Your Favorite Drum Intros

Response: Rick Beato’s “TOP 20 DRUM INTROS OF ALL TIME”​

Posted on April 18, 2021

Rick doesn’t define what a drum intro is and what such an intro needs to have in order to make the list. I expect a drum intro to be made up of unaccompanied drums that start a song somehow; I can’t really pinpoint how long such an intro needs to be. I guess it just needs to be a well–defined part of the tune. Rick also takes the production of the drums into consideration and seems to have been drawn toward charting hits. I give some thoughts on each one and then talk about what I think is missing, from my perspective. So, without further ado:​

20. “I Am One” — Jimmy Chamberlin with The Smashing Pumpkins (Gish, 1991)​

A fine intro that sets the tone of the song well… I’m just not huge on nasal grunge.

19. “Bullet in the Blue Sky” — Larry Mullen Jr. with U2 (The Joshua Tree, 1987)​

Another fine groove; I feel like I’ve heard variations of this groove in a lot of pop–punk and alt–rock. It’s certainly menacing.

18. “My Sharona” — Bruce Gary with The Knack (Get The Knack, 1979)​

A tom groove that sounds a bit ahead of its time, but there’s something uncanny about this band and this song. It’s equal parts catchy and off–putting.

17. “Rock and Roll” — John Bonham with Led Zeppelin (Zeppelin IV, 1972)​

Not surprised, this has everything that makes a good drum intro, although the drummer in Rick’s video flubs it a bit.

16. “Take the Money and Run” — Gary Mallaber with The Steve Miller (Fly Like an Eagle, 1976)​

A fun groove, not to mention quite funky (even though the rest of the song isn’t).

15. “We’re an American Band” — Don Brewer with Grand Funk Railroad (We’re an American Band, 1973)​

I’m not really impressed by the cowbell as much as Rick is, but this intro has some demanding bass drum doubles; quite impressive considering those had just gotten hip. This track is also sung by the drummer no less.

14. “Scentless Apprentice” — Dave Grohl with Nirvana (In Utero, 1993)​

There’s a very interesting flam thing going on with one of the backbeats (listen to the snare hit right on the “a” after 2). Rick’s drummer interprets it as a 32nd note double which doesn’t sound right to me at all.

13. “I Don’t Care Anymore” — Phil Collins (Hello, I Must Be Going!, 1982)​

I hear some sort of a trippy flanging/phasing effect on the drums, but I’m not sure I hear the whole two–drummer thing that Rick talks about. The groove is quite unrelenting.

12. “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” — Stewart Copeland with The Police (Ghost in the Machine, 1981)​

This is really pushing it for a drum intro, more of a pickup than anything else. I guess it stands out enough to help make a famous tune even more recognizable. Still, a better option could have been “Reggatta De Blanc”, which also pushes the definition of a drum intro.

11. “Tomorrow Never Knows” — Ringo Starr with The Beatles (Revolver, 1966)​

As awesomely psychedelic as this song is, I really wouldn’t call this a drum intro. The drums and the rest of the song pretty much start at the same time.

10. “Ticks and Leeches” — Danny Carey with TOOL (Lateralus, 2001)​

A fun intro, but I’m a bit surprised this made this list — not sure how much of a hit it was, so maybe it was more of an indulgence. I know I should listen to more TOOL, but their last album did not impress me. Even the rest of this song is a bad kind of strange.

9. “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” — Steve Gadd with Paul Simon (Still Crazy After All These Years, 1975)​

One of drumming’s holy grails. The kind of groove we all wish we could come up with.

8. “Digital Bath” — Abe Cunningham with Deftones (White Pony, 2000)​

Another intro that stretches the definition of an intro. It works, but there’s nothing too special about it. Whatever — it’s fine.

7. “YYZ” — Neil Peart with Rush (Moving Pictures, 1981)​

Don’t get me wrong, this tune is a classic… but do crotales really make this a drum intro? I wonder if “Animate” would have been a better selection from Rush.

6. “Walk This Way” — Joey Kramer with Aerosmith (Toys In the Attic, 1975)​


5. “Hot For Teacher” — Alex Van Halen with Van Halen (1984, 1984)​

Oh, this song… it’s kind of a bad joke these days. I used to think it was cool when I was younger, but it hasn’t aged well for me. I agree with a lot of the online jokes that describe the solo as an engine struggling to turn over because it’s too cold outside. I remember growing up and reading rumors about Alex using a bit of overdubbing to get the sound. Rick seems to think Alex made use of a Simmons SDS–V electric drum kit. Who knows; the main groove is definitely more interesting to me.

4. “Superstition” — Stevie Wonder (Talking Book, 1972)​

Oooo, finally, some real funk. Equal parts lumbering and slinky.

3. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” — Larry Mullen Jr. with U2 (War, 1983)​

It’s got an interesting lope, but I’ve never been a fan of this drum sound; the snare in particular is very thin. A lot of people describe the groove as a military march, but… I don’t really hear it.

2. “Rosanna” — Jeff Porcaro with Toto (Toto IV, 1982)​

Another holy grail. Although Rick’s drummer miffs a few of these intros, he does play this one correctly by omitting most of the ghost notes during the intro, just like Jeff did. Also, thank goodness Rick went with this number over “Africa”.

Honorable Mentions:​

“Vital Transformation” — Billy Cobham with The Mahavishnu Orchestra (The Inner Mounting Flame, 1971)​

Probably the deepest cut on this list, and the closest this list gets to featuring jazz. Another indulgence I suspect. A frantic groove for a frantic song.

“Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” — William “Benny” Benjamin (?) with The Temptations (Gettin’ Ready, 1966)​

Another drum “intro” that’s not really an intro. It’s fine. I guess Rick wanted some soul on here.

I’m not sure who the drummer on the LP is. For Motown albums in particular, recording credits for the studio players can be a little hit or miss. My best guess is that Papa Zita is our man.

“Ballroom Blitz” — Mick Tucker with The Sweet (Desolation Boulevard, 1974)​

It’s one of these train beat/New Orleans second–line hybrid grooves. That may sound esoteric, but it’s been done a bunch. Not sure why Rick picked this one over any other. Again, it’s fine.

“Longview” — Tre Cool with Green Day (Dookie, 1994)​

The only alt song on the list. And even then, Green Day was basically post–grunge at this point. Whatever, it’s a shuffle, and I’m a sucker for shuffles.

“Billie Jean” — Leon Ndugu Chancler with Michael Jackson (Thriller, 1982)​

This groove works fine, but it’s entirely unremarkable. The production is the only thing that makes it stand out in any way.

And now... the grand finale:

1. “When the Levee Breaks” — John Bonham with Led Zeppelin (Led Zeppelin IV, 1972)​

Yeah, I’m not surprised. Truth be told, the key to this sound of groove is a delay effect; specifically, a Binson Echorec unit (word on the internet is that a “Baby Model” was used). Rick knows this, thankfully. Whatever, I’m not complaining.

Into the future from Vinnie Moore here at the 4:10 min mark:

I believe the drummer was Deen Castronovo.

Sarcastic existence by Sepultura:

Of course Van Halen's Hot for Teacher:

Over the Mountain. Lee Kerslake, Ozzy
Lakeside Park. Rush
YYZ. Rush
American Band Grand Funk
Under My Wheels Alice Cooper Band

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Bullet the Blue Sky is a favorite, but the mix is pretty bad.