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The guy on the left is Oliver Sacks, the brilliant doctor and writer; you know Mickey. The man in the middle is named Remo Belli; he died recently at age 88 and was far more important to your life than you know. He invented the mylar drum head. (It is apparently Synthetic Materials Day here; I have no earthly reason why.)

Though some readers might be master musicians, others may confine themselves to playing the radio, or with their genitals; let me start with the basics: a drum is made of two parts, the drum and the head. The drum is the hollow, cylindrical part; it is made out of wood, or sometimes an interesting gourd. (John Bonham had clear ones made out of plexiglass, and they sounded okay, but it was John Bonham playing them; anything would have sounded good.)

The drum head is a separate piece, and is the part you hit with the stick, or if you’re Mickey lately, your mallet. For literally all of human history, the head was made of animal skin. Calf was the preferred hide, but people would use any animal they had around, including other people.

But calfskin is sensitive to temperature change, and finicky; you have to tune it constantly, and when the new wave of drummers came of age in the 60’s, they had no patience for it and Remo Belli’s drum heads–made of mylar that didn’t expand and contract if you left a window open around them–became the industry standard. Every drummer you’ve ever heard was hitting one of his drum heads, whether they were playing Pearls or Slingerlands or whatever: in the same way that every brand of jeans has a YKK zipper, every brand of drums has Remo heads.

His creation is one of those hidden foundation posts of music, especially rock and roll: Vic Firth’s drumsticks, and Sidney Shure’s microphones, and Alexander Fleming’s penicillin. Without him, there are no drums, and there is no Drums. Billy and Mickey would be unemployable, and most likely incarcerated. Think of how much more folk music there would be if there were no drums.

Remo Belli was one of the Secret Architects of your life.