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Keith Moon Trolls the Beat Freaks on "Two Sides of the Moon"

March 8, 2019 | by James Greene, Jr.

Two Sides of the Moon, the 1975 solo outing from legendary Who percussionist Keith Moon, includes contributions from no less than John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Harry Nilsson, Dick Dale, Ricky Nelson, Joe Walsh, and Flo & Eddie. How astounding it is, in light of this information, that the record is 30 minutes of runny dreck that makes Lenny & The Squigtones look like The Blues Brothers. You could blame the hurricane of substances that fueled the Two Sides sessions but the larger issue is that Keith Moon, world famous drummer who redefined the art, barely drums on the only LP under his name. Instead, he sings, alternating between a thin, natural mist that rarely rises above the music and a posh upper class bristle that is admittedly kind of funny.

You have to admire Keith for bucking expectations and trolling snare-happy beat freaks thirsty for an extended drum clinic. On the other hand, he couldn’t squeeze a better song out of his pal Lennon than the bargain basement Little Richard wind-break of “Move Over Mrs. L?” No disrespect to Mal Evans, who manages to make the brass pop on that one. There are several covers on Two Sides of the Moon as well, including a lethargic gallop through The Who classic “The Kids Are Alright.” Keith plays the famous drum break in this version, but the majority of the drumming is left to Jo Jo Gunne’s Curly Smith (Curly Joe DeRita wasn’t available).

Another notable session player here is future “Twin Peaks” and Project: ALF star Miguel Ferrer. Ferrer keeps time on Moon’s atonal rendition of “Don’t Worry Baby,” which sanitizes The Beach Boys jewel for use in waiting rooms across the globe. It’s the same story with “Teenage Idol”; emotion is drained in favor of pure uncut schmaltz (we’re in trouble as soon as we hear the opening swell of a string section). And yet, Two Sides of the Moon could have proven even more bizarre and troubling — early recordings were scrapped because Moon insisted on performing in a phony country western accent.

Some critics accept Two Sides of the Moon as wretched on purpose. Robert Christgau in his review praises Moon’s “madness” for parodying “supersolo studio jobs…so deliciously,” further stating how funny it is that the backup singers usually overpower “the guy with his name on the cover.” That there’s any question about Moon’s intentions here speak to something for sure; by the same hand, no one would ever accuse Moon’s incredibly earnest Who bandmate Pete Townshend of being intentionally shitty.

A deluxe edition of this album was released by Sanctuary Records in 2006 so audiences could indulge in a second disc of vaguely interesting alternate takes and nonsensical horsing around between Moon and Ringo Starr (“I met a diabetic the other day.” “What did he say?” “Hello.”). Sanctuary’s press release describes Two Sides of the Moon as “haunting,” “innocent,” and “leering,” possessing both a “joyful lust” and a “savage sense of wit.” Yes, that encapsulates the giant photo of Keith Moon’s ass cheeks that appears prominently in the album’s artwork.

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