The Who’s Keith Moon was unique in every single way, for better and worse. He remains a character that rock music greatly misses, even decades on after his tragic passing aged just 32 in 1978. Moon was known for his wild side and his animalistic like drumming ability more so than being the most pleasant person in a room, it would be rare for Moon to be complimentary about one of his contemporaries, however, there were a few drummers that were an exception to the rule and escaped his wrath.
Due to his pioneering playing style, Moon didn’t spend his childhood daydreaming emulating his drumming icons and most drummers he felt indifference towards. The drummer may have earned himself the undesirable moniker of ‘Moon the Loon’ after some unmentionable acts of debauchery but we shouldn’t forget that he was an untamed beast behind the drum kit. Moon, more often than not, found that his talent was overlooked during his life purely because of his unconventional technique which 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”.
Keith Moon was different from most esteemed drummers because he wasn’t a great technician and instead, he played with a ferocity that set him apart from percussionists who came from a jazz-orientated background. He proved that there was another way of doing things, Moon was unconventional on-stage and even more atypical once he stepped foot off it. The Who drummer played by his own rulebook and the impact he had on drumming is immeasurable thanks to Moon accidentally shoeing in a completely new way of playing the instrument.
Rolling Stone tried to get to grips with exactly the man behind all these rock ‘n’ roll clichéd adventures is in 1971 but they were faced with Moon being in another one of his playful rather than reflective moods. When the interviewer pressed him on who or what made him get behind a drum kit, Moon’s answer was a world away from poetry: “Jesus Christ, I think I got a free drum kit in a packet of corn flakes,” The Who man jokingly responded before inexplicably adding, “But no, drum solos are fucking boring. Any kind of solo is. It detracts from the group identity.”
With Moon on form like that, it’s a mystery how the interviewer managed to gage him enough to provoke a profound answer about the drummers he admires but somehow they pulled it off.
“Not many,” Moon characteristically responded before listing off names. “D.J. Fontana [Elvis‘ original drummer] is one. Let’s see, the drummers I respect are Eric Delaney and Bob Henrit [from Argent] and I got a ‘huge list, really, and all for different reasons. Technically, Joe Morello is perfect. I don’t really have a favourite drummer. I have favourite drum pieces and that’s it. I would never put on an LP of a drummer and say everything he did I love because that’s not true.”
Describing Joe Morello as being “perfect” from a technical standpoint, is about as high praise as you could get from Moon. Behind all the façade, Keith Moon was an obsessive drummer who adored the instrument and everything that was possible to do with it but he was also a famously hard man to impress so anybody fortunate who he namedropped should have been elated by the news.
Take a few moments out of your day to soak in this solo by Mr Moon himself.