Guest Blogger: Enjoy this post by Chris Welch, author of Treasures of The Who, in honor of Keith Moon.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY KEITH
Clad in a white T-shirt, dripping in sweat, eyes popping and sticks thrashing, Keith Moon was the perfect drummer for The Who. His unique style and explosive personality helped shape their music and underpinned their image. In an age when rock drummers were hailed as individuals and free to play as they wished, then Moon was the ultimate iconic showman.
We all cherish images of Keith as that boyish powerhouse, full of fun and ready for the next outrage. His legacy epitomises not just the music of the Who but the great age of pop and rock music. So it’s hard to believe that as we remember his birthday, had he lived, he would now be a 67 year old, drawing his pension and perhaps grumbling about the music and misbehaviour of modern youth.
Of course Moon gained a worldwide reputation as a prankster and wrecker of hotels, cars and TV sets. But there was a genuine musician behind the gossip column headline maker.
Once seated behind his enormous Premier drum kit Moon became a cloud burst of energy who demanded to be heard and loved every minute of a performance, even if it drove him to the point of collapse.
He also had sufficient command of the rudiments to develop a distinctive style and impressive technique. Speedy rolls around the snare drum and tom toms brought a percussive triumphalism to songs like 1965’s ‘My Generation’, the hits from Townshend’s 1969 rock opera ‘Tommy’ and the dynamic brilliance of ‘Young Man Blues’ on the 1970 ‘Live At Leeds’ classic album.
As he elevated the drums to a lead instrument, Moon left the chore of time keeping to bass playing partner John Entwistle. But it was his sheer bravado that impressed some unlikely fans amongst the often conservative ranks of fellow drummers.
While some complained that Keith couldn’t hold down a solid beat or even play the hi-hat properly it was Miles Davis’ own teenage drummer Tony Williams who took delight in this anarchic approach. In fact he later proclaimed that Keith Moon was his all-time favourite drummer.
But as the dark side of the Moon began to take hold and he succumbed to ill health, his drumming began to suffer. He recorded his last Who album ‘Who Are You’ during the same year as his death in 1978, aged just 32.
At his funeral service Roger Daltrey’s floral tribute was in the form of a champagne bottle smashed through a TV set. Tourists in London can now spot a more permanent tribute; a special Keith Moon commemorative Blue Plaque on Soho’s Wardour Street at the site of the former Marquee Club, where the Who and Moon started ‘Maximum R&B’ back in 1964.
The Marquee was also the last place where I began a night out drinking with Keith. We were supposed to be in pursuit of the latest punk rock groups he professed to like and urged me to ‘get into’. He drove me down the street to a nearby spit laden punk club in his Rolls Royce with Jan and Dean blaring out on the car stereo. He spilt brandy all over us before disappearing in the company of P.J.Proby. I think he guessed I never liked punk and would sooner hear The Who – or Jan & Dean any day. At least we agreed on that.
Would he have been pleased to know The Who carried on in his absence? I think yes. He was proud of their music and would have wished all the best for his old mates. But if his spectre ever looked down on the Who still playing ‘My Generation’, I’m sure he would have felt pangs of jealousy and a wild eyed desire to grab the sticks and take over his beloved drums – once more time.
The Who defined a generation and rocked the world. “My Generation,” “Pinball Wizard,” and “Baba O’Riley” are some of the most iconic tracks in rock history. The rock opera Tommy, the genre-defining Live at Leeds, and the R&B classic Quadrophenia are just some of The Who’s albums. The band’s original lineup had an amazing 15-year run, as they blazed their way around the globe, performing live and recording until the death of drummer Keith Moon in 1978. John Entwhistle died in 2002, but remaining founding members Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend continue to tour.
Treasures of The Who takes you on the journey with the band as they conquered the world: from small London clubs to Madison Square Garden, from seven-inch vinyl releases to multimillion-selling albums, all the way to recognition as global rock gods.
The text has been researched and written by Chris Welch, the legendary English journalist who was close to the band, and it is accompanied by images from many of the best contemporary photographers. There are also removable facsimiles of stunning, super-rare memorabilia from one of the biggest collections around. It adds up to a unique experience: the story of The Who in your hands.