1. Keith Moon - The Who. Nobody drummed like Keith Moon and nobody has since he died. Literary critic James Wood explains why, better than anyone.
2. Topper Headon - The Clash. Although Stewart Copeland is considered the guy who infused reggae with rock, it was Topper Headon who took a reggae drumming style and fused it completely into punk rock. His drumming is key to the overall sound of the Clash. Topper could keep it simple and straight up, or he could move things around without ruining the sound. All punk rock drummers from 1978 on owe much to Topper.
3. Charlie Watts - The Stones. Mick and Keith are the soul of the Stones while Charlie is the heart. He keeps it simple but there is nothing simple about his playing. Watts, along with Ringo and Mick Avory of the Kinks, come from the school where the role of the drummer is to play what's best for the track, not to overcome it. The reason why Mick's solo career never took off is that he didn't have Charlie behind him.
4. Stewart Copeland - The Police. Although I prefer Topper Headon's style, Stewart Copeland is an amazing drummer. Not only did he bring a newish style to rock in the early days of The Police, his later work with the band is stunning in its minimalism. It seems that he barely plays at all in the latter Police albums but the truth is that he played exactly what was needed, even it was almost nothing. I also like that fact that Copeland was the founder of the band and not only "discovered" Sting, but let him become the centre of the band. It reminds of how Ron Howard didn't fight back when it was obvious the Fonz (Henry Winkler) was becoming the more popular character in Happy Days. To get an inside look at this relationship, I highly recommend you watch Copeland's movie, Everyone Stares.
5. Neal Peart - Rush. Although I'm not a big fan of flashy drummers, I am Canadian and Rush is an underappreciated Canadian bad, at least by the critics. But despite Peart's dramatic and highly technical playing, his drumming does fit into the context of Rush's sound. What Peart plays is perfect for each track. And though I've never been a huge fan of Peart's lyrical expression, his non-fiction books are pretty solid. His second book, Ghost Rider, which chronicles his life after the death of his daughter and wife, is a touching book on grief and recovery.
6. Dave Grohl - Nirvana, Foo Fighters. There's a reason why Nirvana made it big with Nevermind. The drumlines for most of the songs were no different than the ones that former drummer Chad Channing came up with. But it was Grohl intense style that helped make the songs bigger than before, that helped create that mix of metal, punk and melodic pop that was key to Nirvana's popularity. One other reason I like Grohl was his ability to move past Nirvana's success and tragic end to create his own sound with the Foo Fighters.
7. Gravy and Clint Frazier - Shout Out Out Out Out. You've probably never heard of these two guys but both are from my hometown of Edmonton and back up one of our more popular bands, Shout Out Out Out Out. Having two drummers is tough to crack but these guys pull it off. Both drummers are known for playing on other acts as single drummers but when they play together, they are awesome.