He came to audition for the band that ultimately became The Who with ginger hair. And ginger clothes. He played like a wild man. He was the final piece of the first great power trio in rock history. Keith Moon was an outsized figure amongst the outsized personalities of the British Invasion. In addition to becoming a very influential, oft-imitated (but never equaled drummer), he established himself as the Clown Prince of Rock. Whether it was tasteless adventures with Viv Stanshall or trashing hotel rooms or who knows what, Moon truly was the Loon. And as The Who progressed, he adapted (listen to his work on Quadrophenia). Sadly, his lifestyle aged him at double the rate of a normal human, and he passed away 35 years ago. But try to find video of the band around 1966 or so and watch him play. There’s never been anything like him – a real joy to watch. Let’s celebrate Keith Moon’s birthday by grabbing your iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.
The Beatles – Taxman (Revolver): George Harrison’s first album opening cut on a Beatles album firmly establishes the Fab Four as an early forerunner of the modern Tea Party, with its angry and compelling anti-tax message. This was a precursor for songs such as “Here Comes the Sun (but not climate change)” and “Dr. Robert (hates nationalized health insurance)”.
Squeeze – The Knack (Cool For The Cats): A nice song from Squeeze’s second album with the dulcet tones of Chris Difford. It’s a nice story song with a bit of a dated new wavey feel, with a nifty chorus hook that kind of comes out of nowhere.
Sonny & The Sunsets – I Wanna Do It (Hit After Hit): A fun twangy number from this San Francisco band. This is a total ‘50s styled rock ballad. Sonny may not be the rangiest vocalist, but he is expressive and this is a sweet tune.
Chris Hickey – Save My Life (Looking For Anything): I just got my copy of Hickey’s first two albums on CD. They’ve been remastered and sound awesome. Hickey is one of my favorite singer-songwriters. Hickey sings a simple melody with direct lyrics with electric guitar and percussion accompaniment on an typically economical folk-rock number.
Tahiti 80 – Don’t Look Below (Wallpaper For The Soul): On this French band’s second album, they emphasized their love of dance music more, even though I don’t think much of their music qualifies as dance music. They combine a breezy guitar pop sound with a great use of electronics. If you like Phoenix, these guys are worth checking out. Great tune, by the way.
The Lyres – Here’s a Heart (A Promise Is A Promise): This was the single from the third Lyres album and boy, this is one of the better original songs in their catalog. It’s not straight garage rock, but just a great pleading ‘60s styled rock song, with one of Jeff Conolly’s best lead vocals. It’s as good as the songs that inspired Mono Man in the first place.
The Go-Betweens – The Mountains Near Dellray (Oceans Apart): The final Go-Betweens album wasn’t intended as such, but it sure was a hell of a send off. And this is the final song, a pithy but heartfelt number that might not be a Go-Betweens’ classic but is representative of the overall quality of the band. Economic lyrics, stately melody and an engaged lead vocal.
Squeeze – Vicky Verky (Argy Bargy): A bit of rockabilly vibe on this peppy popper with Glen Tilbrook back on the mic, negotiating his way through some dense Chris Difford lyrics. Here’s where Squeeze really found its sweet spot. Even though their next album was their masterpiece, it’s a shame they couldn’t have kicked out a few more Argy Bargy’s.
Guided By Voices – The Enemy (Isolation Drills): At nearly five minutes in length, this is truly an epic GBV tune. It’s premised on an industrial strength repetitive post-punk riff that blends with an arena rock worthy chord change. This song builds tension as it moves along, always finding a way back to the riff. The song hits a crescendo, pulls back and then gets cooking again. This has become one of my favorite Guided By Voices tracks.
The Model Rockets – Rusty Rollercoaster (Tell The Kids The Cops Are Here): This Washington state band is cut from the same cloth as Young Fresh Fellows with clever lyrics and a rootsy take on power pop. This is also a five minute tune and it sustains its length with a few good ideas and a killer chorus.