The Who are currently trekking across North America on their “The Who Hits 50!” tour, which Roger Daltrey has described as the beginning of the group’s “long goodbye.” The band has influenced countless musicians who have followed in its footsteps, including the Roots’ Questlove, who shares his thoughts on the Who and particularly their legendary drummer Keith Moon below.
Keith Moon is just … to make up a term, a drum-omatopoeia. He’s a drummer in an onomatopoeia. He’s the personification of just absolute power. He is the exclamation point at the end of a sentence. Often drummers are supposed to be the line on the paper where you write the sentence, but Keith Moon is the exclamation point. What’s also undervalued is Keith was … He was the groove master. You have to understand the household I grew up in. The very first Who song I heard was “Eminence Front. ” I got into that stuff when I was older, 11 and 12 or 13. That was one of my favorite songs I ever heard and it was groove-based. Once I saw those clips on Midnight Special and them on television … how powerful he was as a drummer, not just the guy Animal was based on.
The sign to me of an excellent drummer is one that actually is the timekeeper for a band. The Who were one of the great drum-and-bass combos ever. Really, it was a classic case of four different personality meshing in together to gel and become one unit. That makes the best bands – where there’s a juxtaposition and a contrast that meshes together.
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A lot of people have genius streaks. The Beatles had that genius streak, from Rubber Soul all the way to Let It Be. For Stevie Wonder, the 1970s from Music of My Mind to Songs in the Key of Life. There’s a period where you’re so in the zone and willing to travel places and go musically. Next to Pink Floyd, the Who’s 1970s work is more sprawling and more ambitious than anyone, just the concepts they had.
My favorite Who album is probably Who’s Next. I remember that as a kid. My sister constantly, constantly, that’s the album that was always played. You know when you’re obsessed with something the scares you? Even today, when I hear the opening synth, the opening 90 seconds of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” – that, to me, defines fear and loathing in my childhood. I’d turn out the lights in my house. That would always come on and creep me out.