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1972 Rolling Stone Cover Story interview with Keith Moon

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  • Richard Kaplan
    Keith Moon Bites Back A multi-decibel interview with the Who s wild man JEREMY HOPKINS Posted Dec 21, 1972 12:00 AM It is probably fitting that Keith Moon
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      Keith Moon Bites Back
      A multi-decibel interview with the Who's wild man

      JEREMY HOPKINS

      Posted Dec 21, 1972 12:00 AM

      It is probably fitting that Keith Moon plays the most aggressive
      instrument, drums, in the most explosive of groups, the Who, for Moon
      clearly seems more outrageous and more violent than any of his
      contemporaries. Behind him for a period of ten years, for more than a
      third of his life, he has left a trail of empty Courvoisier bottles,
      splintered drum kits, wrecked automobiles and gutted hotel rooms,
      punctuating every inconceivable incident with a bark of total pleasure
      and amusement.

      There are uncounted "Keith Moon Stories" floating around, Keith tells
      several here. Unfortunately, much is lost in translating Moon to
      print. His energetic sprints around the room, his dozen or so precise
      vocal impressions and dialects, the rubbery, gap-toothed face, the
      singing and dancing, the infectious volleys of laughter -- all must be
      experienced.

      So must his $150,000 modern house, set on the site of an ancient
      monastery nearly an hour from London in the green suburban stockbroker
      belt. The walls of the bar are painted in a Marvel Comics hero-villain
      motif, and the ceiling is draped like a sultan's tent. The sitting
      room is a huge, richly cushioned "conversation pit" with a color
      television and a stainless steel fireplace that's never been used.
      There is almost no furniture, anywhere. But there is a stuffed
      albatross, a polar bear rug, several rifles, an old jukebox and a
      sound system that will send multi-decibel music far beyond the
      boundaries of his seven-acre estate.

      From the outside, the house looks to be a collection of square
      pyramids, painted a glaring white. On one side is a tree so large it
      had to be lowered in by two helicopters. On the other side workmen are
      presently excavating a swimming pool that will be lined with marble
      and will offer the underwater swimmer the latest recorded melodies.
      When I arrived, the live-in housekeeper -- Moon's mother-in-law -- was
      in Spain on holiday. His longhaired mechanic and driver, Dougal, was
      working on the engine of the 1936 Chrysler, which was parked between
      the XKE Jaguar and the Dino Ferrari. The missus, Kim, and the child,
      Mandy, 6, were out. And the lord of the manor was banging away with a
      shotgun, firing randomly into the tall leafy reaches of a horse
      chestnut tree.

      How did you come to the group to begin with?

      First they were called the Detours, then the Who, then the High
      Numbers, then the Who again. I joined in the second phase, when they
      were changing from the Detours to the Who. I was in another group on
      the same pub circuit called the Beachcombers.

      Does that mean surfing music?

      It did when I joined, yeah. AH-HAHAHA!

      Ever been surfing?

      Once, and I nearly fucking killed me-self. We were in Hawaii, and I
      said I must surf. Jesus, I been buying surfing records for years, you
      know, I've got to try it. So I rented a board and paddled out with all
      those other guys. The wahines were on the beach. Woodies. Surfers'
      paradise, right? I took off in the distance and there's a huge wave
      coming. I said to one of the guys, "What do I do?" And he said [Moon
      goes into a cool, anonymous American voice], "Well, okay, buddy, all
      you got to do when you see that wave there comin', she hits, boy, she
      hits, and you want to be traveling at relatively the same speed, so
      you paddle." Perfectly logical. I said, great. And then this solid
      wall of water came. All of a sudden this bloody thing hit me up the
      arse, and I move from like doing two miles an hour to two hundred! I'm
      hanging onto the sides of the bloody board, y'see, and 1 hear: "Stand
      up, man!" Stand up? So I stand up and I look up and there's water all
      around me, I'm in a great funnel, a great big sort of tube of water.
      And then I see the coral reef coming up. I'd only been on me feet for
      about two seconds, but it seemed like a fucking lifetime. Sod it! Sod
      it! I fell off, the wave crashed down on the reef, the board went
      backwards and then was thrown up in the air by the water. I surfaced,
      shook me 'ead and relaxed. Then I looked up and saw this bloody board
      coming from about sixty feet in the air straight at me 'ead. I went
      underwater and it went ssssshhwwwoooom! I've got a bald patch ever
      since where it scraped me skull. AH-HA-HAHA-HA-ha-ha-ha! Jan and Dean
      never told it like it really was. Certainly bloody didn't!

      So the Beachcombers was a surfing band, sort of?

      Sort of. It relied on vocals more than instruments. As I'm a
      disgusting singer . . . I mean, the boys don't let me sing. I don't
      blame them. I sometimes forget meself and join in, and they have to
      come down on me: "Moon . . . Out!" I mean, I even get sent offstage
      during "Behind Blue Eyes" just in case I forget meself. It's the only
      number of the Who's that really requires precise harmony. The rest of
      it's all: "YEEEAAAAHHHH-Magic-bus!" We shout. It doesn't matter. So
      they send me off during "Blue Eyes" because either I'm buggering about
      and I put the boys off, or I try to sing and really put them off.

      Anyway, I'd decided my talent as a drummer was wasted in a tight-knit
      harmony group like the Beachcombers, and the only band that I heard of
      that sounded as loud as I did was the Detours. So when I heard their
      drummer had left, I laid plans to insinuate meself into the group.
      They were playing at a pub near me, the Oldfield. I went down there,
      and they had a session drummer sitting in with them. I got up onstage
      and said, "Well, I can do better than him." They said go ahead, and I
      got behind this other guy's drums and I did one song -- "Road Runner."
      I'd had several drinks to get me courage up, and when I got onstage I
      went arrrrrggGHHHHHHH on the drums, broke the base drum pedal and two
      skins and got off. I figured that was it, I was scared to death.

      Afterwards I was sitting at the bar, and Pete came over. He said, "You
      . . . come 'ere." I said, mild as you please: "Yesyes?" And Roger, who
      was the spokesman then, said, "What're you doing next Monday?" I said,
      "Nothing." I was working during the day, selling plaster. He said,
      "You'll have to give up work." I said, "All right, I'll pack in work."
      Roger said, 'There's this gig on Monday. If you want to come, we'll
      pick you up in the van." I said, "Right." They said they'd come by at
      seven. And that was it. Nobody ever said, "You're in." They just said,
      "What're you doing Monday?"

      Were you being managed by Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp at this point?

      No, we were with a man who made doorknobs -- young, naive lads that we
      were. This man's suggestions were the only ones we got, except the
      lewd ones from the audience. We really didn't have faith in ourselves
      then. Then when we settled in, the suggestions seemed ludicrous, so we
      decided to get rid of him, and Kit Lambert came to see us playing at
      the Railway 'Otel in 'Arrow. We had a meeting. We didn't like each
      other at first, really. Kit and Chris. They went 'round together. And
      they were . . . are . . . as incongruous a team as we are. You got
      Chris on one hand [goes into unintelligible East London cockney].' "Oh
      well, fuck it, jus, jus whack 'im in-a 'ead, 'it 'im in -- balls an'
      all." And Kit says (slipping into a proper Oxonian): "Well, I don't
      agree, Chris; the thing is . . . the whole thing needs to be thought
      out in damned fine detail." These people were perfect for us, because
      there's me, bouncing about, full of pills, full of everything I could
      get me 'ands on . . . and there's Pete, very serious, never laughed,
      always cool, a grass-'ead. I was working at about ten times the speed
      Pete was. And Kit and Chris were like the epitome of what we were.

      When you went with them, the Mod image was . . .

      . . . forced on us. It was very dishonest. The mod thing was Kit's
      idea. We were all sent down to a hairdresser, Robert James. Absolutely
      charming lad, We were then sent to Carnaby Street with more money than
      we'd ever seen in our lives before, like a hundred quid [$250] each.
      This was Swinging London. Most of our audience were mods, pill-'eads
      like ourselves, you see. We weren't into clothes; we were into music.
      Kit thought we should identify more with our audience. Coats slashed
      five inches at the sides. Four wasn't enough. Six was too much. Five
      was just right. The trousers came three inches below the hip. It was
      our uniform.

      Your motto at the time was "maximum R&B." What did that mean?

      We were playing a lot of Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Elmore James, B. B.
      King, and they are maximum R&B. You can't get any better. Most of the
      songs we played were their songs. Pete really got into his writing
      stride after "Can't Explain." Of course any song we did get 'old of,
      we weren't playing straight from the record. We "Who'd" it, so that
      what came out was the Who, not a copy.

      Like "Summertime Blues."

      Exactly. That's a song that's been "Who'd."

      How did the stuttering effect in "My Generation" evolve?

      Pete had written out the words and gave them to Roger in the studio.
      He'd never seen them before, he was unfamiliar with the words, so when
      he read them through the first time, he stuttered. Kit was producing
      us then, and when Roger stuttered, Kit said [Oxonian accent]: "We
      leave it in; leave in the stuttering." When we realized what'd
      happened, it knocked us all sideways. And it happened simply because
      Roger couldn't read the words.

      The first American tour. Do you remember it with fondness?

      For me it was a tour of discovery. It was three months with 'Erman's
      'Ermits. Backing up the 'Ermits was ideal. It was a position that
      suited us. We weren't on the line. If the place sold only a portion of
      what it could 'ave sold, the disaster was never blamed on us, it was
      blamed on 'Erman's 'Ermits. We didn't have the responsibility. We had
      time to discover. We found the good towns.

      Which ones are they?

      For the Who they're New York, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, San
      Francisco and Cleveland. They have the best audiences for us.

      Was it on this tour you had your infamous birthday party?

      Yes. That's how I lost me front tooth. In Flint, Michigan. We had a
      show that night. We were all around the 'Oliday Inn pool, 'Erman's
      'Ermits and meself. I was twenty-one, and they started giving me
      presents. Somebody gave me a portable bar and somebody else the
      portable booze. I'd started drinking about ten o'clock in the morning,
      and I can't remember the show. Then the record companies 'ad booked a
      big room in the 'otel, one of the conference rooms, for a party. As
      the hours went on, it got louder and louder, and everybody started
      getting well out their minds, well stoned. The pool was the obvious
      target. Everybody started jumping in the pool with their clothes on.

      The Premier Drum Company 'ad given me a 'uge birthday cake, with like
      five drums stacked up on top of each other. As the party degenerated
      into a slanging, I picked up the cake, all five tiers, and hurled it
      at the throng. People'd started picking up the pieces and 'urling it
      about. Everybody was covered with marzipan and icing sugar and
      fruitcake. The manager 'eard the fracas and came in. There it was, his
      great carpet, stained irrevocably with marzipan and fruitcake trodden
      in, and everybody dancing about with their trousers off. By the time
      the sheriff came in I was standing there in me underpants. I ran out,
      jumped into the first car I came to, which was a brand-new Lincoln
      Continental. It was parked on a slight hill, and when I took the
      handbrake off, it started to roll and it smashed straight through this
      pool surround fence, and the whole Lincoln Continental went into the
      'Oliday Inn swimming pool, with me in it. AH-HA-HA-HA-HA!

      So there I was, sitting in the eight-foot-six in the driver's seat of
      a Lincoln Continental, underwater. And the water was pouring in --
      coming in through the bloody pedal 'oles in the floorboard, you know,
      squirting in through the windows. In a startling moment of logical I
      said, "Well, I can't open the doors until the pressure is the same
      It's amazing 'ow I remembered those things from my physics class! I
      knew I'd 'ave to wait until the pressure was the same. So I'm sitting
      there, thinking about me situation, as the water creeps up to me nose.
      Today I can think of less outrageous ways of going than drowning in a
      Lincoln Continental in a 'Oliday Inn swimming pool, but at that time I
      'ad no thoughts of death whatsoever. There was none of that
      all-me-life-passing-before-me-eyes-in-a-flash. I was busy planning. I
      knew if I panicked, I'd 'ave 'ad it. So when there's just enough air
      in the top of the car to take a gulp, I fill up me lungs, throw open
      the door and go rising to the top of the pool. I figured there'd be
      quite a crowd gathered by now. After all, I'd been down there
      underwater for some time. I figured they'd be so grateful I was alive,
      they'd overlook the Lincoln Continental. But no. There's only one
      person standing there and 'e's the pool cleaner, and 'es got to have
      the pool cleaned in the morning, and he's furious.

      So I went back to the party, streaming water, still in me underpants.
      The first person I see is the sheriff, and he's got 'is 'and on 'is
      gun. Sod this! And I ran, I started to leg it out the door, and I
      slipped on a piece of marzipan and fell flat on me face and knocked
      out me tooth. Ah-ha-ha HA-HA-HAHAHA!

      I spent the remainder of the night under the custody of the sheriff at
      a dentist's. The dentist couldn't give me any anesthetic because I was
      pissed out of me mind. So 'e 'ad to rip out what was left of the tooth
      and put a false one in, and the next day I spent a couple of hours in
      the nick [jail]. The boys 'ad chartered me a plane because they 'ad to
      leave on an earlier flight. The sheriff took me out in the law car,
      and he puts me on the plane and says [American accent], "Son, don't
      ever dock in Flint, Michigan, again." I said, "Dear boy, I wouldn't
      dream of it." And I was lisping around the new tooth. AH-HAHA HAHAHA!

      By now I'd learned 'ow destructive we'd all been. During the merriment
      someone 'ad upset all the fire extinguishers and turned them on all
      the cars in the car park. Six of them 'ad to 'ave new paint jobs; the
      paint all peeled off. We'd also destroyed a piano. Completely
      destroyed it. Reduced it to kindling. And don't forget the carpet. And
      the Lincoln Continental in the bottom of the pool. So I got a bill for
      $24,000. AH-HAHAHAHA! I wasn't earning 'alf that on the tour, and I'd
      spent everything by the time I'd got to Flint, Michigan. I was in debt
      up past me eyebrows before this 'appened. Luckily, 'Erman's 'Ermits
      and the boys split it up; about thirty of us all gave a thousand
      dollars each. It was like a religious ceremony as we all came up and
      dropped a thousand dollars into a big 'at and sent it off to the
      'Oliday Inn with a small compliments card with "BALLS" written across
      it -- and the words, "See you soon." Ah-ha-ha-HA-HA Ha ho-HAHAHA!

      You can't have destroyed as many rooms as legend has it.

      You want to bet?

      Have there been other times when . . .

      Lots. Yes. I get bored, you see. There was a time in Saskatoon, in
      Canada. It was another 'Oliday Inn, and I was bored. Now, when I get
      bored, I rebel. I said, "FUCK IT, FUCK THE LOT OF YA!" And I took out
      me 'atchet and chopped the 'otel room to bits. The television. The
      chairs. The dresser. The cupboard doors. The bed. The lot of it.
      Ah-ha-ha-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHA! It happens all the time.

      I've always heard it was Pete who started the destruction onstage, but
      you make it sound as if it might've been your idea. Was it?

      The way the story goes, Pete put the neck of his guitar through a low
      ceiling when he jumped too 'igh, but that's not it. It 'appened when
      somebody got pissed off with the gig, with the way things were going.
      When Pete smashed his guitar it was because 'e was pissed off. When I
      smashed me drums, it was because I was pissed off. We were frustrated.
      You're working as hard as you can to get that fucking song across, to
      get that audience by the balls, to make it an event. When you've done
      all that, when you've worked your balls off and you've given the
      audience everything you can give, and they'd don't give anything back,
      that's when the fucking instruments go, because: "You fucking
      bastards! We've worked our fucking balls off! And you've given us
      nothing back!"

      That's one way the instruments got smashed. Another way was if a
      member of the group was too fuckin' stoned to give their best. Then he
      was letting down the other three. In a lot of cases it was me, through
      drinking too much. You know, just getting out of it at the wrong time.
      Then Pete or Roger or John says, "You cunt! You fucking let us down!
      You fucking bastard, if you want to get pissed, why don't you wait
      until after the show!"

      But every time you destroyed your drum kit, or Pete wrecked his guitar
      it wasn't motivated by anger.

      Not every time. It became expected -- like a song, a Number One
      record. Once you've done it, you're committed to it. You 'ave to play
      it. Because there are some people in the audience who've only come to
      'ear that one song. You know they're there. You can't ignore them. So
      what we do is make a spot in the act that does the job. Every part of
      the act works to a part of the audience, and the act as a whole must
      work to the entire audience.

      Wasn't it pretty expensive?

      It was fucking expensive. We were smashing up probably ten times if
      not more than we were earning. We've been going successfully for ten
      years, but we've only made money the last three. It took us five years
      to pay off three years, our most destructive period. We had to pay all
      that back. Musicians are renowned for not paying their bills. And we
      were no exception. We put it off as long as we could. But when the
      writs started coming in, the court orders, the injunctions, the
      equipment confiscations, then we 'ad to pay. And we paid for five years.

      And then dropped the destruction routine?

      We dropped it as a theatrical routine. We still destroy our equipment
      occasionally, but not on order. We'd committed one of the cardinal
      sins: We'd actually let the theatrics overtake the music. You can't
      let that 'appen. The music must be first. So we just turned around and
      said, "Well, this has got to fucking go, we can't have this every show
      . . ." Because it was becoming too hackneyed. The spontaneity was lost.

      Were there ever disagreements over who was the group's spokesman?

      Only in the early days. At one time Roger was the group's spokesman.
      Now most people say Pete is. The thing is, it doesn't matter . . . who
      says it. At one time we placed great importance on a spokesman and who
      that spokesman was. Not now. Whoever it is, 'e's just a mouthpiece for
      the organization, and one mouth is as good as another.

      You all seem to be fairly available to the press.

      We're doing fuck-all else. AH-HAHAHAHAHAHA! Some people say I'll do
      anything for the press, it's true . . . that I make meself too
      available. I just like to 'ave fun.

      For instance . . .

      There was the time Keith Aitham and Chris Williams, who look after our
      PR, phoned me u and said I 'ad to be at their office at three o'clock
      for an interview. Well, you know, the pubs shut at three, so I was
      rather delayed, because they don't turn out until ten past, and they
      don't turn me out until 'alf-past. So it was quarter to four before I
      eventually started. I was back up my office at Track (Records) and
      finally I remembered; I'd forgotten all about it. So, uhhhh: Oh
      Christ, they're gonna be angry. Right opposite the office is a
      chemist's, so I sent Dougal, me driver, over there to pick up some
      rolls of bandages and plaster, and I did all me leg up, strapped me
      arms up and purchased a stick, a walking stick. Then I went over to
      the office. "Sorry I'm late, but the 'ospital delayed me."

      I'd called earlier and told them I'd been run over by a bus on Oxford
      Street. They didn't think that unlikely. I think they've adopted the
      attitude that anything's likely with Moon, y'see. So I walk into the
      office . . . 'obble in, actually and they say. "Ow did it 'appen?" I
      said, "I was just crossing Oxford Street and a Number Eight from
      Shepherd's Bush 'it me right up the arse and sent me spinning across
      Oxford Circus." So Keith and Chris say they'll cancel the interview. I
      say no, but maybe they'd be so kind as to carry me down the four
      flights of steps to the street. They thought I'd come up by meself, on
      me walking stick, y'see.

      So they carried me down the stairs and we're walking along, I'm
      'obbling along the street again, and this bloody lorry comes along as
      I'm crossing the street and it screams to a 'alt in front of me. I
      say, "'Ang on, mate, I can't go fast on these legs," and Keith has a
      go at the lorry driver: "You 'eartless bastard, can't you see this
      man's injured! 'Ave you no 'eart, 'ave you no soul, you bastard!
      Trying to run over a cripple!"

      We went on to the interview and in the middle, after about four
      brandies, I just ripped off all the plaster and jumped up on the seat
      and started dancing. Ah-HAHAHAHAH-ha-haHAHA! HAHA!

      Have you ever been injured in any of your stunts? Aside from the
      missing front tooth?

      I broke me collarbone once. That was in me own 'otel, the one I own,
      one Christmas. I collapsed in front of the fire at four o'clock one
      morning and some friends of mine decided to put me to bed, and they
      were in as bad a state as I was, but they were still on their feet.
      Just about. One of them got 'old of me 'ead, the other got 'old of me
      feet, and they attempted to drag me up the stairs. They got me up two
      flights and then promptly dropped me down, both of them, breaking me
      collarbone, y'see. But I didn't know this until I woke up in the
      morning and tried to put me fucking shirt on. I went through the
      fucking roof.

      Now . . . I was supposed to do a television show, the Top of the Pops
      New Year's Eve special, and two days before I 'ave me arm all strapped
      up so I can't drum. I went to me doctor, dear Doctor Robert, and he
      gave me a shot on the day of the gig so I wouldn't feel anything. I
      put a shirt over the cast, fastened the drumstick to my wrist with
      sticking plaster, sat down behind the drum kit and got Mr. Vivian
      Stanshall to tie a rope around me wrist. We then threw the rope over
      the lighting pipe overhead, the one that holds the floods and all, and
      I kept an eye on the television monitor; every time I was on camera,
      I'd give the signal to Viv, and he'd give a pull on the rope, which
      caused me right arm to shoot up and then come crashing down on the
      cymbal. AH ah ah ah HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

      These farcical situations . . . I'm always tied up in them. They're
      always as if they could be a Laurel and Hardy sketch. And they always
      'appen to me. AAAAHhhhhh-HAHAHA-HO-HAHA ha! I think unconsciously I
      want them to 'appen, and they do.

      Is that the image you have of yourself?

      I suppose to most people I'm probably seen as an amiable idiot . . . a
      genial twit. I think I must be a victim of circumstance, really. Most
      of it's me own doing. I'm a victim of me own practical jokes. I
      suppose that reflects a rather selfish attitude: I like to be the
      recipient of me own doings. Nine times out of ten I am. I set traps
      and fall into them. Oh-ha-ha-ha. HA-HA- HA-HA-HA! Of course, the
      biggest danger is becoming a parody.

      Your wife, Kim, must be extraordinarily sympathetic and patient.

      She is. She sort of takes it in 'er stride.

      How did you meet her?

      Eh-eh-eheeeee-eh-eh-eh. Ah-HA-HA-HA-HAHA-HA-HA! I met her in
      Bournemouth when 1 was playing a show. She was sixteen, and she hung
      out at the club when we worked, the Disc. Sometime later when I went
      down to see her, I was on a train and Rod Stewart was on the train.
      This was about ten years ago. We got chatting, and we went to the bar
      car. It was Rod "The Mod" Stewart in those glorious days, and he'd
      just been working with Long John Baldry. He was playing a lot of small
      discotheques and pubs, doing the sort of work we were doing. I said to
      Rod, "Where are you going?" He said, "Bournemouth." "So'm I," I said,
      "I'm going down there to see my chick." He said, "So'm I." So I showed
      Rod a picture of Kim and he said, "Yeah . . . that's 'er." HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

      What happened?

      I don't remember. We were in the bar car, and we both got paralytic. I
      only remember the trip back. Oh-hee-HA-HA-HAHA!

      How'd your mother-in-law come to live with you?

      She's me 'ousekeeper. And she's a great cook. You see, I was cradle
      snatching. I snatched her daughter at 16, right out of convent school,
      and she 'adn't learned 'ow to cook yet, so I said, "Get your mother up
      'ere." She's been living with us for about a year now. She's not the
      accepted idea of a mother-in-law. At my 'ouse there's no real accepted
      idea of anything.

      Do you have "favorite" drummers?

      Not many. D.J. Fontana (Elvis' original drummer) is one. Let's see . .
      . the drummers I respect are Eric Delaney and Bob Henrit (from Argent)
      and . . . I got a 'uge list, really, and all for different reasons.
      Technically, Joe Morello is perfect. I don't really have a favorite
      drummer. I have favorite drum pieces, and that's it. I would never put
      on an LP of a drummer and say everything he did I love, because that's
      not true.

      How'd you start on drums?

      Jesus Christ, I think I got a free drum kit in a packet of corn
      flakes. Ah-Ha-HA-HA-HA-HA-HAHA! But no . . . drum solos are fucking
      boring. Any kind of solo is. It detracts from the group identity.

      How much of a group effort are the songs? How much do you change those
      demos when you record?

      Not a hell of a lot. Because Pete knows. When Pete writes something,
      it sounds like the Who. The drum phrases are my phrases, even though
      it's Pete playing drums. He's playing the way I play. He's playing my
      flourishes. The same thing for the bass part, and the guitar, of
      course, is 'is own. Only the vocals change some.

      Are many of the songs rejected?

      No. He obviously writes a lot more . . . I mean, not every song that
      'e writes is suitable for the Who. When he gets an idea 'e thinks is
      right for the group, 'e brings it in and we try it. It's not very
      often that 'e's wrong.

      Do you rehearse a lot?

      We've always prepared for live shows meticulously. But we rehearsed a
      damn sight more often several years ago than we do now. Now we've
      reached a peak in the band . . . well, we reached it a long time ago .
      . . so now Pete plays us a number or we listen to a number, and we can
      get it off pretty much if not the first time, the second or the third,
      and by the fourth or fifth it's begun to be battered into shape. In
      the old days, we were still getting the group together, still working
      out our own relationships.

      The Who's never really been a "singles band." Was this by design?

      Pete wrote "Can't Explain" as a single. He wrote "My Generation" as a
      single. But he's never really been one for writing singles. He doesn't
      like to sit down and write a single. He likes to write a project . . .
      and an LP is viewed as a project, a group project. A single is
      something you take off an LP. We don't go in an' do singles. The
      singles market really is not our market. If one of the tracks on an LP
      sounds like it might be a single, then it's released as such.

      We had a period of singles after "My Generation" -- "I'm a Boy,"
      "Substitute," "Happy Jack." But then we went into making LPs. And once
      you get into making LPs, it's very difficult to go back to making singles.

      Two years later, how do you look back on Tommy?

      With disbelief. AH-HAHAHA. I can't believe we spent six months doing
      it. It took six months to make. That's studio time, and that's talking
      about it, discussing it, arranging it, producing and writing it.
      Getting it all together. Recording it and then saying we could do it
      better and recording it again. Six months continuously in the studio.

      Other than with disbelief, how do you remember it?

      Well, it is disbelief. I just can't believe that we did that album. It
      was an amazing album to do. It was, at the time, very un-Who-like. A
      lot of the songs were sort of soft. We never played like that. And we
      didn't have an idea then as to how it was all going to turn out. Here
      we were, spending all this time on a project that none of us really
      knew all that much about.

      Who came up with the phrase "rock opera"?

      Pete. We really didn't know what else to call it. And people kept
      asking what we were doing.

      Then came the Tommy tours . . .

      Because we'd been in the studio so long, we immediately went on an
      American tour. We incorporated a lot of Tommy. In fact, the act was
      mostly Tommy. After that, on the Opera 'Ouse tour, we played just two
      numbers to warm up; we'd do "Summertime Blues" and "Can't Explain" or
      something, and then we'd do the opera. We did about six or seven opera
      'ouses. I enjoyed them. Nice sound. But it was a bit strange. It was
      rather like playing to an oil painting.

      Did there come a time when you got tired of Tommy?

      Oh, yes. Very shortly after we made it. Ah HAHAHAHAHAHAHA-HAHA! Yeah,
      it started becoming a bit of a bore. Everywhere we'd go we'd do our
      little show, and it became so we were playing it in our sleep. Toward
      the end we got bored. We played eighteen months nonstop. All the
      spontaneity was going. So somebody finally said, "All right, sod it,
      out with it! Who's next?" And it was. That was the next album.

      The Who's always been a working band, a touring band. Do you still
      enjoy the road?

      [Using soft voice, as if delivering a eulogy] I love it. It's my life.
      If I was to be deprived of touring . . . I love the responsibility of
      . . . being responsible for the enjoyment of a packed 'ouse. And
      knowing the four of us can go onstage and give enjoyment to that many
      thousand people, that's fucking something, man, that does me right in.
      If I'm good and the group is good, you can get 14,000 . . . 140,000!
      -- get them on their fucking feet. Yeah. That's where it's at. That's
      what it's all about for me.

      Do you think the top group's charging too much for concert tickets?
      Honestly.

      The fact is when the four of us go on tour we take a road crew of
      twenty. We have to charge the prices we do to get the sound right, to
      get the lighting right, to get the hall right. We don't overcharge. In
      fact, I've got right there, from the Student Union, says the Who are
      among the bands that don't seem too involved with money. And we're
      not. We're more involved with giving a fucking good show. If it costs
      us every fucking penny we're making, it doesn't worry us. I'd rather
      give a good show than make money. On a British tour it's impossible to
      make money any way at all. With the tax situation and the size of our
      crew . . . but people still complain. They see pictures of the 'ouse,
      they see pictures of me in my cars. These things didn't come from my
      tours here. I don't make money in England. I make it abroad.

      Also I made it by investment. I bought a 'otel two years ago for
      16,000 EUR [$40,000]. I sold it last week for 30,000 EUR. Now, out of
      that 14,000 EUR profit, I should probably see two. Doesn't matter,
      because I sold the company that I bought the 'otel with at a net loss
      of 10,000. So when I start a new company, I've got a 10,000 EUR tax
      deficit. So in actual fact I made 12,000.

      [As he said this, the face of his $5,000 wristwatch popped out onto
      the cushion next to him.]

      My god . . . look at that! My watch has started molting. It's the
      season. It's autumn. In autumn, all the expensive watches in Surrey
      begin molting. Ah-Oh-ho-hahahahahaha!

      You turned into a businessman, then?

      You have to, when you make money. Either that or you turn into a
      bankrupt. The money's got to work. Everything's got to work. I work.
      There's no reason why the money shouldn't.

      Can you tell me what you're worth?

      I don't know. Not now. Some time ago me accountant told me I 'ad a lot
      of money. I said, "Ow much?" He said, "Well, you're very well fixed."
      I said, "Ow much? I mean, am I a millionaire?" "Well, technically,
      yes." So I said, "What should I do about it?" And he said, "Well,
      obviously, if you've got that much money and you've got these tax
      bills, it's logical to spend money so that you can claim it against
      the tax that's owed." "I see . . . so I should spend money?" "Well,
      yes, you should." So six weeks later I'd spent it all.
      Ah-ha-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I'd bought four 'ouses, a 'otel, eight cars,
      a swimming pool, tennis courts, expensive wristwatches -- that fall
      apart, a riverside bungalow just five minutes away, furnished in
      French renay-sance-period furniture. I'd spent it all. It was gone!
      AH-HAHAHAHAHA-hahahaHA HA. HA-HA.

      I get accused of being a capitalist bastard, because, you know: "How
      many cars you got?" "Eight." "Big 'ouse?" "Yes." Well, I love all
      that; I enjoy it. I have lots of friends over and we sit up, drinking
      and partying. I need the room to entertain. I enjoy seeing other
      people enjoy themselves. That's where I get my kicks. I'm kinky that
      way. I have the amount of cars I do because I smash them up a lot. Six
      are always in the garage; it's a fact. They're always saying I'm a
      capitalist pig. I suppose I am. But, ah . . . it ah . . . it's good
      for me drumming, I think. OH H00000-HAHAHA!

      You really do have troubles with cars?

      I came off the road in the AC Cobra at 110. We flew over a canal and
      sort of collapsed in a mangled heap in a field about ten foot from a
      reservoir. The Cobra people were very unhappy when I took the wreckage
      into their garage -- they only made about ninety-eight of them, and
      they're touchy about how they're driven. HAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I've
      tried to bump-start the 1936 Chrysler several times, always with
      disastrous results. Once I tried to bump-start it with my X-type Jag,
      which is built so low to the ground, it slid under the Chrysler.
      Another time I tried to bump-start with the Rolls . . . forgetting
      there was nobody sitting in the Chrysler. I pushed it right into the
      fish pond on the front lawn.

      When did the group swing away from drugs toward booze?

      AH-HA . . . a change-of-pace question. Ah ha-ha-ha HAHA HA! I think we
      just sort of grew out of drugs. The drugs aren't necessary now. They
      were then, as a crutch. We went through just about everything. Not
      Roger so much. He smoked, but that was it. The rest of us went through
      the same stages everybody goes through -- the bloody drug corridor.
      You know. We were no exception. Eventually we stopped fucking about
      with the chemicals and started on the grape. Drinking suited the group
      a lot better. When we started drinking, that's when it all started
      getting together.

      We're all pretty good drinkers. After the show there's always the
      celebration drink, or the non-celebration drink. Then there's always
      the clubs -- John and I, generally, go clubbing. We just like the
      social side of drinking. Everybody I know is a drinker. I've met most
      of my best friends in pubs.

      How did you meet Viv Stanshall?

      In a pub. Ah-ha-HAHAHAHAHAHA. Funnily enough. Oh, Viv and I, we're
      great friends. We visit each other in the 'ospital frequently.
      AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Either in a ward having my limbs set, or Viv's in a
      ward 'having 'is 'ead set. We've been playing on each other's records.
      We share the same sense of theater, so we go to the theater together.
      We go to films together. We buy the same comedy records -- Monty
      Python, Marty Feldman, the Goons. Pete gave me a complete collection
      of the early Goon shows.

      We went to see Liberace together. If the fans today think David
      Bowie's doing anything new, they should play the Liberace record of
      1963, the one with the white piano and the gold candelabra. [There
      followed a four-minute-long, word-for-word, lisp-for-lisp copy of
      Liberace's act, as remembered by Moon and delivered with flourishes.]
      Liberace still hasn't been beaten.

      How did you come to produce Stanshall?

      Well, the Bonzo Dog Band had broken up and we'd been out a few nights
      together. We'd been to the theater, we'd been to the Palladium to see
      Liberace, and Viv had a couple of songs and I had some studio time. So
      we said let's get some musicians together and go in and make a record.
      So we did. On one side it was Vivian Stanshall and His Gargantuan
      Chums. On the other side, Vivian Stanshall and Big Grunt.

      What did you do as producer?

      I supplied the booze. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAA!

      Whatever happened to all the Who films we've heard so much about over
      the years? Your publicity guy told me you've announced at least half a
      dozen and that he doesn't pay any attention to film talk now.

      I'd like to know meself. They've just never turned out to be Who
      films. We've never yet had a script that we've all liked. I think
      there must be a Who film. I think it'll be a gross injustice if
      there's not a Who film. There must be a Who film. Because there's so
      much Who to go 'round.

      You've been in two films without the others . . .

      Yeah, one was 200 Motels with Frank Zappa, the other was Countdown
      with Harry Nilsson, both with Ringo.

      I was at the Speakeasy with Pete, and Frank 'appened to be at the next
      table. He overheard some of our conversation and leaned over and said
      [American voice], "How'd you guys like to be in a film?" We said
      [English accent], "Okay, Frank." And he said [back to American],
      "Okay, be at the Kensington Palace Hotel at seven o'clock tomorrow
      morning." I was the one who turned up. Pete was writing and sent his
      apologies, and I was given the part Mick Jagger was to play -- that of
      a nun. Mick didn't want to do it.

      Then there was a bit in one of the local papers that said Ringo was
      making Countdown with Peter Frampton and Harry Nilsson and a lot of
      others, so I called Ringo up and said, "Is there a part in it for me?"
      He said yes, and I turned up. I do some drumming.

      Was that your first meeting with Nilsson?

      Yes. We were supposed to be on the set at six, but it was nine before
      everybody was there. Then somebody brought out a bottle of brandy. Me,
      I think. Ah-Ha-Ha-HAHAHA! And Peter Frampton said no, no, too early,
      and some of the others said no. But 'Arry was standing there with an
      'alf-pint mug. I knew at that moment it was destiny put us together.
      AhHhh-HAHAHAHAHA HAHAHA!

      So we were drinking brandy at nine and, thanks to Mal Evans, white
      wine all the rest of the day. Then about six o'clock somebody came
      'round and slipped little envelopes into our 'ands. It was a pay
      packet! I 'adn't 'ad a pay packet in ten years. And 'Arry'd never 'ad
      one. We were pretty well out of it, and we looked at each other and
      then tore up one-hundred and seventy pounds in one-pound notes, threw
      it up in the air and danced about, cackling like schoolboys.
      AHHHH-HAAAA-HAHAHA-AA-HAAAAHAAA-haaa! Dancing and leaping about,
      clutching bottles of Blue Nun liebfraumilch in our hands, singing,
      "We're millionaires, aren't we?"

      [From Issue 124 — December 21, 1972]
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