The Song That Almost Wrecked The Who
Won’t Get Fooled Again - The Who / YouTube
Some drummers are technically proficient and have awards to prove it, and then there’s Keith Moon, whose playing style defied categorization even among the most skilled drummers of his day. With that, he played based on his emotions, which was well received by fans while causing “minimal” issues for the Who.
Bassist John Entwistle claims that when Moon played drums, he wouldn’t even be fully aware of what he was doing. There were, however, more challenging aspects to working with him. His playing suffered whenever his erratic temperament took hold. When asked by Drum! Magazine about an occasion when Keith didn’t identify his own playing on a tune, Entwistle provided a perfect example. Moon struggled with the rhythms in the Who’s song “Substitute,” and it almost cost them their career as a band.
“I just told him it needed to be really simple and strong; otherwise, the song wouldn’t come off,” Entwistle explained. “There was one song that we nearly wrecked the band over, and that was ‘Substitute’ [from Meaty Beaty Big & Bouncy]. When he first heard the track, he said, ‘When did you record that? Where did you get that drummer from? And I said, ‘It was you.’ And he said, ‘I don’t remember doing this.’ And I said, ‘You did!’ and he said, ‘Bullocks! You got some other guy, and I’m leaving the band!’ So finally, I said, ‘Listen to the drums. You’re screaming!’ So, he listened to a bit and went, ‘Oh yeah, it’s me … well, when did we do it?’ And I said, ‘Last week.’”
The Who, like many other bands despite their superior skill, struggled during their early years. Although Keith Moon was universally hailed as a phenomenal drummer, he and his group had more than a few disagreements. “Substitute” was a near-catastrophic event, but the band got through it.