Top 9 Rock Rhythm Sections

Rhythm Sections

Today being the birthday of the great drummer Neil Peart, we thought it appropriate to put out our Top 9 List of our opinion of the greatest combos of rock bassists and drummers. Spoiler alert: Peart is part of the team that tops this list.

#9. Noel Redding & Mitch Mitchel, Jimi Hendrix Experience

While everyone rightfully remembers Jimi Hendrix as one of the top guitar legends, fewer recall that he spent much of his career as a member of a legitimate power trio which went by the name, The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Backing up Hendrix was the fantastic rhythm section of bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell, who played the dual role of enhancing the performances with a fusion of jazz and blues rock and providing the glue to hold together Hendrix’s penchant for improvisation.

“Hey Joe / Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix Experience

#8. Sting & Stewart Copeland, The Police

The second of four trios on the countdown, The Police revolutionized rock rhythms with the heavy Caribbean grooves fused into accessible pop/rock tunes. Holding down these rhythms was bassist/lead vocalist Sting (b. Gordon Sumner) and drummer Stewart Copeland, who developed a distinctive snare style, which made the group’s sound truly unique.

“Can’t Stand Losing You” by The Police

#7. Roger Glover & Ian Paice, Deep Purple

Often forgotten due to the group’s dynamic keyboardist, guitarist and lead vocalist, the pair at the back end of the historic “Mark II” lineup of Deep Purple were just as important to solidifying the group’s classic heavy rock sound. Bassist Roger Glover also often acted as their studio producer, while drummer Ian Paice delivered the perfect timing and intensity for the band’s music.

“Smoke On the Water” by Deep Purple

#6. John McVie & Mick Fleetwood, Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac got their name in 1967 when guitarist Peter Green enticed bassist John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood to leave John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers by promising to name the newly formed group after the rhythmic pair. This naming turned out to be prophetic, as McVie and Fleetwood remained the constants in an ever-shifting lineup, starting with Green’s early departure, until the band hit finally commercial pay dirt in the mid 1970s.

“The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac

#5. Paul McCartney & Ringo Starr, The Beatles

While there are so many elements of Beatles music, one area often overlooked is the steady but tremendous rhythms executed by bassist Paul Mccartney and drummer Ringo Star. The solid but basic rock rhythm’s forged by the pair in the group’s early years gave way to the more complex fusion of styles that complemented the rich production of the Beatles’ highly creative later years.

“Revolution” by The Beatles

#4. Jack Bruce & Ginger Baker, Cream

Despite having serious personality conflicts with each other, bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker found themselves together in two different groups. In the early 1960s, they were both part of the jazz-oriented Graham Bond Organisation, a group which Bruce left in 1965 after an onstage altercation with Baker. Still, the following year they formed the blues/rock group Cream with guitarist Eric Clapton and rhythmically set the template for many classic rock acts to follow.

“Sunshine of Your Love” by Cream

#3. John Entwistle & Keith Moon, The Who

While guitarist Pete Townshend is the genius composer of The Who’s music, there is no denying the frenzied dynamics and virtuosity applied by bassist John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon. When they played, these two seemed to be each in their own world, playing bass and drums almost as lead instruments. Still, somehow they locked in with the theatrical vibe and energy of the band as a whole and helped make this group one of the most indelible in rock history.

“Won’t Get Fooled Again” by The Who

#2. John Paul Jones & John Bonham, Led Zeppelin

Holding down the bottom end of one of the most innovative and diverse bands ever, Bassist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham pushed out a combination of raw power and crafty groove drawing from the deepest roots of rock history. What’s amazing is how different these two were in personality and background, with Jones being a reserved studio pro from the city and Bonham being a wild man from the country. But together they changed the rhythmic landscape of rock and roll forever.

“Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin

#1. Geddy Lee & Neil Peart, Rush

Finally, we reach the top with today’s birthday boy, the “new guy” in Rush who added the final element when he was hired in a rush (no pun intended) in 1975. Since then, Neil Peart and Bassist Geddy Lee have been locking in with all kinds of rudiments and timings that made this innovative Canadian group the ultimate power trio. Along with guitarist Alex Lifeson, Lee and Peart have spent four decades making original music and pushing the limits of sonic capabilities.

“La Villa Strangiato” by Rush

Honorable Mentions

There are plenty of outstanding rhythm sections who would have easily landed on a list that was a bit less exclusive:

Mike Rutherford & Phil Collins, Genesis
Roy Bittan & Max Weinberg, The E Street Band
Kris Novoselic & Dave Grohl, Nirvana
John Myung & Mike Portnoy, Dream Theater
Carol Kaye & Hal Blaine, “The Wrecking Crew”

With this subjective list we’ve doubtlessly left out scores of artists who may have deserved consideration for this list. Please give us your comments below and tell us where you agree and disagree.


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