Create & Destroy: Keith Moon’s Drum Kits
Despite Moon’s justification, however, much of his drum destruction was an obvious result of mischievousness rather than pure frustration. For example, he exhibited nothing short of premeditated anarchy on the Smothers Brothers television shown of the late ’60s when he secretly attached a number of exploding charges to his drum shells. At a given moment during the Who’s set, Keith signaled a co-conspirator who detonated the caps. A million things then seemed to happen at once: Television viewers’ screens momentarily flashed bright white, Moon flew backward, falling behind the drum stand, the drums lifted themselves off the stage and disintegrated into tiny fragments, while everyone – including the other members of the Who – clutched their ears in unbridled horror. As the smoke cleared, a dazed Keith Moon could be seen grimacing with pain, a result of the shrapnel that had pierced his arms and legs. All throughout America teenage drummers were thrilled!
1967: “Monterey Pop” Set
1. 22" Bass Drum
2. 16" Floor Tom
3. 13" Mounted Tom
4. 14" Snare Drum
Cymbals: (sizes and brand unknown)
This sort of behavior would certainly lead one to believe that Moon had little regard for the welfare of his drum set, let alone his own well being. But it has been said that the apparent destruction was generally superficial, mostly resulting in broken heads and sticks, and that he was actually quite picky about the tuning of his drums. When he threw a tom over his head with charming nonchalance, you could be sure that there was an anxious roadie carefully positioning himself at the drum’s point of impact.
Eddie Haynes was a marketing promotion manager for Premier drums in Leicester, England from 1973 to 1978. During this time, he saw that Moon’s equipment requirements were taken care of and often consulted directly with Moon about his specific needs. Eddie insists that Moon took better care of his drums than his reputation suggests: “People have said that he was a lunatic, and was smashing everything up. And, admittedly, he did kick his drums over – we know that. But I always suspected that it was done knowingly, not spontaneously. He always assessed the situation before he did things like that. Premier very rarely had drums come back from Keith to be repaired. The only things that he needed regularly were stands and foot pedals – he’d go through them like a knife through butter.
“Keith always knew exactly what he wanted,” Haynes continues. “He never demanded any ridiculous sizes. He was very happy to play standard size drums. But what he did always want were drums that looked cosmetically different from what anybody else had. We did a number of kits for Keith over the years, with different types of finishes.
“Once he asked that we make him a white kit with all gold-plated fittings – the lugs, the brackets, the stands, the spurs, everything. I spoke to him about it and said, ’Look Keith, I’d really like to make this kit, but with the gold plated fittings it would be ridiculously expensive.’ And he was great about it, saying, ’Dear boy, do exactly as you feel it should be, but that’s the way I want it.’ We finished the kit, actually, with copper-plated fittings – no chrome or silver showing. That was rather a nice kit.”
Regardless of the cosmetics, all of Moon’s drum sets shared special design characteristics that were exclusive to his setup. Haynes says, “We always had to make sure that the tom-toms had double fittings, the bass drums and hi-hat could be clamped to the floor, and that the bass drums were clamped to each other. We linked the whole kit together.”
The best testimony for the longevity of Moon’s drums had to be the Premier “Pictures Of Lily” drum set, which he played between 1967 and 1969. This intricately designed, one-of-a-kind set featured hand-painted panels depicting nudes and Who logos covering the outer shells. The curious phrase, “Keith Moon. Patent British Exploding Drummer,” also was interspersed throughout the pop at murals. Supposedly, all of the designs lit up under black lights, even though the Who never used black lights in performances. According to Moon, the “Pictures Of Lily” kit took six months to complete, and was assembled by five people. Haynes says that the kit “absolutely blew everybody’s minds. That was Keith’s own idea. He came to us and told us exactly what he wanted – those particular types of designs. It certainly stunned the drum world.”