To be read together with the below post of Young Man Blues.
Ginger Baker was a serious drummer. He was a bit busier than most classically trained kit-drummers, but that comes with being the drummer in a three-piece Rock and Roll outfit. His performance here is tightly controlled, well considered, and technically conventional. Not at all like Keith Moon’s approach to Young Man Blues. Moonie was a wild man.
Mr. Baker has always been famously impatient with interview questions about Keith Moon. He was known to say that Keith Moon was “not a real drummer,” or words to that effect. It’s easy to understand how he feels. He has never felt that the two of them were in the same musical category at all, and he’s right, in a way. They are as different as night and day.
For Mr. Baker, drumming is a skill and a science. For Mr. Moon, it was closer to assault and aggravated battery. Moonie only aimed his instruments at the song, locked the throttles full open, swung the drumsticks and hoped for the best. The guy never knew if he’d be sleeping at home that night, or at the hospital.
The drum part in Those Were the Days sounds like it is being played just as it was composed, and that is probably the case. He could be playing it from charts. At the very least, a chart could easily be created that would enable another talented professional to duplicate the performance.
In Young Man Blues, as is usually the case, it is inconceivable to imagine that Mr. Moon is playing from a chart. It is almost inconceivable to think that a chart of a typical Keith Moon performance could be created at all, or that anyone else could play it the same way, or would want to.
I suppose that I am in substantial agreement with Mr. Baker when I say that he is a great drummer, and Keith Moon is, well, Keith Moon. Actually, I think that they are both great, and I enjoy their work enormously. I was lucky enough to see them both on many occasions, and I can tell you, neither one ever disappointed an audience that I was part of.
(And did I mention that I had lunch one time with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker in March, 1967, on Clapton’s birthday, no less? I’m sure that I’ve bragged about that already, hereon.)
Please forgive me for being somewhat obsessed with the music of my youth, but if you will only consider the matter for a moment I’m sure that you will understand it. You may realize that you are similarly obsessed with Guns and Roses, or Soundgarden, or De La Soul, or the Wu Tang Clan, or, who knows, the Dandy Warhols. I have managed to add to the canon in all of the decades following my Golden Period, continually finding new artists and genres to become obsessed with, in a more adult fashion, it’s true, but obsessed none the less. I hope, dear reader, that you have been as lucky as me in this endeavor.