The Who’s legendary drummer, Keith Moon, is one of rock’s greatest ever characters and arguably the best ever to set foot behind a drum kit. Occasionally, his offstage antics would overshadow his great musical talent but on this isolated drum track for ‘Going Mobile,’ there is nowhere for his brilliance to hide.
The drummer ashamedly earned the moniker of ‘Moon the Loon’ with some incredible acts of debauchery as well as being a part of some of rock’s finest legendary tales, but we shouldn’t forget that he was an uncaged animal 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”.
A drummer who has similarly suffered being overlooked as one of the greats is The Beatles drummer Ringo Starr. Although his style was a complete contrast to Ringo’s — Starr had far more swing— the former Fab Four drummer couldn’t help but admire the 100mph performances that Moon would deliver. “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.”
On ‘Going Mobile’ his chaotic technique works a charm but, famously, Roger Daltrey didn’t take part in the recording session for this song and left his three-bandmates to create this powerful effort all alone. Pete Townshend took up lead vocals instead of Daltrey and delivered a valiant effort. However, it’s Moon’s raucous drumming which makes the track hit the spot with the band’s fans, earning it cult classic status.
The track featured on their 1971 album Who’s Next but Townshend had originally written it for his abandoned Lifehouse project. His lyrics seem quite peculiar when taken out of context from the project it was designed for, with the song celebrating the freedom and joy that comes from owning a mobile home.
Townshend later discussed the role of the song in the planned project: “As the story unfolded, because of the vagaries of the modern world, because of pollution being caused mainly by people’s need to travel, to be somewhere else. (People) had been told, ‘You can’t do that anymore. You have to stay where you are.’ But people have got this lust for life, and adventure, and a bit of colour.”
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 shows. 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 become something bigger than their individual parts when they joined forces. Take out a few minutes of your day to remember the late great Keith Moon with his immaculate isolated drums on The Who’s ‘Going Mobile’.