Features

Moon Probe: A Rare Interview With Keith Moon

Keith Moon

By 1972, Keith Moon had enjoyed nine years of a whirlwind lifestyle that took him to the very top of the international music scene with the Who. Even though his success resulted from hard, endless touring, Moon discovered the perfect environment for his erratic lifestyle. He felt at home on the road, claustrophobic at home.

After nine years, however, the Who no longer were compelled to prove themselves: Tommy, alone, had guaranteed their place in rock-and-roll history. Their massive debts long since settled, the bandmembers were ready for an extended break from the road — all of them but Moon, that is.

The hiatus seemed to pull Keith in two different directions. On one hand, his pranks grew more theatrical. And instead of performing them in hotel rooms or onstage, he started to play them on the general public. But Moon also moved out of London that same year, in an apparent effort to pull his failing marriage together, and escape London’s party scene. It was an interesting time for him to talk to the press.

Keith Moon granted veteran British music journalist Chris Charlesworth the following interview, which appeared in the April 22, 1972 edition of the long-standing British music paper, Melody Maker. It was rare to see Moon’s words in print, since most of the time the press wanted to talk only to Pete Townshend. Most readers at the time might have expected a string of one-liners, front to back. And Moon was more than willing to turn a phrase on cue. The surprising thing was how serious his tone could become when the interview led in that direction. –Editor

CC: When did you first start playing drums?
MOON: Twelve years ago, roughly. A friend of mine had a set and a record player in Wembley. I used to pop over to his place and play to records. I had a job selling sticking plaster at the time.

CC: What was the first group you played with?
MOON: I don’t think we actually had a name. If we did it was something like the Mighty Avengers or the Escort or some polite name. We played Shane Fenton or Johnny Kidd And The Pirates or “Spanish Harlem,” and Shadows stuff, and Zoots. We played local town halls or factory dances, weddings a specialty. I played in several different groups and I joined one called the Beachcombers.

CC: How did you meet up with the High Numbers?
MOON: We were working a circuit, which a group called the Detours used to work, and people used to come up to us and say, “You’re not as good as the Detours. They’re a smashing band.” After a couple of months of this I was fed up of people saying this and I decided to have a look at them. I had heard a rumor their drummer was leaving, too, so I went down to a pub near me, the Oldfield Hotel, to see them.

They were outrageous. All the groups at that time were smart, but onstage the Detours had stage things made of leather, which were terrible. Pete looked very sullen. They were a bit frightening and I was scared of them. Obviously they had been playing together for a few years and it showed as well. I asked the manager of the club to introduce me to them. I was standing there and I had a few drinks, so I thought I’d play. I crept around the side and asked Dave the drummer if I could do a couple of numbers. He said yes.

They were doing a lot of blues numbers and “Roadrunner” and really great stuff. I was fed up with “Spanish Harlem” and wanted to get into this band, so I got on the drums and I must have been outrageous. I had dyed ginger hair, ginger cord suit. I was horrible. I looked a right state. I did a couple of numbers and broke the bass drum pedal, being rather heavy handed.

They asked me over for a drink but they didn’t say much. They didn’t ask me to join the group but they said they were having a rehearsal at some West Indian Club. Nobody said I had joined the group but I went along. This chap from Philips Records, Chris Parmenter, turns up with another drummer because they had been offered a record deal by Philips and they badly wanted the other drummer out.

This chap from Philips turned up, and so did I, it was rather embarrassing. He set up his kit and I set mine and nobody was saying anything. The rest of the band just didn’t care. They were turning up in one corner and it was dead embarrassing. Then they asked me to play in the first number, but the man from Philips wanted to play. I can’t remember if he played or not, but the group said they didn’t want him. So I just stayed with them. Nobody actually said I was in the group. I was just there and I’ve been there ever since. They were an amazing crowd and they still are.

CC: How long were you with the group?
MOON: They were the Detours, then [early ‘64] on the circuit. Then they changed their name to The Who and they were The Who when I joined them. It was a friend of Pete’s idea to call them The Who. We went through various names, like any group. We had a manager called Pete Meaden who thought up The High Numbers and the mod image. I don’t think we quite knew what we were doing, but before we knew it, we had all this mod gear, feeling totally out of place. This phase lasted a long time and at the time there were these legendary fights within the group.

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