Keith Moon: Not as Innocent as He Looks

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The Ox The Who

 

As teens tend to do, I got red faced on any number of occasions when my unthinking brethren insisted that Neil Peart was a better drummer than Keith Moon. Who knows Neil may be brilliant, I was never really able to get past Geddy Lees voice to find out. I would change the subject and mention how much Geddy sounded like hed been violently castrated on Fly by Night.

 

I used to go to the library and read old copies of Rolling Stone. I ripped out Keith Moons obituary and I still treasure it like a precious ancient artifact.

 

Theres a baseball player Ive always worshiped named Rabbit Maranville. Rabbit was as much of a clown as a baseball player, and as a result his membership in the Hall of Fame is often mocked. Should it really be his fault that he was so good that he got bored and decided to spice things up a bit? Thats what was going through my mind the first time I saw the movie The Kids are Alright. In the first scene, Keith is appearing with the band on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. As the band performed My Generation, you sit there wondering what the hell was going through this lunatics mind. Here he was the best drummer in the world, and he seems infinitely more interesting in making faces and perhaps swatting imaginary flies. Hes flat out joyfully deranged as he invents drumming with a limp wrist. Of course, what he had going through his mind was that he had paid the crew to triple the explosive charges in his drum kit and was about to ruin Pete Townshends hearing.

 

The Ox is The Who laying waste to The Surfaris Wipe Out. My guess is that the Surfaris drummer would have collapsed from exhaustion mid way through Keiths rampage. Forget the drinking, the demolished hotels, the outings in drag; remember the amazing genius drumming that came from God knows where. Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy, which collects all of the bands early singles really is a Keith Moon tour de force. Every song filled with drumming that boasted of equal parts power, humor, and audacious originality.

 

Heres my favorite story about the notorious insecure Moon. You can decide yourself, whether like the thousand other tall tales that exist around the man its apocryphal or not. Keith Moon hears The Whos latest single Substitute. Enraged, and apparently so out of his mind on substances when it was recorded, he insists that his band mates explain why they replaced him on their latest single. The other three stare at the man who inspired Animal from the Muppets and do their best to reason with him. Keith, wed be more than happy to replace you, but who else anywhere in the world plays like that?

 

I Can See for Miles The Who

 

John Entwistle – Keith you have no intention of ever keeping time do you?
Keith Moon: Sorry luv, I play lead in this band.
John: You know I’m the greatest Rock bass player ever right? If you weren’t even better than me you wouldn’t get away with this nonsense. Ok, let’s go out and raise hell.


I dont really totally understand the mechanics of the rhythm section, but I do know that if someone was responsible for keeping time in The Who it wasnt Keith Moon. Keith was too busy being the star of the show to be saddled with mechanically keeping time and getting his licks in at tasteful moments. The Who started off like most everybody else as a dance band. Motown music is like dance music for people with no rhythm, in that the downbeat is so pronounced that youd have to be deaf not to be able to follow the action. I dare you to dance to I Can See for Miles. It doesnt swing. Its not Rock and Roll. Its just Rock. For those who appreciate it you just sit there and feel the power. If Keith is keeping any time in this song whatsoever, I sure as hell cant hear it, but nevertheless what a dynamic show of power. He just builds and builds and builds to the most violent orgasm ever, and when you think you have him sussed out there are those stray violent rifle shots that let you know that he is in control the whole way. Attacking in growing waves that can not possibly end with anything but complete submission. My guess is that someone that was taught straight out of the book could never have come up with this performance. It has to come from someone completely out of his mind with originality who has no use for the orthodox. This is the sound of revolution.

6 Responses to “Keith Moon: Not as Innocent as He Looks”

  1. What a fuckin great text about Keith Moon.
    I couldn’t agree more about everything you just said.
    It was a pleasure to read you.
    Keith Moon was the best for his ability of building and building without any continuing rhythm. It was all improvisation, as he felt it.
    I can See For Miles, Heaven & Hell… Amazing stuff.
    See you.
    Joss.

  2. What the hell are you talking about? Sure, he drummed like a maniac, but he was great. Why the fuck do you think they’re making a movie about him? He will alwaysbe remembered as one of the top greatest drummer in rock history, look it up.

  3. what are you talking about ellie? did you read this article? its FOR keith, not AGAINST him. They ARE making a movie about him, but what does that have to do with anything? I think this was a great piece and it really captured Keith. well done.

  4. Brilliant that you say forget about Moonies offstage antics and think of the drumming! I myself am a drum player and am constantly floored at the way that man keeps the beat even when his sticks are halfway up in the air (not necessarily holding them) or flailing about like he’s swallowed a swarm of hornets. Did Moon have ADHD because I’m sure thats why he seemed to spice things up as he had a short attention span. Brilliant drummer and a unique style that really is impossible to copy exactly.
    Liked the article. Keep it up!

  5. Couldn’t have been said better! I agree completely with the B.S. Neil peart comments if he was so great why play with such a mediocre band? He was the biggest soul to walk the earth. Never wil be matched!

  6. This was a great article. Keith will always be the best in my mind. People always argue about him, Bonham, and Peart, who are all good, but you just can’t top Keith. His most brilliant performance? His whole career, every single thing he ever recorded. Love the article, obviously you know what you’re talking about.

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