The Kids Are Alright 1979

Besides the Beatles Anthology, this is my favorite rockumentary for the lack of a better word. Jeff Stein the director did a great job on this film about The Who.

Jeff was a fan of the band and pestered them until they let him do this. He had no prior experience in filmmaking but this was the 1970s and he got the gig. His timing was eerily perfect. He caught the original band at the very end of their tenure with the great Keith Moon.

He searched high and low for clips of the band in earlier years. Stein keeps the appearance mostly in order. There is sadness in this. You see the band through the years from 1964 to 1978… you see all of them gradually age of course but Keith Moon ages faster than any of them. I’ve read where it hit him hard while watching the rough cut right before he died. His drinking and drug taking had taken its toll on him. He saw a young energetic kid that looked like Paul McCartney’s younger brother to a man who was 32 and looked like he was in his 40s.

This may be the first or one of the first video bios on a major rock group. Led Zeppelin had The Song Remains the Same but it focused on one concert in New York… The Beatles had Let It Be but those films didn’t show their history like The Kids Are Alright.

It this film you see a band that is fun… unlike Zeppelin the Who were more open to their audience and didn’t have a dark mystique hanging over them. They would crack jokes from the stage and Moon treated it like a High School talent show until he started to play…then he got serious.

You see film segments that were fun like the video of Happy Jack, the interview on the Russell Harty show, Keith with Ringo, and Keith and Pete sharing a joke that only they could understand. One of my favorite segments is The Who playing Barbara Ann with Keith singing and the band having a good time. They also played I Saw Her Standing There but it didn’t make the film…you can watch it in the outtakes. I can’t imagine Zeppelin doing Barbara Ann and goofing for the camera.

The Who did a couple of live shows for the film besides being interviewed. Stein mostly used old clips but he convinced the band to do a couple of concerts where he could get a definitive version of Won’t Get Fooled Again… which personally I think is the greatest rock song live you will ever hear. You see Keith’s last performance as he is looking pudgy, older, and slower but still pulls it off. Pete wasn’t too thrilled about doing the concerts for the film but it turned out good. They ended up only using a version Won’t Get Fooled Again and Baba O’Riley.

Keith died a few months before The Kids Are Alright debuted. The film showed The Who at it’s best. Kenney Jones from the Faces replaced him but it was never the same. You cannot replace Moon…he was the engine that drove the Who. The only drummer that has worked well with the Who since Keith has been Keith’s Godson Zak Starkey…Ringo’s son.

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I acquired a VHS copy of this in the mid-eighties. It wasn’t a great copy but my friends and I wore it out. One of them worked at a small cable station. The station was in a small county that usually aired farm reports and advertisements. Basically, it was a very small building in the middle of nowhere. All they would do there is broadcast videos.

We had the tape in hand and wanted to see it so we went there one afternoon. He popped it in the VHS player and played it. He had no idea but it was going out live. Near the end of the film, he took a phone call from his boss. I didn’t think anyone ever watched that station…but it turns out they did and they were not fans of The Who. He didn’t get fired but they took his key for the door. It was a big subject the next day at school as some teenagers loved it but their parents didn’t appreciate their videos on farming being interrupted by My Generation and Keith Moon in bondage.

This film covers the original Who and being such a Who fan I’m glad Jeff Stein was so persistent in doing this because many of the tapes he was able to borrow probably would have been erased and used again by the BBC as was their policy.

 

 

Dear Boy: The Life Of Keith Moon

I didn’t think I would ever see an extensive book (nearly 600 pages) on Keith Moon. Tony Fletcher wrote this book and he thoroughly researched Keith and he had been a fan since his teenage years. As a teenager, he actually met Keith before he died. I’ll post what happened at the end of the blog from Tony’s website.

The book is huge and Fletcher talks to everyone of importance in Keith’s life. The only disappointing thing for me and for Fletcher himself is he had to debunk some of the myths about Keith. The great story of him driving a car in the pool of a Flint Michigan Holiday Inn…didnt happen… but the real story is just as interesting though.

The veil is drawn back on a lot of myths. It’s not a book full of Keith doing wild things like the book “Full Moon”. This one shows his ugly side also. Keith had one of the most dangerous traits you could have…the ability not to be embarrassed. Think about that…that keeps us in check at times. With Keith, anything could happen at any time.

Keith was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and elements of schizophrenia…add that with alcohol and drug abuse and it’s a wonder he lived as long as he did… In his first and only marriage, he was terrible to his wife Kim who finally had enough and left him for Ian McLagan and Keith never recovered from that. Kim would say he would dress up and be Hitler one day, a Pirate the next and Noel Coward at other times…not only dress up but BE those people all day.

The book also concentrates on his drumming and the influence he was to so many. The author wanted to show it was more to Keith than the Moon the Loon image…and it was. He was fantastic to fans and his friends. He would play with friends kids…like Ringo’s son Zak and Larry Hagman’s child for hours but yet basically ignore his daughter Mandy. It also touched on his relationship with each member of the band and his love of the Beach Boys and friendship with The Beatles.

He would go to schools and talk to unruly kids and explain to them that they need to settle down. He could get by with bad things because he was a pop star but they would get thrown in jail.

He became a caricature of his self at the end. He tried to live up to the image that he created. Many people have said that during the last few months of his life he was trying to settle down and even started to write an autobiography so he could put to bed the Moon the Loon image. He was trying to stop drinking but he would go into seizures because his body craved alcohol so bad.

A doctor gave him Heminevrin to ease the withdrawal symptoms from alcohol and he took too many and overdosed. Heminevrin should not have been given to him, it should have only been administered in a hospital but he was a rock star and so the doctor looked the other way. He kept waking up through the night and taking more…32 tablets were found in his system.

The book covers everything about the man and information about The Who I never knew. You can’t help but laugh at some of the things he did. At the same time, it’s sad knowing the man was mentally unstable. That probably helped his drumming on the edge but the price was too high.

There is just too much in the book to cover in a blog. It is an interesting read… The first line says it all… How do you attempt to capture an exploding time bomb? These were the first words put to me by one of the vast number of people I talked to while researching the life of Keith Moon.

From Tony Fletcher’s iJammin! website…  http://www.ijamming.net/Moon/ChasingTheMoon.html

On August 1, 1978, an exhibition of Who memorabilia curated by the group’s fans opened at the Institute Of Contemporary Arts on The Mall, near Buckingham Palace in London.

It was perhaps inevitable that members of the band would turn up to the opening. Their presence brought the process full circle: if the Who meant so much to their fans that the audience should mount an exhibition, then it followed that the fans meant so much to the Who that the band would want to see it.

So it came about that both Pete Townshend and Keith Moon immersed themselves among the hundreds of diehard Who worshippers that first day of ‘Who’s Who’ to make their way around the exhibition, pausing to talk with the audience along the way.

To a fourteen-year old fanzine writer, who had identified with the Who since first discovering pop music, and had attended the group’s last London stadium show as an excited twelve-year old, being in the same room as Pete and Keith was a significant moment. Like many others throwing nervous glances his heroes’ way, he respected them enough to grant them their privacy, but still he wanted an autograph, a chance to talk. While studying a bizarre life-size hologram of Keith Moon at the drums, the boy turned to find the real thing standing next to him. Keith looked shorter in real life, and somewhat chubbier. But it was unmistakably him: the hologram had obviously been based on a recent picture or film. The boy made a comment about the surreal situation, looking at an illusion while standing next to the real thing, and the rock star, quietly, in contrast to his larger-than-life reputation, said something in agreement. The boy then seized his moment. He pulled from his sports bag a lone copy of the fanzine he produced and asked Keith Moon to autograph a basic biography on the Who he had written for it.

The drummer looked at the cheaply produced fanzine, checked the cover to register the name — Jamming! — examined the boy’s face, and said, “I don’t think I’ve seen this one.”

You wouldn’t have, thought the boy, given that there were only one hundred copies in existence, and those mainly sold at his school. “It’s my own magazine,” he said aloud.

“I’d like to read this article some time,” said the rock star with evident sincerity.

“You can keep it if you want,” replied the boy, eager to please.

“No, you want it autographed,” said Moon, signing his name across the page with a flourish. “Tell you what, though.” He produced a slip of paper from an inside pocket and scribbled an address in Mayfair on it. “Here’s where I live,” he said as he handed it to the incredulous fourteen year old. “Come and see me. Bring a copy of your magazine with you. Any time’s fine by me.”

A week or so after meeting his hero, the fourteen-year old boy made his way nervously to a plush apartment building in London’s Mayfair. He carried the star’s address in his pocket: Flat 9, 12 Curzon Place, London W1. He did not know if he possessed the courage. It didn’t make sense his being invited around like that; it was hardly as if someone so popular could be lonely for company. With no security to stop him, he made his way to the fourth floor. His heart in his mouth, he approached Flat 9 with his magazine under his arm and knocked quietly. He thought he could hear music, yet from which apartment he was not sure. He knocked again, a little louder this time. But there was no reply. He slipped the magazine under the door along with an appreciative note bearing his own phone number and address. He didn’t really expect to hear back from his hero.
And he never did. Just a couple of weeks later, Keith Moon died in that same Mayfair apartment.

I cried when I learned of Keith Moon’s death: on Capital Radio at 9pm, at the start of Nicky Horne’s show, as I vividly recall it being, late that Thursday evening of September 7. (At 10pm every night, I would turn religiously to John Peel on Radio 1.) It was the first time anybody’s death had ever hit me personally, and it affected me in much deeper ways than I believe my family could understand at the time. To them he was just another alcoholic rock star, pissing away his limited talent and excess wealth, and indeed there was an ugly scene at a cousin’s communion shortly thereafter, when an aunt dared to insult the dead drummer for his general debauchery and lack of morals as she had read about in a middle-class tabloid and I jumped passionately to my dead hero’s defense. For me, Keith Moon had been more than just a world-famous rock star, more than simply a brilliant drummer, more even than the most irrepressible and carefree character of rock’n’roll’s last (and British rock’s first) fifteen years. He had been a human being, an approachable, affable man who had never forgotten what it was like to be a fan or a dreamer. More than that, for those few minutes that August on The Mall, he had been as a friend.

This website has stories from Jeff Beck, Alice Cooper, and Dave Edmunds about Keith. If you have the time check them out.

The night before he died.

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You traveled into a worm hole through space and time and all you brought back was Keith Moon?

I awoke from a dream. I dreamed I was at an opening of some club and I was in the parking lot and here comes Keith Moon. He was laughing madly and asked me if I was enjoying myself…I was amazed and happy…. Someone in the background of this dream asked the above long question that is the title. I didn’t answer but if I did it would have been a resounding YES…who else? If I could have met any rock star…I would have picked Keith Moon. He was the ultimate definition of a rock star. Some people would pick Jimmy Page or Robert Plant…but to me Led Zeppelin always had a dark cloud around them. They were not the most inviting band. The Who on the other hand seemed open and at least trying to connect with the audience. The concert footage I have of them with Moon they would act silly between songs and be human and light…until they played…when they played in their prime…no one could touch them live. Plus musically I just liked them much better…I brought Zeppelin up because they  covered some of the same ground at the same time as the Who. I don’t care if I hear Stairway anymore in my life…but when Won’t Get Fooled Again comes on….I still turn it up. But this is about Keith Moon and me dragging him to the current age. He would not have survived now because he had fun and lots of it. Excess yes and too much. He was arguably the best drummer in rock ever….he usually comes in 1st or 2nd in polls to John Bonham. He had an ability and a rare ability….it doesn’t seem he could be embarrassed. I use to really want that trait…but it was his undoing also. With all of his mad escapades it has been said by many that he never wanted to hurt anyone. He once got a hotel clerk fired by stealing chicken from the kitchen…the next day he got the mans job back. The only person he ended up hurting was himself. He wrecked plenty of hotel rooms but he did it with style…one time nailing the furniture to the ceiling at the same location it had been on the floor.

I feel guilty sometimes enjoying reading about Keith…yes he had drinking problems and some mental problems that went undetected in the seventies. You will see these old jaded rock stars start smiling when talking about him now. A smile that says that they don’t have the time or the memory to tell you all the stories. He had energy to burn and finally did just that…burn out. He wore people out that tried to hang with him.

Keith’s stories have entertained generations after his lifetime….he paid the price. He was trying to clean up before he died and died on an overdose of a drug to wean him off of alcohol.

Check youtube out for Keith Moon and you will find some great videos….If you want a quick read find a copy of Full Moon I had a copy when I was 13 and I wish I would have kept it when I saw the price…you can get the audio version pretty cheap. If you really want to know about Keith get this one.  Better price and it covers his entire career. Yes I would bring him back just to see the reaction of today’s PC world. Their heads would explode. He would give this boring corporate world a hot foot….which it needs desperately. If only I could Keith….you would be here but I would rather go back to your world when the rules were broken and you could have a bit more fun. To this day I’ve never seen nor heard a drummer that could match him.