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U2's Larry Mullen - Drumming style?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by ElectroVibe, Oct 12, 2013.

  1. ElectroVibe


    Mar 2, 2013
    Does Larry Mullen have a unique/distinctive style of drumming? I read that U2's first label offer was to sign the band without Larry. But his work sounds so great on their first album "Boy" I just can't imagine another drummer fitting with them. Maybe it was just too unconventional or what? It seems like perhaps some drummers have copied his style at times. I know that he doesn't do anything that is technically brilliant, but I do like his style.

    I play with a drummer that is more of a standard, softer "pop" sound. So there is the usual run-of-the-mill rock syncopations in the KICK DRUM. But I was listening to a U2 song the other day and it seemed like he was definitely playing quarter notes in the kick drum. (I have not listened to his drumming that closely on other U2 songs). Is the quarter note a unique thing to most of their songs? Or is it common in rock?

    I'd appreciate any thoughts on his technique, etc.
  2. morgansterne

    morgansterne Geek U.S.A.

    Oct 25, 2011
    Cleveland Ohio
    I didn't realize this until a heard a tribute band doing "pride" and was impressed by how well the drummer nailed this -- listen to the sixteenth note fills leading in near the beginning. they're incredibly even rhythmically, but he pays serious attention to the dynamics. He does a few little crescendos in the space of four beats, instead of one long build-up.
    Also listen to the very cool, syncopated beat of "please"


    it's so repetitive it sounds like it could be a machine, but it's a great groove. The bridge sounds like sunday bloody sunday -- super straight, makiing a nice contrast with the opening beat.
  3. Milk


    Sep 16, 2013
    Montreal, Canada
    I can.t really discuss his technique as i'm not a drummer BUT...I love early to mid U2 (1980-1993, after that it's all downhill for me...)and his drumming in pretty much everything up until like Joshua Tree. I mean i still like him after but he became a bit more of a...how to say...more of a in the bakground drummer after that. Efficient but not so much showing off. Whereas early on he was far more present.

    Boy is actually my fav U2 record. Every drum tracks on this record is great. And that's just the drum, then you get to the guitar.... Also watching him play in the early days is painful...ever watched Under a Blood Red Sky? Talk about a drummer sweating it out...most of the show his face looks like he's in horrible pain. Unlike the other guys the rock star thing never was a goal for him. He just wanted to play drums for a living, to be a professional drummer....I think in that regard he hmm..succeeded pretty well... Also, he started the band and he was the only member with any chops when they started.
  4. I used to think he wasn't too outstanding of a drummer but songs like Sunday Bloody Sunday are pretty complicated (at least for my mediocre drumming ability) when you actually listen for the drums
  5. packhowitzer

    packhowitzer 155mm of pure destruction

    Apr 20, 2011
    the snare work on sunday bloody sunday stands out to me (in a good way). i notice it every time i hear the song. i think it's very unique- and imo it's hard to get "unique" from a snare- at least to my novice ears.
  6. +1 I don't really like much after their 1st 2 albums. Still appreciate them but I'll regularly switch stations when one(or more) of their big hits come on the radio. I Will Follow, Gloria -1st two albums are way better for me.
    Like Larry's drumming especially on these 2 albums. All musicians play well & make their parts fit well
  7. Smallmouth_Bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    I noticed that he uses his floor tom a lot like a high hat at times.

    He gets the job done and serves the songs well. What else could you ask for?
  8. ElectroVibe


    Mar 2, 2013
    I know what you mean. But on "With or Without You" but I always liked the drums on that song.
  9. Slade N

    Slade N Supporting Member

    May 28, 2005
    portland, or
    he was great at what he did, play drums a bit different than the rest but still worked and was solid. i understand that bands have to grow change and experiment but i think the first 5 or 6 records were their and his best
  10. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Where did you hear that? My understanding was that when they started, he was the only one with any musical experience - he was pretty much the one who put the band together. I'd be really surprised if there was any talk of dropping him. Wish I could comment more on his technique, but I don't know enough about drumming.
  11. ElectroVibe


    Mar 2, 2013
    I don't know. It may have been a hoax. It doesn't really make sense. Yes, he was definitely the one who put the band together. There would be no U2 if not for him kick-starting the band.
  12. ElectroVibe


    Mar 2, 2013
    To me it sounds like a combination of (1) military/regimental style, and (2) tribal drumming.

  13. Same, although I read this thing in a book on U2 that Bono and the Edge were wicked impressed by Adam Clayton cause he pretended to know a bunch of music theory
  14. Milk


    Sep 16, 2013
    Montreal, Canada

    Yes, but it was hardly theory, he threw around words like action and fret and had them baffled. (<--this is an almost word for word quote from Bono) Of course after the second or third rehearsal it became evident to everyone he couldn't play. They were all like 15 and knew next to nothing.

    And yeah i have never heard about the band getting signed without Larry. That never happened. I would know..i was a BIT of a U2 fan in my teens... I read pretty much everything about the band. As i had stated above and someone else did, Larry was the only one at first who had any chops. He'd already been playing drums for about 3 years, he'd played live (just not with rock bands) Edge had done piano lessons and had already been playing guitar but only at a very basic level. Bono shown up with a guitar but just pretended he could play and they soon told him to just sing (which he also couldn't even do then but he had a chronic need for attention that made him a good frontman in getting the crowd involved, (it arguably took 7 or 8 years before he actually learned to sing...though i like the early records when he wasnt quite such a singer and was unrefined better)

    Ok i actually dug up the actual Bono quote about Clayton:

    "Adam used to pretend he could play bass. He came round and started using words like 'action' and 'fret' and he had us baffled. He had the only amplifier, so we never argued with him. We thought this guy must be a musician; he knows what he's talking about. And then one day, we discovered he wasn't playing the right notes. That's what's wrong, y'know?"
  15. 48thStreetCustom


    Nov 30, 2005
    I always thought Larry Mullen's time felt very tight and constricting. There were a lot of drummers at the time (Adam & the Ants, Bow Wow Wow, Duran Duran) who payed in a very similar style but IMO with a much looser, more free feel
  16. I have to assume Larry was in Marching band in HS as that iw what his style indicates.
  17. Milk


    Sep 16, 2013
    Montreal, Canada
    He was in a local marching band unrelated to his HS and then he was in the Post Office Workers Band which his father got him into (strangely enough his father wasn't a post office worker, but Bono's dad was). That's all in his tween and early teen years.

    Strange how in my life i seem to always find a use for my pointless U2 trivia...
  18. DanGouge


    May 25, 2000

    Larry was in a marching band, and that influenced U2's sound both in how he plays and in the fact that he didn't know how to set up a full kit properly so he just sort of made up his kit layout.
  19. Milk


    Sep 16, 2013
    Montreal, Canada
    I dunno that David Barbe played in a similar style at all...he was huge on toms. That's pretty much all he played on in Bow wow wow whereas Mullen was heavy on the snare.
  20. Roscoe East

    Roscoe East

    Aug 22, 2011
    I never listened too closely to Mullen's work to offer a really in-depth analysis, but one of the things I think defines his style is that he tends to articulate every partial (subdivision) of the measure, and then differentiate them via dynamics, rather than leaving space.

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