Moe Tucker performed with a unique approach to drums, beyond what her time demanded. First, she used a minimalist drumming style, which did not seem to make sense to many.
This style has received a lot of applauds as well as criticism, especially with rock performers. But Moe Tucker was determined to do something different, which was the only way she could make the world understand what she was representing.
Secondly, Tucker played standing, something that was very hard for many drummers. This was her signature and a way to show her creativity.
But the most amazing style was how she kept the simple patterns. She did not even use the bass drum, which would make it hard to keep time. And yet other members of the band were always impressed with her impeccable timing skills. This was key to their sound, and she made sure it all came out as steady as expected.
Lou Reed’s solo album, New York, could be the best proof of what the drummer can do. Her skills are clearly expressed on every piece, which made the album very famous. On the closing track, “Dime Stone Mystery,” Tucker takes over the throne, with passion and letting out every emotion in this tribute to Velvet’s founding member Sterling Morrison.
“When I first listened to the song, it felt as though the drummer were talking directly to me,” recorded one listener. “It was like, there was reading my mind, with all the emotion that flowed freely.” And you can clearly hear the sound of The Velvet Underground, with more light than other solo tracks from Reed.
Life and career
Moe Tucker was born on 26 August 1944 in Jackson Heights, Queens. She was raised in Levittown, New York, in a middle-class family. Her older brother was friends with Sterling Morrison, who might have contributed to her love for music.
In her teenage years, Tucker was a big Babatunde Olatunji fan. She had first listened to his music on Murray the K’s radio show. Olatunji, Bo Diddley, and The Rolling Stones became her inspiration; hence she started drumming at 19. It is amazing how she learned by playing along with the songs, without any formal education.
Her second-hand drum kit became the most important part of her life.
Tucker dropped out of Ithaca College and was working for IBM on the keypunch when the Velvet Underground invited her. Their band did not have a percussionist after the exit of Angus Maclise in November 1965.
She was taken in because Sterling Morrison remembered her as the younger sister to his friend she was noted for her androgynous appearance, yet she never experiences any sexism issues the whole time.
Her playing style was unconventional, unlike anything else a drummer of her time would do. While standing, she did her thing and used a simplified drum kit of tom toms, a snare and upturned bass.
She also dropped drumsticks and used mallets instead. She never rarely used cymbals, stating they were unnecessary in the drummer’s main role as the timekeeper.