I never cared whether Mick or Merry won the famous battle between Heaven and Hell at the end. I was always too busy trying to keep that weird time….no chance of breaking anything if you lost that!)
#5 Artist: The Righteous Brothers (1964)
Song: “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'”
Drummer: Earl Palmer (For the distant thunder at the beginning of the bridge and the explosion on top of your head at the end of it…and for being Earl Palmer.)
#4 Artist: The Clash (1979)
Song: “Death Or Glory”
Drummer: Topper Headon (Surely the greatest licks ever played by a functioning heroin addict..and the other great whisper-to-scream bridge.)
#3 Artist: The 4 Seasons (1964)
Song: “Dawn (Go Away)”
Drummer: Buddy Saltzman (“Instead of throwing a plate at somebody, I took it out on the drums. You had to get it out of your system.”)
#2 Artist: Sam and Dave
Song: “I Thank You”
Drummer: Al Jackson, Jr. (Really the entire Stax catalog, where he used to anchor Booker T and the MGs, the Memphis Horns and the world’s greatest soul singers…all at once. But if I had to pick one…)
#1 Artist: The Go-Go’s (1981)
Song: “Can’t Stop the World”
Drummer: Gina Schock (I should probably mention that all of these numbers used to gain traction by their company on the really great albums I liked to hear them on. Closing an album (as opposed to opening one, like “Gimme Shelter”), was definitely an advantage in this little mind game. Beauty and the Beat made all kinds of breakthroughs for all kinds of reasons, none of which were more important than what I used to say under my breath, with a smile between every cut, as the second side rolled by….”Turn It Up.” I wasn’t referring to volume, just channeling Ms. Schock’s vibe as the leader of the last truly great rock and roll rhythm section….This was the closer. Every time I would bet her fastball couldn’t really get any higher and harder after “You Can’t Walk In Your Sleep” and “Skidmarks On My Heart.” And every time I would be wrong.)