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7 Band Members Who Couldn’t Play Their Instruments When They Joined the Band


While it might seem unthinkable at first, there is a surprising number of bands being formed by people who can’t play any instruments. The idea precedes the ability to execute it. I’m sure there are more than a few people reading this who’ve been there: already working on the first album cover design before being able to write a song etc. Yet what is more incredible is when these people somehow make it into hugely successful bands, either by discovering a hidden talent or by making their mediocrity a unique aspect of the bands sound.

Here are a few examples we could think of. If you have more then we’d love to hear them in the comment section below. And we’re pretty sure there are more, there’s been more than a few jokes bouncing round the office with this one.

My Chemical Romance Bassist: Mikey Way

Mikey Way has admitted that before practising with My Chemical Romance he didn’t have a “great deal of bass experience up to that point”. This revelation has led to speculation that his involvement in the band was more down to nepotism than talent – his brother is the band’s singer, Gerard Way. That said, Mikey held his own for many years as the bands bassist.

Artic monkeys Drummer: Max Helders

During an interview in 2006, Artic Monkeys drummer Max Helders admitted he played drums because: “That’s all that were left.” He explains that, ”When we started the band none of us played anything. We just put it together. They all had guitars and I bought a drum kit after a bit.”

Luckily for Max, “[Drumming] just came natural to me. I never had any lessons. I had some drumsticks and a book and I taught myself from it. I’m still surprised by it all.”

The White Stripes Drummer: Meg White

If you are familiar with The White Stripes it might come as something of a surprise to learn that virtuoso drummer Meg White is not an elite-music-school trained percussionist but actually a total amateur; the White Stripes were formed just two months after Meg first fooled around on a drum kit. Yet when it comes to The White Stripes, Meg’s style works perfectly for the music, creating a unique and unexpected sound that eventually turned the duo into an international phenomenon. But, whether it works or not, she has to be on here (not least because Mike would throw a fit if she wasn’t), and I’m sure there’s a swathe of drummers who got forced to play these tracks in their high school covers band, whilst the guitarist had great fun and the drummer found more interesting things to focus on, like counting the ceiling tiles…..

Pretty Much Every Member of The Monkees

Manufactured 60s pop act, The Monkees, were almost entirely unable to play music when they started out. Famously, they didn’t write or perform their early records and mimed playing while performing on TV. However, after being hurt by the accurate accusations that they were a bogus band, the members spent months brushing up on their musical skills and did eventually produce an album and play live.

The Beatles Guitarist: John Lennon

During an interview with British newspaper, The Telegraph, Paul McCartney claimed John Lennon was unable to play guitar when he started to make music. This is not a claim we’ve heard before and we can only assume Paul is referring to a time before the Beatles, perhaps during the early Quarrymen years.

The Ramones: Dee Dee Ramone & Joey Ramone 

Punk has tended to attract the self-taught types rather than the music school nerds and this assertion definitely holds true when it comes to the Ramones. When the band first started Dee Dee Ramone struggled to play and sing at the same time and Joey Ramone, initially the bands drummer, was simply rubbish at his instrument. Eventually, Joey was switched to vocals and Tommy joined on drums.

The Sex Pistols Bassist: Sid Vicious

Another punk icon who couldn’t play his instrument was the infamous Sex Pistol’s bassist Sid Vicious. When asked why Sid’s bass playing only appeared on one track on the album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, guitarist Steve Jones said, “Sid was in a hospital with hepatitis, so he couldn’t really play, not that he could play anyway.” It’s probably fair to say that Sid never did learn how to play the bass…

Can you think of someone we’ve missed? Share the story in the comments section below.






  1. Urm… both Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith of the Monkees were excellent poly-instrumentalists – Peter particularly – and even Micky played some guitar (he’d been in a band) – but Micky was cast as the drummer (which he hadn’t played before), and it is more accurate to say that they weren’t ALLOWED to play on their records. Peter has famously related how he brought his guitar to the first studio session, only to be told that the tracks had already been laid down. Of them all, only Davy really had no instrumental skills when he was cast.

  2. Kelley Deal hadn’t played guitar prior to joining the Breeders. Her blasts of noise on “Last Splash” just make that record come alive, though.

  3. Comment #1 is about the Monkees. They played on all of their records and went live after the first season was over. All 4 could play at least one instrument, however the shows’ producers wanted each one to play a specific instrument, only Peter actually knew how to play what they wanted him to (bass and keyboards.). The result was a guitarist on drums (Dolenz), bassist on lead guitar (Nesmith), the drummer on tambourine (Jones) and the best musician on bass (Tork who could play many instruments, but was a lead guitarist by trade.)
    Comment # 2 is Nikki Sixx on bass with Motley Crue (Admits now he had to take lessons and has become a respected musician.) Gene Simmons of KISS, can barely play bass and can’t sing (he describes what eh does as “bellowing into the microphone.)

  4. “The Monkees” couldn’t play???? Three of the four of them had released records before joining and the fourth (Peter Tork) was a fairly well known for musician! Micky Dolenz (originally a guitarist) had to learn to play drums….But apart from that RUBBISH! I usually avoid criticising people on the net but the WHOLE article looks pretty poorly informed.


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