Making Music Herstory Vol IV: Moe Tucker

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Maureen Ann Tucker, or just plain old Moe, is the former drummer for the Velvet Underground. She began playing drums at 19 without having had any lessons, and she taught herself to play by drumming along to the radio. In a band that was dominated by Lou Reed’s hyper-masculinity, Moe Tucker held her own, showing that girls are literally doing it for themselves.

Image: Gijsbert Hanekroot

Tucker’s drumming style wasn’t technically dazzling, but it was her self-starting mentality that gave the Velvet Underground their lo-fi sound, proving anyone could be a rockstar. As Brian Eno said, “The first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band.” She played standing up for easier access to the bass drum, and rarely used cymbals as she said that the drummer’s role was primarily to “keep time” and cymbals got in the way of this. She also preferred to use mallets rather than sticks, which give her more control over the sound of the drums.

It was Tucker’s non-musical background that allowed her to approach playing music in a wholly new way, leading to the creation of an entirely original sound. What could be more punk than shoving your way into the boy’s club and doing things exactly your way?

Aside from her drumming, Tucker also features on vocals for ‘After Hours’. Lou Reed once said of this track that it was “so innocent and pure” that the only person who could really sing it was Moe. Her voice was a true diamond in the rough: not necessarily the most beautiful, but the most heartfelt.

Although she has since given up music to raise a family, Moe Tucker’s influence on the music scene is undeniable. Without Moe Tucker, there would be no Patti Smith, no PJ Harvey, no Debbie Harry. As one of the most under-appreciated sculptors of the 1960s New York punk scene, she took her position at the back of the stage and simply played, doing whatever felt right. And boy did it feel right.

Tracklist: ‘After Hours’; ‘Venus In Furs’; ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’; ‘Sunday Morning’; ‘Heroin’

Jemima Skala

Making Music Herstory
Vol I
Vol II
Vol III