Comments: So Long, Mitch Mitchell

I agree with the Keith Moon part. (The first concert I ever attended was a Day on the Green in 1976 featuring The Who and the Grateful Dead. Moon ran out on stage wearing nothing but boxer shorts and high top sneakers, did a somersault on the way to his drum set and powered two sets I'll never forget.) While Mitch Mitchell was certainly an exuberant player who contributed to the Hendrix sound, I don't think of him as being one of the great rock drummers. I think Ginger Baker, who is a far superior musician, had far more influence on succeeding drummers. And John Bonham comes in a close second to Moon, and well ahead of Mitchell, in terms of putting his complete self into his drumming. Nevertheless, I have very fond memories of playing Are You Experienced over and over again. It's truly sad that Mitchell died so young.

That said, Richie Hayward remains my all-time favorite rock drummer. If you like drummers who play counterpoint, so to speak, to the melody--rather than just driving the rhythm--no one does it better. He's a lot of fun to watch, too.

Posted by jm at November 12, 2008 10:18 PM

It's very sad that Mitch has passed away. And you're right about the quality of his drumming.

He also put together one of the few truly great books about Jimi, "The Hendrix Experience". Its greatness in my mind comes from its honesty. It's the only book I've ever read about Jimi -- or any other rock star -- which has absolutely no axe to grind. Mitch wasn't just a great drummer but also a great gentleman.

And yes, about the dynamic, you have it exactly right. Mitch was chosen for the Jimi Hendrix Experience because he was the best drummer around, and Noel was chosen because he had the best hair-do. Seriously. What a way to build a power trio!

On top of that, Noel was never able to come to grips with the fact that he was not only the second best guitar player in the band but also the second best bass player. It's too bad they didn't care more about chops and less about hair.

I agree with you that nobody played Dylan better than Jimi, but I think I might disagree with you about how difficult it is to think of other rock drummers who did as much to raise the bar. I'm especially partial to Bill Bruford and Paul Thompson, but there have been plenty of other great ones, too.

Nonetheless, Sob!, and RIP Mitch, and Thanks, Bernard.

Posted by Winter at November 12, 2008 10:21 PM

Every time I cover these songs I will remember Mitch's chops as my personal standard to reach for.

Posted by Tom at November 13, 2008 01:19 AM

I've always loved Hendrix's "rhythm" guitar-playing.

Here is MM propelling a magnificent version of "Fire" at Woodstock:

Posted by Colin at November 13, 2008 03:37 AM

I have to strongly disagree with jm here..

I feel that MM was Moon's equal although he clearly owed much of his style to Moon.

Mitch expressed music better than any other drummer I've ever heard. He added a lyrical component that was missing from Keith's playing, but he missed a fun factor that Moon managed (ref: The Kids are Alright). Gotta call them the two best ever

Posted by Dilapidus at November 13, 2008 12:03 PM

"No direction home".

Posted by Mike Meyer at November 13, 2008 06:54 PM

Hm. I don't like this kind of ranking anyway. Hendrix's version of "All Along the Watchtower" is amazing, but I was never impressed by this version of "Like a Rolling Stone." On the other hand, there used to be a group called the Byrds that played Dylan quite well, some of us thought.

Posted by Duncan at November 13, 2008 10:40 PM

I remember listening to rock radio for the first time as a teenager and thinking, "How did that great old jazz drummer get mixed up with that teenage garage band?" It was the Stones, it turned out, and I've been partial to Charlie Watts ever since.

Posted by Ted at November 18, 2008 12:01 PM