Although he is widely acclaimed as one of the best drummers the world has ever seen, many percussionists and drum aficionados will happily refer to The Who’s Keith Moon as a bit of a poseur, if not a bit sloppy in his performance. Hailed under the name “Moon the Loon” for his off-stage antics, the figure of Keith Moon is often more quickly associated with exuberance away from music than with his sparkling contribution to it.
That would be missing out on the very essence of what made Keith Moon brilliant. Here, on the isolated drum track of The Who’s song “Baba O’Riley”, Moon really shows his chops. ‘Baba O’Riley’ is one of the band’s most iconic songs and gave bassist John Entwistle and Pete Townshend the chance to go instrumentally insane while Roger Daltrey did his own gymnastics with his vocals. Yet none of it compares to the madness of Keith Moon getting ripped apart.
When it comes to musos, the Who percussionist has always had a way of ruffling feathers. Whether it was off the stage where his notorious antics would see him driving cars into swimming pools, putting explosives in drum kits, and even passing out in the middle of shows or behind the kit where he refused to perform in such a way. traditional and its timing far from metronomic – but Who’s Legendary Drummer received a heavy blow.
Being part of one of the most influential groups of the 20th century is not always enough. Look at Ringo. Like his Beatles counterpart, Moon was often overlooked for his talent solely because his style seemed to trump anything he did. Unconstrained by any rigorous scheme or timing, Moon always let the music flow through him and spoke as succinctly as he could. Or, as Moon himself puts it, he’s “the world’s best Keith-Moon drummer.”
This is something Moon showed by effortlessly performing a particular song. One of the most vibrant moments of the band’s live show comes with the introduction of “Baba O’Riley”. It’s a piece of absurd chaos that totally captivated everyone who heard it then and still do to this day. But no one made chaos like Keith and even in the studio he was happy to unleash his style through the kit.
Released in 1971 and a combination of a few tracks from Townshend songs lying around, including “Teenage Wasteland”. The song was written for the House of Life project, was originally 30 minutes long, and has since become a staple of the band’s live performance. The guitarist wrote the song in response to the Isle of Wight festival and “the absolute desolation of the teenagers in Woodstock, where members of the public were acid-strained and 20 people had brain damage.” The irony was that some listeners saw the song as a celebration of teenagers: “Teenage Wasteland, yes! We are all wasted! “
If there was one singular poster boy for Britain’s wasteland at the time, it had to be Keith Moon, 25. Here he shows that they can be wasted, but Moon was at his energetic peak, releasing a unique fill that no one could simply muster. Below it is given some extra space with the isolated drum track.
Hear Keith Moon tear up The Who song “Baba O’Riley” via this isolated drum track: