BOOKS + SHOWS
STANDUP FOR DRUMMERS Starring Fred Armisen Netflix Original February 2018 Although you may already be familiar with Fred Armisen as a comedian and writer for Saturday Night Live and Portlandia, before his time in front of the camera, he spent several years behind the kit touring with Trenchmouth. Armisen, who has written articles for Tom Tom and has interviewed drummers for Tom Tom TV, has just put out a new special on Netflix aptly titled, Standup for Drummers. And that’s exactly what it is—in his trademark nerdy and quirky style, he cracks jokes that only drummers will get, like how it’s awkward to walk back around the hi-hat stand, and how sometimes guitarists can’t find the 1 in the beat (love you, guitarists!). The special begins with the camera panning over the outside of the club with eager fans lined up in front of a sign declaring “Drummers Only.” It even shows some of them demonstrating their stick prowess on a drum pad on their way in. Maybe there was a secret rudiment they needed to know in order to get in? Armisen doesn’t just stand there telling jokes though—he gets a little help from his friends like Sheila E., Tré Cool, Clem Burke, and Stella Mozgawa to demonstrate different experiences drummers have and ways to collaborate with other musicians—even if it’s just to make fun of another band in your scene. In another memorable bit, Armisen showcases different kits starting with one from the 1930s and working his way up to present-day set ups. He uses his time onstage to uplift the drummers in the audience, reassuring them, “you’re just better than everybody else” when you walk through the airport carrying your snare. While this might not be fun to watch with someone who is not a drummer or a musician, Fred just really gets us, you know? —Rebecca DeRosa
THE GIRL IN THE BACK: A FEMALE DRUMMER’S LIFE WITH BOWIE, BLONDIE, AND THE ’70S ROCK SCENE by Laura Davis-Chanin Backbeat Books May 2018 There are several memoirs and accounts of the early punk scene in New York and London, and this does not disappoint. While Laura Davis-Chanin might not be a household name, she was in the crowd and then onstage at Max’s Kansas City CBGB’s, and the Palladium with her band, the Student Teachers, riding the punk explosion in the ’70s. She is a keen observer who draws you into her corner of the scene where teenage rebellion, sex, drugs, rocky relationships, and music reigned freely. When she was just a high school student, she fell in love with punk and new wave and began following bands like the Mumps and the Erasers. Thoroughly inspired, she and her best friend Bill Arning decided to start a band and recruited other young musicians to join them. With Lori Reese on the bass, they had a female rhythm section, which Davis-Chanin said made them stand out at the time. Their pop sensibilities attracted the attention of Jimmy Destri, keyboardist and synth player for the band Blondie, which had had recent success with the album Parallel Lines. He offered to produce a single for the Student Teachers, and in the process, Destri and Davis-Chanin struck up a love affair that lasted a few years. They even wrote a couple songs together that Blondie recorded.
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To her amazement, she began to rub elbows with David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry, and other notable figures of that era. Bowie saw something in the Student Teachers, even going to their band rehearsal and tweaking some of their parts, and helping them in other behind-the-scenes ways. But a wrench was thrown into Davis-Chanin’s fledgeling career as a musician when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 18. On doctor’s orders, she hung up her sticks and later pursued careers in law and writing. Multiple sclerosis may have taken Davis-Chanin away from the kit, but it hasn't stopped her from creating. She is currently working on a novel entitled A Finished Noise and a book with Michael Alago, the former Elektra Records executive responsible for introducing Metallica to the world in the ’80s. She also co-hosts “Phi Fic,” a podcast on fiction for The Partially Examined Life Network. —Rebecca DeRosa