Reni: Drumming Genius, Singing, & Ubiquitous Bucket Hats

Reni - Drummer extraordinaire, genius, and singer
Reni and his Jackson Pollock inspired bucket hat. Thanks to TerraceOriginals.com for the image!

Although it’s not been officially confirmed, it appears Manchester legends the Stone Roses may be calling it a day following a brief 2017 tour – this comes five years after the members unexpectedly reformed in October 2011. One of the big deals about this for many was it heralded the return of drummer Reni, who had been enormously elusive since leaving the music scene in ’95.

This guy is no ordinary drummer, let’s be clear. A naturally gifted genius seen as the Jimi Hendrix of the drumming world by those in the know, his versatility and natural ability is ridiculous. He’s one of those remarkable talents who makes other genius drummers look amateur, so today we’re celebrating the man, the myth, and his contributions to drumming.

Reni – He Bangs the Drums

Alan John Wren (“Reni”) is 53 now and 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 mess).

The Who’s Pete Townshend saw an early gig and immediately recognised he was 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.

You can see at the famous Blackpool 1989 gig just what we’re on about here. Aged 25, he’s a spectacular blur of energy, fusing John Bonham’s technical prowess with Keith Moon’s showmanship, whilst adding in dollops of jazzy fills. What makes him so good? It’s the Mozart/Amadeus 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. From our understanding of it, it’s his limb independence matched with an intrinsic ability to know where to fit into a song, how to be subtle, innovative, but also 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 beyond belief. 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 harmonic backing vocals – he really is a freak!

Confirming just how stunningly accomplished he is, the Second Coming album showcased his rock grooves, providing monstrous rhythms which the likes of John Bonham would have struggled to match. 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. Innit.

Addendum: The Bucket Hats

For an unknown reason, during the band’s heyday, the drummer would always wear what became known as the Reni hat. These remain popular in England to this day, especially since the band reformed. Even if it is now all over (which would be wise – after five years the band has simply toured and only released two new songs), Reni hats and the man himself should go on be considered legends.

To be awkward about it, we’ve included a recent clip above. Reni has taken to wearing the Reni hat for the live shows, although he’s also been seen regularly wearing a strange dreadlock hat thing. As the band doesn’t give interviews to the press, it’s rather unclear what’s going on there – it just adds to the guy’s elusive nature. We’re sincerely hoping he doesn’t disappear again; how about a one man drumming tour, Reni?

4 comments

  1. Fab article, and I have only vaguely heard of the Stone Roses prior.
    Levon Helm is awesome!
    Sad about Reni being ignored by Rolling Stone mag. Was Ginger Baker, Mitch Mitchell or Carmine Appice on the list, at least!
    Now where did my autographed pic of Carmine get to? I got to dress him in the very first movie I ever did costumes for. We shot it in Hamilton, and I got to hang with him a lot!
    Drummers are very sexy!
    Love Spreads is showcasing Reni, nicely.

    • Yeah, Baker, Mitch Mitchell (not sure about Mr. Appice) were well up there. They’re legends – Reni is just as good, though. There aren’t many clips of him at his peak in the ’80s, unfortunately, but the 1989 Stone Roses Blackpool gig – he’s bloody mesmerising in that. He’s like a wizard at work with his hat and arms flailing about all over the place. Unnerving to watch.

      The Stone Roses – get their eponymous debut album, if you’re interested. It’s a classic.

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