Originally Posted by yamahaha
I don't know if I would have worded it like that, but it is true that previous generations didn't have access to the technology we have today, but your basic metronome has been around for a very long time and I'm sure drummers used them. Maybe more during rehearsal than live situations, but you can bet they were used. Personally, I try to have a click track in my headphones while rehearsing with my band. It helps me stay in the pocket, it is sometimes distracting.
As far as live performances go, I only use a click track if there are sequenced parts or a backing tracks. Other than that, I enjoy the natural feel of the slight ebb and flow of the tempo. In the end, it's whatever works for you.
We did not use them in the 60s and 70s to the extent other musicians used them to practice with (their little mechanical drummer). Not to say it wasn't a good idea to improve your timing, it just did not seem to be the big priority that it is now. Setting tempo was why we as drummers were even in existence to begin with. I think it began to become important to strictly follow the click in the 1980s, when samples and loops started becoming an integral part of songs, particularly live. LOL - so many vocalists that were lip syncing would shoot a drummer if they wandered off beat from their pre-recorded vocals in a live situation. Most audience members or recorded music listeners aren't holding a group to a click, and wouldn't even be able to spot deviations, which is why it wasn't important "back in the day". I personally think it pretty unimportant and agree with your ebb and flow comment, in all musical situations outside of songs with sequenced, pre-recorded parts or in the recording studio.