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The ‘flared trousers’ of 70s drums – Chris Kimball talks about Alan White’s North kit – 511

Produced by Wayne Hall and Jeffrey Crecelius

Dave Watkinson in RAK studios with Alan’s kit and Jeremy North’s wonderful Tourmato photos from Wembley, 1978:

This week Mark and I spoke to Chris Kimball about a 70s oddity in the Yes instrumental arsenal – Alan White’s North drums. After restoring, playing and recording with these strange objects, Chris is ideally placed to explain why they look so weird and why drummers like Alan White were interested in using them.

It’s another engrossing story from a very knowledgeable musician and it’s packed with detail so I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

  • Why are North drums shaped like that?
  • What were they made of?
  • Why did they disappear?

Listen to the episode and let us know what you think!

Some North Drums artifacts are available here –
I mention and highly recommend Gerard Bassols’ book, The Musical Instruments of Progressive Rock which is available here in the UK and here in the US.

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Theme music

The music I use is the last movement of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. This has been used as introduction music at many Yes concerts. My theme music is not take from a live concert – I put it together from:

9 replies on “The ‘flared trousers’ of 70s drums – Chris Kimball talks about Alan White’s North kit – 511”

Another fascinating episode. It’s really good that you are getting further into the detail of how Yes produce their often unique sound, both live and in the studio. The North drums worked particularly well in the extended percussion section of ‘Ritual’ on tour back in the early years, I thought. Also, the dryer sound helps with the kind of music where an overly resonant approach might muffle the articulation of other instruments.

Well, the North drums are certainly dry! It’s interesting to see Alan’s combination of North toms with double-headed toms…

I was trying to determine if I remembered this correctly, and then Chris solved the “conundrum” (pun very definitely intended!) for me…

My first Yes show was also 1976, on the Relayer/Solos tour (although, by the time I saw them the ‘solos’ had pretty much been excised from the setlist). The drum riser definitely did rotate to reveal Alan’s North kit, which was almost completely obscured by his main kit, so the reveal was very surprising. It was in the middle of ‘Ritual’ for the ‘drumpocalypse’ bit, and that was indeed the only time he played them for the entire concert. When they returned the following year for ‘Going For The One’ the Norths had been replaced by a set of concert tympani (three, I think), although I believe there were two or three North toms incorporated into the drum kit. Alan did an impressive solo which concluded on the tympani, which led into Rick’s keyboard solo – ending on a concert grand piano (probably property of the theater) which was only one of the fourteen keyboards I remember counting – which, of course led into the main set finale of ‘Awaken’.

Anyway, it seems that Alan beat Neil Peart to the rotating drum riser department by at least a decade.

Really good one this week, guys.


Thanks Joseph. I’m very jealous that you were able to witness this Spinal Tap kind of event! Alan isn’t really known for his solos in the pantheon of drummers but I would say that’s unfair.

Thanks for yet another excellent episode. Also for the mention of my photos. I need to check those pictures I took at the GFTO gig the year before as I seem to remember White playing North drums then too.

Thank you Jeremy. You are absolutely correct, Alan did indeed play North drums on the Going For The One Tour. In fact I’ve managed to identify at least 4 different North drum kits/configurations he used over the years from 1976 to 1979. It seems that Ludwig managed to tempt him back to their stable after that.

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