Queen were already on my radar before I owned a drum set. A friend who lived opposite me had all their albums and by 1980 I’d heard every one of them. The album that stood out for me the most though, was their 1979 release, ‘Live Killers’. To me, this represents Queen at the top of their game. By 1981 their most current release, ‘The Game’ hadn’t really made a big impression on me, so I continued to revert back to ‘Live Killers’ for my regular fix of Freddie and the boys. Once ownership of a drum kit had been added to the equation, my appreciation of Roger Taylor rose rapidly, hovering within the echelons of my ‘I wannabe like that drummer’ list.
Taylor was a self-taught player, had a huge Ludwig drum kit (bonus) and perhaps more importantly, had red ‘go faster’ stripes taped to his Shaw C+ drum sticks! These were all attributes of aspiration in my Rock star-struck mind, so I set to work trying to replicate his drum parts, in particular, his brief solo from the live version of ‘Keep Yourself Alive’. For a few months back in 1981, like Ian Paice, Roger Taylor totally rocked my drumming world and still to this day, he remains a personal icon of British drumming history. When restoring the Ludwig kit I play today to a natural maple finish from it’s original ravaged, red mahogany stain, I deliberately left the Bass drum hoops in their factory colour as my own tribute to his lasting inspiration. People still ask me why the hoops are different to the rest of the shells and my answer only ever requires two words – “Roger Taylor…”
Queen remain on the list of bands I regret never experiencing live; but once Freddie passed, it was truly game over. For me, no one could replace a front man of that calibre. Freddie was a one-off, a unique showman who wrote a book of stagecraft that I’ve yet to see bettered. As a rhythm section, Roger Taylor and John Deacon smoked it in the Rock world. These guys really knew their craft. If anyone dares doubt this then my advice is to have a listen to the leaked 24 track stems of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and isolate Taylor and Deacon’s tracks; then drop them back in with the rest of the band and you’ll get the picture, very quickly. Roger Taylor was also one of the few drummers from the 1970’s who dared to record a 26″ Bass drum, un-muffled, with a closed front head, just like another favourite player of mine from the Midlands – but more of that later…
Perhaps the most significant thing Roger Taylor does – that most drummers don’t even go near – is the art of song writing; a special gift that failed to fall into my lap, despite my ham-fisted attempts on acoustic guitar. There’s a punchline that British Rock star ‘royalty’ often recite when referring to Taylor that goes something along the lines of, “oh yes, Roger Taylor, he owns half of Surrey!” You don’t earn that reputation on drumming alone and it serves as a sobering reminder that songwriters sit firmly at the top of the food chain in the world of contemporary popular music.