The Song John Entwistle Admitted Almost Wrecked The Who

Some drummers are accomplished technically and have accolades to support it, and there is Keith Moon, who had a style of playing that didn’t fit in any of the boxes that most of his peers did. The drummer wasn’t a rule-follower and didn’t particularly look up to anyone to figure out his style. So, he just played by how he felt, which resonated with fans even if it caused ‘minor’ problems for the Who.

According to John Entwistle, Moon was a drummer like no other, and he himself wouldn’t even be exactly conscious of what he was doing. Moon didn’t play like he was supposed to; for instance, he would play forwards or start his breaks with his left hand instead of his right, not to mention the volume of his playing, where they wouldn’t even have to mic him on most occasions.

However, there were also sides of him that were more tricky to maneuver. As a result of his uncontrollable moods, his playing would also get affected. Entwistle gave an example to Drum! Magazine of a time when Keith didn’t recognize his own playing in a track. In their track, ‘Substitute,’ there were some beats that he had trouble with, almost being the final straw that would ruin the Who.

John Entwistle’s words about recording ‘Substitute’ that almost wrecked the band:

“I just told him it needed to be really simple and strong; otherwise, the song wouldn’t come off. 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.’”

He added:

“There were just some beats he had a lot of trouble with, like shuffles or playing in 6/8. On ‘I’m Free’ [from ‘Tommy’], me and Pete had to play drums, and Keith played the breaks because he couldn’t get the intro. He was hearing it differently from how we were, and he just couldn’t shake it off.

So we put down the snare, the hi-hat, and the tambourine part, and he came in and added all the breaks. When we did it live, the only way to bring him in was for Pete and me to go like this [makes an exaggerated high step], which must have looked completely nuts.”

Like most bands, the Who didn’t have it easy either, even though they were talented in their own right. Many regarded Keith Moon as a legendary drummer, but still, as individuals, there were more than a few times when they clashed. ‘Substitute’ was one incident that almost erased the band forever, yet they managed to figure it out by the end.