What Makes Keith Moon a Legendary Drummer?

michaelg

Member
Moonies timing was actually really good, remember he had to synchronize himself along to a track on "wont get fooled again" and still propel the band in a highly energetic forward momentum.
His rolls support the vocal phrasing whereas a lesser man would get in the way. And he plays neither straight nor swung which tells me he had a sophisticated sense of rhythm.
And all before the internet and drumming resources/lessons we now have available to us all. Rhythm was inbuilt into that guy.
 

brushes

Well-known member
Moonies timing was actually really good, remember he had to synchronize himself along to a track on "wont get fooled again" and still propel the band in a highly energetic forward momentum.
His rolls support the vocal phrasing whereas a lesser man would get in the way. And he plays neither straight nor swung which tells me he had a sophisticated sense of rhythm.
And all before the internet and drumming resources/lessons we now have available to us all. Rhythm was inbuilt into that guy.
Basically there are several interesting things when you actually start to look at his playing in detail. One thing is, as pointed out, he was complimenting/phrasing the vocal and guitar, which resulted in Moon giving them even more energy. Play the same parts with a simple 4/4 beat and it would never push the song forward like Moon did. He was also REALLY good in his timing. So good, he actually had the freedom to make very progressive fills where he explored and pushed the boundaries of timing. Those who fail to get that, call this sloppy, but it is quite the opposite of sloppy timing. He played with altering time within a fixed time.pattern and always managed to get back in time for the next chapter (except around early 1975- mid 77). When they recorded "Who's next", "Quadrophenia" and "Who are you", he HAD to be perfect in timing as he had to play to a programmed synthesizer. No way to "rescue" tracks back then like today when something is a bit off in timing. And not only did he perform well, he performed astonishingly good.

It is actually no coincidence that Elvin Jones and Tony Williams were huge admirers of him. He was exploring freedom within time and pushing boundaries, was highly creative. As Tony Williams said: "Watching Keith Moon playing drums is a pure thing of beauty". And yes it was.

Some things that are quite interesting are e.g. the takes for the "Who's Next"-Album. He came into the studio, played the drumming track for "Bargain" as a first take and that's it. Nailed it. Brilliantly. Nothing to change. He did that over and over again. How many drummer are this good? Not many.

He created innovative fills, accents that were unheard of until he sat behind the drums. And when he was playing with his bassdrums, he kept time with the right leg - until things got crazy and complex. Then he swtiched, kept time with the left and added the accents with the right foot. It would be like e.g. Eric Clapton playing guitar and, when soloing, flipping his guitar from left to right and continue playing the really complex stuff. Moon is the only drummer I have ever heard of that did such a weird thing.

If there are things that were horrible with Moon, it was that he ruined his life with alcohol. He was arguable the best rock drummer in the time between 1967 and 1974, then the drug abuse started to take its toll and his drumming was mediocre until late 1977, early '78, when he finally fought his alcohol-addiction and played well again, as can be heard on the "Who are you" album. Sadly, stupidity and an overdose of a medicament against his alcohol addiciton (that his doctor should never had given to him, but that's another story) ended his life way too soon.

There do exist a few tracks apart from The Who, where he played drums and there, he played really well, so he could thrive in different envirornments, but his heart and soul was The Who.

Btw: The chaos-guy that everybody thinks of, when hearing the name Moon, is only the one side of him. It is the role that people and media expected him to play. Once he made weird stuff, everybody expected him to do it again and top it. And yes, he was making lots of jokes and idiotic stuff. But there was also the Keith, that wanted to have a lovely family, who cared a lot about Zack Starkey. The guy that really cared about others. But that positive side is way too often forgotten.

Edit: And the reason why he did not use a hihat in the very early stages of his carreer (mostly in live-situations) was, that the mics just sucked back then and the hihat had no chance to cut through the Amp-Walls that Townshend and Entwhistle put on stage. The ride on the other hand managed to cut through.
 

ottog1979

Senior Member
An enjoyable summary, brushes. Agreed. I'm a HUGE Who fan.

Except ride cymbal cutting through better than high hat?? Hmmm.
Edit: And the reason why he did not use a hihat in the very early stages of his carreer (mostly in live-situations) was, that the mics just sucked back then and the hihat had no chance to cut through the Amp-Walls that Townshend and Entwhistle put on stage. The ride on the other hand managed to cut through.
 

Juniper

Gold Member
He was a very troubled and flawed person. For a comprehensive biography for anyone interested I'd strongly recommend the book 'Dear Boy - The Life of Keith Moon' by Tony Fletcher. One hell of a book, all 800+ pages of it.

Regarding his drumming. Just an absolute tornado and the perfect drummer for The Who. Not the most technical or consistent but he didn't need to be for that band.
 

brushes

Well-known member
I have read somewhere in an article that he might have been an ADHD-Kid, according to a doctor, which would explain some of his weird actions and the changes between being super-freaky and very calm and reasonable at other times. Back then in the 60's it wasn't diagnosed.
 

Seafroggys

Silver Member
I love Moon, one of my top 5 favorite drummers. I will admit though, his feet left a little bit to be desired. He wasn't really that fancy with his footwork, in fact was even sloppy with even some of the basic patterns he'd play on the bass drum. That being said, he really did have amazing hands. The guy was a true musician. Everything he played worked perfectly from a non-drumming, musical standpoint.
 

wraub

Well-known member
The whole quote is, "the bass player plays the roots along with everything else". As a bass player also, I would say that Entwistle wasn't shy about the root notes, but he would also avoid them by playing related notes instead, by highlighting the root by playing the other notes in a chord or scale instead of the root, or by including the root note in a glissando or run as a leading tone, or a passing tone that avoids it completely. Some Enwistle parts are quite intricate when soloed, like filligree or lace atop a heavy cabinet... The root is always defined, even when not played. Eminence Front and Baba O'Riley both come to mind quickly as good examples of this, but, he did it often.
The roots, and everything else.


It's only the root notes until 1:57, then, everything else.



edit- Here's Who Are You, with bass and drums isolated-






Me no unnerstand
Yeah....this is Entwistle we're talking about. Did he *ever* play roots?
 
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TOMANO

Senior Member
Wild, uninhibited persona that came through on the drums. He was The Who drummer. Doubt he would've been chosen for any other band of that era. His ability was confined to the force of nature that was The Who. Technique-wise, any of his contemporaries had him beat. For The Who he was perfect.
 

RVN

Member
Won't Get Fooled Again isolated drum track. Includes mic hit at 1:21. Glyn Johns got great sound on that legendary album. Wow!

 
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