After years of heavy playing, older drummers feel toll on health

SWeAT hOg

SWeAT hOg
Joined
Feb 22, 2009
Messages
37,700
Reaction score
67,964
Interesting article, even if the writer demonstrates being a bit of douchebag. Got a drummer to jam with? Appreciate it. :thumb:


At the Metallica show this week at the small-venue Opera House in Toronto, the singer-guitarist James Hetfield addressed an audience. “Do you want it heavy?” he bellowed.

The crowd, a sausage party of dads, record-label personnel and other refugees from the nineties, replied affirmatively, with gusto and the requisite devil-horn-hand-gesture exclamation. Hetfield responded with a roar and a promise: “Toronto, Metallica gives you heavy!”

Which they did, for a while. Shortly after Hetfield’s rally call, an older fan was brought back into the lobby where he was put on oxygen by paramedics. Some of the concert was marked by what could charitably be called “loose” performances. The band played For Whom the Bell Tolls, an ominous metal-rock classic about war, wounds that test pride and time that marches on. Metallica, superstar thrashers now middle-aged, plow forward, but not as easily as they once did.

The next day, the band’s chatty drummer, Lars Ulrich, talked about the struggle of the night before. “During the last half of the show the air got really thick in there,” says Ulrich, who was in town to promote Metallica’s latest album, Hardwired…to Self-Destruct. “For a bunch of guys in their early 50s, fighting winter colds and sinus issues, it was a little challenging.”

Earlier this year, Ulrich attended this year’s Desert Trip, a three-day festival in the California desert featuring Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Paul McCartney, the Who and Roger Waters. “Did you notice the drummers?” Ulrich asks. “Only one of them was still an original.”

I hadn’t thought of it, but it’s true. Charlie Watts from the Stones is still keeping time at the age of 75, but the Who’s drummer, for example, is Zak Starkey, the second-generation son of drummer Ringo Starr. “If every singer at Desert Trip was 70 and change,” Ulrich says, “only one drummer was in his 70s.”

The attrition of drummers, Ulrich continues, “It is a real thing.”

The issue of drummers and health has bubbled up of late. Phil Collins’s new memoir comes with a cheeky title (Not Dead Yet) that refers, in part, to debilitating health caused by 50 years of hitting things with sticks. After a Genesis reunion tour in 2007, an MRI revealed that Collins had crumbling neck vertebrae. “If I don’t have an operation forthwith, paralysis and a wheelchair are in the cards,” he wrote.

Collins’s case isn’t an isolated one. The recent rocumentary Time Stand Still follows what was likely the final large-scale tour by the Canadian rock trio Rush. The band’s retirement from the road has happened, in large part, because of drummer Neil Peart’s tendonitis and diminishing physical abilities. “My style of drumming is largely an athletic undertaking,” Peart wrote in a farewell piece published in Drumhead Magazine. “Like all athletes, there comes a time to … take yourself out of the game.”

Peart’s analogy to sports is spot on, according to Dinah Hampson, a physiotherapist and owner of Toronto’s Pivot Sport Medicine Clinic. “I have drummers who can’t feel their hands, who can’t hold their sticks,” she says. “And the first thing I ask them is, ‘Have you been to the gym today, have you done any push-ups this week, have you prepared your body for the physical tasks that you are now demanding that it does?’”

Common problems include frayed tendons from overuse and repetitive strain damage to the small muscles of the hands and forearms. Unless the injuries are treated – usually through strengthening and physiotherapy that involves finding muscles to compensate for the damaged ones – the problems only get worse as the drummer ages.

Drummer Mike Belitsky, 50, is a member of Toronto’s Sadies, the favourite psychedelic-country band of Gord Downie, Margaret Atwood and Neko Case. When he was younger he played through any physical issues, figuring they’d dissipate. “But all of sudden you hit 45,” he says, “and it becomes something that won’t go away.”

Belitsky has battled tears in his common extensor tendon. He’s endured cortisone injections and had to wear a brace after shows during tours. Even mundane activities are affected. “Brushing your teeth becomes a choreographic routine,” he says.

Along with quality-of-life issues, Belitsky’s health has him concerned about the Sadies. “That’s my biggest fear,” he says. “That my injury will change the way I play and change the way the band sounds.”

As for Ulrich, he’s avoided anything severe when it comes to drummers’ maladies. In the 1980s, he began having issues with his hearing. “I would get up from my bed in a hotel room to go turn the television off,” he says. “But the television wasn’t on. The sound was in my head.”

Since then he’s issued ear-protection devices to guard against the clash of cymbals and the snap of snare drums. As well, Metallica employs a staff of physical therapists, trainers and massage specialists on the road. Ulrich runs, stretches and does torso-strengthening exercises as a matter of course. “I work out rigorously,” he says. “More than I practice the drums.”

Still, the bell tolls. “I understand what Neil is saying,” Ulrich says, referring to the Rush drummer’s reluctance to perform at a less-than-peak level. “It’s the same for me.”

Jazz drummers such as Max Roach and Elvin Jones played into their 70s. Ulrich’s not sure his more punishing style will allow for such graceful aging. “I don’t know if I, or the band, can bring the weight and the energy to what Metallica music requires physically,” he says. “That’s something we’ll have to find out as we get further down the road.”
 

cybermgk

“No such thing as fun for the whole family"
Gold Supporting Member
V.I.P. Member
Joined
Jul 7, 2011
Messages
16,747
Reaction score
25,827
Good article once he got past dissing and being condescending towards older rockers and people.

Makes sense.

Also sounds like drummers should work out regularly to stave off the damage. Seems like they would need a specialized regime though.
 

defcrew

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 15, 2010
Messages
8,775
Reaction score
12,256
True of any type of repetitive work be it swinging a drum stick or a hammer. Certainly issues with fingers and neck and whatnot for guitarists. Drums are, of course, much more physical esp the Peart types. Charlie plays a much more relaxed style but he is remarkable in his endurance in multiple areas.
 

Tone deaf

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 12, 2011
Messages
37,576
Reaction score
86,784
Drummers also have to worry about spontaneous combustion...

[ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TW6W9iOjTKM[/ame]
 

Laggspike

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 2, 2013
Messages
7,650
Reaction score
10,794
I just hope they switch Lars out, as he is the most uninspiring drummer out there :(
 

Marshall & Moonshine

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 21, 2010
Messages
31,881
Reaction score
81,356
All those years sleeping on couches. They really should just invest in some rent money and a quality futon.
 

FUS44

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 12, 2007
Messages
8,711
Reaction score
10,592
I'm kinda surprised that stack of dimes Herr Ulrich calls a neck can still hold up his giant, bulbous head.
 

Marshall & Moonshine

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 21, 2010
Messages
31,881
Reaction score
81,356
I'm kinda surprised that stack of dimes Herr Ulrich calls a neck can still hold up his giant, bulbous head.

Right?!! I mean.... I can't talk too much because I'm half Norwegian but geez....
Mike Myers would rip him up in that axe murderer movie.
 

J-Dizzle

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 26, 2011
Messages
3,057
Reaction score
2,596
Its absolutely true. Drummers wear out many years sooner than other band members because of the physicality of what they do.

I've seen it in the bands i follow and I've also seen it first hand in bands I've been in.
 

LeftyF2003

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 2, 2010
Messages
9,036
Reaction score
12,030
I'm in my early 50s and I'm definitely feeling it. I have to go to the gym to stay in shape or I wouldn't be able to do the 18 hour days we get with gigs on work days. It definitely helps to keep yourself in shape and stay away from bad habits...
 

joba

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 15, 2012
Messages
1,569
Reaction score
2,537
I think Max Weinberg has had at least seven hand surgeries and back problems over the years. He has to soak his hands in hot water before shows, ice after and wear special gloves. Thats a real physical beating.
 

MikeyTheCat

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 1, 2014
Messages
26,164
Reaction score
54,512
Drummer of "Blondie" Clem Burke did quite a bit of work on the study of this.

http://www.chi.ac.uk/news/clem-burk...e-research-initiative-guitar-heror-world-tour

And he knows something about "energetic" drumming:

(hang out for the bridge)..

Dreaming

Burke was like a more focused Keith Moon. I got to catch Blondie several times back in the late 70's and Burke didn't just drive those songs he made them fly. And the guy had presence both live and in the studio.

The drummer I played with the most is still going strong and he's six years older than me. He started out in Jazz and still plays it.
 

X–Ray

Cowbell by Misadventure
Joined
Mar 10, 2009
Messages
17,058
Reaction score
19,619
Another good reason I never became a drummer....
 

kevinpaul

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 7, 2011
Messages
17,660
Reaction score
27,252
Confused with this, he abused his body for years. Thank him for his service? A glass for his wine? What people expect. Horse back riders go through countless back surgeries. Many of the guys that stand next to a pile of speakers can still hear the hiss of them always. Do unhealthy stuff like that you will pay the piper many times over.
 

mdubya

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2010
Messages
23,885
Reaction score
44,885
:laugh2::laugh2::laugh2::laugh2::laugh2:

Oh man, you guys are killing it.

:lol::lol::lol::lol::lol:

I am a veteran of having had two different drummers live on my couch. One, we finally had to give a room just so he wouldn't be sprawled out snoring and drooling all over the couch every time someone stopped by to visit.
 

mdubya

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2010
Messages
23,885
Reaction score
44,885
One unfair bit about the article; Lars has significantly less talent to rely on than do Max Roach and Elvin Jones mentioned in the article. That's like comparing the guy that runs the airplane ride at the county fair to John Glenn.

*******

I was sidelined for a full 6 weeks as a result of playing my guitar. It was from sitting on the couch which put the guitar right under my chin. Raising my right strumming arm up into that position set off a chain reaction of nerve aggravation in my neck which ran down my arm and felt like the damn thing was on fire from the inside. For 6 damn weeks. It required pain killers and muscle relaxers which made me sleep about 16 hours a day. The struggle is real. :(
 

Latest Threads



Top