The basic rhythm section - a drummer and a bass player - is the foundation of most of the popular music recorded over the last sixty years, and a killer rhythm section can make an otherwise average band something greater.
With these opening remarks, then, I am creating a list of what I consider to be the best rhythm sections in popular music over the span of the past six decades. Sorry, jazz fans: while I appreciate the genius of a Charles Mingus or Buddy Rich, I am not including jazz rhythm sections in this post. Yes, once again the jazz world gets snubbed by pop.
10. Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman, Rolling Stones: While Mick and Keith grabbed the spotlight, the rhythm section of the Stones brought out the blues, funk, and soul roots of the band and created a gritty sound unlike any of the other British Invasion bands.
9. Paul Thomson and Bob Hardy, Franz Ferdinand. Sure, they are Scottish, and yes, they are post-millennial. So sue me; these cats just ooze funk and groove, and give the hard-edged guitars of Alex Kapranos and Nick McCarthy a surprisingly danceable substructure.
8. Tony Thompson and Bernard Edwards, Chic, Power Station, and countless side projects. These men practically defined the late 1970s disco sound, and Power Station would have been a lame Duran Duran lite without the driving, pounding rhythm they provided.
7. Doug Clifford and Stu Cook, Creedence Clearwater Revival/ Revisited. Often overlooked by John Fogerty's primal Bayou scream and vibrato-laden guitars, the rhythm section of CCR laid down some serious funkiness under the band's hard rocking surface.
6. Chad Smith and Flea, Red Hot Chili Peppers. You want heavy funk? They'll give it to you at 130 miles per hour, pal, and leave you sweating on the floor in an exhausted heap.
5. John Entwhistle and Keith Moon, The Who. My sentimental favorite, though I had to drop them a few pegs because of Moon's manic inconsistencies and occasional sloppiness. Still, when Moon wasn't blasted out of his mind, they were untouchable.
4. Lowell "Sly" Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, just about every reggae band not named Bob Marley and the Wailers. If ever a rhythm section seemed born at the hip, it would be Sly and Robbie. I once saw them playing with Black Uhuru, and the playing of the Rhythm Twins was like nothing I had ever heard.
3. Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce, Cream. Bruce was about the only bassist in the world who could hold his own with the inimitable Ginger Baker. Very heavy blues, but these musicians were masters at their craft.
2. The Funk Brothers, everything that was worthy out of Motown Records. Too many members to list, but James Jamerson (bass), Benny Benjamin, Uriel Jones, and Richard "Pistol" Allen (drums) are the most important of the Motown rhythmists. Unsung heroes who truly helped create the sound that put Detroit on the musical map in the 1960s.
1. John Bonham and John Paul Jones, Led Zeppelin. Not my personal favorites, but undoubtedly these two were both virtuosos and - more importantly - created an unforgettable heavy sound that has been imitated by thousands of bands in many genres for almost four decades. They probably belong at the top of the list simply on the strength of their work on "When the Levee Breaks," as that cascading cannon-masquerading-as-drums sound has been sampled on almost every rap album recorded.
All right, let the angry comments begin over rhythm sections I have snubbed.