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Moe Tucker, a Diverse and Minimalist drumming Style

There are not very many women who have left their mark in the drumming industry. And even those who have are not anything close to what Maurine “Moe” Tucker was. Her influences, were not only with one band, but she became the off-kilter thump that pushed a million bands beyond their limits. Whether she drummed directly for a band or not, her influence was always felt throughout.

Maureen Tucker was the drummer for many bands. She 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.

Moe Tucker 2
Mo Tucker

In terms of energy, Moe was more than willing to rumble it out. She would make every strike land with so much power that it sounds like the drums would fall apart. But it mostly depended on what the song wanted.

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, Mo Tucker played standing, something that was very hard for many drummers. This was her signature and a way to show her creativity.

Moe is my favorite drummer because she is expected to be subtle, yet she strikes with such power you can never imagine coming from a woman,” said one of her biggest fans. And perhaps this is the best description of what the drummer was capable of. As if that is not enough, she lived in a time when the industry was dominated by male drummers, which could have made her work much harder, but it did not. Her energy was not just in her hands, but it flowed through her veins and through her will.

Moe was so influential, yet descriptively primitive. Her sophisticated artistic character made the Velvet Underground’s lineup complete. Some critics say that the band stayed together only because she was part of the team. She had some type of attractive force around her that kept everyone close to her, more than they did with everyone else. Her personality alone was enough to tell those around that there was something great in her.

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.

The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground

“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.

Moe was able to impact a large number of artists, ranging from Patti Smith to R.E.M., Galaxie 500, and Nirvana, among many other big names. She had a special place reserved with Velvets leaders Lou Reed and John Cale.

She played V.U. Classics like the “Heroin,” in which she seemingly dispensed with keeping time altogether. Moe swelled and stuttered with such beautiful, emotional ebb and flow of the song that it pulled the listener straight into the moment.  Lou Reed, in 2003, was recorded disclosing that “Maureen Tucker is a genius drummer.” And he was right because her invented drumming style is amazing.

It is thanks to her that the sixties-era avant-garde sonic iconoclasm became a reality. Everything she did was aimed at making the industry grow from strength to strength by encouraging many drummers to showcase their skills.

It was in her unique style of playing that Moe became even more recognized. For instance, whereas many drummers sit behind them to perform, Moe preferred to stand, which made her hit the drums with incredible power. Also, she played with mallets instead of using sticks. With this approach, the sounds she produces were incredibly inspiring.

As if that is not enough, Moe avoided cymbals, unless it was very necessary or unexpected. She always seemed to know what the song needed, and she would not disappoint in delivering the best results.

maureen tucker: 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 her 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 her 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.

Maureen Tucker 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.

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Written by Andrea

Andrea is a music lover and an experienced drummer with more than 15 years of drumming with different bands and music projects, such as Seditius and Hermano & the Marines.

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