This month, as we dove into the drumming of both Pete Townshend on the Who’s demo tracks and Keith Moon on the band’s final output, we checked in with our readers and social media followers to see which “Moon the Loon” performances were among their favorites.
“Sparks” from the Tommy set on the deluxe edition of Live at Leeds. Each part of the song has its own distinct drum part, which is very musical and even melodic at times. It starts with kind of a jam vibe with lots of fills, and then tightens up for that sick bass part before Moon quiets down with only his kick drum and cymbal swells. Throughout the song Keith creates memorable drum parts that are as important and catchy as the guitar and bass parts. The way he brings the dynamic down at the end and plays those repeating fills between the guitar strums is one of my favorite parts. The whole performance is genius.
Quadrophenia for me is a masterpiece with amazing drumming, a wide variety of textures and moments, and it also has some of the greatest songs in the band’s catalog. Honorable mention goes to “The Real Me” and “The Punk and the Godfather.” I’ve been listening to this record for ages and practicing along every time I get the chance.
Juan Ignacio Sansinena
Moon’s drumming on “Won’t Get Fooled Again” ignores all the rules of what you should normally play and makes the song feel like an anthem. His performance also sounds like it’s on edge yet so intentional at the same time. And you can tell that he meant every 16th note that he played. I know they had him stay on the hi-hat instead of his usual crash/ride, so that could have made him play more to fill the space.
I’d say “Baba O’Riley.” That song is so fun and easy to play. Moon followed the vocals, wasn’t afraid to be himself, and proved that he was one of the craziest drummers to touch a pair of sticks. He was a fantastic player, a showman, and the first drummer to ever put goldfish in his toms!
“Won’t Get Fooled Again” proved Moon to be one of the few drummers of the time to bring as much expressive quality to his drumming as any guitarist or vocalist would to their own parts. I still get chills down to my heel when Moon starts his solo over Townshend’s lone pulsing synth, with tom, snare, and cymbal figures that many drummers would spend weeks perfecting. And when he led in the rest of the band for the final chorus, Moon might’ve been the only drummer in the world unhinged enough to know that clubbing the snare with a full measure of 16th notes was the only way to precede the greatest scream in rock ’n’ roll history. It was a song that, along with others in the dawn of the ’70s, elevated the role of the drummer from mere timekeeper to a source of irreplaceable energy.
The song “Bargain” from Who’s Next embodies all of Moon’s great attributes: primal instincts, unexplainable balance on the kit, and over-the-top playing with purpose. Moon was truly one of a kind.
Some of his best playing is on Quadrophenia, especially on “Bell Boy,” “Sea and Sand,” and “The Rock.” He plays the kit like it’s an orchestral percussion section—his toms are his timpani, and his cymbals splash and crash like ocean waves. His playing is lyrical, emotional, manic, and yet contains a high level of control. He’s often depicted as too crazy or wild to keep time. But he is playing the time: he drives the whole band and never misses a step. Listen to Live at Leeds—it’s total controlled anarchy. I’ve never been bothered by his unorthodox fills, only inspired by them. I feel he’s still overlooked because he was such an unusual player. In some ways his amazing drumming would only work for a band like the Who. But the beauty of great drummers is that they can come to define a band’s sound.
Live at Leeds as a single recorded performance showcases Moon in his ultimate form: playing live. Power, intensity, orchestration, and excitement are all wrapped up in one performance and expressed in his unique and incredibly musical presentation.
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Jon Hiseman’s name was spelled incorrectly in the title of his memorial piece in the November issue.