Take Five: Keith Moon Outside The Who

Keith Moon was a force of nature. A wild, flamboyant and uncontrollable personality, he burned brightly and quickly. Had he lived this long, Moon would have celebrated his 77th birthday this year. Instead, the Who’s drummer perished at age 32 in 1978, succumbing to an accidental overdose of a drug he was taking to combat his alcoholism. But during his brief lifetime, Moon contributed some of the most memorable drumming and spectacle to the music of every Who album up through Who Are You (not to mention live onstage).

Even with all of that band’s activity – and between (sometimes during) his endless carousing – Keith Moon found the time to guest on recordings by some of his pals. Not even counting his drumming on several of Who bassist John Entwistle’s solo releases – and his own Two Sides of the Moon LP – Moon contributed to several works outside of The Who. Here are five notable yet little-known performances among those.

The Merseybeats – “I Stand Accused” (single, 1965)
Contemporaries of The Beatles and Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Merseybeats were a Liverpool foursome who enjoyed some chart success in England, landing seven of their eight singles on the UK charts between 1963 and 1965. The last of those, “I Stand Accused” was produced by Who associate Kit Lambert, with Keith Moon adding some emphatic (if not truly essential) strikes to a Chinese gong.

Turquoise – “Village Green” (recorded 1967, released 2006)
While they never achieved any measurable commercial success – few of their recordings were even released in the ‘60s – Turquoise had an impressive pedigree. Close associates with The Kinks and The Who, the band cut tracks with Moon and Entwistle producing. A collection of unreleased material finally surfaced in 2006 as The Further Adventures of Flossie Fillett (The Collected Recordings 1966-1969). A highlight of that set is “Village Green,” featuring Moon on tom-toms.

Jeff Beck – “Beck’s Bolero” aka “Bolero” (single, 1967)
As the story goes, there was a point at which several of rock’s top musicians were growing frustrated with their roles in popular bands, and they considered forming a new group. One such conversation took place among Jimmy Page (then of the Yardbirds) and The Who’s rhythm section of Keith Moon and John Entwistle. The bassist is said to have shot down the idea, predicting that such a group would “go over like a lead balloon.” Legend has it that Page – thus inspired – decided then and there to call his next group Led Zeppelin. In the meantime, Moon did play with Page’s former Yardbirds band mate Jeff Beck on a few recordings; this rock arrangement of the Ravel classic is one of those. Produced by Mickie Most, the song appeared as the b-side of one of guitarist Beck’s few vocal turns, “Hi Ho Silver Lining.” The all-star lineup here also includes Page, John Paul Jones and Nicky Hopkins.

Lord Sutch – “Gotta Keep A-Rocking” (single, 1972)
Lord Sutch was an outrageous and ubiquitous character in British pop culture. When it came to nuttiness, Sutch was nearly the equal of Keith Moon. No great shakes in the vocal department, he nonetheless surrounded himself with so-called “heavy friends” who assisted him in making recordings. One such release was his second LP, 1972’s Hands of Jack the Ripper. Joined by Noel Redding (Jimi Hendrix Experience), Matthew Fisher (Procol Harum), Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple) and Keith Moon, he churned out some spirited, loose-limbed vintage rock ‘n’ roll like this tune, released as a single in the US and Brazil.

Harry Nilsson – “Rock Around the Clock” (from Pussy Cats, 1974)
During John Lennon’s estrangement from Yoko Ono – his so-called “lost weekend” – the former Beatle partied hard in Los Angeles with fellow rockers (and so-called Hollywood Vampires) like Alice Cooper, Micky Dolenz, Jesse Ed Davis, Keith Moon and Harry Nilsson. At some point during that period, Nilsson managed to make an album, with Lennon producing. The shambolic results nonetheless have their moments, like this reading of the rock ‘n’ roll classic, with three drummers: Moon, Jim Keltner and Ringo Starr.