You’ve got to hand it to Paul McCartney: the man knows music. Of all The Beatles, Paul was perhaps the most impressive multi-instrumentalist. And according to Keith Moon, he wasn’t just a brilliant bassist, guitarist and pianist either; he was also a talented drummer.
Famed for his wild onstage antics and virtuosic playing style, Keith Moon came to embody the hectic chaos of rock music. Filled with the kind of self-belief that would have made Byron blush, Moon’s drumming saw him imbue this essential part of the rhythm section with the jaw-dropping power of a lead instrument. Mad, bad and dangerously original, Moon was to drummers what Jimi Hendrix was to guitarists: a true pioneer.
Speaking with Record Collector Magazine back in 1997, Paul McCartney recalled when Moon complimented his drumming skills on Band On The Run. The album is just one of the McCartney records that sees the musician in full multi-instrumentalist mode. On McCartney, Ram and Flaming Pie, McCartney decided to record all the instrumental arrangements himself, from guitar and bass lines to synth and drum tracks.
Explaining why he chose to record so many instruments himself, McCartney recalled being told: “‘We want to hear YOU on a record, we don’t want to hear you and lots of other people.’ I thought, ‘well, great, I’ll do that, I’ll drum then.'” He went on to add: “As you say, I did it on those other albums (McCartney and Ram). One of my great compliments was from Keith Moon, when he and John and others were going through that manic lost weekend episode. I went out to see them, and Keith Moon asked me who drummed on Band on the Run. I said it was me. Keith said ‘f***ing great!’. Coming from Keith, that was high praise for me.”
Interestingly, when The Who were going through a rough patch in the 1960s, Moon approached McCartney to ask him if The Beatles were looking for a drummer. Life with The Who was famously tempestuous, and Moon wondered if he might have an easier ride with the Fab Four. When Moon and Roger Daltrey came to blows after the singer flushed his drummer’s drugs down the toilet, Moon began looking elsewhere for a band to showcase his talent. According to Mark Blake’s Pretend You’re in a War, Moon approached McCartney at the Scotch of St. James, a popular central London haunt for the rock elite. After sidling over to McCartney’s booth, he suggested that he should “join” The Beatles. McCartney looked uneasy and reassured Moon that the Beatles already had a drummer. Nevertheless, he suggested he should take it up with Ringo.
Although Moon never did join The Beatles, he remained a close friend of McCartney and a fan of his work, offering him praise that gave the musician the confidence to continue honing his drum skills, albeit behind closed doors.