Monday, June 27, 2011

An Ode to John 'Brad' Bradbury of The Specials: Prince Rimshot Defines The 2-Tone Sound

Its the calm before the storm for fans of The Specials.  As the band gears up to kick-off the final European and U.K. tour of their three year reunion, I want to pay homage to a key member of the band's vaunted rhythm section: none other than drummer John 'Brad' Bradbury.  While the band has always been defined by its front men and songwriters, as a bass player I have always focused on the fantastic chemistry between Bradbury and his rhythm partner bassist Horace Panter.

I think its fair to say that the timeless quality of The Specials sound is defined by the sound of Bradbury's drums. He plays crisp, clean patterns that combine the energy and power of punk with the technical prowess of ska, rocksteady, reggae and soul. Bradbury's trademark bass drum and cymbal hits, Latin-inspired rolls and hi-hat figures set the standard for the 2-Tone sound and he elevated the 'rimshot' to a musical art form earning himself the nickname 'Prince Rimshot' along the way.

Bradbury has always played Pearl Drums.  In fact, Pearl Drums were so popular with 2-Tone drummers that the company took out a print ad in 1980 at the height of 2-Tone's popularity (see below) that featured Bradbury, along with Jane Summers of The Bodysnatchers and Charley 'H' Bembridge of The Selecter.

Below is a recent interview that Bradbury did with Pearl Drums.

What is it you like so much about playing Pearl drums?
I have played Pearl Drums for on and off for forty years. On a couple of occasions in the past I have tried other makes but have always returned to Pearl. The kits are solid and sound perfect, and let`s face it they have to be a bit “Special” anyway.

Which drummer or band influenced you most into playing drums?
My main influences were Al Jackson Jr. And Sly Dunbar

Who in your mind are the drummers of tomorrow, who has caught you eye?
I am proud to say my son Elliot has a great future ahead of him. It is my opinion that those of us who can combine ethnic styles will be the drummers of the future.

What do you like most about being a drummer?
When playing live I have a ringside seat to the mayhem that goes on around the stage, sometimes it`s like a front row seat at the comedy store. Our band has a sense of humour onstage that is second to none. I find the responsibility a buzz and the need to provide a solid background for the other performers keeps you focused on and off stage.

What is the worst thing that has happened to you during a show?
Fell backwards off the riser once and got sandwiched jack-knife style between riser and wall.

What do you practice and for how long?
I usually practice drums and vibraphone in my home studio day on day off, obviously when you are on tour it isn`t always practical apart from sound checks.

What is your best advice to a young drummer wanting to make it in this industry?
Same as #3 really, move around the styles and try and make the “unusual” the “usual” style of the future.

For those of you interested in the more technical aspects of Bradbury's playing, below is a graphic of Bradbury's custom drum set-up that Pearl Drums included with the interview.

Now watch Bradbury in action on the kit performing 'Monkey Man' during The Specials 2010 tour stop in Toronto, Canada. Its a very unique overhead camera shot which gives you a birds eye view of the man doing what he does best. The secret for me is the timbale like tuning of his snare and the cymbal crashes which are the heart and soul of each and every song.


dan said...


eskanga said...

Not only a genius, but a gentleman as well.

Anonymous said...

I always loved Brad's drumming, certainly the best of the 2-Tone drummers. And it's not just his brilliant syncopations and ingenious rhythmic structures that impress; for me it's the seemingly effortless fluidity. As they say, it's all in the wrist action.


Anonymous said...

In real life he uses Gretsch Drums.

Anonymous said...

I know his son - he's an amazing drummer and he's DAMN HOT too!

Anonymous said...

RIP Brad. :-(