A short article on Moon’s non-Who activities during the touring lapse prior to the Quadrophenia recording sessions.
Penny Valentine meets an old friend.
KEITH MOON, it was rumoured, was bored. Normally I wouldn’t have believed it. I mean Moon over-zealous, Moon looning, Moon causing riots across the globe? Yes – such rumours I would have believed. But Moon bored, actually BORED? No indeedy.
Still, such tales emanated from a good source. Pete Townshend in fact. There I was standing in Wardour Street at around 6 p.m. the other day (waiting to get home I assure you) when Townshend loomed in the distance, on his way to the station, and we cheerily shared a cab.
On the way we talked of many things – shoes, ships, sealing wax … and Keith Moon’s boredom. Pete, it transpired, had tried to cheer him up with tales of only two weeks to go and we start on the next album. But Moon had stuck firm and said, somewhat gloomily, that two weeks was a damn long time to wait for activity – or words to that effect.
Pete had taken the whole thing with humour – a man obviously well accustomed to such tales of woe within the Who, a group lets face it who do not like inactivity at the best of times.
So when, some days later, it was set that I should parlay to Mr. Moon over a few brandies in a local pub I put it to him straight. What, I enquired, was it all about? And indeed was it a fact?
Needless to say when we got to the nitty gritty things weren’t quite as dastardly and dramatic as I had at first supposed.
"Mmm well," and he stuffed a cigarette into a long holder with great dash – if not aplomb – "I suppose I must have been when I spoke to Pete. But I do manage to stave off a lot of the boredom I could suffer when were not working. Like doing the film, other incidentals.
"I think it’s important to have a hobby outside the band. If all your energies were directed into the Who it would be very easy for the whole thing to just take you over. It’s important that there are other things going on that we can all get into so that the Who doesn’t become a chore.
"It’s also important that those things stay simply hobbies and that the Who is the utmost thing in all our minds – which, I may say, it is.
For those of you who are the smallest bit fashion conscious I feel I should, at this stage, point out that this very day Mr. Moon is looking quite resplendent. He is wearing a three piece suit (yes a suit) topped off with a very large spotted bow tie – and that cigarette holder.
He also now sports a gap in his front teeth. Very endearing when he grins, which he does a lot, and an addition which heightens his strange resemblance to the late Robert Newton (famous, you may recall. for his rousing TV performances in Treasure Island and a gentleman whose impersonation Moon has off to a fine art. Much argh Jim Mlad).
Keith is also sporting an air of some sobriety — a fact that also comes as a surprise today. The main reason being, I am informed, that he has promised to be very upright indeed when he appears later this very afternoon on Radio giving a talk on ‘The Care of Guns’. Somehow this all adds to the amusement of the day.
Interviewing Keith Moon can be dangerous. He is extremely likeable. He is also very very funny. But unless people know him well they tend to shy away from his image of archetypal maniac, in fear that they may never be seen again once having trotted off to have words with him.
In fear, indeed, of meeting a ghastly end in some far flung public call box at his wily hands. It is this image that Moon has carried with him since the very earliest days of the Who — somehow setting the whole atmosphere of the group at large.
They have gained from it — just as they have sometimes suffered from it. Moon is not a man to be ignored. And yet he can be serious, down to earth and beguiling. He tries hard today to smother the obvious temptations to have me curling on the floor in hysterics, unable to set pen to paper. Indeed for the first quarter of an hour of our conversation he is damn near solemn.
We talk about this image of his and whether he ever feels the other side of his character is being swamped by it. His answer is brief and to the point: "I find it very difficult to be serious — put in a ready laugh there. Would you? (Okay Keith – ha ha ha) I always see things in a very funny way. I can see any situation at any time and see the funny side to it.
"Anyway there’s bugger all I can do about my image. I’d have to change my whole lifestyle if I wanted to do anything about it.
We also talk about his extra-curricular Who activities – like. That’ll Be The Day, and the yet to be seen film with Harry Nilsson. The part from That’ll Be The Day was especially written in by Ray Connolly – after they’d met on the set. Originally it didn’t have a line of dialogue. Then
Connolly met Moon and … well words had to be found from somewhere.
Since that film Keith has also started work on a film script – something he wants to get into much more at a later date: "I met a lot of people during filming that started me thinking about working on various other things. The thing is that within the Who I’m not as into the music side as they are, I’ve always been more involved in the visual side of the group.
"There were several suggestions that with Roger doing an album and John doing his I should do a comedy album. But I was a bit dubious about the idea. So much of what I do is purely visual.
"I just can’t imagine doing ‘Eight million ways of falling over’ for instance, on record. I feel that might get rather lost."
Next week the Who go into the studios and start work on the grand double album enterprise from Pete Townshend’s brain. Maybe it’s the proximity of getting back to work that’s cheered Moon up – 18 months is a long time without something other than an arm to get your teeth into.
So bored, a little, Moon might have been. But idle? Never. Aside from the filming there are all kinds of jollies to impart – very tempting sagas they are to. And by another couple of brandies Moon is telling them with some relish.
There is the saga of the Monty Python football match, for instance. Moon’s team, it transpires, were not doing very well. Python’s mob were tromping them soundly: "I’d say the result was two goals, a try and two submissions. During the first half we brought all these little kids into our goal mouth
"They-stood looking winsomely across the pitch and every time Python roared across we yelled ‘Mind the kids’. Very good, and it worked."
During the second half Moon moved a bar, well equipped, into the goal mouth instead. This time cries of "Save the ale!" caused Python to disband in some confusion. No more goals were scored.
There is also the saga of Moon "touring" in the Australian production of "Tommy". Aside from Graham Bell, Moon was the only other original member of the Rainbow cast that accepted the invite to do a two week run in Australia
His Aussie version of Uncle Ernie apparently was something to be seen.
"Because we hadn’t worked for so long I needed the money – and also there’s a great duty free shop in Singapore, so I thought it would be a good idea. I wasn’t really looking forward to it because the last time I’d been in Australia was in ’68 and it wasn’t a very happy tour.
"I’d never met such a lot of pig headed bastards and we had all these hassles with the press and the authorities. They weren’t into a lot of long haired idiots coming over and spearing the bearded clam – it upset them.
"But this time everyone was great. I did 4 TV chat shows and the whole place felt different. We were only supposed to do the show for a week but we sold out so many times it went into two. In the end I could see myself spending the rest of my life shuttling between Melbourne and Sydney.
"I think my Uncle Ernie over there was even grubbier than it was here. I really played him as a dirt-ridden old pervert – type casting you may think
"In the breaks between shows I used to go into the park in my filthy old mac and straggly beard and jump out from behind the bushes. It terrified all the audience that had just come out.
"You know the only instructions I got on how to play the part for Australian audiences was from the director who came up one day and said ‘Moon if you go on sober again I’ll sack you’.
"Apparently he didn’t feel I was really getting all the relish I could into the role because I was behaving myself. After that I got better."
So Moon, emerged from the "new" Australia a wiser, and richer man? Well, no, not exactly. Unfortunately his returning plane to London stopped over in Singapore for a good, 24 hour period. And that’s where that really good "duty free shop" lurked. And that’s where Moon lurked. And that’s why he didn’t return to London laden with wealth.
Still he had a good time. And he certainly wasn’t bored.