Few drummers have spanned more genres for as many years as Sheffield's Peter Gill

Pete Gill is arguably one of Sheffield’s greatest musicians.

Thursday, 26th November 2020, 11:32 am

Few drummers have spanned more genres or retained their success for as many years as he did with so many different acts. Neil Anderson explains:

He started as a soul drummer but made the seismic leap to be the city’s only glam icon of the early seventies. When glam fell out of favour he changed image once again and helped turn Saxon into heavy metal chart stars and then went one even better in the rock arena – he took over drumming duties with Motörhead.

And when things soured there. Well he did the obvious thing, he tried to punch Lemmy’s lights out.

Motorhead with Pete Gill (left) with Lemmy (right)
Motorhead with Pete Gill (left) with Lemmy (right)

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Top of the Pops – with numerous image changes – became an almost weekly occurrence. Pete Gill was a drumming obsessive from an early age. He didn’t come from a musical background but the amount of would-be drummers that must have picked up the sticks for the first time following his success in the 1970s and 1980s must run into tens of thousands – he was once voted one of the best rock drummers in the entire world.

Few people are probably more deserving of a blue plaque outside Sheffield Town Hall – but Pete Gill doesn’t have much else to prove.

He was far more than a drummer – he was a great songwriter, arranger and organiser in a rock’n’roll world where debauchery was king.

Saxon

Pete Gill helped turn rising South Yorkshire rock act, Son Of A Bitch, into world-beating Saxon and was instrumental into returning Motörhead to mainstream success.

He started out in the sixties drumming for local soul band Midnight Express.

Pete Gill said: “We’d got a full brass section and we used to open for Arthur Conley and all the American stars and we did the big circuit. I was just seventeen!”

His audition for Gary Glitter was arguably one of the most unorthodox in rock history.

Author Neil Anderson with the new book

“I was asked to go and see the band perform in Scarborough so I could chat to them. They were absolutely fantastic but at the time they weren’t known and didn’t mean anything to me.”

The band became renowned for having two drummers.

“They finished their set at the crowd were going wild for an encore. The tour manager came rushing over and said ‘just follow me’. He ushered me through the crowd and it quickly came apparent that the other drummer had collapsed after the show.

“He said ‘you’re going on’ and the other drummer said ‘just follow me’. I had no nerves in those days and just thought ‘bring it on’. When Gary Glitter came on he did a double-take when he saw me sat behind the kit thought ‘who the f**k are you!?’

The cover of the Gary Glitter hit

“I obviously did okay as straight after the show the band said ‘will you join?’.”

A few years later – following the demise of glam - he spotted an ad in Melody Maker from a future Saxon (then Son Of A Bitch) needing a drummer. He joined and they started honing their sound in the Working Men’s Clubs – many of them were having regular rock nights in the mid to late 1970s.

A few years later Pete Gill went one better – he joined Motörhead and his opening gambit was co-writing ‘Killed By Death’ and renowned work on comeback album ‘Orgasmatron’.

And what was the single most iconic moment of a career that started at Dore & Totley Youth Club – site of his first public performance? It was personal audience with Jimmy Page. “Motörhead used to rehearse in Nomis Studio in London. At this particular time Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin was next door with a band called the Firm – I was a massive fan. Anyway he walked into our rehearsal room and Lemmy said, ‘this is Jimmy and this is Pete’.

“It didn’t register at first that it was Jimmy! After we chatted a bit he started asking about our guitarist’s Les Paul. He picked it up and played a Led Zeppelin song – a request from Phil our guitarist. I was mesmerised!

Midnight Express

“They say never meet your heroes? Well he was my hero and he still is!”

You can read Pete Gill’s full story in Neil Anderson’s new ‘Signing On For The Devil – the Rise of Steel City Rock’ available from www.dirtystopouts.com for just £13.95.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscripti on or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.

Glitter band
Jimmy Page