DAVE EDMUNDS
on KEITH MOON
Going through more of the manuscripts of interviews I conducted for the Moon book to see which ones I can place on the web site, I've been struck how some of the most articulate comments seem to come from American musicans. I was tempted to post the interviews with Joe Walsh, Jon Sebastian, Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman (Flo and Eddie from The Turtles) up here, but I really wanted to maintain an international balance after kicking off with Alice Cooper. So I've chosen the Welsh-born but internationally respected Dave Edmunds, who appeared with Keith Moon in the Stardust movie in 1974, alongside David Essex, Adam Faith, Larry Hagman, Paul Nicholas (who went on to play Cousin Kevin in the movie of Tommy) and Karl Howman; the director was Michael Apted, the producer was David Puttnam, the screenwriter Ray Connolly. Altogether a fair collective of strong characters and it's no surprise there were a few run-ins and confrontations during the making of the movie. In fact, while conducting the research for the Moon biography, the Stardust scenario was one of the more interesting to try and unravel, perhaps because I interviewed so many of the cast involved and they all, naturally, had slightly different takes on their experience.

Keith had made his movie debut proper on the film That'll be The Day, possibly the best movie made about the dawning of the rock'n'roll era ever made in the UK, and one that helped establish acting credentials for both David Essex and Ringo Starr. Ringo bailed out of the movie's follow-up, Stardust, in which David Essex goes from being a club rocker to Beatles-like stardom almost overnight; his part as manager taken by Adam Faith. Keith apparently also bailed out of certain responsibilities in the second movie; having been intensely involved in the making of That'll be The Day then, according to David Puttnam, he became a pest on Stardust. Then again, Keith was going through a marriage break up at the time, and no doubt had problems being relegated to a mere member of the support cast when the Who were one of the very biggest bands in the world and Keith was used by now to getting whatever he wanted whenever he wanted it. To this end, a concert appearance by the movie's fictional band - The Stray Cats - in Manchester to an audience of real-life David Essex fans appeared to unhinge several people, including Edmunds, and, to an arguable extent, Moon himself.

Revealing all this, I suppose it only make sense that I post the other transcripts relating to these movies, and I probably will do in time. American readers may be a little bemused by Edmunds' anecdotes, as neither movie was a hit in the States, but anyone who can get their hands on Stardust at a rental store, please do. Not only is it a wonderful rock movie, but you'll see Larry Hagman, with whom Keith formed a friendship on set, debuting in the role that became JR.

While I'm posting this one to have a British rocker up there alongside Alice Cooper, Dave Edmunds was actually living in Los Angeles at the time we spoke. He began by explaining how he got involved in Stardust, for which he recorded the soundtrack and played a member of the Stray Cats. (A few years later, of course, an American band would call themselves the Stray Cats and by one of those weird twists of fate, Dave Edmunds would produce them.)
Dave Edmunds: Although I'd had a few hit records, I'd stayed in Wales. [Edmunds had a UK number one and American top 5 in 1970/71 with 'I Hear You Knocking' and two top ten hits in 1973.] So Stardust was the first time of my hanging with the big boys, with Ringo and Keith and so on. Keith took me under his wing.

-He did that with a lot of people.

He did that with Karl Howman. And Karl fell for it. He was an actor, not a musician. He got carried away with it. He started acting like a member of a band, and Keith corrupted both of us a bit. I didn't use to drink up till then. When I was younger, I did, but during the late '60s/early '70s, I didn't drink at all, I just went off it, for the whole of my twenties. And it was when I met Keith on that movie, I was going through a divorce at the same time, leaving Wales, and getting into this movie. Meeting all new people and getting into the London scene. Although I'd had some hits already. .

-You stayed in Wales during the early period of your hit-making?

I moved to Rockfield studios, that was my thing. I was 31 in '74.

-Who brought you in to the film?

David Puttnam. I went and met David up at Tottenham Ct Rd and sang 'When Will I Be Loved' by the Everly Brothers and he said 'great, that's just what I'm after.' And I had total freedom to do whatever songs I wanted. That would never happen now. Just couldn't. You'd have everyone wanting to be on there. I did the whole thing by myself, back down at Rockfield. I did all the instruments, almost all the voices, all by myself. It was a dream gig.

-Did Keith ask to play the drums on the album?

No, Keith was above that. He was on another stratosphere. He wouldn't have been worried about that. David Puttnam brought a couple of songs to me but I chose the rest. I also did the vocals on 'Dea Sanctatoria.' I found my voice doing that. David Essex complained that I was on the album version, and I think Puttnam feigned surprise. David Puttnam was great, I didn't have a manager at the time, and he negotiated for me, which shouldn't be possible. He gave me a good percentage on the album, gave me a good budget for each track and a good advance for each track. A great gentleman.

-So Keith turned you onto drink.

We were on location somewhere at seven in the morning and he ordered brandy. And Karl got stuck in on it. I think I got stuck into it as well. That was a hairy day. I told the director to fuck off in front of everybody. Because I couldn't stop laughing, we were doing some scene where we had to mime to silence. They were doing a dialogue between Adam Faith and the club manager, and we had to pretend we were singing in complete silence in a room with 300 extras. I cracked up and so did Keith. Keith had a bottle of brandy hanging, like a drip. I have a photo with a bottle of brandy and a rubber tube coming down and into Keith's mouth. I don't think a film has ever been made like that.

-What I understand is that you, Keith and Karl ended up like the band. Life started imitating art.

It did. And I'll tell you another thing. Paul Nicholas, in the script he was the odd man out, and it worked exactly like that when we were filming. He wasn't one of us. We were a clique, we were a band. Inbetween shoots we'd go scuttling off together, getting up to mischief. And Paul Nicholas wouldn't. He'd be aloof. I don't know whether he did it by design, to get the effect.

-You get the bit where he leaves the band. Were you relieved, 'good, we don't have to work with Paul Nicholas for the next few weeks.'

Kind of. Yeah! It seemed like ... There wasn't a strong dividing line between real life and the film.

-It's like method acting.

I suppose so, but we weren't thinking of that.

"We wouldn't sit down and talk about his 'serious intentions with his career.' None of us saw it as a career, none of us in the '60s and '70s. We weren't trying to carve something out and make a better world, everything was spontaneous fun."
-Well, you and Keith were pro musicians, and Karl was an actor.

Well, that was how I got the job. David didn't want just actors. He asked me, do you know anyone who can act and is a musician? I said 'I'll have a go.' I did an audition and had to read with Paul Nicholas and Karl Howman, and standing in the corner was Ken Russell and Michael Apted. Karl said it was hilarious: my voice got quieter and quieter and quieter. In the original script was one band member who was very quiet, didn't speak much. Becuase there always is one. So that was the part I got.

Keith and I were like brothers. I was going round to his place. He had a rented place in London because he'd just got divorced. I'd go round his place and hang with him, go to Tramps, all that stuff. I went to the studio and played on a Who song. Glyn Johns was there and I played on a Gibson with Townshend.

-Did you feel Keith had a craving to be an a ctor?

No. He's not that straightforward. I found him to be a constantly moving object. You could never pin him down. Not on any subject. If you saw him that was it, it would be a spontaneous thing. And everything you talked about and everything you did would be spontaneous. And we wouldn't sit down and talk about his 'serious intentions with his career.' None of us saw it as a career, none of us in the '60s and '70s. We weren't trying to carve something out and make a better world, everything was spontaneous fun.

-Keith had just split with Kim. Was that something he would talk about?

If he talked about it it would be like this. I had just split with my wife, and had a girlfriend. We would travel in his car, I'd say 'I've lost my house, this is terrible what I'm going through' and Keith would say to Dougal, 'Dougal, get the keys to Tara, I'm giving Tara to Dave.' So you never know whether he's serious because he was always out there. You wouldn't know if he meant it or would forget about it two minutes later. That was the kind of thing he would do. It was kind of sad.

-He was being incredibly generous, but not with something real?

He turned into a fantasy character that was kind of frightening, kind of exciting, and a little bit sad.

-Did you find him sad then?

More in retrospect. At the time I was looking up to him, he was my hero. But there was an air of sadness there, one night he would be staying at Harry Nilsson's where I stayed as well and then he had this house in Gordon Place in Kensington. So he didn't have anything. I remember I took some clothes along when I stayed in Curzon Place and I got up the next morning and he was wearing my clothes. I said 'that's my shirt.' He said 'I'll buy you another then.' He didn't have any clothes, he probably thought they were Nilsson's. He was like a homeless rock'n'roller.

He had got these weird pills off the doctor. Serenafil. Before heminevrin, they gave people serenafil when they realized how dangerous mandrax was. Everyone was doing mandrax. I once got a prescription for a hundred demanil and a hundred mandrax, just by asking. And those are drugs that don't mix very well. Serenafil was more oblivient than mandrax. If you tried to get up and do something and function on it you'd wake up under a table. Nasty stuff I would imagine. I think I tried it once, but don't remember anything about it.

He could also get you into trouble. If he took you under his wing and you were awestruck - which I was - this is the sort of thing he would do. We were on location in Manchester staying at the Post House, and he just happened to say to me, while we were meeting in the lobby waiting to go, to the Bellevue to go on set, he said 'Have you been paid yet?' and I said 'No.' But there was nothing wrong with that, it hadn't all been done yet. But he said 'come with me,' and he got up and said 'we're not filming until Edmunds is paid, in full, in cash' and we went out and sat in his limo, Eddie sat with his engine running, he locked the doors and Keith wouldn't answer to anyone. We had David Puttnam, Ray Connolly knocking on the doors and windows, and he said 'No, unless Edmunds is paid, we're driving back to London.' I didn't know what was going on.

-Was he doing it out of fun?

I think it was a way of getting attention. He was so used to doing outrageous things he probably thought it was time for another one.

On the way up to Manchester we stopped at the services to get some gas, in the limo, there as Dougal (Butler), me , Karl and Keith. And a bus pulled up full of adolescent schoolgirls. And they took a head count. So Keith stripped off all his clothes and ran off into the crowd of schoolgirls, ran all the way round the bus, through this crowd of 13-15 year olds, jumped back in the limo and said 'right, off to Manchester.' caught us all by surprise.

-He was apparently difficult on Stardust. It's been suggested that was because he wasn't the main person, wasn't given enough attention.

I never saw any evidence of that. If he was crying out for attention it's because it was part of his make up, not because of anything going on on the film set.

-Did you notice Keith having problems with Connolly and Puttnam?

The day that Keith had a fight with Ray Connolly. . . That's the day I told Michael Apted to fuck off. That's the day we started drinking at seven in the morning. So it was all booze related. I believe Michael Apted and David Essex had problems in Spain afterwards, though that's not really for me to say. David Essex was okay. Adam Faith I thought was no fun whatsoever. He was the most unfun person I'd ever met. All he did was look in the money pages of the Financial Times, scouring for things. I thought he should lighten up. I never saw him smile. Even when Larry Hagman came on the scene, Adam Faith picked a row with him on the first morning. Because Hagman had a super 8 camera, and he was filming on the set, and Adam Faith didn't like it. He started in on Larry Hagman. He (Adam) was very unpleasant, I have no compulsion about saying that at all.

-I know Keith and Adam didn't get on.

Like oil and water. One was fun, and the other was deadly serious. Two completely opposite poles.

-David Essex was having great success at that time.

'Rock On' was number 1 in America. He was fine. Although it would be Karl and Keith, he fitted in alright now and then. He wasn't one of the boys but he wasn't out of the club either.

-He went to #1 in America while the movie was being made?

I remember him showing me the MM with him at #1. Which I had previously held [the chart position, not the Melody Maker], so we had something in common.

-Did you see any signs of Keith being unhappy at David Essex being number one?

No. Keith was much bigger than David Essex.

-As a rock'n'roll star?

Right. He was in a different league. Even if you've got a number one, it's still your first number one, you're still small potatoes compared to The Who.

-Do you remember Keith throwing a party during Stardust? With the Dubliners?

That was at the post house. The Dubliners just happened to be there. That was the night that Keith ordered Indian food for 20 people. Karl Howman had just his girlfriend, demure girl, she was arriving. . . So they went off to their room early. Keith ordered curry for 20 people, and delivered it personally to every room. Karl and his poor girlfriend, in a lovely negligee, was covered in vindaloo sauce and whatever. All the rooms were covered, all the bedsheets, the covers, he splattered the walls with curry. Then he tried to open a bottle with his teeth, but the whole glass top came off with the cap and sliced his gum, and he was taken to Bellevue Hospital where he had stitches in his gum. Then he came back and carried on partying. This was a spontaneous party everyone was involved. That was a wild night.

-The vindaloo all over the room is in Karl's room?

He knocked on the door and said, 'room service', rolled in with this cart and plastered the whole room with it. They had to move Karl to another room, and then Keith had his accident. Then I think we didn't see Keith for two days, he collapsed.

-Did you have weekends off?


It was pretty much straight through. We might have had some days off, the day after the party I don't think we could have been working. I remember we didn't see Keith for two days. That might have been a weekend.

-Keith smuggled in brandy in lucozade bottles, I heard.


Where I tell David Essex to piss off [in a club scene supposedly filmed in America], we're all sitting round a table. There's a bottle of brandy on the table. Someone tried to take that from Keith and he just put his hands on the top and said No, it stays. And it did. He pulled rank and wanted the bottle on the table.

-It must have been something for Keith to take someone like you under his wing when you've got a fair old track record yourself.

Karl had some problems. He wasn't even a musician. David Puttnam was very aware. After the filming, he called me up and said he was worried about me, he was worried about the effect Keith had had on me. Because I was drinking then. I'll never forget the phone call. He said that I shouldn't get taken in by it, that he saw it happen before on That'll Be The Day with another actor, someone else got very fucked up under the influence of Keith, and he said he didn't want to see it happen to me. He said 'don't drink, don't become a Keith.' (Pauses.) We had too much fun on that film.


Dave Edmunds' web site can be accessed here. The debut album by Rockpile, Seconds of Pleasure, which featured both Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe, has just been re-issued.

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