Despite being widely acclaimed as one of the finest drummers the world has ever seen, a lot of percussionists and drum aficionados will happily point to The Who’s Keith Moon as a bit of a poser if not a little sloppy in his execution. Hailed as ‘Moon the Loon’ for his off-stage antics, the figure of Keith Moon is often more quickly associated with rambunctious away from music than his sparkling contribution to it.
To do so would be to miss the very essence of what made Keith Moon brilliant. Here, on the isolated drum track for The Who’s song ‘Baba O’Riley’, Moon really shows his chops. ‘Baba O’Riley’ is one of the band’s most iconic songs and offered the chance for both bassist John Entwistle and Pete Townshend to go crazy instrumentally while Roger Daltrey did his own gymnastics with his vocal. Yet none of this compares to the lunacy of Keith Moon letting rip.
In regards to musos, The Who percussionist has always had a way of ruffling feathers. Whether offstage where his notorious antics would see him drive cars into swimming pools put explosives in drum kits, and even pass out in the middle of shows or behind the kit where he refused to play the traditional way and his far from metronomic timing—but the legendary Who drummer has been given a hard rap.
Being a part of one of the most influential bands of the 20th century doesn’t always cut it. Look at Ringo. Such like his counterpart in The Beatles, Moon was often overlooked for his talent purely because his style seemed to override everything he did. Not constrained by rigorous pattern or timing, Moon always let the music run through him and expressed himself as succinctly as he could. Or as Moon himself puts it, he is “the world’s best Keith-Moon-type drummer”.
It’s something that Moon showed effortlessly performing one song in particular. One of the most vibrant moments of the band’s live show comes with the introduction of ‘Baba O’Riley’. It’s a piece of absurd chaos that utterly captivated all those who hear dit then and still do to this day. But nobody did chaos quite like Keith and even in the studio, he was happy to let his style run free across the kit.
Released in 1971 and a combination of a few bits of songs Townshend hanging around, including ‘Teenage Wasteland’. The track was written for the Lifehouse project, was originally 30 minutes long, and has since become a vital piece of the band’s live show. The guitarist wrote the song in response to Isle of Wight Festival and “the absolute desolation of teenagers at Woodstock, where audience members were strung out on acid and 20 people had brain damage. The irony was that some listeners took the song to be a teenage celebration: ‘Teenage Wasteland, yes! We’re all wasted!'”
If there was a singular poster boy for the wasteland of Britain at the time then it had to be the 25-year-old Keith Moon. Here, he shows that they may be wasted but Moon was in his energetic prime, unleashing a unique fill that simply nobody could muster. Below, it is given some extra space with the isolated drum track.
Hear Keith Moon let rip on The Who’s song ‘Baba O’Riley’ via this isolated drum track: