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Keith Moon Bites Back

Page 3 of 5

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-Hahahahahahaha 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.

Photos: The Who's 10 Greatest Songs

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 destructo 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 Altham and Chris Williams, who look after our PR, phoned me up 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 ha'-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 Hahahahahaha-Hahahahahaha!

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.

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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