All that remained of the band’s all-night security detail was Jim Callaghan, who was shifting nervously from foot to foot in front of me. He was wearing one shoe. I ignored him. Keith Moon was stretched out in black nylons and a blue silk kimono behind a tea service set for him on a small Victorian table. His hotel suite window showed whichever lake was next to Chicago. It was early morning, sometime in the late seventies. He was wearing Callaghan’s other shoe. At mid-tour, he was worn and beginning to look like an unshaven Judy Garland during her last difficult years, but I kept this to myself. “Spot of tea, Regis?” he offered, not caring there was not a second cup. “Did you take in some theater before you rushed here to help me?” he jabbed. “I wanted to pick up more cash,” I offered, working to deflect him. The band still made me nervous in my first years.” I learned early that rock stars had no concrete understanding of cash, they liked it, but it stalled and confused them. This drummer viewed me as a magically tall money fountain and understood vaguely that I needed a refill on occasion. It was our primary working link. “We have disturbing confidences to consider you and me,” he began slowly, almost like an accusation. “I have met the wrong woman.” He paused here, investigating our faces for sympathy. None came. But we didn’t laugh either. Days seemed to pass as I was blank for any response. Callaghan cracked first,” He’s got the clap.” “Quiet!” Moonie shot at him in a shrill hiss, “this is a grave intrigue; no one can ever know.” ” I’ll find you a doctor,” I swiftly convinced him, and then after brief but genuinely stupid pleasantries, I headed off to solve the problem.
I could make anyone do anything for Who tickets and cash. An Indian doctor arrived at his suite in under an hour to take a culture. Soon after, Keith understood he had an especially hateful strain of Vietnamese gonorrhea. That afternoon I headed back up to his room with the doctor and his bag in tow. We found him with his intimate friend Dougal hunched over the suite’s dining table with pens and paper resembling Hitler and Goebbels plotting a North African tank campaign during WW11. I made my first mistake while the doctor got ready. I asked: “Should we let the girl know?” “Girl?” he sniffed as though I had demanded the definition of a two hundred letter word. They both snickered at me; he said, “Reg, there are constellations of girls, and we are connecting those dots as you can see on our chart, pointing to the table. With that, he turned back to his diagrams with Dougal, who was now so stimulated about the probable sexual connections he was practically drooling. They were tracing who they had slept with and who else had been there. The enrollment grew and grew like a virus. No one, at least in the imaginations of these two, could be innocent. ( Except me, of course, because I would be paying the doctor.) There is nowhere on earth like a rock tour when it comes to women. And yes, occasionally, the odd girl might have a condition of one kind or another. It did happen. But groupies get a bad whack in music mythology. Commonly they had far higher IQs than the road crews, the traveling staff, and the band members they coveted. Most of the famous ones are ambitious, conniving, and breathtakingly forward advancing. Sometimes it is sad, but only rarely. I understood that innocents were fingered, caught up as they were in Moon’s fabulously infectious net. Many were wrongly doomed that afternoon. Dougal and I called nearly everyone on tour that day, and the glum suspects marched in to get their shots. Even some of our lawyers succumbed to the flimsiest of evidence. Still, the English are reliably the last to guess at a lie. They will nearly always misjudge what to do in favor of caution. It was just good unclean fun, after all. With sick looks on their faces, they dropped their pants. This doctor was now working for me full time. He made a small fortune and walked away with enough tickets to start another Ticketron in Chicago. Everyone hung around all day and into the night—a major party. A photograph exists of everyone standing or kneeling together in that suite at night’s end. It resembled a U.S. baseball team card. The Indian doctor was sitting in the center, holding a lap-full of Who tickets and syringes. I don’t know who has that photo today. I would pay for it.
From a letter: written by Jackie Curbishley, (Bill’s wife) about me and Pete Townshend. “You’re right. He was easy to love, but so difficult to trust. I never quite knew whether he was about to spit at me or kiss me. He was totally in awe of you and so jealous of you that he could hardly articulate when you were around. I have vivid recollections of the night you poured the whole jug of orange juice over his head. I’m pretty certain that nothing like that had ever happened to him before. I had to admire the way he recovered – getting his stash out of his top pocket and with those big hands spread out in front of him saying “Look what you’ve done!” as he held out the dripping little package. It was in Salt Lake City. Remember that? Jackie
I saw this picture of Bill Graham posted by Lisa Seckler- Rhode this morning, and it grabbed a memory from that section of my mind that is usually only aroused by drugs. We were doing a deal with him for The Who to play San Francisco sometime in the 1970s. He was bawling that we were cheating him. Predictably his negotiating tactics relied chiefly on shouting or screaming. When doing deals with him in the old day’s, Bill Curbishley, the Who’s manager, would be on his suite’s phone, and I would be in the bathroom on an extension. In Graham’s case, and there are pictures, we put the phone on a coffee table between us and still hear him screeching. He stubbornly believed he was singled out for disadvantageous treatment by God himself every minute of his day. He was a formidable adversary. Few promoters dared to stand up to certain bands — the Who had become too big to lose. That said, when I started with Genesis, he did me endless favors, which he did not have to do. The other variable was that the band (The Who) loved him, so we never really tried to fuck him. No doubt, he did them favors too, early on. We had settled on the particulars for one show, maybe the Cow palace in San Francisco. After the contracts were issued, Graham returned his signed copy. His shows represented at least 100,000 tickets per performance ( most likely far more, I can’t recall), to be sold at an agreed ticket price. Graham would get his percentage cut from that. He raised the face ticket price ( which he printed) one dollar, hoping to keep the money without telling us. When confronted, he responded, “but you were stealing from me” — We didn’t let him keep the money but with our admiration.
Bill Curbishley, on the right, is the manager of The Who. If he had chosen to, he could have managed The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Lynyrd Skynyrd as well. He quietly changed the live music touring business, but what he enjoyed most was robbing deli’s with me on off days.
Taylor Swift savages boyfriends who cross her. There is a hazard to getting close to such a girl. In vague comparison, if you fucked over Pete Townshend, it was time to renew your passport and run. I listened to his music long before I knew him. When I was in college, I wouldn’t have been able to name the band individually. It just wasn’t something I was concerned with, and I don’t think this was at all uncommon. They were simply The Who and maybe my favorite band. The hardest band to remember their names were Lynryd Skynyrd. I had to practice so much I got blocks. It is why I only got to know Ronnie well.
“Can I have a word?” Townshend says to me by the hotel phone around midday. Like some rare birds, he was an uncommon sight until late afternoon at sound checks. It was not a settling experience to talk to him one on one before then. For me, at first, it was a reasonable cause for dread. He made me uneasy. It took years to work that shit out. Bill, Jackie, and I were having a laugh in a hotel room working out a logo/poster for the upcoming Canadian leg of a Who tour when his call came. Canada is big and mostly settled by moose. So far, because the shows started in Montreal, we had a drawing of a giant green frog, with a chunk of Canadian bacon in its mouth, hopping on each city they would play. The amphibian was wearing a Royal Canadian Mounted Police uniform, and he had a beaver under each arm. The bacon was my touch because I grew up eating it. I thought of it as an example of my favorite form of art, topical and bursting with ridicule. But that phone call dampened me, so I headed down to his room. He did not look well. He had his tea. He could remind me of a bloodhound waiting for a proctology examination. I expected the worse because I had passed his security guy in the hallway, and he barely recognized me.
” Did you give me money last night?” he said without really looking up. I got the feeling that if I lied, he would be pleased.” Yes,” I said. “How much?” He actually groaned when I told him. “Fuck,” was all he said “Who was here?” I asked. “It doesn’t matter. I must have passed out.” He seemed to sigh, but he might have been still gasping in shock. “Want me to put Jim on it?” I said. “No, it’s gone, thanks.” And I left.
My career incorporated moving each day from one bunch of people to another. The populations of these audiences ranged from 250 to 150,000 individuals. In each instance, almost all of them wished they were me. That never helped.
“Could I have a word?” Townshend said to me on the hotel phone around midday. Like certain rare birds, Pete was seldom sighted before late afternoon for sound checks.
It was not a settling experience to talk to him one on one before then. In my case, it was fair cause for dread. He made me uneasy and I him at first. It took years to work that out.
A couple of us were having fun working out a logo/poster for the upcoming Canadian leg of a Who tour .Canada is big and mostly settled by moose. So far we had a sketch of a frog with a greasy slab of Canadian bacon in its mouth hopping from city to city outlining where they would play. He was dressed in a Royal Canadian Mounted Police uniform and in chase of a tubby beaver. It was in a time that people could laugh at themselves.
The bacon was my touch because I grew up eating it. But that phone call dampened me, so I headed down to his room with my bag .
He did not look well. He had his tea. There were no headless bodies and only his security guy who was desperately trying to focus his eyes on the sofa.
”Did you give me money last night?” he said without really looking up. I got the feeling that if I lied to him he would be pleased. ”
Yes”, I said.“
How much?” He gutturally groaned when I told him.
“Fuck,” was all he said
“Who was here?” I asked.
“It doesn’t matter I didn’t know them. I must have passed out.”
Keith always insisted they had a connection. The trajectory of my mother’s last years was not unlike what was finally to be his own. They both headed south like programmed seasonal geese into jet engines taking off from God’s airport. Neither jet nor psychosis was willing to alter course. Their broken feathers scattered all around me while Moon’s drifted across the globe. I showed him a picture of my mother once; she was beautiful by any standard. Someone had snapped it in the decade of the flowered smock. He was instantly smitten. Over tours, he would bring her up to me out of nowhere. The smock dress, a product of the 1950s, was the church’s last effort to stifle any hint of a woman’s sensuality. But unfortunately for repression, the more one tries, the hotter girls get. I owe all my sexual fantasies to those inhibited Puritans who raised me. When my mother died, conveniently between Who tours, he took it in pace and reluctantly gave back my picture. He did, on occasion, sidle up to me to ask if I had any luck yet in finding a flowered smock in his size.
Roger Daltrey would not stay in hotels whose windows would not open. John Entwistle wanted long stay overs in cities where the deep sea fishing was good. Pete Townshend insisted his room be as far away from Moon’s as possible. And Keith asked only to be informed they were touring in time to get his outfits together. Louis XIV, France’s Sun King, had the longest reign in European history (1643-1715). During this time, he brought absolute monarchy to its height, established a glittering court at Versailles, and fought most of the other European countries in four wars. Had he been offered the choice, he would have opted to go on tour with The Who. It was far more fun. Entwistle was stone-faced impervious to the un-uniqueness of his fishes. He stuffed them all, and we shipped them to his home. He would rent a boat and take whoever wanted to come for the day. There was no career advantage in landing the biggest one. It would have been not polite. One such early morning in Miami, Moon arrived at the dock unexpectedly and dressed in a white Admiral’s outfit, with a sixteenth-century captain’s hat, shoulder tassels, and a monocle. It was a rare accuracy for him to even roughly guess where the fuck he was going, let alone to be in sync with any dress regulations. In fairness, it could have been a coincidence. Keith was drinking heavily before the boat began dawdling out toward deeper seas. Drinking after a night of drug-taking was nearly medicinal in his mind—a sensible pharmaceutical rebuttal in Rock terms. Anyway, the fishing went poorly. After only a couple of hours of seafaring, the drummer began crying and baring his soul to anybody who would listen. Listening to Keith was always a dangerous mental bear trap because he was very talented and deeply deceptive. It was routine to find yourself neck high in especially embarrassing shit. He had crashed into an epiphany. He ordered John to turn the boat around and put it into a port near the ablest hospital in Miami. He intended to apply the three days remaining in our stopover, to “purge himself” under the guardianship of “master doctors.” Forfeiting a show because he passed out on stage was yet to be routine, but it was a deadly threat. This plan grew support from everyone but Entwisle, who was fishing and not buying a word. So we continue to troll while Bill Curbishley and I tried to bribe hospitals to take him in. After admitting a weepy Moon and depositing him in a hospital bed, we set off back to the hotel for lunch, feeling pretty damn smart about everything. Later that day, we got a desperate call from the hospital saying that the police were on the way, and we had to get Moon out. The administrator said the drummer was on a payphone in the hallway in his dressing gown doing interviews with the local radio stations. He was inviting the kids to come to the hospital for a party. When we got there, the crowd was a couple of hundred deep.