Top 10 Opening Drum Beats of All-time

Jamie Reidy offers his ranking of the Top 10 opening drum beats in rock history.

This is the last in a series, following my picks for guitar, piano and bass.

Before you start yelling at me for this list, I invite you to take a deep breath and re-read the headline.

It says “Most Recognizable.”  It does not say “Best” or “Most Epic” or “Most Influential.”  It says “Most Recognizable,” as in “The majority of the people in your car, bar or party instantly know what song it is by the first note of the song.”

That first note part is key. Also, no band can have two entries.

Here are the runners up:

Two Princes – Spin Doctors
Just Like Heaven – The Cure
Every Breath You Take – The Police
The Long Run – Eagles
Boys of Summer – Don Henley

Now, for the Top 10 Most Recognizable Opening Drum Beats of All-Time.

I will go in descending order:

10.Magic Bus – The Who (Not sure exactly what instrument starts this song, but I know it’s percussion.)

9. Honky Tonk Woman – Rolling Stones

8. Bullet The Blue Sky – U2

7. Shout at The Devil – Motley Crue

 6. Jamie’s Crying – Van Halen (Note: the similarity of this name to the blog writer’s in no way influenced the judges.)

5. It’s The End of The World – R.E.M.

4. Walk This Way – Aerosmith

3. Back in Black – AC/DC

2. Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street Band

1. Rock and Roll – Led Zeppelin


Agree? Disagree? What did I miss?

About Jamie Reidy

Jamie Reidy is a former U.S. Army officer turned little blue pill pusher turned author. His first book "Hard Sell: The Evolution of A Viagra Salesman"
served as the basis for the movie "Love and Other Drugs" starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Jamie is currently writing his new book, "Game On: One Fanatic's Fantastic, Foolish and Futile Attempt to Attend 365 Sporting Events in 365 Days." He discovered his latest story featured on Good Men Project - "Hope Shoots and Scores" - on Day 39 of his crazy journey.


  1. Jamie Reidy says:

    Me Me – Funny you should mention Paradise City, since I originally had it on the list. But then FlyingVedhead and another pal pointed out that it starts with a guitar. And, sure enough, they are correct.

  2. So many missed, just off the top of my head:
    MC5 – Skunk
    Megadeth – Skin of my Teeth
    The Whigs – Right Hand on My Heart
    The Monkees – Mary Mary
    Toadies – Heel
    The Police – Walking on the Moon

  3. Judas Priest – Painkiller

    the opening drum sound so evil!!!!!!

  4. I think “Rosanna” by Toto should be on this top 10 list!

  5. 50 ways to leave your lover/ Steve Gadd

  6. Jamie Reidy says:

    I have no problem moving “Honky Tonk Woman” higher on the list. But Top 3???

  7. Flyingvedhead says:

    Honkey Tonk Women should be Top 3 purely b/c of the cowbell. If there were a list of greatest cowbell songs in rock history, HTW is #1!

  8. Jamie Reidy says:

    I did not know that re: Zeppelin and the Little Richard song.

    As for “Back in Black,” it starts with a high hat or cymbal, right?

  9. Well, Back in Black’s count in is the “chunk” sound from the muted strings. When the drums kick in, so does the guitar chords, so it’s not actually a drum opening.

  10. I know this is just for Rock, but man, I don’t think there’s anything more recognizable than the drum opening of Sing Sing Sing.

  11. Personally, I would have put “When the Levee Breaks” by Zep on the list rather than “Rock and Roll” but that may just be my personal bias. R & R is instantly recognizable too. Great list BTW

  12. “Here Comes My Girl” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

  13. totally thought you were gonna have some hip hop or pop on this list.

    • I would nominate “Be My Baby.” just epic,

      BTW “Rock And Roll” is pretty much a direct nick from
      “Keep a Knocking” by Little Richard. In fact, the song started as a jam based on the earlier song.

  14. Its not really rock, but the opening of “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross (drums by Tony Thompson of Chic) is brilliant.

  15. Mark Ellis says:

    Like the post. I’ll differentiate between a percussion-only intro, however brief ( “Rock and Roll,/Magic Bus”) and a great beat that starts with music from the jump (“Shout/Back in Black”).

    In the former category I would add Halen’s “Everybody Wants Some” Ozzy’s “Over the Mountain” and Tom Petty’s “Don’t Come Around Here No More.”

    In the latter category I would place The Kinks, “You Really Got Me” and the Sex Pistols “Anarchy In The UK.”

  16. Jamie Reidy says:

    HillRat, I don’t know any DK.

    Tyler, you are so right! Just changed the list.

    Also, turns out Paradise City starts with guitar for 10 seconds before the first drum beat. I. Am. An Idiot.

  17. Can’t believe you don’t have “California Uber Alles” by the Dead Kennedys on this list:

  18. there are so many Rolling Stones songs to name here but what about “Honkey Tonk Women”?

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