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.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023


Another of my personal mighty fell at the top end of the year, one of those pillars of my teenaged infatuation with rock and prog, namely Mr Gary Brooker, lynchpin, leader and singer of the wondrous Procol Harum, one of the first bands I ever saw, aged 17 in 1974, with then a massive gap until catching them again, 43 years later. (Here's what I thought that second time, even if my maths had got the better of me.) 

The original premise of the band seemed bonkers, at least to a ten year old, with the combination of churchy organ to the wail of soulful vocal. I should add, as a treble in the school choir, all organ was churchy. Thankfully I was too young to clock the lyrics, let alone understand them. (Understand them? Can anyone now?) Drugs, said my parents knowingly and I nodded back, remembering how funny my thoughts had got, when I too had been given an aspirin to quell a raging fever.

Of course the band went on, issuing a quite stellar run of initial singles. The plaintive piano melancholy of Homburg and the spooky A Salty Dog, with all the, in my mind, Lovecraftian imagery evoked; at 12 I was a precocious reader and already familiar with Cthulhu. The orchestral heft of Conquistador neither failed to delight, so, by the time I was ready for LPs, putting singles behind me, the band too were ready, Grand Hotel and Exotic Birds And Fruit firm favourites. Which takes us much to when I went to see them. At Brighton’s famous Dome theatre, which I have never actually visited since.

I sort of lost touch thereafter: the pomp of their performance no longer met my circumstance, and I was exploring other musical avenues. But the love never faded fully, the old songs still striking chords of joy into my battle-hardened heart. So it was a joy to finally get that opportunity to visit. Sure, no-one, Brooker apart, from their glory days, but it didn’t matter, as the posessor of the undiminished gritty voice, it all sounded right. And so it was. The version of Whiter Shade offered that night cast aside the decades and I was again 10, awestruck and, mindful of the years, not a little tearful. 

(Not that night, but a not dissimilar vintage)

Thanks, Gary, for making a small boy and a then much older man very happy. Let’s end with a smile, with two of the barmier versions of ‘your’ song, ignoring all the hullabaloos and hubris around who else might have staked and gained a subsequent claim.

Anton Ellis

Willie Nelson

(This is my last post for Star Maker Machine. I have hugely enjoyed the challenges and opportunities offered by a tight schedule, sometimes easier to fulfil than others. All praise to my fellow writers who have buoyed me and helped bring up the distinct average of my quality: it’s been a great few years, even if I still quite mastered how to keep my font size constant.... Thanks, too, to those readers, if you have graced me with any of the moments from your precious time. See you in the ether.)

Buy buy…..

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

In Memoriam: Drummers Part II

We continue featuring drummers who died in 2022. Part I featured Jet Black (Brian Duffy), Jerry Allison, and Dino Danelli, and you can read that here, if somehow you haven’t read it already. We’re proceeding oldest to youngest, and Part III should be posted soon. 

Alan White—White was best known as the drummer for Yes, although I admit that I always think of him as “the drummer for Yes who replaced Bill Bruford.” Bruford is my favorite rock drummer, so White was never going to measure up, but he was a fine drummer in his own right, and played on many great Yes songs. 

Born in 1949, White joined his first band at 13, turning pro at 17. In 1969, White received a call from someone claiming to be John Lennon, looking for a drummer for the Plastic Ono Band. White thought that someone was yanking his chain, but it turned out to be a genuine offer. White, given three days to prepare, performed with them for a show, and later played on Lennon’s Imagine album, the song “Instant Karma,” and George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass. This led to a brief enlistment in Ginger Baker’s Air Force, and work with Steve Winwood and Terry Reid. 

White shared a London flat with Eddy Offord, who worked as an engineer and producer for Yes, and occasionally hung out at the studio with the band. Once, when Bruford had to leave a rehearsal session early, White sat in. Later, after Bruford left Yes to join King Crimson in 1972, White was asked to join the band, and again was given three days to learn their repertoire before the Close to the Edge tour started. You can see and hear White playing on “Roundabout” from that tour here:


White played drums and percussion on more than 40 studio and live Yes albums, and occasionally added piano parts and collaborated on songwriting. He also released one solo album and had a few side projects. 

White was one of 8 of the myriad members of Yes inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017 (as was Bruford, who is not also in as a member of King Crimson, because that band has somehow never been inducted. Don’t get me started.) 

After what was described as a “brief illness,” White died on May 26, 2022 at the age of 72. Sadly, two months before his death a large number of personal items, including musical instruments (the drum set he played with the Plastic Ono Band, for example), and platinum records, were stolen from a storage unit. 

John Hartman-The original drummer for The Doobie Brothers, John Hartman died on September 22, 2022. Hartman originally moved to Northern California at the request of Skip Spence, who wanted him to participate an a revival of Moby Grape. That never happened, but Spence introduced Hartman to Tom Johnston, and eventually they, along with Pat Simmons, formed The Doobie Brothers. Here’s Hartman playing “China Grove” on the BBC in 1974:


Hartman drummed with the band, sometimes with a second drummer, until 1979, straddling their early days as funky, bluesy rockers fronted by Johnston, to the smooth purveyors of “yacht rock,” led by Johnston’s replacement, Michael McDonald. He returned for a benefit tour in 1987, and two more Doobies albums (with Johnston and not McDonald) but retired from the band for good in 1992. 

After that, Hartman attempted to become a police officer, but the drummer, described by the band at his death as a “wild spirit,” found it hard to break into law enforcement due to his previous drug use, despite having graduated from a police academy. Hartman was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a Doobie Brother, but because of COVID, plans for a performance by the original members were scotched. Interestingly, Hartman was the only living major figure from the Doobies not interviewed for the 2021 biography documentary, Let The Music Play

Ric Parnell-You know how the drummers in This Is Spinal Tap! all died in strange ways? Remember how Mick Shrimpton spontaneously combusted? Real drummer Ric Parnell was Mick Shrimpton. When Spinal Tap recorded its two albums, and did TV performances and live shows through 1992, it was Parnell who handled the drums. But, you ask, how did he do that if Mick Shrimpton was dead? Turns out, Mick had a twin brother, Rick Shrimpton, who was also a drummer! 

Spinal Tap was not Parnell’s only claim to fame. Born in London in 1961, to a drummer father and with two drummer brothers, percussion was basically the family business. In 1968, due to one of his father’s jobs at a TV station, Parnell got to see Jimi Hendrix perform on Dusty Springfield’s TV show. 

Parnell had two stints with Atomic Rooster, initially briefly replacing a pretty fair drummer, Carl Palmer, and then rejoining and playing on their last two albums. You can see Parnell’s Bonham-influenced drumming here, on Atomic Rooster’s “A Spoonful of Bromide Helps the Pulse Rate Go Down” from 1972:


After that, Parnell played in some Italian bands before becoming a sideman for artists including Michael Des Barres and was the drummer on Toni Basil’s hit “Mickey.” He was offered a chance to join Journey, but declined, which probably cost him a ton of money. But if he had joined that band, I would not have written this, because I really do not like Journey. So, he clearly made the right call. 

Parnell settled in Missoula, Montana, where he would gig locally, and for a while Parnell hosted a radio show called, yes, “Spontaneous Combustion,” where he played basically whatever he wanted and told stories. (Boy, I miss doing that on the radio....) 

On May 1, 2022, Parnell died at the age of 70 from a blood clot in his lungs that led to organ failure.

Monday, January 2, 2023


The reaper has reaped a grim toll this last year, many across these last few weeks of the year. Including this, which surprised me quite how much it affected me. 

I guess I had always thought of myself as somewhat a casual fan of the Specials, thinking the less than a handful of discs I owned was representative more of a general broad based enthusiasm for a range of styles and genres. Until, that is, I appreciated quite how few they had made, and that I had them all. Living in the English Midlands I could hardly be unaware of them, with Coventry just down the road. Already a fan of reggae, it wasn't all that much of a jump into the actually slightly older musical form, ska, which pre-existed the slower loping rhythm I was more familiar with. This music was faster and spikier, and, as presented by the Two Tone movement, seemed an exciting mix of punk with reggae. The fact that it bridged the racial divide, black and white, at a time when racism was running amok in the UK also appealed, an aggressive eff you to the National Front, the only white lives matter movement of the day. A whole rash of singles exploded out of Coventry, a divided post-industrial city with more than its fair share of deprivation and despair, introducing The Specials, Madness and The Selecter in the first wave. Hell, even Elvis Costello jumped on board, if briefly. The year was 1979.


The Specials looked and sounded if they meant business, with a three man front line of two, frankly, scary black dudes in suits, shades and pork-pie hats, jumping around in a lively fashion about a sardonic looking white guy, Fred Perry shirt and scowl, he looking both out of place and time, blankly chanting his lyrics, often of alienation and angst. Behind them a four piece band, often six, with a core of goons skanking on keyboards, guitar, bass and drums, augmented by a trombone and flugelhorn pairing, each decidedly atypical instrumentation for the charts. The sardonic singer was Terry Hall, who died only weeks ago, of disseminated pancreatic cancer, itself only weeks before the band were scheduled to start their third comeback recording, a selection of reggae standards, and probably others, in their own idiosyncratic style.

A Message to You, Rudy

Gangsters was their starting point, and, boy did they look it, followed swiftly by a reprise of an old reggae hit of the 60's, A Message To You, Rudy, actually a plea for the wild youth of that day, the Kingston Jamaica 'Rude Boys' to calm down and act more responsibly. So far, so good, exciting tunes for exciting times, the first album featuring much of the same, energetic and straightforward. But, evolving into their second album, it was clear there was deeper thought than dancing and the charts. For the single, Stereotype was at a whole different level, a drawling put down of the hand that might have been seeing to feed them, a damning indictment of inner city chaotic lives. It then took the spooky cadence and worryingly prescient Ghost Town to finally place them at the top of the UK chart, the band having to have been content with five of their earlier singles being merely top 10 material. These latter two came from More Specials, an actually quite difficult album to enjoy, the singles apart. 

Ghost Town

With internal frictions within, the three front men, Hall, Lynval Golding and Neville Staple jumped ship, forming the Fun Boy Three, who took the odd disparacy of their appearances further, Hall looking increasingly bizarre alongside the two West Indians. The Lunatics (Have Taken Over The Asylum) was their opening salvo, more post punk than ska, and they too became a chart staple, most memorably a brace of singles with the female band, Bananarama

The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum)

When the Fun Boy Three also imploded, Hall took part in a number of collaborations, starting with The Colourfield, who produced a couple of well received albums, partly collaborating with Liverpool mover and shaker, Ian Broudie, of the Lightning Seeds. Further work included the trio, Terry, Blair & Anouschka and Vegas, a joint effort with the ex-Eurythmic, Dave Stewart, which bombed. A couple of fully solo albums, Home, in 1994, and Laugh, in 1997. I confess he had, by now, since the Colourfield in fact, had fallen off my radar.

Ballad of a Landlord

He came back with a bounce when the Specials decided to reform, in 2008. In fact, the band had never fully folded, and the keyboard player, Jerry Dammers, had kept the b(r)and alive as, initially, the Special AKA. Various members left and re-joined, making no great headway. When Dammers left to form his free form jazz ensemble, The Spatial AKA Orchestra, this led the door open for a number of opportunities, with first a Golding and Staple Specials Mark 2, featuring also some of the backing band, notably Roddy Radiation, guitar, and Horace Panter, bass. Lurching forward, some staying, some going, it was only in 2008 that something more concrete could emerge, when Hall again re-united. With six of the seven originals present, only Dammers was absent, he claiming he had ben pushed out and that 'his' band had been subject to a takeover. 

The Lunatics (Reprise)

By 2013 they were ready to start recording, but Staple again left, followed swiftly by Radiation. Drummer John Bradbury then died, so it was a somewhat reconstructed band that produced and made Encore, in 2019, the album escalating to the top of the album chart within a week. The songs were still deeply politicised, but there was now a far greater sense of gravity. Prior to Covid the band went on a mammoth tour and experienced sell-outs every step of the way. Then, ground to a halt by the virus, the band miraculously cooked up a further album, a masterful selection of covers, entitled, in no great change of direction, Protest Songs. Here's what I had to say about it over on Covermesongs. To be honest I felt this their strongest work so far, and Hall had never sounded or looked stronger. Or more in control. No small feat for a man who had outed himself to a personal history of sexual abuse, having been abducted by a teacher at his school aged 12. Which sort of explained his odd affect and the air of melancholy that hung over him, of the deep and buried issues within. 

Everybody Knows

The Specials were on a high. Never having caught them live, they were very much on my bucket list of bands to see. (Indeed, I had had even had tickets for the tour expunged by the virus.) I was looking forward to the projected reggae album, hoping for a summer tour, maybe taking in a summer festival or two. And then came the news. This description, by erstwhile bandmate, Panter, spelt it out best, presenting the facts with evident love and shock. I was shocked by how upset I felt. I still am.

R.I.P., Terry. By way of farewell, here is another cover that exemplifies his awkward and quirky charm, featuring Sinead O'Connor, unusually with hair.

All Kinds of Everything

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Top Posts of 2022

We interrupt the annual In Memoriam theme for our eighth annual listing of the most viewed posts of the prior year. Through our (usually) two-week long themes, our international roster of writers address many different kinds of music, and bring different perspectives to their pieces. This year, for some reason, our four most popular posts came from our mid-August "Don't" theme. And we have all sorts of music, albeit with more rock and less jazz than last year.  We have well-known songs and obscurities, one-hit wonders and legends, and one song in Spanglish.

Here are our top 11 posts of 2022 (because No. 11 missed out by only 3 views, and we are inclusive here):

3. Don't--Don't You Want Me 
5. Thunder & Lightning--Call Me Lightning 
6. Thunder & Lightning--Thunderclap Newman
7. Paul Songs--Paula Y Fred
9. Begins With A J--Jack Straw
11. Paul Songs--Tall Paul

Because so many of the most viewed posts are from a small number of our many themes, below are the top posts for each of our themes not represented in the total top 11:

In Memoriam (2021)--Larry Harlow
Marching--Monck's March
Musician Authors--Josh Ritter
Little/Few--Little Eva
In Memoriam--Drummers Part I

Thanks so much for reading our work this year.

Please enjoy our current In Memoriam theme, and stay tuned for some changes here......