BOY, HOW WE CHERISH ROCK’S foundation myths. The idea that merchant seamen brought back rare R&B records to Liverpool docks and fuelled the Merseybeat scene is so much more exotic than the possibility that in Liverpool in the early ’60s, as in any other city, you could go into a specialist record shop and order them. Real life gets to be both mundane and exotic. With myth we only settle for the extraordinary.
Which brings us to Keith Moon, where myth has been multi-layered upon myth until it’s hard to discern where the legend ends and the man begins. “Keith lived his entire life as a fantasy,” Roger Daltrey, The Who’s singer, told me. Moon The Loon, as we all know, is the guy who drove a Lincoln Continental into a Holiday Inn swimming pool; the exhibitionist drummer par excellence who turned up for his Who audition dressed from head to toe in ginger. Well, according to a forthcoming near-as-dammit definitive account of Moon’s life by Tony Fletcher (Dear Boy: The Life Of Keith Moon, published by Omnibus Press) neither of these seminal events actually happened.
That’s not to say that other equally extraordinary things didn’t happen when Moon was around. It’s just that the myth repertoire has been embellished so much down the years, not least by those closest to him, that it’s sometimes hard to get a glimpse of the man behind the actor’s mask. As Fletcher also points out, so determined was Moon about playing out the role of junior partner in The Who that he even knocked a year off his age, making him two-and-a-bit years younger than Pete Townshend, rather than the mere 15 months that he actually was. All this merely heaps further intrigue upon Keith Moon’s already rich, spellbinding, tragicomic, myth-making maelstrom of a life. All that we know for certain is that amid the carnage of a thousand wild parties in a thousand trashed motel rooms there emerges, eventually, the wreckage of a man. He could drum a bit too.