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Vintage Drum Book Review - Max On Swing By Max Bacon

Vintage Drum Book Review- Max On Swing By Max Bacon    

March 2012 will see the 43rd anniversary of the drumming pioneer Max Bacons death. His visionary drum book "Max on Swing" was first published in 1934 by The Premier Drum Company. The company was at Premier House in Golden Square, Piccadilly, London, and the Dance Band era, literally, was in full swing. Bacons fame as a swing drummer was centred on the Bert Ambrose Orchestra, which was widely acknowledged as one of the best dance bands in the country. He solely endorsed Premier products.

Interestingly, the book was written prior to Bacon''s career as an actor. Starring as himself, his first role was in a film about the Ambrose band and the variety scene of the 1930''s. The film called "Soft Lights and Sweet Music", featured the blonde bombshell of the time, Evelyn Dall. Bacon went on to feature in over 20 films, including ''Chitty Chitty Bang Bang''.

This small red cloth covered book is an amazing philosophical insight into the world of swing and the drummer as it''s rhythmic heart.  While most drum books are usually A4 sized and manual-like, this book is 7" x 5" and reads like a story from start to finish. Advice and warning are offered on every aspect of drumming before example is given, thus preparing you correctly for the work ahead. But be prepared for some serious self analysis of your own as it is also a deep thinking book, touching hard on the things drummers do and play. The tone of the book is forthright and dominant, yet the style is conversational and descriptive, and if you read it slowly, it''s as good as any modern day instructional DVD or YouTube clip.

Interestingly, a few pages into Bacons writing you soon realise that, apart from the popular changes in music decade to decade and the advancement of technology, nothing in the head space of a drummer has really changed very much at all. Indeed, so pioneering are Max Bacons observations, some of the contents could easily have been written yesterday.

There are some lovely sections in the book, not least the pages on selecting and testing cymbals. "Mr.Zildjian" is referred to, and there is a picture of a 12" cymbal being bent almost in half. Apparently this was a common test for durability in those days, but don''t try this at home folks!

The book is a rare find now. If you get your hands on a copy, you have a portal to the drumming world prior to WW2, before the advancement of rock''n''roll,  and the subsequent demise in the 1950''s of the Dance Band scene. This being possibly the last era that offered a serious full time career opportunity for a drummer that could last profitably into old age.

Max Bacon was there and he tells you all you need to know.  

Max Bacons Top Tip Sound Bites taken from "Max on Swing":

"Do the right thing in the right place!"
"Practice, to be effective in any way, must be absolutely regular"
"The object of all practice is to create a habit"
"A simple thing well done sounds very much better than a complicated thing performed badly!"
"Learn ''what'' before ''how''."
"Your drums must be part of you."
 "A  band must work as a team"

...and possibly the best quote ever...

 "No book will make you a drummer- it must be in you to start with, and then practice will bring it out."

Max Bacon- 3/1/06 to 12/03/69 - Drummer/Comedian/Actor/Author

Jeff Davenport

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