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Old 01-14-2012, 11:11 PM   #1
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Default Dave Bidini on drummer Tommy Ardolino

Something totally unrelated from Dave Bidini, author of 'Writing Gordon Lightfoot' - an article in Toronto's 'National Post' newspaper. Does mention Gord's WOTEF.

The drummer to end all drummers
Dave Bidini Jan 14, 2012 – 9:00 AM ET | Last Updated: Jan 13, 2012 5:18 PM ET

OK, a joke: How do you know there’s a drummer at your door? The knocking speeds up and gets louder. Another? All right: What do you get when you cross a drummer and a gorilla? A really dumb gorilla. Ha! One more, OK? A drummer decides to go solo. He goes down to the shop and tells the guy behind the counter that he needs a Les Paul and a Marshall Stack to front the band he’s starting. Guy behind the counter says: “You’re a drummer, right?” Drummer says, “Yeah, how did you know?” Guy says, “Because this is a fish and chip shop.” Kaboom. Drummers: I love them, but not everyone else is onside. Years ago, some musicians were so troubled by them that they invented a machine to replace them. Things didn’t go as planned, however, and it was the often-neglected bass player who ended up getting downsized by electronics. Hey, how do you know a bass player’s at your door? Sorry. You were saying something?
Drums look like fun to play and they are. A woman once asked a friend of mine what he did for a living and he was able to tell her: “I hit things” (He went home with the woman.) Drumming is great tension release and it is easy to go boam-tap-boam-tap-boam-tap and pretend you’re playing for Gerry and the Pacemakers. The first thing anyone wants to do when they sit behind the drums is twirl their sticks like Neil Peart or Lars Ulrich. Either that, or raise one stick in the air and shout something like “GNARLLLGHHH!!”
Most times, whenever anyone pretends to play drums, they play like Animal from The Muppets, who was based on Keith Moon, whose kit used to have a floor tom that opened to reveal a fully stocked bar. Still, while everyone wants to pretend to be a drummer, only a few commit. Drumming isn’t something you flirt with. Drumming is a reality, a lifestyle, a behavioural pattern. The best drummers embody their instrument, which is why you occasionally end up with Keith Moon, who once assailed his bandmates for replacing him after hearing the acetate for a song they’d recorded a few days before. Moon, it turned out, had forgotten the whole session, having kept the door to his floor tom open a little too long. Oh: What do you call a drummer without a girlfriend? Never mind. The answer is actually kind of sad.
One of my favourite drummers of all time passed away last Friday. His name was Tommy Ardolino and he played with NRBQ, whom Elvis Costello has called “the greatest American band.” Tommy used to strike his drums so hard that the toms would sometimes fall off his kit, tumbling across the stage like hexagonal dice. Once, I watched while the roadie from his band screwed them back on the metal rack, returned sidestage, lit a smoke, and, a few songs later, got up to do it again, then a few times more. With Tommy, that’s just the way it was. He was all hair and arms: Hiroshima Afro bouncing in time; hands glancing lightning-quick across the kit. He had a thick torso and a broad chest that gave thump to his dancer’s feet and hands as nimble as a clockmaker’s. Tommy looked like a character from The Banana Splits, but he could play anything. His kick patterns leapt like a child’s heartbeat, and crowds who left clubs and taverns after seeing him drummed their way home: on subway cushions, dashboards, bike handles, coins and keys.
I first heard Tommy — and NRBQ — on a cassette tape given to me by two sisters, Joanne and Evelyn, who lived in Vancouver. I didn’t like the music at first, but eventually, it stuck. After a few years, I found the tape and played it again, then went looking for the story. Although NRBQ sounded like a band from tomorrow, it turned out they’d been formed before yesterday: dating back, in their first incarnation, to the late 1960s. There were four master musicians in their lineup — Terry Adams, Joey Spampinato, Big Al Anderson and Tommy — but virtuosity didn’t stop them from writing songs about cars and air conditioning and snack food as well as recording three lowbrow albums with three different artists: Carl Perkins, Skeeter Davis and wrestling promoter Captain Lou Albano. Live shows lasted forever and were legendary for their breadth of music: From skiffle to pop ballads to turn-of-the-century jazz to Monk to surging rock ’n’ roll to Rain at the Drive In, possibly the greatest pop single ever. Once, in New York City, NRBQ ended their show with Gordon Lightfoot’s Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.After 20 minutes of cheering from the crowd, they returned to play Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, again. Although only a relatively small following know their recordings, more people, it seems, know their stories. Like the time in England, when a limousine driver met them after a club show in London. The driver said he’d been hired by another musician to bring them to his castle for an after-show party. This was good enough for NRBQ, so they climbed in, and, eventually, they were delivered to the home of Paul McCartney, where bassist Joey Spampinato was presented with a bass monogrammed with The Beatles’ initials. NRBQ refused to be defined by the size of their audience, or numbers of records sold; they were artists in the truest sense, right up to their quasi-farewell show in 2004. Recent scuttlebutt had keyboardist Terry Adams reforming the band with new members and the same name. One wonders how Tommy’s death will affect this, but maybe, in the long run, it doesn’t matter. They’ve earned the right to do as they please.
I met Tommy a few times. He was a wonderful dude: freaky, funny and happy; both normal and strange, as most lifers are. A few memories remain from our conversations. Once, before an Ontario Place show opening for Blue Rodeo, he told me that he had every episode of The Young and the Restless on VHS, and that, just a few weeks before the show, he’d held the master tapes to Pet Sounds in his hands, and kissed them. He also got a chance to play with his hero, Brian Wilson. He told me, “I could have died right there,” but whomever manages the Great Beyond had other ideas. Tommy would play lots more, and play better than ever. At another show, he played a drum lick that has stayed with me my entire life because I can’t believe how he did it. People have said this kind of thing about Hendrix and Bird and Freddie Mercury; where it’s almost like a magic trick, disbelieving even as you’re watching it happen.
It was a drum fill played on high-hats; a rattling of sticks on shimmering metal that razored across the up-tempo swing number, something Adams had counted in. I was with my friend, Dave Clark, and I remember grabbing him by the arm after it happened, and him grabbing me, although maybe it’s the corrupt drama of memory that conjures this. After the fill, Tommy smiled and kept going, his hair bobbing and arms swimming as if nothing unusual had happened. The song ended and we were bewildered, feeling as if the genius and essence of drumming was before us. Then, Adams snapped his fingers. It was late afternoon and the sun lingered above the horizon. Rain at the Drive In started. It sounded so good. Let’s stop time right there.

Posted in: Arts, Music* Tags: Animal, Blue Rodeo, Brian Wilson, drummers, drumming, Games People Play, Gordon Lightfoot, Keith Moon, NRBQ, Ontario Place, Paul McCartney, Tommy Ardolino, Toronto, Weekend Post, Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
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Old 01-16-2012, 02:57 PM   #2
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Default Re: Dave Bidini on drummer Tommy Ardolino

rest in peace..... is there a recording of his take on The Wreck?
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