The Musical "Decline" of Keith Moon

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Jayce, Jul 10, 2009.

  1. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Up in T.O. keepin' jive alive

    The drumming on both 'Choirboy (Empty Glass)' and 'My Wife' (@ Kilburn) is abominable---and that's coming from somebody who loves Keith's playing dearly. 'In a Hand or a Face' is Moon By Numbers, meaning it's pretty much a self-parody. Keith used to seize moments; here he merely reacts to them, a step behind.
    I think his playing on 'Dreaming from the Waist' is inspired and thrilling, though I don't like the way his drums sound on that record at all.
    'However Much I Booze' and 'How Many Friends' are spirited, soulful performances, doubtless a result of the subject matter's direct strike amidships---Townshend may have just as easily been writing about Keith as himself.
    Who Are You continues the pattern of reacting to the music instead of directing where it will go. The fills feel gratuitous and slovenly---and Keith's fills always meant something in the old days; there was always a purpose to them.
  2. masswriter

    masswriter Forum Resident

    New Hampshire
  3. czeskleba

    czeskleba Senior Member

    It wasn't 1979. The incident with Sandom happened during the recording of Who Are You. It's mentioned in Richard Barnes' book. It's a well-known fact that Keith was not able to play at all at the beginning of the Who Are You sessions, necessitating that they abandon their usual procedure of recording the bass and drums first and then overdubbing everything else onto them. For WAY, they instead recorded the tracks without drums, and later when Keith had good days and was able to play semi-competently he would overdub his drums onto the tracks (except Music Must Change, for which he never was able to play an acceptable drum track so they left it drumless). You can tell from the results, too. His drums don't push the tracks along on WAY, they follow them.

    Pete has claimed that Roger and John both advocated kicking Keith out of the band at that time, and that only he stopped it from happening. Roger has countered that he didn't want to kick Keith out permanently, but only wanted to use another drummer to finish the album since Keith was having so much trouble playing. At any rate, there definitely was talk of replacing him in some capacity because he could not play consistently or reliably.
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  4. mbleicher1

    mbleicher1 Tube Amp Curmudgeon

    San Mateo, CA, USA
    So Pete didn't usually lay down a guitar track simultaneously with Keith and John?
  5. masswriter

    masswriter Forum Resident

    New Hampshire
    so whats the video on Kids Are Alright when Moon is playing the title song with the band?

    just goofing off? (not sarcasm, seriously)
  6. TheOx

    TheOx Forum Resident

    Down South, USA
    You're all missing the point, he was and still is the best Keith Moon type drummer in the world. :righton::D
  7. ziggysane

    ziggysane Forum Resident

    Austin, TX
    I haven't read this whole thread so I don't know if this has been mentioned, but I was shocked when I listened to the '78 Shepperton version of Baba O'Riley on The Kids Are Alright for the first time and heard how plodding and stiff his playing had become compared to the original version. All of the wild fills from the original (that are also lacking from Pete's bare bones drumming on the demo) are missing or greatly simplified. It's just sad to hear someone who was such a unique player from the time of their very first appearance lose "it" like that.

    Edit: it was already mentioned here:
    MortSahlFan likes this.
  8. dee

    dee Forum Resident

    ft. lauderdale, fl
    I stopped multi-quoting after I reached about eight or nine posts, :), and just figured to forget it all and lay back and enjoy the many amazing posts in this thread :righton: - as divergent as some of them may be in their point of view on the subject.
  9. dee

    dee Forum Resident

    ft. lauderdale, fl
    I do love his playing on Love Is Coming Down. It sounds majestic and soulful to me, :), and yet understated, lol. Of course, it may be just be the song too, but even with some of its melancholy pomp, I still find it all rather affecting.
  10. FrankenStrat

    FrankenStrat Forum Resident

    I'd venture to go one step further: Rock'n'roll drumming is really divided into Moon and Not Moon. Let's just remember him for those times when he was on fire.
    fr in sc likes this.
  11. czeskleba

    czeskleba Senior Member

    It's funny... I agree with what you say, yet I still vastly prefer the Who's version of Empty Glass to the solo Pete version. I've bashed Keith's later drumming on this thread, but I meant it relative to his great earlier work. Even at his worst, there is a certain indefinable something to his playing that makes it unique and elevates it in some inexplicable way. I get more enjoyment from sub-par and technically incompetent work by Moon than I do from "better" performances by most drummers. I guess it's the old debate between competence and "feel", with the latter being more important for rock-n-roll music. On most of his worst recordings, Moon still has enough feel left to make things interesting or moving or whatever. Sort of how the Replacements, even at their drunkest and sloppiest, could move an audience. Which is not to say I don't prefer the days when Moon still had feel, creativity, AND competence intact. But hypothetically, I think I prefer the bad drumming on the Who Are You album to what a replacement drummer would have done.
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  12. PacificOceanBlue

    PacificOceanBlue Forum Resident

    The Southwest
    I've always felt Moon's peak was his drumming on the Quadrophenia album. After that, the consistency was gone. His physical deterioration took a toll on his talents behind the kit. However, he did seem in very good shape during the 1976 shows, although not at the level of his 1970 brilliance. Kilburn and Shepperton are quite sad. Kenny clearly was a drop-off from the high level of musicianship that the band had in the past behind the drum kit, but based on Moon's work at Kilburn and Sherpperton, one can conclude that the post-1979 live shows would have dipped even with Moon on stage.
  13. Driver 8

    Driver 8 Forum Resident

    Even on the '69 concert appended to the recent '77 DVD, there are moments where he just seems to flail randomly at various drums on the super-sized kit.

    To my mind, his true peak was on the studio recording of "I Can See For Miles," which may be the single greatest drum performance in rock.
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  14. Jayce

    Jayce Forum Resident Thread Starter

    For some reason, I too think that some of the "abominable" is actually stirring. Kilburn's "My Wife" may be terrible, but I love it anyway, no apologies : ). I find the drumming on "New Song" and "Had Enough" from WAY pretty lousy (for Keith, anyway), but -- especially on "Had Enough" -- it works in the song for me. I know I am listening to something that lacks what it once had, and maybe that missing element adds to the power of the song, as unsubtle as it is, because the sentiments of the song are so in-your-face and desperately unsubtle. Moon's physicality had always been a major tension creator along with the spiritual aspirations of Townsend's best lyrics, although in the old days the virtuosity of that physical expression mirrored the strength of the spiritual convictions and/or yearnings. By the end, the desperate and broken lyrics of the later albums, ironically, suited Moon's diminished capacity. To my mind, there is a distinction between the desperation of A Jimmy the Mod in 1973 and the self-laceration of a man looking into the abyss between 1975-1978; thus, the drumming reflects these mindsets. OF course, I may be investing Keith's playing with something that was never intended -- but what the hell! : )

    I also experience this feeling when listening to Moon on the demo of "Empty Glass." Keith gives us a percussive representation of the lyric's battered and broken soul -- whether deliberately or not. I know I am investing a lot in the playing, but by no means do I think of all of his later performances in this manner; the Shepperton performances are lousy. The demo of "Empty Glass" is a recording that I find heartbreaking in so many ways. When I listen to the drumming on that song, there is something simultaneously (almost) amateurish and profoundly, compellingly powerful.

    I agree with a previous poster that at his worst, Keith's "feel" could run rings around the most accomplished players.
    Frozensoda likes this.
  15. czeskleba

    czeskleba Senior Member

    Not according to what I read in (I think) the Barnes book. Drums and bass were recorded first. I think a lot of times (maybe all the time?) what they did was take Pete's demo and wipe Pete's bass and drums, and then play along with the demo to record their own parts and get the basic rhythm tracks.

    There never was a Moon-era live recording of that song, was there? At any rate, I'd say my favorite Moon performance is "The Kids are Alright," and I've always felt the whole first album in general was his peak. Some amazing, creative stuff on there.
  16. davers

    davers Forum Resident

    Slightly off topic, but a prior post mentioned Kenny Jones. As much as I would have loved to see a tour with Moonie, I didn't get to see The Who until the 1979/80 tour. While watching a recent video, I was reminded that Jones was actually pretty good in his early Who gigs. I'm not comparing him to early Moon, but he was much better than I remembered (my memory may be tainted by the fact that Roger wasn't too keen on him).
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  17. jwoverho

    jwoverho Forum Resident

    Mobile, AL USA
    I was listening to quite a few of Pete's demos earlier tonight and was taken by the feeling that Keith used Pete's drumming as the "bones" for his drum parts.
    Even Pete's drumming has a very "Moon" vibe to it- many of his fills, while they lack Keith's dexterity and power, seem to echo what Keith would play.
  18. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Up in T.O. keepin' jive alive

    Well, yes.
  19. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Up in T.O. keepin' jive alive

    That's a great post.
  20. Grim177

    Grim177 Forum Resident

    London, Kent, UK

    I think it's also worth noting that the Keith Moon of old wasn't required, desired or "fashionable" by 1978.
    For me the one example, out of the very few available, is his drumming on TKAA version of 'Who Are You'. It blows the studio version out of the water. Simply because he sounds far less tethered than he does on most of that album.
    DrBeatle likes this.
  21. INSW

    INSW Forum Resident

    The 79 US tour was quite good - they should've called it a tribute and packed it in after that.
  22. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Up in T.O. keepin' jive alive

    What do you mean by this? Because I think a healthy, fit and manic Moon would have been just the thing to re-energize the '77/'78 period Who. Like the saying goes, how Keith went is how the Who went.
    Certainly other drummers of the period were inspired by him to a tremendous degree, Clem Burke being the obvious pick.
    squittolo likes this.
  23. pool_of_tears

    pool_of_tears Music Appreciator

    Eastern Iowa
    Despite the physical deterioration, the material that Pete was coming up (beginning with By Numbers) with didn't require the wild and manic drumming Keith was known for. But his drumming on By Numbers really did prove that he could play more simple and gentle things.
  24. shokhead

    shokhead Forum Resident

    Long Beach,SoCa
    Wild and manic drumming was his style, not a requirement as to what type of music he was playing to.
  25. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Up in T.O. keepin' jive alive

    I think that while Pete's songs were becoming more lyrically complex (or self-consciously cerebral and impenetrable, take your pick), I don't really see his songs as having changed to such a degree that Moon would not have been useful. Imo, a healthy, focused Moon would have kept things grounded, not so precious/pretentious, just as he had done on Quadrophenia.
    If Pete was the mind of the who, Moon was its soul.

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