Although Manchester legends The Stone Roses may have called it a day after the band unexpectedly reformed in October 2011, the legacy remains.
One of the big deals about their return was the reappearance of drummer Reni, so elusive in the 16 years following his departure from the band in 1995.
Arguably the best drummer of his generation, and a genius, we’re here to celebrate the legend—even though it seems he’s returned to his elusive ways.
Reni Bangs the Drums
Reni is no ordinary drummer. A naturally gifted genius seen as the Jimi Hendrix of the drumming world by those in the know, his versatility and natural ability are ridiculous.
Alan John Wren (“Reni”) is now into his late 50s. His drumming style has varied during the numerous iterations of the band.
He joined The Stone Roses in 1984 and immediately became a sensation, with Mancs flocking to see the band just to see the guy play (the band’s music wasn’t particularly good at the time, largely being a post-punk noise).
The Who’s Pete Townshend saw an early gig—he was hosting an anti-heroin do in London.
He immediately recognised Reni as the most naturally gifted drummer he’d seen since Keith Moon. The band was already aware their drummer was better.
The story goes Townshend then tried to steal Reni for his solo album, but the drummer declined the offer, preferring to forge ahead and leave a new legacy.
The opportunity came when The Stone Roses made a mid-80s musical shift after deciding not to release what would have been a punky debut album—Garage Flower.
From 1986 onwards the Stone Roses found its classic sound, which is a mix of psychedelia (although the band denied it was a psychedelic band, but the influences are there to see), jazz, blues, and rock.
This allowed Reni to show the full range of his natural talent.
Unusually, he cut back to a three-piece kit, added in his backing vocals to many songs, and let his live performances do the talking.
A classic example being below, with his jazzy chops on Shoot You Down.
And you can see throughout the famous Blackpool 1989 gig the level he was at.
In 60 minutes, his drumming is astonishing. We make the claim this is one of the all-time great drumming performances. Nuanced, subtle, thunderous, energetic—it has all the hallmarks of genius.
Aged 25, he’s a spectacular blur of energy. He fuses John Bonham‘s technical prowess with Keith Moon’s showmanship.
What makes him so good? It’s the Mozart consideration—where does genius come from?
Reni was a natural talent as a kid and hung around instruments in his parent’s pub, with locals classing him as a “freak” due to his unnatural abilities.
There’s a mixture of gaining experience rapidly, plus his natural abilities as a drummer.
By the time he was 20, he was highly accomplished across a wide range of music (and could also play the bass, guitar, and piano).
You can see how natural it is for him with live performances, where he sings and drums simultaneously. Which is very difficult.
From our understanding after 20+ years studying drumming, it’s his limb independence matched with an intrinsic ability to know where to fit into a song.
He’s extremely loose-limbed and capable of unnerving bursts of physics-defying prowess. All whilst remaining subtle, innovative, and a showman.
His natural ability for holding the sticks, his speed, and agility simply mean he can do things other drummers can only dream of.
Then, of course, there’s the singing element. Singing drummers aren’t unusual (check out Levon Helm), but for his incredibly physical style—to reel off relentless backing harmonies is remarkable.
Elephant Stone, for instance, is a relentless battering of the right tom-tom, including sweeping one arm under and over the other.
Reni does it all whilst providing those distinctive harmonic backing vocals.
But what’s impressive is his ability to easily shift between styles. The Second Coming album showcased his rock grooves, providing monstrous rhythms.
In the bootleg rehearsal recordings, there are his drum solos, his take on the famous Bonham shuffle, and much more saved for posterity.
There is a great deal of ignorance in the drumming community and Reni’s genius hasn’t been recognised at all, primarily as people don’t know the band’s music, and haven’t listened to the extent of Reni’s abilities.
We’ve become rather bored of seeing the likes of Rolling Stone Magazine ignore Reni in their Top 100 Drummers lists, so today it’s been time to redress the balance.
The man is one of the greatest drummers of all time. Much respect, Mr. Wren.
Bucket Hats & The Future
During the band’s heyday the drummer would always wear what became known as the Reni hat. These remain popular in England, especially since the band reformed.
Even if it is now all over (which would be wise—after six years the band simply toured and only released two new songs), Reni hats and the drummer should reach legendary status.
To be awkward about it, we’ve included a few clips from the band’s reunion shows. He did take to wearing the Reni hat for the live shows, although he also regularly wore a strange dreadlock hat thing.
As the band didn’t give interviews to the press, it’s rather unclear what was going on there— but that added to the guy’s elusive nature.
As the band is now gone for good, we’re sincerely hoping this doesn’t cause him to disappear again.
Always elusive and keen to steer clear of the limelight, the very few interviews he’s provided show a ready wit and great sense of humour.
But he’s made a bunch of money now from the reunion tours. And we’re happy about that—the guy deserves reward for his contributions to music.
But how about a one-man drumming tour, Reni? If not, then all the best.