Who let the Moon out?
20 August 2020-
The Who stand among the absolute OG's of Rock n' Roll, having started out right when the Beatles and Stones were getting widespread — international — recognition. And so they decided to follow their fellow British invaders in style...
The Who, which featured brilliant guitarist and composer Pete Townshend, magnetic singer Roger Daltrey, discreet and efficient bassist John Entwistle and otherworldly drummer Keith Moon, started making a name for themselves from the day they got together, back in 1964. Their single “My generation“, released the following year, became a bone fide anthem for the Woodstock generation and helped cement their legacy. Cult classics like Who’s Next and Tommy followed, ensuring once and for all that their names would feature prominently in Rock n’ Roll’s Hall of fame (where they were inducted back in 1990, along with the Kinks and Simon & Garfunkel).
Given their skyrocketing mid 1960’s career, it stood to reason that they would try and crack the US market, as the Beatles and Stones of this world had (masterfully) done before them. And so, after having performed at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, they followed up that show with their first appearance on American TV as musical guests of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. And their set started beautifully: they first played “I can see for miles”, one of their greatest tracks, before answering the host’s (i.e. one of the Smothers brothers) questions. And they had hilariously absurd comebacks too, the best one given by Moon: “My friends call me Keith, you can call me John”.
They then played their second track of the set, the aforementioned “My generation”. At the end of which, as was more or less customary for the band by that time, they proceeded to smash their instruments, Townshend sticking his guitar into one of the amps before finishing it on the floor. Then, as he was hitting Moon’s drums with what was left of the thing, an explosion erupted from the bass drum, that was powerful enough to throw Moon off the stage. Seconds later, Townshend emerged from the resulting smoke with messed up hair and a disoriented look, still managing to destroy the host’s acoustic guitar for good measure.
What had happened was, Keith Moon had managed to insert two sticks of dynamite into his drum kit with the help of technician, obviously not telling his bandmates about the “surprise”. Neither Moon nor the rest of the Who were against theatrics — clearly — but this stunt was indeed over the top, no matter how you looked at it: granted, this was the band’s first US TV appearance, and making a good (or at the very least notable) first impression was important, but not at the risk of harming the band’s lead guitarist and composer…
Which mostly came from the fact that Moon grossly underestimated the power of dynamite. Lesson learned, in a way.