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Create & Destroy: Keith Moon’s Drum Kits

Keith Moon

1967-1969: “Pictures Of Lily” Set

Drums: Premier
1. 22" Bass Drum
2. 16" Floor Tom
3. Mounted Toms (sizes unknown)
4. 14" Snare Drum

Cymbals: Various Brands
A. 20" Ride
B. 18" Crash
C. 14" Hi-Hats

Even though Keith loyally endorsed Premier, his taste in cymbals was decidedly random for many years. He showed little preference, playing whatever was available, although most often he tended to use Zildjian and Paiste cymbals. Late in his career, however, Keith did sign an endorsement deal with Zildjian. Eddie Haynes, worked with Zildjian at the time, and remembers Moon saying that the only reason he hadn’t previously endorsed a cymbal manufacturer was because no one had ever bothered to ask him. A curiosity of Keith’s cymbal setup was his practice of riding on a half-open hi-had which he rarely touched with his left foot.

Keith Moon

1970-1978: The Final Setup

Drums: Premier
1. 22" Bass Drum
2. Timbales
3. 16" Single-Headed Tom
4. 15" Single-Headed Tom
5. 18" Floor Tom
6. 16" Floor Tom
7. 14" Single-Headed Tom
8. 13" Single-Headed Tom
9. 12" Single-Headed Tom
10. 10: Single-Headed Tom
11. 14" Single-Headed Tom
12. 13" Mounted Tom
13. 12" Mounted Tom
14. 14" Snare Drum
15. Timpani

Cymbals: Various Brands
A. 22" Ride
B. 20" Crash
C. 14" Splash
D. 18" Crash
E. 14" Hi-Hat
F. Gong

Stands: Premier Lock Fast

Bass Pedals: Premier 250

The expansion of Moon’s setup continued until around 1970. By then he had surrounded himself with layers of drums, which included timbales, gongs, and timpani [see diagram]. It seemed that he finally had reached his goal, because he continued to play this sort of configuration, with only slight variations, until the day he died.

Bob Henrit was one of the few drummers who had a chance to play one of Keith Moon’s drum sets: “It was when I was making Roger Daltrey’s solo album in the spring of 1973. The recording was done in a barn next to Roger’s house in Sussex and it just happened to be equipped with one of Keith’s Premier kits. It was red with a pair of those odd looking double-headed toms mounted on the bass drum. Up until then I’d only had a single mounted tom, although I had two different sized bass drums and a couple of floor toms. Having two top toms was a real turn-on for me – I couldn’t leave them alone. Since then I wouldn’t be seen dead without a pair of rack toms.”

Henrit continues, “Interestingly, just before he died, Moonie had signed a contract to play a different set of British drums and move away from Premier. Staccato drums were the brainchild of Chris Slade, a drummer who worked with Tom Jones, Manfred Mann, and eventually Jimmy Page’s The Firm. The drums were made from fiberglass and were horn-loaded with a sort of trumpet end coming from their bottoms and at right angles to their heads; rather like the North drums built during the ’70s in America. The difference was they had a unique ’manta ray’ shape at their open ends. The bass drum had twin horns and was often referred to as ’elephant’s trousers’ since that is exactly what they looked like.”

Unfortunately, the Staccato deal was suddenly nullified by the news of Moon’s tragic death. And the sense of loss has only deepened since then, in large part due to the ongoing inability of rock drummers to match his passionate playing. But his influence has survived the many years. Drummers are continuing to adopt Moon’s ideas, though none have been able to top his ingenuity. You have to be able to accept his definition of what a drum set was in order to do that, and that can be very hard to do.

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