Moe Tucker (1992)
|Maureen Ann Tucker|
|Born||August 26, 1944|
Jackson Heights, Queens,
New York City, U.S.
|Drummer, musician, singer-songwriter, singer|
|1963-c. 2007; 2017|
Maureen Ann "Moe" Tucker (born August 26, 1944) is an American musician and singer best known for having been the drummer for the New York City-based rock band the Velvet Underground.
Maureen Tucker was born in Jackson Heights, Queens, and grew up in Levittown, New York in a middle-class Catholic family. Her father, James, was a housepainter and her mother, Margaret, was a clerical worker. She had an older brother, Jim, who was friends with Sterling Morrison, and a sister, Margo.
As a teenager Tucker was an avid fan of Babatunde Olatunji, whose music she first heard on Murray the K's radio show. Olatunji, along with Bo Diddley and the Rolling Stones, inspired her to become a musician. She began playing the drums in 1963, at age 19. Without any formal instruction, she learned by playing along with popular songs on a second-hand drum kit.
When she was asked to join the Velvet Underground, Tucker had dropped out of Ithaca College and was working for IBM as a keypunch operator. The band's original percussionist, Angus Maclise, had left in November 1965 because he felt the band sold out when it took a paying gig. Tucker was drafted because Velvets guitarist Sterling Morrison remembered her as the younger sister of one of his college friends who played the drums. Tucker was frequently noted for her androgynous appearance. In spite of this, Tucker has said that she never experienced difficulties due to sexism during this time.
Tucker's style of playing was unconventional. She played standing up rather than seated (for easier access to the bass drum), using a simplified drum kit of tom toms, a snare drum and an upturned bass drum, playing with mallets rather than drumsticks. She rarely used cymbals; she claimed that since she felt the purpose of a drummer was simply to "keep time", cymbals were unnecessary for this purpose and drowned out the other instruments. Rock critic Robert Christgau said of Tucker, "Mo was a great drummer in a minimalist, limited, autodidactic way that I think changed musical history. She is where the punk notion of how the beat works begins."
Apart from drumming, Tucker sang co-lead vocals on three Velvet Underground songs: the acoustic guitar number "After Hours" and the experimental poetry track "The Murder Mystery", both from 1969's The Velvet Underground album, as well as "I'm Sticking with You", a song recorded in 1969 but left (officially) unreleased until it appeared on the 1985 outtakes compilation VU. Lou Reed said of "After Hours" that it was "so innocent and pure" that he could not possibly sing it himself. In the early days, Tucker also occasionally played the bass guitar during live gigs, an instrument that was usually played by the band's regular bassist John Cale. Morrison would normally play the bass if Cale was occupied with viola or keyboards, despite his lack of enthusiasm for playing the instrument. However, some songs had Reed and Morrison playing their usual guitars and Cale was occupied with viola or keyboards and as a result, nobody was on bass: two examples of this are "Heroin" and "Sister Ray".
Tucker temporarily left the group when she became pregnant with her first child, Kerry "Trucker" Tucker, in early 1970. Because of her pregnancy, Tucker was only able to play on a couple of outtakes for Loaded, which would become the band's fourth and final album with Lou Reed. Billy Yule, the younger and high-school-age brother of bassist Doug Yule, filled in the role of drummer for live performances and some of the songs on the album.
Tucker returned to the band in late 1970, by which time Reed had left the group and Doug Yule had assumed leadership. She toured North America (United States and Canada) and Europe (United Kingdom and the Netherlands) with the band during 1970 and 1971; shortly afterward, she quit the band and the music business altogether to raise a family.
Tucker moved to Phoenix, Arizona, in 1971, where she lived with her husband and children. While living in Phoenix, she played drums in the short-lived band Paris 1942 with Alan Bishop of the Sun City Girls. In the early 1980s, she divorced and relocated to Douglas, Georgia, where she was hired at a Wal-Mart distribution center. She quit the job in 1989 when she was asked to go on tour of Europe with the band Half Japanese.
Tucker started recording and touring again, releasing a number of albums on small, independent labels that feature her singing and playing guitar, fronting her own band. This band at times included former Velvets colleague Sterling Morrison. Tucker also participated in the 1993 Velvet Underground reunion, touring Europe and releasing the double album Live MCMXCIII.
Apart from releasing her own records, Tucker has made guest performances on a number of others' records, including producing Fire in the Sky (1992) for Half Japanese, whose guitarist, John Sluggett, plays drums on her own recordings. In Jeff Feuerzeig's documentary about Half Japanese, The Band That Would Be King, Tucker performs and is interviewed extensively. Also, she has appeared with Magnet and former Velvet Underground band members Lou Reed (New York) and John Cale (Walking on Locusts).
She played bass drum, wrote songs, and sang with the New York/Memphis punk rock-delta blues fusion group the Kropotkins with Lorette Velvette and Dave Soldier in 1999-2003, recording "Five Points Crawl".
In 2017 she played at the Grammy Salute to Music Legends awards ceremony. A band, amongst others, consisting of John Cale, played two Velvet Underground classics "Sunday Morning" and "I'm Waiting For The Man". The Velvet Underground was the recipient of the 2017 Merit Award.
Moe Tucker was married in the early 1970s, and divorced some time in the early 1980s. She has five children: Kerry, Keith, Austen, Kate, and Richard. Tucker lives in Douglas, Georgia, where she raised her family. In a 2010 interview, she said she had ceased making music several years prior, saying caring for her grandson was a "full-time job".
In April 2009, Tucker gave an interview at a Tea Party rally in Tifton, Georgia, to a WALB NBC news crew. She voiced support for the Tea Party movement and said she was "furious about the way we're being led towards socialism". On the official "Tea Party Patriots" website, Tucker stated: "I have come to believe (not just wonder) that Obama's plan is to destroy America from within."
Tucker expanded on her political views later to the Riverfront Times, saying: "To be honest, I never paid attention to what the hell was going on. My always voting Democrat was the result of that. My philosophy was and is all politicians are liars, bums and cheats." She remained adamant about the need to change the Obama administration.
+ Although Tucker did not appear on the original release of the band's 1970 album Loaded, a 1997 2CD re-issue by Rhino Records subtitled Fully Loaded Edition includes two late 1969/early 1970 demos, "I Found a Reason" and another take on "I'm Sticking with You", which feature her on drums and vocals, respectively.
With Charles Douglas (a.k.a. Alex McAulay)
With the Kropotkins
With Lou Reed
With Half Japanese
With Charlie Pickett
With Shotgun Rationale
With John Cale
With the Raveonettes
When I had to play viola, Sterling had to play bass, which he hated.According to the website, the quote is from John Cale's autobiography, What's Welsh for Zen (NY: St. Martin's Press (2000).