I've been catching up on back issues of The New Yorker in between wrapping presents, and I really enjoyed James Wood's "The Fun Stuff: My Life as Keith Moon."
Like anyone interested in music, I've heard Keith Moon praised as one of the great drummers, but I've never really known exactly what that meant -- until Wood's article.
Over the course of a few paragraphs, he lays out the way in which Moon remained a constant innovator within the context of every song rather than a mere beatkeeper.
Drumming is repetition, as is rock music generally, and Moon clearly found repetition dull. So he played the drums like no one else--and not even like himself. No two bars of Moon's playing ever sound the same; he is in recolt against consistency. Everyone else in the band gets to improvise, so why should the drummer be nothing more than a condemned metronome?"Woods makes good comparisons between Moon and other drummers and also between rock 'n' roll and the classical repertoire that Woods himself was brought up inside of.
He talks about Moon's out-of-controlness, of course -- "I don't give a damn about a Holiday Inn room. There's ten million of them exactly the same," he said after trashing one -- but the memorable parts of the article are those that compare Moon to Glenn Gould and describe his influence on punk music.