7.9.15

MOONIE ON THE PULL

To mark the 37th Anniversary of Moonie’s elevation to the great gig in the sky, here is a more detailed account of what took place after the Who concert at New Bingley Halls, Stoke-on-Trent, on October 3, 1975. I mentioned this incident in a previous post about these shows but this is the version I wrote for Uncut magazine several years ago. The editor there thought it was unsuitable and instead published another piece I wrote, about Keith lobbing a TV from a hotel window in 1971.  
         In the picture below, probably taken at Tara House around 1972, which I found on the internet, Keith is wearing a hussar’s jacket that he loaned to me when I needed something to wear for a fancy dress party that year. I returned it to him, too, though he no doubt lost it along the way.



It is the prerogative of rock stars to enjoy the attentions of beautiful women to a greater degree than most other men and amongst those who took the fullest advantage of this privilege was The Who’s Roger Daltrey, a man with an almost unlimited sexual appetite. On several occasions during the early to mid-seventies I was in a position to observe Roger snare his prey, and I always came away feeling I’d seen a master at work – and not a little envious. On this occasion, however, it was his bandmate Keith Moon who took the honours.
         On October 3 & 4, 1975, The Who played two shows at the New Bingley Halls near Stoke on Trent, both of which I reviewed for Melody Maker, staying overnight in the same hotel as the group. Largely because it was the opening night of a tour and they were a bit rusty, and also offering up a newly sequenced set with some previously unplayed Who By Numbers songs, the first show had its faults but, as ever, The Who’s vast experience enabled them to power through and the crowd went away happy. The second night, as I recall, featured a slightly adjusted set and was well night perfect.
         Among those milling around backstage after the first show was a smartly-dressed, fairly affluent looking young couple with whom I somehow got chatting, and after a while Keith poked his nose outside the dressing room door and ambled over to say hello. This wasn’t that unusual as I’d known him for a few years by then but it wasn’t long before I sensed he had an ulterior motive. Keith introduced himself to the couple – even though they obviously knew who he was – and as ever began to monopolise the conversation, directing his words more to them than me. I suspect they were newly weds. She had a gold band and a fancy engagement ring on her left hand.
         Of course, the real reason why Keith had decided to linger here was because the female half of this couple was a strikingly attractive young woman, slightly too curvy to be a model but drop-dead gorgeous all the same, and she was dressed to kill in a white mini-dress and heels. Keith was 29 then, past his prime certainly but not quite yet on the downward curve towards bleary alcoholism, and from the glint in his eye I knew immediately that he was lusting after her something rotten. I can’t say I blame him. She was just his type, classy and blonde like a slightly taller version of Kim, the wife who’d left him in 1973.
         They were all smiles and well pleased to listen to Keith who was his gracious, amiable and amusing self. Like all provincial folk unused to close encounters with famous, worldly and unconventional characters like Keith, they were entranced by his patter and flattered by his attentions, especially the lady who was soon gazing at him with an expression of undisguised awe.  Such was the increasing merriment in our little group that it seemed only natural for Keith to invite them back to the Who's hotel for more drinks. “We always have a bit of a party after a show,” he said. “Why don’t you come along?” Of course, they accepted the invitation – who wouldn’t? – and this was the cue for Keith to make his move, to smoothly separate them by asking her if she’d like a ride in his Rolls Royce, which she most certainly would, thus leaving him to meet them back at the hotel after driving there in his own car.
         Moving in for the kill, Keith wasted no time in summoning Dougal, his driver, and taking me aside. “Do us a favour Chris,” he mumbled. “Just keep him talking for a while.” By then, of course, I knew exactly what was going on. “We’ll see you back at the hotel, dear boy,” said Keith as he and his aide-de-camp escorted his wife from the concert hall. She seemed more than willing to accompany them, too, perhaps already anticipating delights that might lie in store, and I remember watching their backs as they headed down the wide corridor to the stage door, she like a lamb to the slaughter, closely flanked by Keith, carrying a fresh bottle of champagne, and Dougal, ever willing to ease the passage of his master’s pleasure.
         Turning around to her other half I played my part in this shameful plot, continuing to chat with him for a good 15 minutes after they’d left. He was clearly unaware of the grave risk involved in abandoning his lovely wife to Keith Moon, especially when post-gig adrenalin was still coursing through his veins. I eventually declined his offer of a lift back to the hotel, but being a local man he knew where it was anyway. “See you there,” I said when I left with someone else from the Who’s entourage.
         When I got back to the hotel Keith’s Roller was parked outside but, of course, its occupants were nowhere to be seen, and before long the bloke arrived too, and was hanging out in the lobby wondering what had happened to them. It was an old- fashioned hotel, quite small but quite upmarket, with a cosy little bar opposite the reception. There was a bunch of us from the Who party in this bar by now, including John (but not Pete or Roger) and as it filled up with more and more Who people he kept coming in and asking if anyone knew where Keith was. “No idea mate,” we said. “Why not have a drink until he turns up?” Of course, we all knew - or guessed - what was going on and he was probably coming to the same conclusion, not that he could do a thing about it.
         Eventually, after another 20 minutes or so, Keith came down to the bar with the lady. She looked a bit unsteady on her feet, slightly sheepish, and was a bit giggly too, and was doing her best to appear as if nothing unseemly had occurred. I probably wasn’t the only one who noticed that Keith was now wearing different clothes from those he had on when he left the Bingley Halls. As ever he was full of charm, especially to the husband, even if there was a touch of the cat that’s had the cream in his manner.
         “What a delightful lady you’re engaged to dear boy, absolutely charming,” he said as she sat down with as much modesty as she could muster. “You’re a very lucky man. We’ve been watching television, and discussing gardening and foreign travel. I love gardening and we travel a lot with The Who you know, especially to America. Have you been there? Fine country… let me buy you both another drink… more champagne?”
         Keith was hilarious, prattling on, talking rubbish (I doubt Keith knew a rake from a hoe) to them both. In a gesture of reconciliation she had sought out her husband’s hand and was gripping it tightly but his face was set in the kind of uneasy, fixed smile that people adopt when tact is an effort. Of course, he couldn’t say what might have been on his mind because he was surrounded by people who worked for The Who, who were paid to protect them, so there was no way he could accuse Keith of anything or, heaven forbid, cause any trouble. So he had no choice but to go with the flow, as did his tipsy girlfriend, albeit more enthusiastically. It was side-splittingly funny but somehow cruel at the same time.
         In the end they left together, opting to take a taxi since both were a bit worse for wear for drink. As they were leaving, Keith shook the man’s hand vigorously, sincerely, and gave his girl a chaste kiss on the cheek − “Delighted to have met you both, absolute pleasure… come and see us again if we’re in this parts… ask for me personally” − but I couldn’t help but wonder what might have been said between them the following morning, when they’d sobered up, and if the relationship survived this brutal intrusion from the whirlwind that was Moon The Loon.




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