Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada in 1952, Neil Peart joined Rush in 1974 and changed completely the band’s sound and lyrics, since he became the group’s main songwriter. He recorded with Rush 18 studio albums and became one of the most influential drummers in the history of Rock music.
Just like the lyrics he wrote for the songs, his drum parts were extremely complex in many tracks, changing the rhythm many times in a matter of seconds. But before he achieved his extaordinary drum skills, he heard many other drummers that inspired and in an interview with Modern Drummer magazine back in 1980 he listed 8 musicians that were some of his favorites in the 80s. Rock and Roll Garage selected what Peart said about those drummers over the decades.
The 8 drummers that Rush’s Neil Peart listed as favorites back in the 80s
Phil Collins is one of the drummers that Peart listed as one of his favorites back in the 80s. The musician was part of Genesis first playing the drums and then also as their vocalist after Peter Gabriel left.
Talking with Rhythm magazine in 2011, Neil Peart praised Collins saying he was big influence even at that point of his career. “Phil Collins was an enormous influence on my drumming in the ’70s. Thus remains a part of my playing even today. His recorded drum parts with Genesis and Brand X in those years were technically accomplished, yet so musical – even lyrical. (Also) his rhythmic patterns were woven into the intricacy of the music. While lending a smooth, fluid pulse to the songs and extended instrumentals.”
“His fills were imaginative and exciting, alive with energy and variety, while the refined technique was always in the service of the music. Even within those fills, Phil applied a jazz drummer’s sense of dynamics. Which also guided his ensemble playing, and inspired me to try to incorporate that sensibility into my own triple-f approach.”
“Plus, his drums sounded so good. Good-sounding drums are always the result of a good-sounding drummer, and speak of the player’s touch. Phil’s combination of that quality and the natural drive of his playing produced truly melodic-sounding drum parts – flowing and musical. One outstanding piece of work that reflected all of those qualities was the Genesis album Selling England By The Pound, from ’73.”
He had two funny encounters with Phil Collins
During that same conversation he recalled that he was lucky enough to have seen Genesis playing live in concert in 1974 just before he became a member of Rush. He praised the band’s performance at that show, especially how good Phil Collins was during that set. The drummer also said that sadly until then he had never had the opportunity to meet Collins properly, but that they had encountered each other face-to-face on two occasions. The first one was in the late 70s when Peart was in London recording with Rush and spotted Collins at a science-fiction bookstore. However, Collins probably didn’t knew Peart at the time and they didn’t talk each other as he recalled.
“I find it amusing that despite not meeting ‘formally’, Phil and I have actually encountered each other face-to-face, unknown to him, on two occasions, almost 20 years apart. In the late ’70s, I was recording with Rush in London. One day (I) popped into a science-fiction bookstore in Soho called Dark They Were And Golden Eyed. At the door, I stood back to hold it for another patron, a bearded little guy in flat cap and overcoat, on his way out.”
Neil Peart continued:
“Our eyes met for a moment, we nodded courteously. I recognised Phil in his hirsute ‘Artful Dodger’ period, just before he was thrust into the frontman position with Genesis that would so change his life. from modestly successful drummer to immense international popstar.”
The other time he saw Collins was in the mid-90s in Geneva, Switzerland when Peart arrived from a motorcycle journey he did with a friend that passed through Italy, Tunisia and Sahara. When they arrived at the hotel in Switzerland they went to have dinner and coincidentally, the Canadian drummer realized that Collins was also there eating a few tables away. But he decided to not the disturb the Genesis member and didn’t said hello.
During the conversation with Modern Drummer, Peart listed the famous drummer Bill Bruford who at that time had worked with bands like Yes and King Crimson as one of his favorites.
“Bill Bruford is one of my favorite drummers. I admire him for a whole variety of reasons. I like the stuff he plays, and the way he plays it. (Also) I like the music he plays within all the bands he’s been in,” Neil Peart said.
Bruford was one of the drummers that Peart invited to record the Buddy Rich tribute album “Burning For Buddy” (1994) that was produced by the Rush drummer. The British musician covered the track “Lingo”.
In a special interview about the record made for TV (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage), Peart explained why he chose Bruford. “He was a guy that was high on my list of the ‘dream team’. He was able to do it and came in, did a superb job in this particular one. It was a piece that he had arranged for big bands specifically for this project.”
Neil Peart continued:
“He was a guy who was gleeful like a child. A kid’s enthusiasm to have the rest of the band so enthusiastic about his piece. As he said at the time, these guys could either kill it or breathe life into this thing. He was so grateful that the other players in the band got totally behind it and gave all their commitment to it and made it happen,” Neil Peart said.
Another drummer that Peart revealed at the time to be one of his favorites was the late legendary Keith Moon from The Who. He told Modern Drummer that Moon was one of his “favorite mentors” that gave him the idea of freedom, because it showed him that he didn’t had to be attached to the “fundamenlist” side of drumming. He also stated that he liked Moon’s approach of putting “crash cymbals in the middle of a roll”. Peart considered Moon to be Gene Krupa’s heir because there were many similarities in the way the two musicians played the drums.
Even though Keith Moon died too soon in 1978 at the age of 32, Peart was lucky enough to have seen him live playing with The Who in Canada. As he recalled in an interview on The Hour on CBC back in 2014 (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage), that happened when he was only 17 and went to the show with his friends. The concert happened at the Old Coliseum in Toronto when they were promoting the album “Tommy”.
“When I was (about) 17 years-old or so I went to see The Who at the Old Coliseum (In Canada) playing ‘Tommy’”. I was with a bunch of friends and bandmates in a van. On the way home one of the guys said ‘Do you think you could ever had that kind of stamina?’ (Laughs). I said ‘I don’t know’. I was laughing about that now, (after) all these years,” Neil Peart said.
But that was not the only time he saw the band. He had the opportunity to see them again many times in the 60s and 70s.
Another famous Progressive Rock drummer that Neil Peart said it was one of his favorites was Carl Palmer that is known for playing in Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Asia.
After Neil’s passing in 2020 at the age of 67, victim of cancer, Carl Palmer lamented the musician’s death. He revealed in an interview with Billboard that he only had the chance to meet the Canadian music once.
“I only met Neil once, in Montreal, at a Rush concert. It was a brief encounter, no more than that. We talked about snare drums. I remember he was a shy man. But a very nice guy.”
“He helped move the boundaries in progressive rock music. That is for sure. As far as his playing, I would not say he was the most original player but he was always searching. That’s what made him interesting. He had very good ideas overall and I commend him on that.”
Palmer also said that in his opinion the music made by Rush was really dynamic and it would be hard to not be a good player in that group. “Neil always played well, and that’s the most important thing. He looked like, and sounded like, he was trying all the time. And that’s why he was a great drummer, because 95% of the time he pulled it off!”
Palmer said that all the Rush members probably liked Emerson, Lake & Palmer a lot
Palmer also praised the incredible lyrics that Peart wrote for the band, that were really touching and move the fans. In that same conversation he said that there was no doubt that the Canadian drummer was influenced by his playing and that probably all the Rush members liked Emerson, Lake & Palmer a lot because both bands had many similarities. Like the fact they were both trios, they had used electronic equipments in the music before it became a trend.
Palmer also said that Peart tried to reach him to be part of the Buddy Rich tribute album he produced but at the time he was too busy and couldn’t commit to the project.
Michael Giles is another British drummer that Peart admires and chose as one of his favorites back in the 80s. He is best known as one of the co-founders of King Crimson. He was part of the band only from 1968 until 1969 and was part of their two first albums: “In the Court of the Crimson King” (1969), “In the Wake of Poseidon” (1970).
Talking with the ex-Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy for Rhythm magazine in 2007, Peart was asked if Giles had been an influence. He replied, saying: “Oh, big time. Not only the early King Crimson but MacDonald and Giles too, it is everything I wanted.”
“It was both disciplined and exciting. He was so fired up by what he was doing. But it was contained within a structure. His fill construction and sense of ensemble playing and orchestrating a part was unparalleled and very underrated,” Neil Peart said.
After leaving Crimson, Michael Giles was part of studio albums of McDonald & Giles (Duo made with Ian McDonald), Luther Grosvenor, Murray Head, Jackson Heights, Leo Sayer and more.
Kevin Ellman is the only drummer from an American band that Neil Peart listed as one of his favorites at that moment. Ellman was a member of Utopia, band led by Todd Rundgren, from 1973 to 1975 and from 2011 to 2018. He recorded only one album with the group: “Todd Rundgren’s Utopia” (1974) and
“There’s a guy named Kevin Ellman who played with Todd Rundgren’s Utopia for a while. I don’t know what happened to him. He was the first guy I heard lean into the concert toms,” Neil Peart told Modern Drummer.
Besides being a musician, Ellman also became a business man. He is the CEO of Wealth Preservation Solutions, LLC. The company is specialized in helping business owners and families in their investments, business successions, retirement, benefinit, insurance and more.
The legendary Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason is another musician that Peart picked as one of his favorites. “Nick Mason from Pink Floyd has a different style. Very simplistic yet ultra tasteful. Always the right thing in the right place. I heard concert toms from Mason first, then I heard Kevin Ellman who put all his arms into it. You learn so many things here and there,” Neil Peart told Modern Drummer.
Talking with Classic Rock in 2017, the Rush drummer was questioned if there was “echoes” of the classic Pink Floyd album “The Wall” (1979) in the Rush song “Limelight” featured on the band’s famous record “Moving Pictures” (1981). Peart replied: “Enormously. I totally understood it. Many years ago a DJ played a track from ‘Wish You Were Here’. One of the alienation songs that preceded The Wall. And he said: ‘If you’re a songwriter and you write about what’s near to you, if you become alienated you’re going to write about being alienated,'” Neil Peart said.
Nick Mason is a co-founder of the Pink Floyd and is the only constant member of the group since 1965. He was part of all the albums of the group.
The American drummer Tommy Aldridge is the only one that Peart mentioned that is more connected to Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. He was born in Jackson, Massachusetts in 1950 and first achieved fame as a member of Black Oak Arkansas. But he became more known for his work with Ozzy Osbourne and Whitesnake (Band that he is a member nowadays).
“Many drummers say anything you can do with two feet, can be achieved with one. That just isn’t true. I can anticipate a beat with both bass drums. That is something I learned from Tommy Aldridge of the Pat Travers Band. He has really neat style with the bass drums. Instead of doing triplets with his tom toms first and then the bass drums, which is the conventional way, he learned how to do it the other way, so that the bass drums are anticipated,” Neil Peart told Modern Drummer in 1980.