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Throughout my high powered, executive, fast living lifestyle, I have been known to wander off the leather surfaced and Jack Daniels doused rock lifestyle highway and dabble with the sexually charged existence that is; “having a proper job”.


During these brief periods of mental imbalance, my meandering and bumbling attempts at functioning on a level that might provide some benefit to others was, on more than one occasion, inexplicably rewarded with promotion and managerial power. This usually involved demonstrating leadership, inspiration and moral guidance. I was really good at this sort of thing. No – really I was. There are several well documented CPS cases of me leading my young charges to a nearby bar for a ‘motivational interface’, inspiring them to ‘go around the world’ (think about it) and morally guiding at least one half of the ‘team’ on such matters as, oh – I don’t know; ‘should I leave my boyfriend’, just as a random and not really significant example.


All was well and good, until of course some interfering unions or somebody or other starting asking awkward and frankly, very probing questions, but prior to the media frenzied court appearances, I was invited to the living torture that was ‘management development courses’. When I say ‘invited’, anyone who’s had the misfortune to be ‘invited’ to one of these pointless buzz-word-fests will know that the ‘invitation’ is usually at the behest of some corporate greasy-pole-ascending retard who is attempting convince the clueless golf playing descendants of Attila the Hun’s nastier big brothers at Director level that he’s ‘developing the essential synergy enhancement project’.


During these ‘meetings’ there was always some gimp who would proffer the more-knackered-than-a-willy-after-a-night-in-a-harem phrase; ‘We don’t want to reinvent the wheel’. Cue smug stroll in front of the flip chart and eye brows raised with silence just to let that monumental gem ‘sink in’. Reinvent the wheel?? I’m convinced that many of the ‘Men at C&A’ who regularly peddled such crass information, would, quite genuinely TRY such a task if it meant a bonus, a 0.75% raise, new embossed business cards and an upgrade to a Vauxhall Insipid GLXi with alloys (reinvented of course).


OK, I know the point is you can’t reinvent such a functional machine. It’s round, it does the roll thing and with enough of them attached to something, the something moves a lot easier to somewhere else than without. Very old invention which, let’s face it, was more or less, bar some pneumatic enhancements (stop laughing at the back), right from day 1.


Another rather aged invention which arguably came into being roughly around the same time in mankind’s development – was the drum. It’s not changed an awful lot since Ugg Simpkins – Supplier of Hitty Things to the Cro-Magnon Man On-The-Move’ presented his Collector’s Series Round Wood Thingy with the Stretchy Outside bit of a Dead Sabre Toothed Vole to the Design Council of Bedrock Artisans.


Cylinder with membranes. Hit. Enjoy.


Despite the obvious benefits of simplicity and effectiveness on such an established piece of equipment, there have been numerous attempts over the decades, to ‘improve’ and change for the better the simple joy that is the drum.


Whilst there have been technical advancements that make the function and reliability better, we really can’t escape the fact, that you can no more improve a drum than you can make a wheel rounder. There have been some valiant attempts to convince drummers that a drum CAN be improved, usually in the field of ‘single tension/turn tuning’, Cecil Strupe came up the ‘Knob Tension’ (will you stop giggling at the back Headmaster!!) system in the 30’s, Reno Drums were launched in the 40’s from their store in Manchester with a single tension system that ‘made all other drums obsolete, this is the future etc etc’. Arbiter’s Autotunes from the 70’s and more recently, the ATS system were again well engineered and produced a drum utilising the convenience of a single tuning system.

Trixon Drums were notable not just for making fine and desirable ‘conventional’ drums, but also for experimenting with shell shape and, well, you really have to see them to believe it if you’ve not seen them before. Egg shaped bass drum! Conical shells! On the subject of shape; Staccato and North Drums from the 70’s still raise an eyebrow and prick the curiosity of drummers trying to satisfy an apparent boundless ability to soak up the crazed manifestations of an inventive, percussive mind.


And, lest we forget, E-Drums. Love or hate them, they have managed to stick around, but despite the assertions of some overly confident commentators in the 80’s, they have not, as yet made the acoustic drum redundant (Which reminds me of the editorial featured in a 1929 edition of ‘The Drummer’ suggesting that pit drummers of the time had little to fear from the proliferation of ‘Talkies’ and their jobs providing the music/sound effects for silent movies would be safe for years to come!).


Why do we, as a collective consciousness, always return, or indeed remain, in the comfortable bosom that is the round cylindrical wooden tube with lumps of metal on the outside into which we screw threaded rods to make the flat bits of plastic tight? With all the apparent advancements to make our lives easier over the last 60 years, we are, effectively, playing the same designed instrument that Emile Boulanger patented in April 1883.


Is it a case of design right day 1? Or do we fear change? Living in the past with a cautious eye on the future but not enough self conviction to admit to a good idea? Ridicule is the enemy?


Whatever the answer, let’s face it, we have been treated to (and in many cases, ‘we’ have rejected) some fabulous inventions to advance our art and there seems little reasoning as to why evolution in the drum manufacturing world is treated so sceptically.


We see so often, the weird and the wacky stuff from yesteryear becoming desirable and sought after long after the inventor/manufacturer has given up the fight. But, reassuringly, it doesn’t seem to stop the entrepreneurs from grandly (or modestly) unveiling their radical take on the cylinder.


After seeing large wooden boxes with drum heads built in and more recently drums that are ‘sort of round but have flat bits on the sides’, I find it amusing to consider that the major manufacturers appear to have a significant focus on the ‘vintage’ look/construction (looking to the past for the future) whilst the innovators and experimenters still striving for a change are the wild haired independents in a shed.


Whether or not these experiments actually provide a mass appeal alternative to the ‘drum’ remains to be seen. I can’t see where else there is to go, to me; a drum is a drum, unless it’s ajar.


Or……. um, something.


May 2005

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