Keith Moon at iJamming!

Introduction to the 2005 edition of Dear Boy

Dave Edmunds interview transcript from Dear Boy

Jeff Beck interview transcript from Dear Boy

Alice Cooper interview transcript from Dear Boy

Jean Battye recalls how Keith's driver Neil Boland lost his life, Jan 1970 (interview added July 2005)

Golden Shot hostess Lee Patrick remembers her time as Keith Moon's amour.

Tony Fletcher on Chasing The Moon

Tony's updates on Keith Moon and Dear Boy from Sep 2000-March 2004

Updated with New Afterword July 2005




Listen to NPR's Weekend Edition piece on Keith Moon, from September 2003. Includes interviews with Tony Fletcher and Roger Daltrey.


(I wrote the following for Matt Kent's Naked Eye fanzine at the time 'Dear Boy'/'Moon' was first published, in September 1998. More than two years later it remains a pretty accurate assessment of the joys and jubilation, trials and tribulations involved in writing a 600-page, supposedly 'definitive' rock biography.)
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.

The above words are the final ones you will find in my biography of Keith Moon, 'Dear Boy.' They go some way to explaining the fondness, respect and even love I always felt for Keith over the years as I turned from the nervous 14-year old of the above anecdote into an ambitious youth determined to be a rock star himself, then a full-time music journalist, and eventually an author who ended up moving to New York and finds himself, despite himself, still living there.

The incident(s) described also gives us a window into a side of Keith his public image rarely allowed space for. It tells us that Moon the Loon, an alcoholic drug addict prone to acts of wanton destruction and practical jokes verging on the boorish, could also be the most approachable, humble, interested and genuinely friendly rock star on the planet. He was, clearly, a walking collection of contradictions, and it was those contradictions -- the series of identity crises that comes to most working class kids who achieve legend-in-their-lifetime status and which in Keith were magnified many times over -- that I always thought would provide the premise for more than merely another rock biography.

In other words, I figured his story to be an epic. That it would end up being a 300,000 word, 600-page epic, I didn't figure quite so strongly, at least not at the offset. In fact, I was originally contracted to write only half that amount. But Keith Moon's story is far bigger than that of just his own, quite sizable life; it's also an extreme case study of his generation. These were the 'baby boomers' who grew up in post-war Britain, were infatuated by the first generation of American rock'n'roll music, devoted their lives to somehow emulating and bettering it, formed their country's first real generation of rock bands in the early sixties, conquered Britain and in relatively short shrift, America, found the world at their feet in the most swinging, psychedelic decade of then all - money no apparent object, drink and drugs no apparent effort - then developed into sophisticated rock acts in the seventies, became lords of their English manor, royalty in America, achieved more than they -- or any one else coming before them -- had ever done in the field of music, only to struggle as they aged, as the output slowed and family lives intervened, as their vices became habits and new musical movements came nibbling at the feet of the pedestals on which they now strode. As I write in the foreword to my book, drawing on Moon's infatuation with Robert Newton's immortal performance of Long John Silver, "Keith's unscripted journey ended with him marooned on a private Treasure Island, materially rich beyond his dreams and emotionally poor at heart, unable to successfully communicate with the world at large, craving love yet unable to return it, demanding attention without realizing that he had it. The scene in which he was rescued from this isolated existence to live happily ever was unfortunately never written. In true-life dramas there often are no happy endings."

Maybe so, but over the years it gradually got to me that the story leading up to Keith's premature demise had never been properly told. Sure there was Dougal Butler's 'Moon the Loon,' but that was anecdotal, not biographical. And the two heavyweights books on the Who, Richard Barnes' 'Maximum R&B,' and Dave Marsh's 'Before I Get Old,' never really got beneath the surface of Moon's phenomenal personality. Having written a couple of deeply-researched and well-received biographies of my own by this point, and unwilling to write another until I could find more meaty (beaty, big etc) a subject, it dawned on me that perhaps I should consider telling Keith's life story. Certainly I had the passion, the background knowledge, and hopefully the credentials. Yet almost immediately I thought of this, I read of Roger Daltrey's plans to produce a movie on Keith's life and figured I had beaten to the punch - and by an insider. I dropped the idea and got on with my life, working freelance for a dozen different outlets at any point in time.

Keith Moon in landed gentry pose: "He sneered at the dominant British stiff upper lip, while appropriating it so effectively as to delete his working class background at will."
But around 1994, I made some drastic changes in my life, determined to work on single, bigger, more important and hopefully longer-lasting projects. And so I returned to the subject of Keith Moon. What had happened to Roger's movie? (In a nutshell, it was struggling for financing.) Why had Keith's story still not been told in print? And could I, who was only born the week that Keith joined the Who (then the High Numbers), really be the one to tell it? When I proposed the idea to Chris Charlesworth, a former music journalist friend of Keith's who had edited my two previous biographies and also doubled as executive producer on the Who's reissues, he jumped at it. He would put it out in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, Omnibus' budgets would not allow me to afford the depth of research I knew I would need to undertake the project properly. Chris sat back while I talked to agents and then other publishers. In America, Avon Books, which is more enthusi-astic about pop culture books than most Stateside publishers, were quickly sold on the idea of a proper Keith Moon biography. They too, thought it was about time. We agreed that Omnibus would publish in the UK, and Avon in the States. This was September 1995. The very week my first child was born, I found I had another baby to take care of.

Timing is everything in projects like this. A few years earlier, the Who had been old hat, Keith just another dead rock star. Then, as inevitably happens in music, the sixties came back into vogue, Britpop exploded, the Who were suddenly credible again, and everyone I came into contact thought I was onto the greatest project going and was delighted to help me with it. (Or else promised to buy the finished book, thus reinforcing my initial sales pitch that Keith's life story will reach down several generations once it is in print.) Such was the sudden passion for all things mod and sixties, that no sooner had I moved back to England for six months to conduct all the interviews, than the Who reformed. A group of individuals who I thought I could approach and pick off/tick off one by one were suddenly working together again, their diaries filled, their complex inter-band relationships no more stable, their views on Keith no less finite than they ever had been.

Into this ever simmering melting pot I threw myself. Pete Townshend (who I had interviewed a couple of times over the years) assured me he would co-operate if Keith's ex-wife Kim said yes and if Roger, who was still working on the movie idea, also agreed. But Daltrey proved, not unexpectedly, the most difficult to get hold of and pin down, and finally sent back word that as he was still planning to make his movie, he didn't want a book of Keith's life getting in the way. His partner in that project, Chris Stamp (who Roger had instigated legal action against back in the seventies, just one of the almost hilarious footnotes to the group's unceasingly complex relationships), had no such qualms and readily agreed to be interviewed. In the meantime, Keith's ex Kim, now married to former Small Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan, and living in America, proved slow to answer my letters while Keith's subsequent fiancee, Annette Walter Lax, appeared to have returned to Stockholm and gone to ground completely. John Entwistle, Keith's best friend in the early years of the Who, said yes to an interview regardless, and spent three hours regaling myself (and Naked Eye's own Matt Kent, who drove me to Stowe to do the interview) with anecdotes that revealed equal parts love, anger and frustration with Keith, even after all these years. A few days after this interview, Keith's current replacement in the Who, Zak Starkey, told me he wouldn't be interviewed for the book because John Entwistle had told him, just the night before, he had no idea who I was! (Zak was subsequently convinced as to the limits of Entwistle's memory!) Bill Curbishley was never in the country. Kit Moon, Keith's mother, was so frustrated by the lack of development in Roger's movie, for which she had been interviewed and given up some of Keith's possessions, that she had decided to draw the curtain on Keith's life and no longer talk to people about him. And when I finally found Dougal Butler, his first reaction was to tell me that, just a week before, he had sold the rights for his own book on Keith to Robert de Niro's production company. Suddenly the issue of who was going to tell Keith's life story fullest and in which format became its own fascinating subplot.


iJamming! Site Copyright Tony Fletcher 2000-2005