Moe Tucker: The Velvet Underground’s Epic Drummer

The Velvet Underground albums
Name this band!

Maureen “Moe” Tucker is the legendary drummer for American alt-rock band The Velvet Underground. She’s also a singer!

However, it’s her minimalistic drumming style that she’s most famous for, which really added to the experimental nature of the band’s music.

Moe Tucker’s Minimalistic Drumming Masterclass

Moe Tucker was born in New York in August 1944 and she’s now 77.

As a young one, the Nigerian drummer Babatunde Olatunji (1927-2003) fascinated her and was a big influence on her style.

The Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts was also a big inspiration for her.

So, at age 19 in 1963, she took up the drums! Autodidactic from the off, she was self-taught by drumming along to popular songs of the day.

Eventually, The Velvet Underground’s Sterling Morrison recalled she was the high school sister of a friend of his. And this led to her getting an audition and bagging the role.

Tucker’s drumming style is famed for its unconventional approach, often relying on relentless and minimalistic rhythms.

She was more interested in keeping time, so almost entirely refrained form using crash cymbals as she didn’t want to overwhelm other instruments.

The above example is a live gig with video from a different event overlaid by Andy Warhol. But it shows off her style, which is similar to what Jaki Liebezeit was doing in Can.

However, she also positioned her kit in an unusual way. She’d usually be standing up, with the bass drum turned upside down.

Around that, Tucker arranged tom toms and a snare drum. She’d also usually play with mallets instead of drum sticks.

The result? One of the most distinctive drumming styles in rock history.

It worked a treat with The Velvet Underground’s brand of music, which hid debauchery heavy topics behind sweet sounding pop songs.

But we also just have to mention Tucker’s pioneering presence on the drumming scene. Sure, there are a lot more female drummers around these days.

But you really can’t talk about Moe Tucker without highlighting she’s one of the few famous female drummers from the ’60s and ’70s.

You had Karen Carpenter (who, sadly, died in 1983 at 32) and Honey Lantree of The Honeycombs.

But otherwise… no. ’60s and ’70s drumming were dominated by the lunacy of male figureheads with extravagant personalities and thunderous playing styles.

Keith Moon and John Bonham were doing their thing, with the former adding showmanship and spectacle to proceedings.

Tucker’s style is wholly different from her contemporaries. She did, and rather effectively, rely on a more subdued approach.

As you can hear, her style is very cut back. Think of Ginger Baker on Sunshine of Your Love, for example, and it’s nowhere near as in your face.

But despite her limitations (which were along the lines of Ringo Starr’s low key style), she worked around them with creativity.

And in doing so she’s bagged herself a permanent place in history.

As he drumming punctuates these incredible songs without drowning them out. The Velvet Underground wouldn’t have worked with a Moon, Bonham, or Baker.

It needed someone with Tucker’s restraint and timing. The result is timeless work that shows you how versatile drumming is.

Always break those barriers. Do things differently, like Tucker, for fantastic results.

The Velvet Underground 2021 Documentary

Tucker has a big say in this new 2021 documentary and her input is crucial in preserving this landmark band’s story.

It’s a very good documentary, too! With insights on the Swinging Sixties mentality of New York, America, and the music of the day.

Also, note the mention of everyone seeking fame! Human mentality doesn’t change, you see?

We may have social media darlings these days, but had Instagram been around in the ’60s you can guarantee Andy Warhol and Twiggy would have been on the bloody thing pouting away.

Tends to be forgotten by many of the 50+ today whining about today’s youth. You’d have done it, too (probably)! Or not. We’re grounded, aren’t we?

2 comments

  1. I watched the documentary a few weeks ago and loved it.

    I was always curious regarding how Loaded would have sounded if she had been involved. It would certainly be far less traditional than it is, which would make it more interesting overall. Still, it’s one hell of a record.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Shhh! No spoilers! I haven’t watched the docu yet, it’s been advertised everywhere recently though. So I’ll get to it!

      But aye, missing due to maternity leave! And sadly that was Lou Reed’s last one with them. He should really have been called Loud Reed. It would have been apt for his profession.

      Liked by 1 person

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