Animal by Will Connor

Am I allowed this one? I hope so, because Animal is one of my favourite drummers.

In fact, Animal’s appearances playing drums on The Muppet Show could have had something to do with me taking an early interest in drumming. I suspect he might have had an influence on quite a bunch of us born / growing up in the 80s!

This is part 4 in a series of articles where each of our teachers here at Elephant Drums give us their personal perspective on a drummer that has inspired and influenced their career.

Will Connor reveals one of his favourite drummers (and favourite muppet), Animal

Animal the drummer

Crazy antics

Animal epitomises every stereotype of a drummer – wild, eccentric, and always getting up to crazy antics. Some people say the character could have been modelled on Keith Moon, the drummer from The Who. Unlike Keith Moon though, Animal is not known for his conversation skills and instead he tends to shout in guttural monosyllabic outbursts.

Watching Animal play drums is like watching an explosion. You’re left hanging on the edge of your seat, not sure if he’s going to be able to finish the crazy blast of drum solo that he’s just launched into. He also is a true performer; you can’t fail to be entertained by his antics.

Animal’s influences?

It’s not just Keith Moon’s style of drumming which can be compared to Animal’s style; we can spot a bit of Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa and Ginger Baker in there. Buddy Rich famously did a drum battle with Animal on The Muppet Show.

Like many of the ‘legends’ (e.g. Moon, Krupa, Baker and Rich), the thing about Animal’s playing that always strikes me is the untamed explosiveness (I guess that’s how Animal got his name). All credit to the puppeteer(s) who must themselves have been pretty good at playing drums to be able to synchronise the puppet with the drummer providing the ‘real’ drums. …or maybe I’m just too willing to believe that Animal was actually playing the drums.

The ‘real’ Animal

Animal on drumsThe real drummer behind most of Animal’s drumming appearances was a big band showman and session drummer named Ronnie Verrell. In his career he played with one of the UK’s most well-known big bands, The Ted Heath Orchestra, and then played on sessions for the likes of Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, Tony Bennett and Winifred Atwell. So, Animal’s “real” musical background is a versatile mix of big band, jazz and (later on), pop music.

Animal the teacher!

Animal can remind us of “what not to do” – i.e. bad band etiquette and some of the annoying things that drummers sometimes do (Animal does them to the extreme).

Check out this clip of Animal perfectly overplaying on the song ‘Fever’, upstaging the singer and generally being an annoyance in the band –

Animal’s competitive nature and desire to be the best drummer led him into a variety of on-stage drum battles.

Drum battles

Animal and Harry Belafonte –
Travis Barker vs Animal drum battle

Choosing Animal as a favourite drummer for this article was just for fun, but to continue the story check out the playing of the other drummers mentioned in this article if you’re not already familiar with their music – Ronnie Verrell, Gene Krupa, Keith Moon, Ginger Baker and Buddy Rich.

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