The Who’s iconic drummer, Keith Moon, is often remembered as a character of rock and roll rather than a leading light of instrumentation. His offstage antics more often than not overshadowed his onstage performances and his reputation was very much for his wild behaviour rather than his incredible drumming.
The drummer may well have earned his moniker of ‘Moon the Loon’ with some incredible acts of debauchery as well as some of rock finest legends, but we shouldn’t forget he was a monster behind the drum kit. The duality of his career guarantees Moon remains an iconic figure of music to this day. If there was any question marks about Moon’s talent, then these five isolated drum tracks prove that he is one of the greatest drummer’s of all time.
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—but he’s been given a hard rap.
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”.
Although his style was a complete contrast to Ringo Starr, the former Beatles drummer couldn’t help but admire the 100mph performances that Moon would conduct. “He was great. He had his style, and that style worked so incredibly amazingly for the band he was in,” Starr said in 1981 before adding, “the style made it work, and his style made The Who work.
“The ‘loon’ stuff was a big part of Keith’s world,” Pete Townshend once noted to GQ. “His stunts created a constant flow of PR for The Who. Otherwise, we might have discouraged him. They were mostly very funny, but not always. I often felt sorry for Keith when he was in his most ostentatious mode, off stage. It was almost as though he felt his stage work was not enough, that he had to keep performing.”
Moon injected an incredible fury into The Who and since his tragic death, it’s safe to say that they have failed to recapture that wild edge that the drummer brought to their live show’s. He was more than just a drummer and his influence on the sound of the group was intangible.
The reason why The Who were such a special band is that each of their members added a special ingredient into the mix, a factor which made the four of them became something bigger than themselves when they joined forces.
“I don’t think the drums are a solo instrument. Drums are there to set the beat for the music,” Moon once said about his drumming, which is hard to disagree with and that ferocious beat which he would supply for his bandmates to build upon was out of this world. Things don’t get much better than listening to the mercurial Moon’s isolated drums on the likes of ‘My Generation’ and ‘Who Are You’.
Treat yourself with these five delightful isolated performances courtesy of the one and only Keith Moon, who helped change the art of drumming forever.
5 Keith Moon’s best isolated drum tracks:
Despite being labelled as “awful” by the song’s creator, Pete Townshend, ‘Pinball Wizard’ has gone down as a classic rock song and an absolute fan favourite. Originally written for the band’s rock opera Tommy the song relies heavily on Moon’s chaotic style.
As rambunctious as a raccoon in a sack, Moon squirrels around the kit and slams everything he can lay his hands on. It’s the kind of performance that, mistakes and all, cemented Moon’s position as one of the greatest. Nobody could hit them like Keith Moon.
Moon’s unique style comes to the fore in the band’s live performances and, in 1970, The Who were near the top of their game. Removed from the frenetic energy which propelled them into fame, the band had certainly tightened up. Yet Keith Moon still slings his sticks around like a cowboy. On the band’s rendition of ‘My Generation’ on that day, Moon was on fire.
Listening to the isolated drums of Keith Moon on that legendary day sees the drummer in imperious form. Slamming through the iconic track with the belief and authenticity of someone who had lived it all, it makes for captivating listening.
Listen below to Keith Moon’s isolated drums on ‘My Generation’ at The Who’s iconic Live at Leeds gig.
‘Who Are You’
Largely seen as one of the band’s trademark songs, it accurately captures Moon’s ability to sling fills into play like a buccaneering bruiser. While Daltrey’s vocals and Townshend’s powerhouse guitar get most of the plaudits a lot has to be said for Moon’s percussion.
It’s a performance that typifies the drummer, Low slung and with enough animal magnetism to hold everything together, Moon’s powerhouse performances is a shining example to other drummers. It doesn’t always have to be technically perfect to be beautiful.
The clip also shows part of the final album Moon would ever create, dying incredibly young at just 32 in 1978. But it also shows that as well as being able to throw a party like no other, Moon was also one of the most purely unique drummers that you will ever hear.
‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’
The Who were nearing the height of their musical powers when they released 1971’s ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’, it still remains today as one of the band’s most beloved songs. Written by Pete Townshend for the seminal album Who’s Next, it broke the UK Top 10 and is a staple of their live set nearly 50 years on.
Townshend wrote the song as a closing number of the Lifehouse Project, a science-fiction rock opera that was meant to follow on from The Who’s Tommy. The lyrics looked to criticise revolution and power. Townshend even used a mixture of human traits programmed into a synthesizer to use as an affirmation of the connection he felt with Meher Baba and Inayat Khan—it’s used as the main backing instrument for the song.
It allows Moon’s percussion to truly shine and provide the sense of unbridled energy that he infused into everything he did.
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.