Today it’s easy to forget, but the Who wasn’t always a super massive group everyone has heard of. In the early days from 1964 onwards, the band was plagued by near bankruptcy, perpetual infighting, and creative dilemmas. Indeed, it wasn’t until late 1969 that the band finally began to achieve any steady income, thanks to Pete Townshend’s efforts with Tommy and a timely appearance in the Woodstock documentary.
Prior to this, the Who was renowned as a singles band with a few newsworthy gimmicks. With hits like My Generation, a penchant for smashing instruments, and boasting the world’s most insane drummer, the Who was unglamorous but dramatic. Indeed, thanks to a certain Mr. Keith Moon it was pretty much always in the news, especially following a legendary appearance on the Smothers Brothers show on this day in 1967.
Keith Moon’s Greatest Detonation
The Who had become one of the most controversial groups in England due to a mixture of drug taking (which Townshend talked openly about at the time) and smashing up instruments. It was all about youthful hedonism, anger, and getting press attention to become rich and famous. Modern Hipster bands, incidentally, pretend to be “in it for the music” and all we can say to those freaks is this: “whatever”.
Whilst Townshend smashed his guitar, Moon would demolish his drum kit. As time went on, he took to upping the showmanship with staged explosions from his bass drum. In 1967, as the band toured America for the first time, Moon decided to put on an even bigger show as they went out live on air. You can see what happened in the above clip.
With the release of Tommy in 1968 the group largely sidelined the equipment smashing – they’d matured like a fine punch in the face. Sadly, part of the madness of the band’s early years dissipated with this, and Townshend’s wicked sense of humour wasn’t quite as evident in the band’s music as he chased after high concept ideas.
The Dark Side of the Moon
For the rest of his life, Moon went all out to burn himself up, leading a quite furiously hedonistic, crazed, and bizarre lifestyle. There are stories such as his moving to America and living next door to Steve McQueen. Moon initially attempted to bond with the American, but found his approaches rescinded. Annoyed, to get his own back he’d regularly head over to McQueen’s house dressed as Adolf Hitler to irritate the actor.
Whilst in America, he also recorded a disastrous solo album which is notorious for costing the studio $200,000. This bill largely went on partying and to pay celebrity contributors, although everyone was far too out of it to do anything interesting. Moon also, for whatever reason, sang on many of the tracks and refused to drum… it was something of a wasted opportunity.
Eventually, Moon departed from this planet in September 1978, largely due to his manic dependence on booze and drugs. Interestingly, his largely elusive daughter Mandy De Woolf (now 50) just helped release a book about her childhood memories living with rock music’s wildest bloke. This is called Keith Moon: There is no Substitute and was released on Friday.