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A quirky song from the quirkiest of bands – ‘Sparks’ gives me title of this month’s missive. Released in 1977, it’s an entirely ‘un-PC’ ditty extolling the virtues of disposing of your good lady once the ravages of time start to become apparent.


Whilst not at all respectful, it is quite amusing and perhaps was their take on the increasing number of ‘disposable’ items and attitudes manifesting at the time. In the last 30 years, the number of disposable items we now take for granted has multiplied to such an extent, that we (mankind) are working almost as hard to control the detrimental effects of such products as we are developing them.


The idea of being able to use something and once it’s purpose has been fulfilled, once, twice or just few times and then absolve yourself of the responsibility of maintenance, is an attractive one, even I would venture to those of sound environmental beliefs.


It’s not unfair to say the only disposable items that come within the remit of drumming, are sticks and heads, but even if that is agreed – many companies have gone to great lengths to develop said items in near indestructible form. The physicality of being a drummer extends further than the actual playing when one considers the weight of our instrument and space needed not only to play, but to store and transport.


It’s a well documented tale of the development of smaller bass drums in mid 20th century, in order that the car-less drummer could move around town in taxis and street cars. The proliferation of privately owned cars since then, has alleviated this problem for nearly all drummers, but the continual re working of ‘portable’ and space saving kit has not shown any signs of abating in the last 30+ years.


Flat kits, teeny tiny kits, self contained kits in a box, drums that stack inside each other, kits that fold into the bass drum which in turn folds into a small bag which in turn folds into an envelope that fits neatly in the top blazer pocket, adorn the news pages of our favourite magazines. I still believe the concept of an inflatable kit is still worthy of further investigation.


We are still pursuing the ‘convenience kit’, where I believe, environmental issue notwithstanding, the issue of carting a kit back and forth, could be solved in a few years.


One only has to scroll through the multitude of extremely cheap (even by 1970’s prices) kits flooding all markets these days and it’s my assertion that these kits could be the future of drum convenience. Think about it, if you could get a kit for £25, you could play a few gigs over the weekend and lob it in the skip on Sunday night. You wouldn’t need cases since the drums have a short use life, no worries about getting them stolen, damaged, stained by the variety of fluids oft thrown, spilt or dribbled on kits, no maintenance, no new heads, job done. Thump ‘n’ Dump Drums.

Look at the average life of the machinery around you – how many people have had CD players, TVs, washings machines, cars go down the Swannee after just a year or two? Look at what a car is made of today – thick tin foil compared with the Chieftain tanks of the 60’s disguised as Morris Oxfords. Domestic appliances with ‘built in obsolescence’, DVD players for £30 – how much were they a few years back?


It’s not just the drums, not so long ago, a cheap cymbal meant cheap (nasty) sounds but now there are more than a few brands selling pro sound cymbals at terrifyingly low prices. How long before they become more cost effective to give to fans than sticks are?


Consumerism, capitalism, competition and market forces are squeezing ever more so the manufacturers in all walks of business and combine this with the scenarios that drummers often find themselves in (poor attitudes from other band members, venues, managers, promoters, expectation that their kits SHOULD be shared without question, transport, space, storage etc etc), I don’t think the concept of a disposable drum kit is as far fetched as you might think, and nor is it that far off!


I know the majority of us care very deeply about our gear and we wear the kit in the same way one might wear a nice car – feels good! But ask yourself this: has there ever been a time or gig when an ‘anything’ kit would have sufficed? The time, effort and sweat just wasn’t worth it and if I’d just picked up a ‘Thump ‘n’ Dump’ kit from that vending machine……..


August 2005



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