I shouldn't fritter away precious free time reading rock biographies. Music already consumes far more of my day than any other pastime. When I'm not listening to, writing about, spinning, or watching the damn stuff, I should be ingesting other artistic stimuli. Remembrance of Things Past, perhaps.
But what's sitting on my nightstand right now? Moon: The Life and Death of a Rock Legend by Tony Fletcher (published by Spike Books). Even at almost 600 pages, Fletcher's detailed look at the life of the Who's main madman is so engrossing I can barely set the book aside to climb out of bed periodically and change what's in the CD player.
I'm embarrassed to be joining the church of Moon so late. I loved the Who in high school, and had a thing for drummers early on. You can trace it all back to my first boyfriend. He presented me with a copy of Quadrophenia, the gatefold LP with a 22-page picture insert, on our second date. More importantly, during a rather "climactic" moment of an amorous interlude, he began rhythmically tapping on my back in time with a song on the radio: the Psychedelic Furs' "Into You Like a Train."
The supremacy of drummers was hot-wired into my hard drive from that romantic moment on. And yet, I resisted their pull. When I watched Tommy, all I could see was Roger Daltrey's bronzed pecs, his golden locks. Moon's demonic Uncle Ernie actually offended my precious adolescent sensibilities.
But now I know better. And after spending a week in bed with Keith Moon, I'm ready to shout it out loud: Drummers make the world go around.
Want some proof? Let's quickly survey the century's most fertile period of pop: The '80s. What distinguished Bow Wow Wow? Annabella Lwin's pubescent yelping? Big deal. It was Dave Barbarossa's futuristic drum kit, a sprawling cross between molten lava and an overturned Jell-O pudding cup. What bandmate did poor Boy George moon over through years of heartache and turmoil? John Moss. And would you have kicked Duran Duran's Roger Taylor out of bed (preSeven and the Ragged Tiger, obviously)? I think not.
Drummers make excellent drinking buddies. Moon routinely showed up at gigs pickled as a herring, only to sweat it all out on stage, then rehydrate with brandy and champagne. My roommate has christened one of our favorite locals "Satan" in honor of the vodka-soaked mayhem he's prompted.
And even drummers who aren't dreamy pin-ups certainly inspire uncontrollable ardor. Maybe it's because they come off stage soaked in sweat, wearing little more than shorts. One of my Top Five favorite lays was the percussionist in a New York industrial outfit. The actual act was pretty rudimentary (he swore I was his first, a claim his performance supported), but then his girlfriend found out and threw a cocktail at my head in public. Our shared conquest just doubled over in laughter. What's not to love?
Despite these charms, many Luddites fail to take drummers seriously. I consider myself a fairly intelligent individual. And who ranks among my favorite men in the universe? Davey Latter, who pounds skins in LA's Stanford Prison Experiment. Davey's privileged status has nothing to do with the fact that his aroused manhood is purportedly as thick as a soup can. What I cherish is his slippery mix of sincerity and sarcasm, the barely sublimated capacity for mayhem buzzing around his head.
But when you hit things for a living, nobody expects you to be an emotional or intellectual sophisticate. "There's this lifelong thing about drummers being cavemen, Neanderthal boys," my buddy confessed to me once. "The guys want to put bones in my hands when I play drums."
Yeah, I've got a bone I'd like to put in your hands, little drummer boys. But I'll respect you when we're finished. Just let me wrap things up with Keith first.