Tag Archives: The Who

Full Moon: A Crazy, Tedious & Sad Book

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William Morris and Company, Inc. (1981)

Not long ago, I was going through a box containing two of my youthful obsessions. The box was filled with books, magazines, posters, and other paraphernalia related to Farrah Fawcett and The Who. My obsession with Farrah may have waned over the years, I did feel some of those warm stirrings for that stunning blonde from Texas rising again, but it’s not about her I’m going to write. Nor am I going to write about The Who (still a strong obsession). This blog is about the greatest drummer in rock history. More specifically, this blog is about a book detailing the drug and drink fueled antics of Keith “The Loon” Moon.

As I paged through the book, I was trying to recall why I had started but didn’t finish reading it when I bought it in the mid 80s. All I could recall was that I had some problem with the writing. My son encouraged me to give it another shot. Well, far be it from me to not do everything my son encourages me to do. I cracked on in to Full Moon: The Amazing Rock & Roll Life of Keith Moon by Dougal Butler with Chris Trengove and Peter Lawrence.

One paragraph!

That was was all it took for me to remember why I put the book down, leaving it to be packed away in that box all those years ago. The book is a collection of stories demonstrating the madcap, maniacal mayhem for which Moon was so famous (or infamous) as told by Dougal Butler, the drummer’s Man Friday from 1967 to 1977. The problem was that, with three people working on this book, no one thought that telling the old stories virtually entirely in present tense might be confusing and frustrating to the reader.

Here is that first paragraph: “At the time I first meet up with The Who they are not quite the most famous rock and roll band in the world. It is roughly 1966/67 … a time when I am working as a Customs & Excise clerk at Heathrow Airport, London, England. This is by no means the most exciting job in the world and it is especially unappealing to an immaculately suited, short-haired Mod, which is what I am at this time.”

See what I mean? What time period is he talking about? Is he saying he was an “immaculately suited, short-haired Mod” working at Heathrow back in 1966/67, or at the time he wrote this book?

The entire book is written in this fashion. So, in order to read it (and I was determined to read it) I took a red pen to it and made every verb tense correction that should have been made before the book was published in 1981. 260 pages! You should see all the markings!

I know, I’m weird.

I made it through and I have a few things to say.

Butler has a very poor attitude toward everyday people. He also seems to think that; unless the place he is in at any given time is London (but not the East End), New York, or Malibu; most places of the world are backward, nothing worth noting cities and towns. Why would anyone live there? Oh, yeah, they’re rubes. However, judging by his use of lower class British and Cockney rhyming slang he doesn’t quite come off as the sharpest knife on the tree.

He attempts to draw back from his negative statements now and then by admitting that he might be wrong in his assessment of some of the people he and Moon encountered. For instance, the time he and Moon and two of their friends, a gay couple, all stopped in for drinks (oh, so much drinking) at a pub in Wales patronized by coal miners, all men and presumably straight. Butler was shocked that those low fore-headed rubes had no problem with the couple, even with one wearing a dress.

Butler certainly doesn’t come off as what anyone would consider a feminist. His attitude is that women are good for one thing. And only the good looking “bints” at that. Unless, that is, he imbibed in enough drugs and alcohol (which he calls “medicine” throughout the book) to make those “slags” look good enough to shag. In a moment of self-blindness, Butler essentially accuses Moon of the same poor attitude toward women. Pot. Kettle. Black.

Then there’s all the medicine-induced mayhem. Destroying hotel rooms, crashing cars, crazy stunts were what cemented Moon’s reputation as a loon. It was done in his all-consuming pursuit of thrills, laughs, and Hedonistic pleasure. This was the main point of the book. Butler wasn’t going to dive deeply into Moon’s psyche to discover why the Loon acted as he did. No, this was supposed to be a riotous collection of all that craziness. And that, aside from not understanding verb tenses, is the main problem with this book. Story after story of predictable, and not always believable, mayhem becomes incredibly tedious. Tee-deee-us!

Moon gets drunk. Moon causes mayhem. Moon gets away with mayhem. Moon gets drunk. Moon causes mayhem. Moon gets away with mayhem. On and on and on…

It is amusing at first, but after the 40th tale of drunkenness it’s just… Well, you know.

The book isn’t all bad. It does have a few moments when Butler comes close to humanizing Moon. There were times when the drummer would show some generosity to a down-and-outer when he thought no one was watching. There was the moment when Moon deeply regretted alienating and driving his wife, Kim, away. He treated her so very poorly, it’s a wonder she stayed with him as long as she did. And finally, at the end, Butler realized he couldn’t keep that kind of life going. It was time for him to escape the madness. Moon was terrified of losing his constant companion to the point of lashing out both verbally and physically at Butler, and ultimately ended up in a heap of tears. But, these moments are not enough to redeem this book.

I’m going to mention something Butler did not. In 1970, Moon was invited to a new pub. He attended with his entourage, which didn’t include Butler, and the brandies flowed. As the night progressed, members of his hangers-on noticed a group of skinheads who seemed displeased with the rich rock star. Repeated urges to leave early were ignored by Moon while the skinheads got drunker and angrier. Time was called and the group of angry skinheads decided to harass the rock star and his entourage as they tried to drive away in Moon’s fancy car. Moon’s driver and close friend Neil Boland got out of the vehicle to attempt to clear away the mob and a scuffle ensued. In the confusion, Moon ended up behind the wheel and drove the car away. He didn’t realize Boland was trapped underneath and dragged him to his death.

It was declared an accident.

Hey! We can’t include that story in the book. That would spoil the fun. It’s bad enough Moon dies in the end. Let’s not pile on, eh?

I know those who knew Keith Moon and worked with him loved him very much. They undoubtedly knew him to be more than he is depicted in this book. No one is that one dimensional. In the end, all that mindless attention-seeking and drunken madness was not hilarious to me. It was just sad.

Packing peanuts!

Update 7/14/17: It has been brought to my attention that although Dougal Butler was associated with The Who, specifically John Entwistle, he was not working for Keith Moon at the time of the accidental death of Neil Boland. This would explain why Butler did not include the tragic event.

Also, I’ve been told Butler is a nice man. That may well be, but he exactly doesn’t come across that way in the book.

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1981: Nine Great Alt Albums And One Album By The Who

Preceded by lists for 1977, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1985, and 1986 – 1989, my semi-regular series examining ten of my favorite alternative albums of a given year continues with 1981. 1981 wasn’t as abundant of a year for alternative music for me as the previous years I’ve written about have been. It took a bit of scraping to get a list of ten. In fact, I could only find nine that I knew and liked well enough, so I’m including an album by The Who to bring the list to ten.

One artist on this list would move into the mainstream soon enough and another was about to achieve super-stardom. However, I consider them both alternative enough to be included. There are two debuts and four second efforts on this list.

As always, this is my list, your results may vary.

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10) Talk Talk Talk – The Psychedelic Furs A friend and I bought tickets to see these guys in concert just because we liked their name. Right after buying the tickets, that friend picked up one of their albums and listening to it we knew we made the right decision. This isn’t that album, but it’s also really good. It is their second release and it features Pretty In Pink in its first incarnation. It became the band’s signature song when it was re-recorded and slightly altered for the movie it inspired.

Favorite track: Into You Like A Train

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9) Ghost In The Machine – The Police Yes, I know these guys were pretty popular by the time this album came out. It went to number 2 in America. Yes, I know that really does take them out of the alternative category, but I still think they had that alt vibe. Certainly with their next album, Synchronicity, they would become rock superstars. This album is a little on the dark and moody side with stand out tracks including Invisible Sun and Spirits in the Material World.

Favorite track: Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic

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8) Pleasant Dreams – Ramones The opening track had the Ramones declaring We Want The Airwaves in order to keep rock alive. Well, they never did get those airwaves. The music industry just never gave the Ramones their due. The album includes the song The KKK Took My Baby Away, which has been long rumored to have been Joey writing about fellow bandmate Johnny stealing his girlfriend. However, this rumor has been disputed.

Favorite track: Sitting In My Room

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7) Face Dances – The Who Hey, the way I look at it, if I can only find nine alternative albums for a year and there’s a Who album available, put it on the list. This was the legendary rock band’s first studio release after the death of Keith Moon. There were those who thought the band should have folded and, in my opinion, that thinking led to the unfavorable reaction to this record. Sure, the steady beat of Kenney Jones couldn’t hope to capture Moon’s mania, but there are still some pretty solid tracks on this one. And it has the best opening track since Who Next’s Baba O’Riley.

Favorite track: You Better You Bet

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6) Solid Gold – Gang Of Four I love the guitar work of Andy Gill. He is one of my favorite guitarist of all time and Solid Gold, the band’s second album, gives listeners plenty of his edgy, staccato, feedback-laden rhythm and lead guitar. Cheeseburger, If I Could Keep It For Myself, Paralysed, and Outside The Trains Don’t Run On Time are all cool songs. Lots of social commentary on this album.

Favorite track: He’d Send in the Army

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5) Magnets – The Vapors More than one-hit wonders to me, The Vapors only managed to produce two albums. This is their second effort and it’s pretty dark. It explores themes ranging from cult leaders to oppressive governments to police brutality to the assassinations of the Kennedys. There ain’t no Turning Japanese on this one. The album cover was illustrated by Where’s Waldo? artist Martin Handford.

Favorite track: Magnets

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4) Of Skins and Heart – The Church This was the debut album by this band out of Australia, which was more on the rocking and New Wave side than subsequent releases. It’s a very good first album with some great tracks including For A Moment We’re Strangers, Too Fast For You, and the epic Is This Where You Live. These guys would quickly become one of my favorite bands of the 80s.

Favorite track: The Unguarded Moment

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3) Pretenders II – The Pretenders It makes absolute sense to call this one Pretenders II, because it is the prefect follow up and companion to their self-titled debut album. It’s a continuation of the band’s tough (The Adultress, Bad Boys Get Spanked) and tender (I Go To Sleep, Birds Of Paradise) songs. There are also some straight up excellent rocking pop songs (Talk Of The Town, Day After Day). It wouldn’t be long after this release that the Pretenders would come to the attention of a wider audience.

Favorite track: Message Of Love

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2) Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash – The Replacements This is the second debut album on this list and it’s one of the best debuts ever. These Minneapolis rockers were in their raw, sloppy, hardcore phase. But there was still some excellent song writing going on, most notably of the track Johnny’s Gonna Die, songwriter Paul Westerberg’s lament about his rock hero, Johnny Thunders, was living too recklessly to live long. He didn’t.

Favorite track: I’m In Trouble

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1) My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts – Brian Eno/David Bryne This is an endlessly fascinating album. Eno and Byrne who had worked together producing excellent albums by Talking Heads, took a break between Talking Heads albums to work on this project. It is a brilliant combination of found sounds, ambient and World music with electronics and voice sampling used as vocals. It is mesmerizing. Several musicians included Chris Frantz, Prairie Prince, and Robert Fripp lend a hand in the production of this landmark album.

Favorite track: The Jezebel Spirit

Packing Peanuts!

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Join together with the band…one last time.

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Photo credit: Steve Cohen/CityPages

It was a long time coming.

The tickets for the Minneapolis stop of the North American leg of The Who Hits 50 Tour went on sale in October 2014. That meant it would be a yearlong wait for the rock legends to take the stage at Target Center (home of perennial NBA loser MN Timberwolves and perennial WNBA world champion MN Lynx) in October 2015. But, seeing as how this was likely going to be the last time my rock heroes would play in my town; Roger Daltrey, lead vocalist, had called the tour the “long goodbye”, I had to buy tickets and gird myself for the wait.

The wait got longer when in September 2015 it was announced that the tour was on hold due to Daltrey being hospitalized to be treated for viral meningitis. Fortunately, he recovered and the tour resumed in the spring of this year.

May 1st. Finally, the day had arrived. My wife and I and 10,000 plus Who fans would be treated to two hours of some of The Who’s greatest hits. Daltrey and Pete Townshend, songwriter and lead guitarist, took the stage joining the six other members of the now eight-member touring band. Townshend, sometimes taciturn when performing, actually skipped his way into the spotlight.

The rest of the band included Simon Townshend (Pete’s brother) on guitar and backing vocals and Zak Starkey (Ringo Starr’s son) on drums. Those two have been members of The Who since 1996. That means Starkey has been the band’s drummer longer than the original drummer Keith Moon. Pino Palladino continued his role, taken on in 2002 after the death of John Entwistle, as bass player. The other musicians were Loren Gold, John Corey, and Frank Simes, all playing keyboards and various other instruments and providing backing vocals. Simes is also the musical director for the tour.

Kicking off with one of their late 70s hits Who Are You which was followed by The Seeker, had this Who fan swallowing back quite a sizable lump in my throat. “This is it,” I thought to myself, “I’m never seeing these guys in concert again.”

I pulled myself together and witnessed these living legends rock the house with such classics as My Generation, The Kids Are Alright, Behind Blue Eyes, Bargain, You Better You Bet, and Eminence Front.

There was a chunk from their pioneering rock opera Tommy (1969): Amazing Journey, Sparks, Pinball Wizard, and See Me, Feel Me. That was preceded by a chunk from their 1973 masterpiece Quadrophenia: I’m One (to which I damn near lost it), The Rock (this instrumental track was the highlight of the night), and Love Reign O’er Me.

There were also a few songs the boys don’t normally play in concert: I Can See for Miles, Pictures of Lily, and the excellent Join Together. I had forgotten how great that song is! And many of the songs that night were introduced by either Daltrey or Townshend with explanations on their meaning or how they were written.

Also throughout the show were projected images on the big screen behind the band. For most of the first half of the show the images were of The Who in their early days. Images of Moon’s lunacy and Entwistle’s rock steadiness paid tribute to those absent original members.

While Daltrey’s voice may have lost some of his former range, I thought it was better than when I saw the band in 2002. However, from what I’ve read in other reviews, it is Daltrey’s voice that has garnered the negative criticism. Well, you try pushing your voice to its limits for the better part of 50 years, and let’s see how well it holds up. I thought he sounded pretty good.

Townshend was a monster! He played with the same ferocity he had when he was half his nearly 71 years of age. The leaps and stage slides may have long gone by the wayside, but his playing was at its windmilling best!

They capped off the night with their two biggest anthems, both from their most commercially successful album Who’s Next (1971): Baba O’Riley and Won’t Get Fooled Again. Incidentally, Daltrey nailed that scream at the end of Won’t Get Fooled Again, proving he could still do it. Take that, critics!*

However, by the end, the old fellas were drained, but seemed to have really enjoyed themselves performing for us. The crowd, also feeling drained, graciously accepted the band’s thank you’s and goodbye’s. No encore. The lights went up and we made our way home.

I cannot overstate what this band means to me. I’m so glad I have been able to see them one last time.

My only complaint is that they didn’t play longer.

“Rock is dead they say, LONG LIVE ROCK!” ~ Pete Townshend

*Update 5/13/16: As much as it pains me to say so, it appears Roger didn’t nail that scream. I was quite surprised when he hit it when I was at the show, due to the lessening of his vocal range, but I wanted to give him credit. However, it was nagging at me. Was it live or was it Memorex?

I found video of the entire concert. It’s not the best quality, but it’s the whole show. At the 1:55:18 mark is the scream. It’s not clear if he is lip syncing. However, there is another video from the same tour in June of last year of the boys playing Won’t Get Fooled Again. At the 9:09 mark he doesn’t quite get the scream synced up right. He didn’t have the microphone near his mouth when the scream starts and he begins to close his mouth before it ends. Plus that scream from June 28, 2015 sounds like the exact same scream from May 1, 2016 to me.

Oh, well. He is 72. I guess I’m OK with being fooled this one time.

Packing Peanuts!

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The Who Ranked By Me!

Whenever I’m involved in the age old debate as to which was the better rock band: The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? My answer is always the same, “That’s easy! The Who.”

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Since October 2, 1982, the night I saw The Who in concert for the first time, I have viewed the world through Who-colored glasses. They are my favorite band of all time. And Pete Townshend is my favorite songwriter, singer, and guitarist of all time. Hence my answer to that debate.

The Who have turned 50 recently and, to celebrate that achievement, they’ve released another “best of” compilation and have embarked on a North American tour. (The tour is on hold until Spring 2016, due to Roger Daltrey having a wee bit of the viral meningitis. We’re told he is doing well, but needs to rest a while before resuming the grueling task of performing live in front of thousands of adoring fans, of which, this coming May, I will be one.)

The British music magazine NME recently ranked the ten best albums by The Who. That struck me as odd, because The Who released a total of 11 studio albums, so why not rank them all? You know, this list goes to 11. Get it?

However, their list would have to go to 12, if they had featured them all, because they included the band’s seminal live album Live At Leeds (1970).

These kind of lists can’t help but be a little controversial. Not everyone will agree with the ranking choices. (Really, NME? Tommy number one? How pedestrian.) My listing will probably do the same for other Who fans, but it’s my list so I get to pick ’em!

I will include Live At Leeds, but none of the many, many compilations the band has released over the years. Most notable among them are Meaty, Beaty, Big & Bouncy (1971) and Odds And Sods (1974). Both are excellent, but I will not include them here.

So here it is: My ranking of the albums released by the Greatest Rock Band in the World!

12) Endless Wire (2006): This album feels more like a Townshend solo project with Daltrey doing most of the singing. With John Entwistle not being involved due to a wee bit of a case of death, this feels less like The Who than their early 80s, post Keith Moon albums. It does have plenty of good stuff on it though. ‘Black Widow’s Eyes’, “God Speaks Marty Robbins’, ‘We Got A Hit’ are all very good. Roger’s voice has aged, but Pete’s seems ageless. Maybe it’s just me.

My favorite track: ‘Endless Wire (Extended)’

11) It’s Hard (1982): This and Face Dances were criticized unfairly. Yes, the manic drumming of Moon was replaced by the steadier beat of Kenney Jones, but Townshend was still churning out some great tunes. Daltrey’s voice was in excellent shape and Entwistle’s writing contributions were very good. ‘Athena’, ‘Dangerous’, ‘One At A Time’, and ‘Cry If You Want’ all make this album an enjoyable, if uneven, listen.

My favorite track: ‘Eminence Front’

10) Face Dances (1981): Fans probably weren’t sure what to expect with this first album since Moon’s untimely death, but the opening track, for me, is one of the best of The Who’s albums’ lead off songs. Still a bit uneven, but I think it’s much better than some critics were willing to admit. ‘The Quiet One’, ‘Daily Records’, and ‘Another Tricky Day’ are all stand outs.

My favorite track: ‘You Better You Bet’

9) My Generation (1965): The title track was the song that made it likely that if The Who had never produced another song, they would still be remembered as making one of the strongest, angriest, spit-in-the-facest songs ever recorded. The rest of this debut album demonstrates The Who’s early maximum R & B sound. Aside from the title track there are a few other gems worth checking out including ‘The Good’s Gone’, ‘A Legal Matter’, and the driving instrumental ‘The Ox’.

My favorite track: ‘The Kids Are Alright’

8) Who Are You (1978): This was to be the last of the “real” Who albums, and for me it feels a bit disjointed. The title track was written after a drunken encounter by Townshend with members of the Sex Pistols. At the time, Townshend was a great fan of Punk Rock as he felt that the kids could now take care of Rock’n’Roll while he could explore different ideas in music. He did that on this and future albums. Some of the songs play almost as Broadway theater fare. Stand out tracks are ‘Had Enough’, ‘Sister Disco’, and, of course, the title track.

My favorite track: ‘905’

7) A Quick One (1966): This was The Who’s second album and their label thought that since The Beatles were writing all their own songs The Who should, too. They asked that each band member write two songs for their new release. Townshend and Entwistle had the gift, but Moon and Daltrey weren’t quite ready. (Roger only managed one and that was with Pete’s help.) The result is slightly uneven, but there is some nice stuff on here. ‘Run Run Run’, ‘Boris The Spider’, ‘Cobwebs And Strange’ and ‘A Quick One, While He’s Away’ are very satisfying. The song ‘A Quick One, While He’s Away’ is a nine minute track that is made up of separate parts and helped lay the groundwork for Tommy.

My favorite track: ‘Sad So About Us’

6) The Who Sell Out (1967): One of the first concept albums in rock music, Townshend’s idea was to link the songs together as though this was all part of a pirate radio station’s playlist. There are commercials and announcements woven in between the tracks with some of the tracks themselves being commercials. The concept tails off in the second half of the album which includes the song ‘Rael’. That song has many musical elements that Townshend would later use on Tommy. Some of the best tracks are ‘Mary Anne With The Shaky Hands’, ‘Tattoo’, ‘I Can’t Reach You’, and ‘Sunrise’. I recommend getting the deluxe version of this album as it pulls off the concept more thoroughly than the original release.

My favorite track: ‘I Can See For Miles’

5) Tommy (1969): This was the release that made the band rock superstars and finally got them out from under the debt accumulated from all that instrument smashing. The album sounds a little under-produced, but it’s the under-produced nature of this album that made it more suitable to be played live. The story of Tommy (a blind, deaf, and dumb boy) is meant to take the listener on a spiritual journey. I’m not sure it worked out that way, but with such tracks as ‘Christmas’, ‘The Acid Queen’, ‘Go To The Mirror!’, ‘I’m Free’ and ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’, Tommy became a landmark album.

My favorite track: ‘Pinball Wizard’

4) Live At Leeds (1970): This is the best live album I have ever heard! The Who are at their height of musical exploration. The track for their song ‘My Generation’ lasts nearly 15 minutes as Townshend wends his way through a monster guitar solo. The original release contained a mere six songs, but it managed to show the world this is what a live rock album should be. Half of the songs are covers including ‘Young Man Blues’ and ‘Shaking All Over’. Again, I recommend getting the deluxe version. It has much, much more! Plus it gives the listener a chance to hear the band members bantering with each other as they introduce the next song to be played. Damn! I wish I could have seen them then.

My favorite track: ‘Summertime Blues’

3) The Who By Numbers (1975): This is kind of the forgotten Who album, but I think it is outstanding. Much less ambitious that all those concept albums and rock operas that had gone before, this collection of songs finds The Who a bit quieter and coming to terms with getting older. At the time, there were some who worried this might be a sort of suicide note from Pete. Apparently, they didn’t listen much to the uplifting ‘Blue, Red, and Grey’. Lots of good stuff on here including ‘Slip Kid’, ‘Squeeze Box’, and ‘Success Story’ (a great Entwistle tune). Let’s try to remember this one, OK?

My favorite track: ‘However Much I Booze’

2) Who’s Next (1971): This album was the leftovers from Townshend’s very ambitious and confusing project Lifehouse. The project sent Pete into an emotional spiral and it had to be put off. (Pete has never completely given up on it, though.) So, Who’s Next was put together. And, wow! These are leftovers? Townshend’s early embracing of synthesizers led to their greatest opening track ever! This album is full of great rock moments. ‘Bargain’, ‘My Wife’, ‘Behind Blue Eyes’, and ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ all became staples of rock radio.

My favorite track: ‘Baba O’Riley’ (Still gives me goosebumps!)

1) Quadrophenia (1973): Tommy be damned! This is The Who’s greatest album! Completely composed by Townshend, this brilliant album has helped a lot of young people deal with the awkward times of their lives when they just didn’t know who the f@#k they were. As a concept album, Quadrophenia is the most fully realized effort by The Who. There was some criticism that the album was over-produced, but that doesn’t matter to me or the many, many other Who fans who pick this one as their favorite. Its stand out songs include ‘The Real Me’, ‘I’m One’, ‘I’ve Had Enough’, ‘5:15’, and ‘Love Reign O’er Me’. This is an album that must be listened to from beginning to end.

My favorite track: ‘Drowned’

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50 years of The Who. Not too shabby.

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