Circus Magazine Editor Recalls Firing Legendary Drummer

Circus Magazine Editor Recalls Firing Legendary Drummer

March 15, 2015

Former Circus Magazine associate editor Corey Levitan recently shared the story of being forced to fire one of his idols. During the late ’80s and early ’90s, legendary drummer Carmine Appice was working with such underrated hard rock bands as King Kobra and Blue Murder, while also ‘writing’ a drum column for Circus Magazine. However, through a post at LinkedIn, Levitan finally reveals the entertaining truth behind Appice’s ‘Drum Clinic’ column and the drummer’s subsequent firing.

Carmine Appice “wrote” a drum column for Circus Magazine, where I had just landed the dream job of associate editor. The reason “wrote” is in quotations is because Carmine would fax in a page of music tablature with a handwritten introduction (often as few as three nearly illegible words, such as, oh I don’t know: “Play Hella Loud”).

Even though I didn’t play drums or read music, it was my job to take this tablature, along with Carmine’s three-or-slightly-more words, and transform them into an authoritative instruction column for drummers consisting of between 500-800 words. Every month, I would call Carmine and ask him to provide more detail, and every month, this would annoy him.

“I don’t know,” he would say in a heavy New Yawk accent. “It’s just a song. You’re the writer. I gotta go.”

Did you learn to play drums by reading Carmine Appice’s “Drum Clinic” column in Circus magazine from 1989 to 1991? Then I need to personally apologize, because I’m the reason you probably suck.

You see, almost everything in that column was made up by someone who didn’t know the first thing about what he was talking about. I just used a lot of technically correct words — “accents,” “rolls” and “paradiddles” were among my favorites — in ways I prayed were correct, interspersing my nonsensical instruction with constant warnings that “it’s really the feel that matters more here, though.”

I have to stop and explain something. As a kid, I was a huge fan of Carmine’s legendary backbeat for Rod Stewart and Jeff Beck. I knew that Carmine’s drumming was one of the inspirations cited by Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham, my favorite drummer of all time. (Carmine’s band, Vanilla Fudge, opened Zep’s very first American tour.)

In 1991, I struck up a close friendship with Paul Geary of Extreme (“More Than Words”), a technically knowledgeable drummer and total down-to-earth mensch. So I started faxing Carmine’s copy to Paul, and he would fax me back the English translation, bolstered by his own thoughts. Totally uncompensated and uncredited, I might add. Finally, we were publishing a column that wasn’t entirely made up.

After six months of this, I marched into the office of Circus publisher Gerry Rothberg. I explained how ridiculous the situation was, and how we should turn the column over from Carmine to Paul, a member of a popular current band WHO WAS WRITING IT ANYWAY! I submitted several examples of Carmine’s unedited “columns” and Gerry found them as hard to believe as any sane person would.

Gerry acquiesced but said that I would need to make the call. Carmine was an old friend of his and the magazine’s from the ’60s. And so, it fell upon me, a 24-year-old runt working his second job out of college, to fire one of the most legendary musicians in rock history.

I dialed the numbers and tried to be as gentle as I could. In fact, I’m fairly certain that I stuttered throughout.

“YOU LITTLE MOTHERFUCKING RUNT!!” Carmine yelled once he grasped what I was stuttering towards.

I tried explaining how much I loved Carmine’s work on Rod Stewart classics such as “Hot Legs” and that his dismissal had nothing to do with his authorship of “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy.”

“You can’t fire me!” Carmine continued. “Gerry is the one who hired me! I’m going to make a call and now YOU’RE the one who’s getting fired!”

Gerry never told me how he handled that call, but I continued working for Circus and Paul Geary wrote the drum column, credited and compensated, for two more years and did a terrific job. (A decade later, he would go on to discover and manage the metal band Godsmack.)

Carmine, if you can read this, I’m sorry for what I did, but it was so not personal.

Everything that you are to rock drumming — and that’s a lot — you just AREN’T to good writing. But I still love your drum work. (I even liked Carmine Appice Himself on Facebook.) And I even kinda like “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” now.

And, I don’t know if this will make you happy, but this many years later, you are still a legendary drummer who plays the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductions and collects royalty checks for Rod Stewart hits, while I am a lowly freelance writer who steals money from his wife to buy Barbie Dolls at garage sales to make ends meet.

I hope you can find it in your heart to put this past you, but — as someone still outraged about being fired himself several years ago — I understand if you can’t.

Courtesy of