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


DEAR BOY:
THE UK PAPERBACK
Updated with New Afterword July 2005


MOON
THE U.S. PAPERBACK


MOON:
THE US HARDBACK


DEAR BOY:
THE UK HARDBACK


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

CHASING THE MOON
OR HOW I CAME TO WRITE A BIOGRAPHY ON THE GREATEST DRUMMER OF ALL

PART 1


Such is the nature of dealing with stardom and its effects - not least of them being the rights or privilege to tell its story. But then I had not expected anything less. I promised to persevere. And perseverance paid off. I ultimately found Annette, and though it took two visits to Stockholm to get her to talk, she finally opened up the stopper on twenty years of blocked memories and let it all pour out.
Keith and Kim in happier times
Similarly, Kim also came around, and I visited her in Austin where she talked, sometimes laughing, sometimes nearly in tears, for the best part of two days; hers is in many ways the most significant contribution to the biography. Dougal ended up being a wealth of information, providing a completely different angle on Keith than he had in his own, lighthearted book. Keith's sister Linda filled in a lot of family detail; Chris Stamp, Bill Curbishley, John Wolff, Richard Barnes, Cy Langston and several others colored in much of the behind the scenes activity; and a wonderful cast of musicians, actors, businessmen, roadies, journalists and plain old flunkies offered anecdotes and observations that would have invited many a lie-detector test were we not dealing with the legendary Keith Moon. Mandy Moon, Keith's daughter, called me to say that she could remember so little about her father that she was looking forward to reading the book to find out more about him. And Pete Townshend kept agreeing to and putting off an interview until the Who came on tour in America again at the end of 1996 - and then, just as I was leaving for the airport to meet him in Cleveland, his assistant called me from London to say Pete had changed his mind. He no longer had anything to say about Keith that was kind, he had decided, and so would prefer not to say anything at all. I elaborate on this surprising attitude a little bit at the end of my book. Needless to say, I would like to have talked to him, though not for his anecdotes - which increasingly beg belief the older he gets - as much as for his overview, which remains one of the most astute and poetic in rock. Still, as he subsequently wrote to me, his opinion on Keith had been widely published over the years and I was free to quote what I wanted. I did.

The most difficult part of Keith's life to find out about was the very early years. Not surprising, really. How many kids from your primary school do you still know? And what could you remember about them - even if they did go on to become rock stars? It was also frustrating for me that while, through the help of his former school and its old boys network, I was able to track down dozens of surviving Wembley citizens of Keith's age, very few of them ever knew Moon that well. (This is not completely unrelated to the fact that Keith never really had best friends; while he was everyone's mate, he was trouble enough, even as a young boy, that those with common sense kept a sensible distance from him.) That's not to say I didn't find old playmates from his street, surviving form teachers, schoolfriends and casual acquaintances - I found plenty - but still, I can't help but think that as soon as the book is published, I am going to be besieged by the entire grown-up population of Chaplin Road, Barham Primary and Alperton Secondary Modern, all wondering why I couldn't simply have found them in the phone book in Penzance or John O'Groats or wherever it is they are living these days.

Keith as I like to picture him: a happy jack-the-lad in the mid sixties.
Because I knew it would be hard to find everyone I needed to, I came into this project determined to travel every single avenue I was sent down, however much it might initially look like a cul-de-sac, in the hope some of them would take me to new, worthwhile destinations. This attitude paid off time and time again. For example, Bob Henrit, a fellow drummer and friend of Keith's, was on my initial list of calls. He quickly told me that he had once been partners in a drum shop on Wardour Street, underneath the Who's old offices, with a man called Gerry Evans, who knew Keith as a teenager. Gerry, who was still in the drum business himself, turned out to have been Keith's closest companion from the period Moon left school in the summer of 1961 until he joined the Beachcombers eighteen months later; his memories of Keith at that age were astonishingly vivid, his stories and insight priceless. Keith and Gerry had played in a band called the Escorts, and Gerry even knew the whereabouts of another band member, Colin Haines, who was also working in the music retail industry, on Denmark Street. Haines filled in further gaps for me and almost unbelievably, pointed me to a third member of the Escorts. I came away with three first-hand accounts of Keith's debut band and onstage performances. (Sadly, Gerry Evans died of cancer shortly after I interviewed him.


Another good example of why it's worth following up each contact... A friend in the London music business informed me that the drummer of Menswear, young enough to be Keith's son, used Moon's former chiropractor. A long shot, I decided to act on it nonetheless. I got in touch with the drummer; he put me in touch with the chiropractor, who had not worked on Keith, it turned out. However, the doctor did have as an ongoing client Steve Ellis, the former singer of Love Affair, who had been one of Keith's (and Roger's) great friends in the early seventies. Ellis gave me a good interview and then pointed me towards Dougie Clarke, one of the many right-hand men Keith Moon went through during the periods Dougal Butler was out of favor; Clarke, like Ellis now based in Brighton, had in fact lived with Keith in LA and been Moon's aide during the fateful spring 1976 tour of the States. During his fascinating interview, Clarke told me a little known story that warranted further investigation; I eventually found the medical professional involved, and the subsequent revelation forms the basis of perhaps the most bizarre chapter of Keith's life and the biography. I might have tracked all of these people down through a different set of circumstances, but it's unlikely. Menswear made a contribution to pop culture after all!

The easiest interviews to set up and probably the most pleasurable to conduct were with Keith's former fellow Beachcombers. This period of Moon's life has generally been glanced over and usually inaccurately so at that. ( Just for starters, The Beachcombers were not a surf band.) John Schollar, the Beachcombers' rhythm guitarist, stayed tight with Keith right up until his death and has held on to some of mementoes, including a wonderful and unknown photo session we have ended up using for the American front cover. The other Beachcombers, Tony Brind, Norman Mitchener and Ron Chenery, had equally fond and often hilarious reminiscences. Given that Keith was eighteen months with the band, a group that at the time rivalled the pre-Who Detours for popularity on the famed Commercial Entertainments circuit, I have devoted two chapters to this period in the biography. In many ways, it is my favorite section. Certainly, it reads as the most uncomplicated, innocent and purely enjoyable of Moon's life, before the double-edged swords of youthful fame and fortune got to him.

Perhaps the most entertaining time I had was with Oliver Reed, whom I could not resist visiting in Ireland once the invitation was extended. It's easy to see why these two men were such good friends: there was much in Reed that I had already heard described in Moon. What was fascinating though, was to hear Reed admit the same - to hear him say that Keith had influenced him towards his 'insanity' and 'sense of the bizarre' and that without the intrusion of the great comic and drummer on his life, Reed feels he would just have been another hard-drinking, hard-working, born-to-the-boards actor. In other words, the reason Reed feels he became the irascible (and to others, difficult) character that he has is down to Keith's influence, one he relishes till this day. If the spirit of Moon the Loon lives on anywhere, it is in this man, Oliver Reed.

Keith backstage at Madison Square Garden, June 1974, with Dougal on the right. Thanks to Dave van Staveren at the Quadrophenia.net site.
Back in New York after those wonderful months in the UK (fortunately, I had other work I was able to do in England, allowing me to stay for so long), my attentions turned to Los Angeles, where Keith lived for three years that were, to all intents and purposes, the death of him. The mid-seventies were the absolute zenith (or nadir, depending on perspective) of decadence for Keith's generation, a period when the likes of Moon, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, David Bowie, Rod Stewart and Ron Wood all moved out to California and joined the native rock stars in watching the days and nights blur into each other in one endless, meaningless party. Yet for all that the survivors' memories are foggy, it is evidence of Keith's impact on some of his peers, the magnitude of his character, that so many of them were so immediately responsive to my approaches. Joe Walsh, Bruce Johnston and Larry Hagman all called me back personally after I sent faxes to their representatives, and each within 48 hours of my approach; the likes of Alice Cooper and Ann-Margret were quick to set up interviews, and such seasoned professionals as John Sebastian and Jim Keltner showed no consternation in my calling them at home once I explained my mission. I was prepared to go to Los Angeles and get the feel for Keith's life there as best as I could, but the people I was dealing with were still mostly professional musicians, actors, producers and lawyers whose timetables could not be condensed into a short enough period to suit my now limited budget. It took me a solid six months of phone calls to get to everyone in LA. And every time I thought I was finished, there were always more people to talk to.

But I had to draw the line somewhere. After nearly 150 interviews, and perhaps just as many false leads, I sat down in the spring of 1997 to write the book. That was in many ways the most exciting part, and in others, the most tedious. My professional life has generally been very unpredictable, yet given the scope of this book and the fact I was already going to be at least a year late in handing it in, I was forced to cancel and turn down all other offers of work, curtail my social life to nearly zero, and commit myself to a solid ten hours a day of writing and editing. Once I subscribed to this regimen, I found myself so totally immersed in Keith's world that I no longer wanted to live in the modern one. "I'm in 1965 at the moment," I'd say to myself while taking a rare night out to watch, say, the Prodigy take New York by storm; "I don't want to be in 1997. It's too confusing." When I called people like Dougal Butler, Richard Barnes, or John Wolff to fill in gaps, which I did frequently, their response was usually a combination of amusement and bemusement; having mapped out Keith's life near enough to the day, I had a far better take on the man's residence at a particular point in time, or what car he owned when, than the people I was phoning.

More worryingly, I inadvertently took on some of Moon's traits as I wrote about him. Halfway through the first draft, as Keith began developing a drinking habit, I decided to join Keith's spirit (excuse the pun) in a glass or two of Courvoisier and Remy Martin, and quickly found out how easy it was to get addicted to the stuff. (Chris Charlesworth, for his 1997-8 new years party, went so far as to make as punch a cocktail I told him Keith was fond of - champagne and cognac mixed. He informs that each wonderfully compliments the others. I have yet to feel quite so flush as to try it.) More worryingly, my temper got worse as I fell further behind deadline. I began making childish demands on my family. I stopped short of throwing the TV out of the window, but all the same, I'm glad it's over.

In another sense, I'm quite disappointed. People often compare writing books or making records to giving birth, but it's more like giving birth and raising the child too. I feel as if my child is now leaving home. Have I been a good enough father to the project? Will it survive in the adult world? Critics and fans will form their own opinions. Myself, I will only say this: it's not your average rock bio. But then Keith was not your average rock star. As was revealed all those years ago when he gave me the time of day -- and his home address -- Keith was the exception to all the rules. As the title gives evidence to by quoting one of his favourite phrases, he was, truly a dear boy. And if he never quite grew up, forever treating the world of pop stardom as his own personal playground, he enriched the lives of countless others him by so doing. Mine included. And, I'm sure, yours too.

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