Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Carl Palmer and His Five Thousand Pound Steel Drum Set

Carl Palmer Steel Drum Set
In his time, Carl Palmer was considered to be one of the best drummers in rock music.  He came from a musical family, and has incredibly fast hands. His style is over the top when it comes to prog, but I would say that when he explores other styles of music he’s got bit of a jazz edge.  He’s not the best double bass player in the world, but in his day he did impress. He’s still going strong, still playing a pretty massive kit, but do you remember the stainless steel monster he played back in the day?   

His sponsor was British Steel.  The kit was to be made of stainless steel, with pretty cool etchings all over the shells.  In comparison to all of his other kits, it didn’t look massive.  There were eight rack toms a single bass drum, and one floor tom.  Then why did this drum set weigh 2.5 tons?  Because Carl asked for half inch thick shells.  He had two gongs, a large bell, tubular bells, and a pair of tympanis.  I estimate that my drum kit, (single bass drum, two floors, and three rack toms,) weighs almost 400lbs.  Imagine what the ELP roadies went through.  The drum risers needed to be reinforced; the bass drum took two men to move.  The cost of hauling the kit all over the world was something that the band did not take into account.  If you think about it, all the gear for a four piece rock band, humans included, is probably one third the weight of Carl’s drum kit.
As Carl says in later interviews, “It was the 1970’s. Excess was the norm.”  If you take into account what the entire band was doing at the time, it was par for the course. ELP took a lot of flak for being such an over the top band, when it comes to production. If you compare a modern pop superstar’s show to the “Works I” ELP tour, the old prog rockers look tame in comparison. It’s rumored that Ringo Star purchased Carl’s steel kit, and it sits in storage somewhere.  

I had the chance to see Carl play at Shank Hall.  He took the time to come out from behind the drum set and explain a little bit about each song before playing it.  He had a pair of young men playing bass and guitar on that tour.  They performed ELP instrumentals.  It was almost like having Carl in your living room.     


Steve said...

Actually, Carl is *STILL* considered one of the best drummers in the world, not limited to rock.

Also, his British stainless steel drum set weighs 1.5 tons and not "Five thousand pounds", and Ringo Starr does in fact own the drum set now, which he purchased for his son, Zack, but the drum set is now in storage at Ringo's estate.

Wisconsin Music Man said...

That's the link to an interview with Carl Palmer, telling the audience that the drum kit is 2.5 tons. So if I'm incorrect, someone better tell Carl that he is too. I'm also a huge fan of Carl, met him on three occasions, and every time he's been great. I also got to see him perform here at a small club, where he described every song before playing it. What a great show. To this day, I still incorporate his drum licks into my songs. Thanks for the comment. WMM