Guide to British Music of the 1960s

February 1999

Book Review: Dear Boy: The Life of Keith Moon by Tony Fletcher

 

This is a major piece of work that compiles television appearances around the world by over 150 different artists. This must have been a major effort to compile. This is a reference work that the reader can dip into from time to time or use to look up specific events. Anyone looking to read it cover to cover would need to put aside a considerable amount of time! The artists are British or honorary British and appearances refer to full TV song appearances, not interviews, quiz shows, news programmes and similar. Even though the volume of TV appeara

This book has much in common with last month's review of Ian McLagan's All the Rage. They were both from West London and made their names in the top "mod" groups of the 1960s. Moreover, their paths crossed frequently for both musical and personal reasons. Mac is now married to Kim, the former Mrs Keith Moon, and both books cover how these relationships developed but from opposite angles. Both Mac and Keith were burning the candle at both ends and were involved in the excesses of the rock 'n' roll business. However, if you can take excesses to an extreme, Moon did this and hence, unlike Mac, he is not around today to tell his own tale.

Tony Fletcher has written an immense work that has delved deep into the life of one of the greatest, if not the greatest, rock drummer of all time. The attention to detail is evident and he has spoken to many people from Keith Moon's life as well as reading relevant biographies and other press. What is important is that Fletcher is first and foremost and fan. However, he seeks to uncover "both sides of the Moon" without resorting to over-the-top plaudits or simply repeating the hype already out there. The latter point is important. A myth has grown up around Keith Moon, much of it of his own making. Foe example, Moon did not drive a Rolls-Royce into a swimming pool and this is an example of a story that has been embellished over the years, partly by Moon himself, it seems. One thing that Fletcher does attempt to point out is that, while Moon was always outgoing and outrageous, he felt that he had to live up to his public image and surpass his last stunt. As a result he never settled down.

There were clearly two sides to Keith Moon, the public and private. His family and closest friends were the only really witnesses to the down-side, a manifestation of tremendous insecurity. This resulted in his abusive behaviour to those he claimed to love as incredible jealousy and possessiveness would come to the fore. The public face of Keith Moon was the joker, always game for a laugh. He sought to further this through a series of ever-more outrageous stunts.

Fletcher suggests that Moon was the biggest fan of the Who. Despite regular flare-ups with Daltrey, he became closer to Townsend and, especially, John Entwhistle. Moon was only really happy, it seems, when the Who were working. He lived for the Who and was "lost" during periods of inactivity. The fact that he played so few sessions outside the Who was proof not only of his dedication to the Who but also the fact that his drumming style was not suitable elsewhere. Drummers are usually time keepers and this was not his strength. Moon was an explosive drummer who moved his instrument to the front of the music rather than being content to sit in the background and keep time.

This book is recommended not just for its interesting content but also as it is extremely well researched and written (Fletcher does get Steve Marriott's date of death wrong though!). It has now been published in the USA although under a slightly different title.

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