“If you write great songs with meaning and emotion, they will last forever because songs are the key to everything,” a quote from the musical genius himself, Elton John.
We couldn’t agree more. Every note plays its part in music, as does every instrument. Our final #DrummerSeries interview with a drummer features a man who has not only made a substantial mark in the life and music of Sir Elton John, but in the music of dozens of other brilliant artists.
Charlie Morgan’s drumming career holds accomplishments and accolades that most musicians could only dream of. Morgan’s talents can be heard on a number of Elton John’s albums, Barry Manilow’s The Greatest Songs of the Eighties, two studio albums by Kate Bush, many popular award-winning soundtracks, and so much more.
Read on to enjoy this special Q&A with world-class drummer, Charlie Morgan.
Q. When were you introduced to music and who were your biggest influences?
A. I grew up in a very musical and artistic family. My mother and grandfather were incredibly musical, and my aunt was a violinist, so I was subjected to music at an early age. Even all of the kids I grew up with were involved with music to a degree.
I actually started playing the piano before the drums, and I was able to sight read by 8 years old. I was 14 when I started to play the drums. It was funny, my buddies had a band and one day I sat at my friend’s kit drum set, picked up the sticks, and started playing a simple 4/4 rhythm. He was astonished. He said, “How long have you played?”, the drums of course. And I told him that I’ve never played, I was just playing what Ringo (of the Beatles) would play. My friend was shocked because he said it took him 6 months to learn exactly what I had played.
Q. What was the first song you remember playing?
A. I’m not sure which song it was but it was definitely a Beatles song.
Q. What is the best way to learn how to play the drums?
Listen and write out charts. It helps if you chart out the song and knock it into shape.
Q. At what moment did you feel like you had really made it in the music world?
A. Well, I played in various bands in the 70’s and shortly after, I started doing demos with BBC, they were called ‘BBC Radio Sessions’. I was featured in a lot of those and really, it was because I had a reputation for having a good work ethic – I showed up on time, I was reliable, and I always got the job done. I was probably one of the busiest session drummers in England by 1984. I got flown in for a number of jobs in London; those were great days of recording. Then, I got the call from Elton John. He said to his team, “I want this guy playing on my album.” That was in the Spring of ’85 when he invited me to play Live Aid with him. After that show, he said, “Let’s put this band on the road.” I signed a 2-year contract with him and the rest is history. I went from playing in studios to live shows, just like that. In the end, I ended up doing 10 world tours, 5 studio albums, and 2 live albums with Elton.
Q. What was your favorite tour?
A. Probably the tour in ‘85 or ‘86 when we toured Australia with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. We did twenty-six shows in six weeks with a 92-piece band. That was incredible.
Q. What was it like preparing for tours?
A. We had three weeks of pre-production with the Music Director David Johnstone. The band would rehearse but Elton didn’t like to over rehearse. In ‘92 we rehearsed in Paris for two weeks then flew to Oslo, Norway. We rehearsed there for three days through and through, then played for three nights. All of those shows were sold out with 30,000 people attending each night. Honestly, this is how we prepped for most shows.
Q. Do you have any tips for new drummers?
A. It’s essential to learn to read. It gives you more of a chance to get on quicker. I was lucky to get the right pushes in the right direction. Even my sister had made all of her kids learn how to read music. When one of them mentioned they wanted to learn how to play an instrument, she made sure they learned to read the music without a doubt.
Also, be well-versed with music performing apps and anything digital like hard drives and laptops. That’s how you bend with the waves. Fortunately enough, I learned digital from the ground up.
Q. Do you have any upcoming projects?
A. I’m currently learning some new material for some corporate events I’ll be part of. I’ll have the pleasure of doing shows with Otis of The Temptations, Skip Martin of Kool & The Gang, Bret Michaels from Poison, and a few other really great musicians.