7 of the Best Drum Intros in Rock History

It’s often the splashy elements of music that are discussed: namely the choruses and the guitar solos. But, sometimes the rhythm section can be just as exciting. Many bands have chosen to let their drummer lead the way, opening up some of their most iconic offerings with a memorable fill or two. Find our picks for the best songs that follow that formula, below.

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1. “Hot for Teacher” (Van Halen)

Alex Van Halen plays the drums so fast and furious in the intro for “Hot for Teacher” it could easily be mistaken for the rumble of an engine. Once he adds in a few hi-hat hits, the listener is clued into his skill behind the sticks.

Instead of fading into the background once a wiry guitar line comes in, Van Halen keeps the same energy, competing for dominance on the track and, arguably, wins.

2. “Tom Sawyer” (Rush)

Neil Peart’s drum intro in “Tom Sawyer” is relatively tame in comparison to songs like “Hot for Teacher” but, it is nonetheless memorable. “Tom Sawyer” comes to a crashing start with Peart hammering down on his cymbals. Immediately after, he slows things down for a simple riff that grounds a warping, spacey synth.

Peart always seemed to nail down the perfect drum line for whatever experimental lane the rest of his Rush bandmates dared to meander down.

3. “Wipe Out” (The Surfaris)

While many people immediately think of the iconic guitar riff when thinking of the song “Wipe Out,” the song actually opens up with an equally enticing drum line. The hits keep on coming from drummer David Raven. His playing is unrelenting as he moves in and out of rhythm changes. Raven takes zero breaks throughout the nearly three-minute track.

4. “Baba O’Riley” (The Who)

“Baba O’Riley” opens with a jangly piano tone, but it’s not until Keith Moon comes in with a drum fill that things really get underway. It’s a timeless song all the way around but, it’s Moon’s playing that gives it scope. Once he comes in, you instantly feel like you’re listening to a piece of music iconography.

5. “The End” (The Beatles)

Ringo Starr proves why he is one of the best drummers of all time in the Beatles’ Abbey Road track, “The End.” It’s been well-documented that Ringo has a knack for creating drum fills that act almost as secondary melodies that listeners remember just as well as a chorus or a splashy guitar solo.

Ringo hammers out a deep beat in the back of Paul McCartney’s vocal line. Later he takes things up a notch with several drum solos. “The End” is Ringo’s starring moment—no question about it.

6. “In the Air Tonight” (Phil Collins)

Of course, “In the Air Tonight” is known for Phil Collin’s drum solo mid-way through the song. But, the track opens up with some equally stellar playing from the former Genesis member. The drum line sounds almost like a heartbeat. There is a steady rhythm throughout the song until the aforementioned drum fill. In the back half of the song, Collins kicks things into high gear. It’s a heart attack. It’s a frenzy.

7. “We Will Rock You” (Queen)

Last but, certainly not least, is “We Will Rock You” by Queen. It’s one of the most famous beats in music history. Sports would not be the same without the titular “stomp, stomp, clap” rhythm. Although it’s not a traditional drum line, it’s still one of the most recognizable percussive intros in rock music – so we’d be remiss if we left it off the list.

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy


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    • Agreed….it should be a top 10 list-drop the Phil Collins tune, give Charlie his due, and add two from John Henry Bonham- “Rock n’ Roll” and “When The Levee Breaks”

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