A Rare Interview With Keith Moon
CC: Were you living on pills or was that a
MOON: It was true. We had amazing things. We didn’t go out of our way to be nasty, we were naturally nasty. The press would ask these bloody stupid questions like, “What is the color of your socks?” and I’d think, “What’s that got to do with you?”
CC: Was it “My Generation” that made it in
England for you?
MOON: Yes. We had “Anywhere, Anyhow” [sic] but that didn’t go well. “My Generation” made it over here but I can’t remember how we made it to America. The first time we went was the Murray The K Show [March, 1967]. He used to take a theater for two weeks and out on as many shows a day as he could possibly fit in. There was a minimum of four with the first starting at 11:00 in the morning. You could never leave the theater because you never knew when the next one was.
We had eight minutes and it was insane. We always ran overtime, but the reaction we got was amazing, because we were into smashing everything up. Eventually he let us go on a bit. The Cream were with us then on the show, and Wilson Pickett and Mitch Ryder. The next time we went to the States was for Monterey [July ‘67], but that was just in and out. Then we concentrated on New York, which was Kit’s plan. He wanted to take New York and go on to the West Coast using the same formula as we had at the Marquee. We wanted to build up a solid New York following and move out from there.
CC: Were you very much in debt by then?
MOON: Very much so. I don’t think it was because of living too well, although Pete and I are spenders. We are extravagant, to say the least. The main things were the instruments. We’d do a show and get £100, but a guitar would be £150, and a drum set £100. The debt got up to £30,000 or £40,000, and probably a lot more.
CC: Was there a time when the relationship
within the group worsened because of the mounting bills?
MOON: The thing that kept us together was the fact that we knew all along we were going to get somewhere. We didn’t have to convince each other. We were supremely confident. It was a very tough band and nobody would concede. Nobody would say they were leaving the group except in flashes of temper.
CC: How much did the debt reach?
MOON: The figures were astronomical. We used to have meetings that were more like post mortems. Our accountants were pale, ashen figures. We’d pick up the accounts and throw them all over the office, falling about with laughter. There was no account, just debt, debt, debt, with nothing coming in.
It became so huge with equipment costs, van costs, cost for going to the United States — which was amazingly expensive. Over here we would get £200 a week, which sounded great, but it wasn’t. We got about £600 for the Murray The K Show, but we were booked into one of the most expensive hotels in New York. $5,000 would go in two days. We should have a broom cupboard, but there we were in a suite ordering Oysters Rockfeller. We didn’t have any idea at all of money.
CC: When was the turning point as far as money
MOON: In the States, I can’t remember. Ready, Steady, Go was the turning point here after “My Generation” made it. Believe it or not it’s only since Tommy that we have started to have a bit of profit. Before that, nothing, and we had to pay back everything we had borrowed. We did a tour of the States with Herman’s Hermits and lost money. We did a tour in a bus, which we thought was the cheapest way of doing it, but once again the bus came to thousands of dollars.
The money we were earning meant nothing. Going from one gig to another would cost more than the gig money, and on top of that we had the equipment bills. Every night, regular, we’d break the gear. By this time I’d got some stronger drums, but I deliberately broke them.
CC: Were you beginning to develop a following in
the United States?
MOON: On the Herman’s Hermits tour we were second on the bill, closing the first half, and about this time we started picking up fans. It was by playing, not records. It was a slog going around with a big group. The turning point in the States was Tommy in all respects: money-wise, audience-wise, and respect-wise. That got a lot of hassles with the record company sorted out because they respected us then. They would arrange things like free publicity and receptions for us.
CC: You had trouble following Tommy?
MOON: Yes. That’s why we put the live album out [Live At Leeds]. We couldn’t really follow it up. We wanted to do a positive step in another direction, otherwise Pete would be writing Tommys for the rest of his life.