by Robert Wilkinson
Today would have been the birthday of Keith Moon of the Who, a tragic and self destructive figure, but still the best drummer in rock and roll history.
Keith Moon (23 August 1946 – 7 September 1978) also known as "Moon the Loon," would have been a mere 68 today, and so it's truly tragic that the world lost his talent in 1978 when he was only 32. He was deadly destructive to himself and countless hotel toilets. His "antics" were the stuff of legend, and he was personally responsible for the Who being banned from more than one hotel chain.
He was reckless in the extreme, a completely besotted mess by the time he died, and yet even 35 years after his death Rolling Stone readers voted him the second best drummer of all time. To really get what he was about, please go to you tube and play anything from "Tommy" or "Live At Leeds."
He was truly an amazing force on stage, unlike any other I've seen before or since. Roger Daltry said "Moon's drumming style held the band together; that Entwistle and Townshend "were like knitting needles... and Keith was the ball of wool."
I saw the Who 6 times between 1967 and 1976. They were a unique pyrotechnical sonic spectacle, and were the first to pioneer the destruction of their instruments as a work of performance art. Even though it started by mistake, it became a standard of their act, and was the influence imitated by Jimi, the Yardbirds in the movie "Blow Up," and a hundred acts since then.
At the forefront of it all was Peter Townshend, thrashing at his guitar, making windmill moves that hit on the strings until his fingers were bloody. He was the lead-rhythm in an organized chaos of a lead singer, lead bassist, and lead drummer. As Pete leapt with both feet in the air, Roger Daltrey was slinging the mic in circles that grew ever wider until the mic went straight up to the ceiling only for him to jerk it down at the exact moment he needed to sing, yell, or scream some memorable line into it.
Keith Moon had the biggest drum kit I'd ever seen, and played every one of those drums and every cymbal including both base drums going simultaneously frenetic and pounding out rhythms and counter rhythms no other drummer had ever done, or has ever done since. He played a thousand beats a minute in every form imaginable, and destroyed his kit after every performance I ever saw. I also gather he blew up more hotel toilets than any person in history, but that's just part of the legend of "Moon the Loon."
Through it all John Entwhistle stood stiff and tall, expressionless, pounding out bass lines that with the drums created the most frenetic rhythm section imaginable that was actually two lead instruments. All of this was held together by the songs, sonic and powerful and soaring and deep and driving and ringing the hall until the audience just stood there in awe.
The Who at their peak are generally considered one of the best rock bands in history, right up there with the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin. They played both the Monterrey Pop Festival AND Woodstock! And I'm not kidding when I say they are generally accepted as performing the most exciting live concerts ever done! They were certainly the most electrifying I’ve ever seen, and I saw some amazing shows back in the day.
So for your enjoyment of what was in an era of sonic sounds, smashing guitars and singular concerts unlike any other, for your enjoyment, here's The Who, the best live band I’ve ever seen! Immerse yourself in the videos you're about to see, since the energy is kinetic from a now gone era. Music videos first, then a ton of amazing live performances!!
We begin with some music videos of them doing their early hits from 1965-67!
"I Can't Explain" (They're VERY young!)
Live at the Marquee Club in March 1967, here's a live video of "So Sad 'Bout Us"
Here they are, live in 1965 on the last Shindig tv show, performing at their early best! “I Can’t Explain,” and “My Generation”
From French tv in 1965, here are the Who live doing the great Martha and the Vandellas hit, “Heat Wave”
Here are the Who on the Smothers Brothers Comedy House in 1967, lip synching the first tune and doing the second live, which is strange! Here they are in a “live” performance of “I Can See for Miles” and “My Generation”
From 1971, their biggest hit, "Won't Get Fooled Again."
And now for some great live performances. Get ready to enjoy the greatest live band in rock history! Where possible I found entire concerts, and tried to approximate the actual order of the songs.
Here's their second major hit and the show stopper! "My Generation" live at the Marquee Club in London, March 11, 1967.
From a few weeks later at the legendary Monterrey Pop festival, I found the entire 19 minute set (minus “Pictures of Lily”)! They really did set the standard for Mod Rock! Keith’s drumming is nothing short of crazy! Here are the Who performing “Substitute,” “Summertime Blues,” “A Quick One,” “Happy Jack,” and “My Generation”
Also from Monterrey, between “Summertime Blues” and “A Quick One” here’s one of their greatest tunes, the oh so controversial "Pictures of Lily"
In case you can’t get enough of this magic performance, here’s "A Quick One"
The closer was a performance that made history! Here's where the pyrotechnics were in full expression!! "My Generation" (It comes up from black after a few seconds, so be patient!)
From their appearance at Woodstock in 1969:
Here are Woodstock performances of two songs from Tommy set to still photos:
We’ll close the Who’s set at Woodstock with an audio-only clip of the pounding rocker “Shakin’ All Over”
From the same year, here are the Who Live at London Coliseum in December 1969!
Last year I found the entire show, but it's disappeared. So here are a few from the show. As usual, they kicked it off with John Entwistle's troubled tale of morality, "Heaven and Hell"
From the film "Listening to You," their performance at the 1970 Isle of Wight festival,
During this period, they did a lot of songs from "Tommy." From the Isle of Wight Festival, here are three amazing pieces!
Here's the closer, "Magic Bus"
We now segue into other performances. Here is one of the best versions of "Baba O'Riley" I found, probably from the early 70s since Keith Moon is holding forth on drums.
The Who doing "I Don't Even Know Myself," from sometime in 1970. Radical kinetic energy!!
From Charlton in 1974, another version of "Baba O'Riley"
I found some live performance clips from the Cow Palace in SF on 20 November 1973. They include "Love Reign O'er Me" and "Dr. Jimmy" from Quadrophenia, Pete's scathing social commentary. You can find the original studio version of "Dr. Jimmy and Mr. Jim here, complete with very raw lyrics and the much better sound quality!
From the same show, Keith Moon Collapses during "Won't Get Fooled Again"
After which they called for a drummer from the audience, and Scott Halpin volunteered. Whether brave or foolhardy, he had one unique experience! Here are the Who with Scott on drums doing "Naked Eye" and "Smokestack Lightning"
I was at this show! For your enjoyment, from Houston, Texas, an amazing concert video of the Who. This is two solid hours of kinetic, explosive rock as only the Who did it!
From the Rockumentary movie about the Who, "The Kids Are All Right," an awesome 10 minute performance of "Won't Get Fooled Again"
From the same movie, here's an interesting black and white performance of "Tommy Can You Hear Me?"
Also from the album “Tommy,” one of my favorites! "I'm Free"
These are Live performances set to stills.
From the BBC sessions, some early hits you may not have heard.
From 1968, Live at The Fillmore East:
From the Odeon Cinema, Newcastle, October 30, 1971:
Here's a performance in Long Beach, California from December 10, 1971 of "Bargain"
From The Who's second to last show with Keith Moon in Kilburn 1977, "Baba O'Riley"
I found the Who commenting about Virgo Keith Moon. This offers up a little about this amazingly self destructive human gyro.
Keith's last tv interview from Good Morning America in '78.
RIP Keith. I saw you every time you made it to America, and loved every minute of it. Wish you were still here, but then again, if you were, you wouldn't be Keith Moon. From one of your contemporaries, "See you in the next world and don't be late...."
© Copyright 2014 Robert Wilkinson