Moe Tucker

Born Maureen Ann Tucker, August 26, 1944, Levittown in New York, Moe is of course regarded as The VELVET UNDERGROUND’s only “real” drummer. For three seminal studio albums (`The Velvet Underground And Nico’, `White Light/White Heat’ and `The Velvet Underground’ – one could also count her subsequent part in `Loaded’ and `VU’/“lost tapes”), mop-top Moe was a motivational mover and groover with the quartet until her leave of absence (due to pregnancy) and the combo’s inevitable collapse in 1970.
Invited into the VU fold by her sister’s college chum Sterling Morrison, as permanent replacement (late ’65) for percussionist Angus MacLise, TUCKER contributed her squeaky-twee vocal chords to a handful of short songs, including `After Hours’ and `I’m Sticking With You’. Her androgynous looks and her unique technique of “malleting the skins” (tom toms, snare drum and upturned bass) to gain beats and a rhythm rather that crashing the cymbals, was one of the many things that identified The VELVET UNDERGROUND as pioneers of art-rock and punk.
TUCKER’s post-Velvets time was spent settling into domestic life bringing up her children with her husband in their home in Phoenix, Arizona; Moe would gradually edge her way back into the music scene via independent releases for local imprints; a fresh take of `I’m Sticking With You’ was her introductory shared debut 45, while PLAYIN’ POSSUM (1982) {*7} – as Maureen Tucker – was her inaugural debut covers set. Akin to past, aforementioned VU records, although recorded from her living room, modest Moe permitted herself the closing track (the 6-minute `Elias’ on this occasion) to round off vintage-R&B-nuggets from greats like BO DIDDLEY (`Bo Diddley’), LITTLE RICHARD (`Slippin’ And Slidin’’), Richard Berry (`Louie Louie’) and CHUCK BERRY (`Around And Around’); others comprised `I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight’ (BOB DYLAN), `Heroin’ (LOU REED) and `Concerto In D Major’ (Vivaldi).
Subsequently divorced from her hubby and music for a time (flitting to Douglas in Georgia where she worked at Wal-Mart), TUCKER crashed back on to the scene in the late 80s as part of LOU REED’s `New York’ set session, and for HALF JAPANESE in 1990 (`Fire In The Sky’); after much speculation The VELVET UNDERGROUND would officially re-form for live gigs in 1993.
As a sideline to her outside collaborative projects, and spurred on by a good response to her `MoeJadKateBarry’ shared EP of 1987 (featuring JAD FAIR, Kate Messer and Barry Stock on various VU re-vamps), Maureen re-kickstarted her solo career via long-awaited part-penned sophomore set, LIFE IN EXILE AFTER ABDICATION (1989) {*7}. With help from recent backers and guest spots from LOU REED (on `Pale Blue Eyes’), SONIC YOUTH (for the 8-minute `Chase’), JAD FAIR and DANIEL JOHNSTON (for `Do It Right’), the drummer/multi-instrumentalist had pieced together an eclectic work of some distinction.
For 1991’s punk/grunge-driven I SPENT A WEEK THERE THE OTHER NIGHT {*7}, singer MOE TUCKER was again calling the shots; a reunification of VU for a version of `I’m Waiting For The Man’ a definitive highlight; the VIOLENT FEMMES’ Brian Ritchie and Victor DeLorenzo were also on board. But for a girly cut of Phil Spector’s `(And) Then He Kissed Me’, Moe’s classy originals stole the show – `Fired Up’, `Blue, All The Way To Canada’ and the Iggy-like `That’s Bad’ and `I’m Not’ best in show.
Maintaining her connections with Don Fleming, Sterling Morrison, DeLorenzo, bassist John Sluggett and long-time stalwart (and punk) Sonny Vincent, 1994’s DOGS UNDER STRESS {*5} was a simple, effective affair that also featured fellow female drummer Miriam Linna (ex-CRAMPS, ex-Nervous Rex); the karaoke of `Danny Boy’ seemed out of place here. As much known for her “Spector-esque” EPs and rare singles as well as her other live sets (OH NO, THEY’RE RECORDING THIS SHOW (1992) {*5}, The Kropotkins 2000 album `Five Points Crawl’ and MOE ROCKS TERRASTOCK (2002) {*5}), mother of five Moe duly retired gracefully to help take care of her grandson; she’s currently up in arms about American politics and is a keen supporter of the Tea Party protest movement.
© MC Strong/MCS Apr2012

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