Thursday, January 5, 2023

In Memoriam: Drummers Part III

Here’s the third and final part of my tribute to some of the surprisingly large number of drummers we lost in 2022 (and I'm not sure what's going on here, because in the first few days of 2023, the deaths of  Jeremiah Green, drummer of Modest Mouse, and Fred White, the drummer with Earth, Wind and Fire, were reported) . If you are coming into this series now, Part I featured Jet Black (Brian Duffy), Jerry Allison, and Dino Danelli, and you can read that here, and Part II featured Alan White, John Hartman and Ric Parnell, and you can read that here. We’re proceeding oldest to youngest and are now beginning to get to two drummers who were pretty close to my age—and one who was younger. 

Anton Fier—Fier was born in 1956 in Ohio and found his way into that city’s proto-punk scene, playing on a Pere Ubu album before moving to New York. In 1978, he joined The Feelies, and his “nervous drumming” was a highlight of the band’s great first album, before leaving. His career then moved between art rock, new wave, jazz and avant garde music, with stints in The Lodge and The Lounge Lizards he founded The Golden Palominos, a “super group” that featured a rotating and changing cast of musicians that I wrote about here. You can see him drumming here at a Golden Palominos reunion show in 2010:

When that project ran its course, Fier played in other bands, toured with Bob Mould, and played on albums by, among others, John Zorn, Laurie Anderson, Mick Jagger, Yoko Ono, Herbie Hancock, Matthew Sweet, Los Lobos, Lloyd Cole, Afrika Bambaataa and Material. 

Fier had serious issues with alcohol, which he had kicked in recent years, but injured his wrists, making it difficult for him to drum, and thus to make money. Hounded by creditors, Fier became despondent, which was exacerbated by the pandemic. He died on September 14, 2022, in Switzerland, of what appears to have been assisted suicide. (And to eliminate any confusion, he is not Anton Figg, the drummer on David Letterman’s shows—and with others-- who is alive and well.) 

D.H. Peligro (Darren Eric Henley)—An early Black punk icon, Henley was born in 1959 in St. Louis, and was influenced as a young drummer by Kiss, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, and Black Sabbath. Moving to San Francisco as a teenager, he was introduced to punk and new wave music before joining the band S.S.I. Taking the stage name “Peligro” (danger), his drumming style blended punk rock, hardcore, metal, and reggae. 

In 1981, Peligro joined the Dead Kennedys, replacing original drummer Ted (Bruce Slesinger), who decided that he’d rather be an architect than a punk drummer. Peligro drummed with the DKs until their first breakup in 1986. Here he is, thrashing away (in a good way), on “Nazi Punks Fuck Off,” from a performance in 1982:

In 1988, Peligro joined his friends in Red Hot Chili Peppers, played a few gigs and contributed some writing to songs on Mother’s Milk, but was fired before the album was recorded due to his drug use. He did, however, introduce John Frusciante to the band, which worked out pretty well. 

After that, Peligro played in other bands that I’ve never heard of, worked with Moby, fronted a few bands, including one called Peligro, and another with the wonderful name, Al Sharpton’s Hair, and participated in Dead Kennedys reunions albums and tours (without original front man Jello Biafra). Peligro died on October 28, 2022, from head trauma caused by an accidental fall. 

Taylor Hawkins—So, we finally get to Taylor Hawkins, the only person on this list who was younger than me, and who, by all accounts was universally beloved. Hawkins was born in 1972 in Fort Worth, Texas, and grew up idolizing classic rock drummers, particularly Phil Collins and Roger Taylor, as well as Stewart Copeland. He got a gig drumming for Sass Jordan, which led to backing Alanis Morissette on her Jagged Little Pill and Can’t Not tours. During these tours, he would occasionally be given the opportunity to show off his fine singing voice on a cover of Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” while Morissette would handle the drums. 

When Dave Grohl needed a new drummer, he reached out to Hawkins for suggestions, and Hawkins suggested himself, because he preferred to be part of a rock band than backing a solo act. He quickly became an integral part of Foo Fighters due to his skill, his charisma, and his chemistry with Grohl. Over time, Hawkins began to perform the occasional lead vocal during shows and in the studio. I wrote about his cover of, yes, Queen’s rocking “Tie Your Mother Down,” for Cover Me’s “40 Best Queen Covers” article here, and you can see one performance of the song, with Hawkins singing and drumming here:

Hawkins was also reportedly a fine guitarist, bass player and pianist. In addition to his work with the Foo Fighters, he had tons of side projects, including Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders, The Birds of Satan, DHC, with Dave Navarro and Chris Chaney of Jane’s Addiction, and played in a Police cover band (and another cover band, Chevy Metal), and with Coheed and Cambria, members of Queen in various projects, on one of fellow Foo Chris Shiflett’s solo albums, and with Elton John and Ozzy Osbourne, among others. And he played Iggy Pop in the movie CBGB, which I’m mostly mentioning because the movie was co-written and produced by a friend of mine (and is much better than most of the reviews I have read would have you believe). 

Hawkins long had drug issues—he overdosed on heroin in 2001 and was in a coma for 2 weeks. By 2021, though, he claimed to be healthy and that he had replaced drugs with mountain biking. There are reports that in the period before his death, Hawkins had expressed concerns about the physical and psychological toll that the Foo Fighters’ long, demanding shows and lengthy tours were taking on his body and mind. It was reported that he told friends and management that he’d “had enough,” but those reports have subsequently been denied. 

What cannot be denied, though, is that on March 25, 2022, Hawkins died in his hotel room in Bogotá, Colombia, at the age of 50, after reporting chest pains. The autopsy found ten “substances” in his system, including marijuana, antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and opioids. Also, his heart was nearly double the normal size, which could have caused his death independently of the “substances.” 


With that, I think that this is possibly the last post for me here, at least for some time, and maybe forever. When I started writing for this blog just over 11 years ago, it gave me an outlet to write about music that I love, an opportunity to learn more about that music, and to expand my musical horizons. Writing here gave me a new identity—music blogger. Writer. And that separate identity helped keep me sane though some difficult work experiences and starting my own law practice. It gave me confidence to write for Cover Me, and to start my own blog, Another Old Guy. It also probably helped move me to become my college class secretary, another thing that has enriched my life. 

But you might have noticed that Star Maker Machine, which used to have many writers, has, for the past few years, been down to three, and all of us have expressed concerns about having the motivation to post weekly (or even every other week). At least two of us have decided to stop, and the third is considering whether, and in what form, to keep this venerable blog alive. I encourage readers to look back at the posts over the years. We’ve had millions of views, because there’s some really great writing about music (and other stuff) in the archives. 

My intention is to write more for Cover Me, and to revive Another Old Guy, which has fallen dormant. And maybe, if this blog remains alive, to post something if the spirit moves me. 

Thank you for reading my work here for the past 11 years, and I hope that you check out my future writing elsewhere.

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