Over the weekend, when the sad news spread about the passing of Tommy Ramone, a really touching image circulated online, showing the Ramones debut LP, then the same cover with Joey, Johnny, and Dee Dee Photoshopped out, and then, at last, Tommy removed as well. Dangerous Minds even shared it on our Facebook page.
The middle image, of Tommy standing alone in front of that iconic brick wall, seems to have come from a Tumblr called “Live! (I See Dead People),” which is devoted entirely to skillfully removing deceased musicians from their LP covers—sort of like “Garfield Minus Garfield,” but with a more serious intent. The subjects range from cult figures like Nick Drake to canonical rock stars like Nirvana and The Doors, and the results are often quite poignant. The blog hasn’t been updated in almost three years, so it seems unlikely the artists behind this project, Jean-Marie Delbes and Hatim El Hihi, will re-do that Ramones cover. Indeed, their Morrison Hotel still features Ray Manzarek, who passed on a little over a year ago.
In the climactic scenes of the film Quadrophenia, based on The Who’s concept album, Jimmy (Phil Daniels) rides a prized Mod scooter along the cliffs at Beachy Head, East Sussex, before hurling it over the cliff on to the sea-lashed rocks below. It’s a symbolic end to Jimmy’s life as a Mod, as a follower believing in false idols, like his hero Ace Face (Sting) (whose scooter he stole), a local Mod leader, who turns out be nothing more than a bell-boy lackey. Jimmy’s fall is central to the film, and to Pete Townhend’s album. But Jimmy’s symbolic crash may have actually been inspired by the death of Mod teenager, Barry Prior in 1964.
In the spring of 1964, a 17- year-old trainee accountant by the name of Barry Prior fell to his death at [Saltdean]. He’d been down to Brighton with a group of friends from London, to engage in what history now defines as the “Mods and Rockers” riots of the early 1960s. Whether by design or through an act of eerie synchronicity, Barry’s journey is echoed by the album and attendant film version of Quadrophenia, Pete Townshend’s classic paean to teenage angst. The fact that the concept’s protagonist, a similarly aged office worker from London, met his “demise” on a Brighton cliff top haunts me. As far as I’m concerned, these similarities are just far too extraordinary to be an act of coincidence.
Wells uncovered a local newspaper report of the accident, which detailed what had happened to Prior.
I pull out a photocopy of a news feature concerning Barry’s death that I uncovered quite by accident a while back. It’s from the Brighton Evening Argus, a provincial daily newspaper that’s as much a fixture of the town as the promenade and pier. Next to the headline, “Mod Falls to Death at Brighton Cliff”, there’s a photograph of Barry’s scooter and a group of sullen youngsters in a huddle around the cliff edge.
As one would expect from a local newspaper, it’s pretty stilted in its reporting of the drama. Additionally, as the Argus is a daily issue, the feature was probably thrown together in order to meet the noonday deadline. The article informs me that following an eventful day in Brighton, this group of thrill seeking Mods arrived at Saltdean around 3am.
What happened in the ensuing hours is a mystery. All that is known is that Barry’s body was discovered shortly after 7am, lying sprawled some 100 feet below on the beach. Colin Goulden, one of Barry’s circle recalled the moment when they discovered that Barry wasn’t where he should be.
“One of the boys said he was missing and we started looking for him,” said a stunned Goulden.
“Someone looked over the cliff and saw him lying there. He shouted out, but at first we thought he was mucking about, trying to get us all up.”
Fred Butler, another friend from London could hardly bring himself to look at Barry’s scooter as reporters pressed him for an explanation:
“I don’t know what could have happened. There was no trouble or fighting. We came out here to get out of the way. Perhaps he got up in the night and went for a walk. No one saw anything and there were no screams.”
Trying to make some sense of this, my immediate thought is that in his bleary state, Barry may well have gone for a pee or some other ablution, misjudged his footing and headed off into the unknown. Presumably, the fence is a recent addition; had it been in place back in 1964 history might well have been different. I gingerly venture forwards and peer over the cliff. It’s absolutely terrifying and offers no respite in its descent to the ground. Barry wouldn’t have stood a chance.
Barry’s friends went for help, but after the events in Brighton between Mods and Rockers earlier in the day, no one would answer their doors, as one friend explained to the paper:
“We went over to the houses on the other side of the road to call the police,” recalled one of the lads. “But they wouldn’t open their doors at first. They thought we were out for trouble: you know what it is.”
Emergency services eventually arrived, who then had to make a 1600 foot detour along the cliff to reach Barry’s body on the shore below.
One of youths, either too shaken or terrified to give his name to the Argus, recalled the grisly scene when they approached Barry’s body.
“It was horrible,” he said. “He was lying there wearing a green anorak and socks but no shoes. He was horribly bashed up.”
The article concludes that after Barry’s body was taken away by ambulance to hospital, the police took a few of the Mods back to Brighton to fill out witness statements. Following the completion of the necessary paperwork, they were allowed to leave. It must have been a pitiful and sombre retreat back to London, with the impending horror of having to recount Barry’s death to his family weighing heavily on their minds.
Brighton was a focus for the Mods during the early 1960s, where they famously gathered to face-up to rival Rockers. The town was also a favorite haunt for The Who, performing extensively here in 1964 at the Florida Rooms.
The place obviously found favour with Pete Townshend, who dedicated Quadrophenia‘s album to those lucky few who attended those Florida Rooms gigs. When pressed on this, Townshend has recalled a seismic event that occurred in his consciousness one blisteringly hot summer night in August 1964. Following a typically frantic Who performance, Pete left the sunken reaches of the venue and perched himself on the promenade to wind down. As he meditated on the sea while having a relaxing smoke, the last few stragglers from the concert made their way up the marble steps to street level. As the faintly metronomic sound of the tide morphed with the strains of Tamla Motown seeping out of the Ballroom, it made for an enchanting aural concoction. As if on cue, a few hardy Mods stepped into their scooters, and drove around in a circular formation before moving off into the darkness. As these disparate elements gradually merged into a moving motion picture, Townshend was entranced. To him it was the “most perfect moment of my life”, a confirmation of the sort of landscape that had played in his head, but rarely in reality. Elements of this scene are echoed in the film of Quadrophenia, where a group of scooter riders similarly engage in an automated circle dance at first light. As I piece the images together at the same location, it strikes me that this particular experience defined Townshend’s vision for Quadrophenia more than any other factor.
A coroner’s inquest concluded a verdict of “death by misadventure.” But the story doesn’t finish there, as Simon Wells discovered that Barry’s brother was later employed by The Who, which makes it more than likely that Pete Townshend had heard of Barry Prior’s ill-fated trip to Brighton and tragic death long before he wrote Quadrophenia.
Read Simon Wells original article here, details of his forthcoming book Quadrophenia: The Book of the Filmhere.
Pete Townshend said it was an accident the first time he smashed his guitar. He was playing with The Who in a small cramped room at the Railway Hotel in Harrow, west London. The ceiling was damp with condensation, the room smoky, a smell of sweat and stale beer. The Who were playing “Smokestack Lightning,” “I’m a Man,” and “Road Runner” when:
I scrape the howling Rickenbacker guitar up and down my microphone stand, then flip the special switch I recently fitted so the guitar sputters and sprays the front row with bullets of sound. I violently thrust my guitar into the air—and feel a terrible shudder as the sound goes from a roar to a rattling growl; I look up to see my guitar’s broken head as I pull it away from the hole I’ve punched in the low ceiling. It is at this moment that I make a split-second decision—and in a mad frenzy I thrust the damaged guitar up into the ceiling over and over again. What had been a clean break becomes a splinter mess. I hold the guitar up to the crowd triumphantly. I haven’t smashed it: I’ve sculpted it for them. I throw the shattered guitar carelessly to the ground, pick up my brand-new Rickenbacker twelve-string and continue the show….
This is Townshend recounting the first time he smashed a guitar in his autobiography Who I Am. It’s an event that Rolling Stone magazine considered so important that it was included in their list of “50 Moments That Changed Rock & Roll.”
When The Who played the Railway Hotel the following week, the audience expected Townshend to give a repeat performance of his guitar smashing. He didn’t. The next time Townshend smashed his guitar was at the Olympia Ballroom, Reading, in April 1965. This time it was done as a piece of self-promotion. The Who’s manager Kit Lambert had “invited Virginia Ironside (Daily Mail) and writer Nik Cohn along to this gig and briefed Pete to create an impression by smashing his £400 Rickenbacker, despite the expense.”
This he duly did, and Keith joined in by smashing his drums. However, Lambert had been waylaid in the bar with the journalists when this grand spectacle occurred and was reportedly horrified to find he had been taken at his word.
It wasn’t until 1966 that Townshend’s trademark guitar-smashing regularly became part of The Who’s performance right up to a concert at the Yokohama Stadium, Tokyo, Japan, where he smashed a gold Fender Eric Clapton Stratocaster.
Over the years, Townshend has given various reasons as to why he first smashed his guitar in September 1964. He has claimed he deliberately did it because he “was determined to get the precious event noticed by the audience.”
Pete: I proceeded to make a big thing of breaking the guitar. I bounced all over the stage with it and I threw the bits on the stage and I picked up my spare guitar and carried on as though I really had meant to do it.
“I’ve often gone on the stage with a guitar and said, ‘Tonight, I’m not going to smash a guitar, and I don’t give a shit.’ And I’ve gone on, and every time I’ve done it. Basically, it’s a gesture that happens on the spur of the moment. It’s a performance, it’s an act, it’s an instant, and it’s really meaningless.”
“I thought, ‘It’s broken’” said Townshend. “‘Might as well finish it off.’”
But in his autobiography, Townshend ties his guitar-smashing into a more political act:
I had no idea what the first smashing of my guitar would lead to, but I had a good idea where it all came from. ... I was brought up in a period when war still cast shadows, though in my life the weather changed so rapidly it was impossible to know what was in store. War had been a real threat or a fact for three generations of my family…
I wasn’t trying to play beautiful music, I was confronting my audience with the awful, visceral sound of what we all knew was the single abso lute of our frail existence—one day an aeroplane would carry the bomb that would destroy us all in a flash. It could happen at any time. The Cuban Crisis less than two years before had proved that. On stage I stood on the tips of my toes, arms outstretched, swooping like a plane. As I raised the stuttering guitar above my head, I felt I was holding up the bloodied standard of endless centuries of mindless war. Explosions. Trenches. Bodies. The eerie screaming of the wind.”
All this from one smashed guitar?
It’s undoubtedly good copy, and gives the young Townshend’s actions considerable cultural cachet, as The Who at this time were still little more than a pop band singing songs about white boy angst—music for young white working class kids who thought they were missing out on something, but weren’t quite sure what. By 1965, there was nothing particularly new about their music or their obsessions with girls, dancing, or their generation. But the association with Mods, and Townshend’s guitar-smashing gave the band an edge, which counterculture figures like Mick Farren would later see as making Townsend and The Who revolutionary figures offering a kind of leadership in the fight against a police state.
In the early sixties, Townshend had been a student at Ealing College of Art, where he attended classes given by the auto-destructive artist Gustav Metzger. In his autobiography, Townshend says he was “Encouraged too by the work of Gustav Metzger, the pioneer of auto-destructive art, I secretly planned to completely destroy my guitar if the moment seemed right.”
So, who is Gustav Metzger and what was his “auto-destructive art”?
If those titles hold any appeal to you at all, then you are definitely going to enjoy Tony Palmer’s stunning 1968 documentary All My Loving, which purportedly was made as the result of a gauntlet that John Lennon and Paul McCartney threw down to Palmer (whose films before that had—a bit like George Martin—focused on classical music), to make an hour-long movie that captured the state of the music world in 1968. What makes the movie work, quite aside from Palmer’s adventurous editing style, fondness for tight closeups, aural brio, and impressionistic chops, is the palpable sense that something really interesting was happening in society—crucially, before the post-Altamont, post-Manson hangover had set in. It was a perfect moment for a documentary of this kind. The musical personages in the movie, many of them legends, are treated as very interesting pop stars but not much more than that, and that relative impartiality is essential to what makes All My Loving so good.
It’s difficult to overstate how wonderful All My Loving is. Stylistically, it suggests an experimental movie produced by 60 Minutes (or the English equivalent, anyway). In other words, it’s loose in form but stentorian in tone (but never unsympathetic to the youth movement). The amount of astonishing footage that Palmer managed to cram into a mere hour boggles the mind. Palmer appears to have access to just about anyone he wanted, so we get brief statements or conversations with Paul McCartney, Jimi Hendrix, Donovan, Eric Burdon, Frank Zappa, Manfred Mann, Pete Townshend, George Martin, and so on. With the possible exception of Zappa, Burdon’s the most articulate of the bunch, pointing out the similarities between taking LSD and doing a stint in Vietnam.
The movie features truly scintillating performances from Cream (“I’m So Glad” and “We’re Going Wrong”), The Who (“Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand”), Pink Floyd (“Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun”), Donovan (“The Lullaby of Spring”), Jimi Hendrix (“Wild Thing”), the Animals (“Good Times” and “When I Was Young”). There is some utterly fantastic close-up footage in which The Who destroy their instruments at the end of a gig at, of all places, the Peoria Opera House as well as some similar footage of Jimi Hendrix just shredding the entire concept of rock and roll right in front of your eyes. ALL of the performance footage is remarkable.
There are also some amusing interviews with a “sleazy” music publisher with a pencil mustache who by rights should be named Monty Python (his name is actually Eddie Rogers) and a self-confident “jingle executive” from America named Jim West (motto: “Selling Spoken Here”) who explains how to use advertising techniques to con teens into coming to see the Mona Lisa. There are a handful of other British music industry types who are barely identified and don’t have to be—they’re the local color. They also get some frankly inane comments of the dismissive variety from none other than Anthony Burgess.
Palmer made dozens of documentaries from the 1960s onward, and they cover a fascinating range of personalities, including Leonard Bernstein, Benjamin Britten, Rory Gallagher, Peter Sellers, Liberace, Hugh Hefner, Leonard Cohen, and on and on. He codirected 200 Motels with Frank Zappa. The governing tone of All My Loving is one of indulgent “concern,” of investigating a “problem” to be “solved”—we hear about the deafening volume of the new music and the possibly shallow values of the kids and so forth. There’s some startling imagery from Vietnam thrown in as well—never forget Vietnam. This movie goes all over the reservation to evoke 1968—and succeeds.
With its big, messy crescendo, the end of All My Loving somewhat resembles 2001: A Space Odyssey and “A Day in the Life,” and, to Palmer’s credit, the ending, which rapidly shows the breathtaking variety of images we’ve seen over the previous hour (scored to “Be-In (Hare Krishna)” from Hair), works marvelously. Set aside some time for All My Loving. You won’t regret it.
Unlikely as it may seem, around 1966 Pete Townshend penned a harsh little ditty dividing the world up into the “lazy fat” and the “beautiful young,” warning that the lazy fat are complacent, unperturbed, obsessed with money—and will eventually win out over the beautiful young.
Lazy and fat they are, they are.
And because they are all the same..
They laugh and exclaim
“The young are so funny”
They burn in the sun, the sun
And though painfully pink, when it rains
They always complain
“We all paid our money.”
Oh! The lazy fat people
Are a terrible sight to see.
And the lazy fat people will
Get the better of you and me…….
Lazy and fat they are, they are.
Their children diet till thin
To leave more for them
“To save us some money.”
Oh! The lazy fat people will
Try to sit on you and me
If we dont watch out theyll
Get the better of you and me.
How to tell the young from the
Lazy fat is easy to do…..
LAZY FAT ARE PINK (them) AND THE
BEAUTIFUL YOUNG ARE BLUE (you)
Obviously, this song, called “Lazy Fat People,” was never released as a Who single, although Pete did lay down a demo recording of it. He offered it to Episode Six, a band that at the time contained the core of what would become Deep Purple, in the form of Roger Glover and Ian Gillan, but they passed on it. Townshend then offered it to The Barron Knights, who said yes—their version appeared as a single in 1967.
The Barron Knights were an interesting group—hell, they are an interesting group, they’re still active. They spent some time in Hamburg, like the Beatles did. Bill Wyman saw them in 1961 using an electric bass, an instrument he had never seen before, and the gig inspired him to take it up. The Barron Knights were one of the few groups to tour with both the Beatles and the Stones. The Barron Knights appear to have had a facetious streak, which made “Lazy Fat People” ideal for them, and they seem to have been irreducibly British in comparison to the Beatles and the Stones. Much later, in 1978, they reworked a song about the Smurfs so that it was about a group of British bank robbers.
The Barron Knights’ version of “Lazy Fat People” is a bit laddish, using a muted trumpet for the interstitial musical sections. In Townshend’s acoustic demo, he appears to have used a slide whistle for those parts, and considering how blockheaded the lyrics are, his version is really quite sweet.
The Who give one of the best live performances of Tommy at Tanglewood, Lenox, Massachusetts, July 7th, 1970.
If anyone wants to know what The Who were like at their best, then they need only take a look at the talent, passion and energy of these 4 exceptional, young musicians, who together make this an incredible and unforgettable concert.
01.“Heaven and Hell”
02. “I Can’t Explain”
04. “I Don’t Even Know Myself”
05. “Young Man Blues”
07. “It’s a Boy”
09. “Amazing Journey”
11. “Eyesight to the Blind”
13. “The Acid Queen”
14. “Pinball Wizard”
15. “Do You Think It’s Alright?”
16. “Fiddle About”
17. “Tommy Can You Hear Me?”
18. “There’s a Doctor”
19. “Go to the Mirror!”
20. “Smash the Mirror”
21. “Miracle Cure”
22. “I’m Free”
23. “Tommy’s Holiday Camp”
24. “We’re Not Gonna Take It”
25. “See Me, Feel Me”
26. “My Generation”
Here’s a very cool documentary about mods that aired on French TV show Seize Millions Des Jeunes in March of 1965. Includes live performances by the Who as well as interviews with the band and their managers Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp.
You may have seen segments of this documentary on Youtube over the years, but this one is complete and has subtitles. If you want to own it, buy the Blu-ray version of the newly and beautifully restored Quadrophenia. While I’m not a big fan of the movie, Criterion deserves accolades for doing a brilliant job (along with the Who) of polishing the sound mix (in its original stereo and a fresh 5.1 version) and cleaning up the original film elements and transferring them to digital. The results are stunning.
It’s Keith Moon’s birthday and I thought I’d share Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who to commemorate the life of one of rock ‘n’ roll’s genuinely great drummers. This detailed and entertaining two hour documentary (plus an hour and a half of extras) was co-directed by Murray Lerner who first filmed The Who at the Isle Of Wight in 1970 ( in addition to Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix and Leonard Cohen) as well as documenting Dylan’s historic plugged-in performance at the Newport Folk Festival in the mid-Sixties. Lerner is a legend among fans of rock for his ability to be in the right place at the right time and getting it all on film. Along with co-director Paul Crowder, Lerner manages to tackle a big subject and bring it all home in Amazing Journey. They are helped considerably by Pete Townsend’s enthusiastic and no-holds-barred participation.
This film reminds me of what I loved about The Who in the first place and have somewhat forgotten over the years. The Monterey Pop footage is epic beyond belief and truly one of the defining moments in the history of punk rock and rock in general..
When Oliver Reed met Keith Moon their lives changed forever. Together Moon and Reed formed a bizarre, unholy and incredible friendship that brought them both to the edge of madness and ultimately lead to their untimely deaths.
Their friendship began during the making of Ken Russell’s Tommy, as Lee Patrick recalled on olliereed.co.uk:
I was living with Keith Moon at the time and they were just about to start filming Tommy, Keith and I had spent all morning driving Soho’s sex shops buying dildoes, rubber stuff etc for Keith to use as props for Uncle Ernie.
At lunch time Keith decided to drop into Ken Russell’s office and mentioned that he’d like to meet Ollie before they started filming, Ken immediately got on the phone to Ollie and suggested a meeting, Ollie invited us to Broome Hall afternoon so we were off to Battersea Heliport where we boarded a helicopter to take us there. We arrived on his front lawn shortly afterwards, unfortunately frightening his pregnant horses, Ollie was standing there in the doorway holding 2 pint mugs whisky for us. He was a charming host and invited us to stay for dinner.
Dinner was served on a huge medieval oak table and before we started eating Ollie jumped up and grabbed two large swords which were hanging on the wall, giving one to Keith. The two of them ended up having a sword fight up and down the table, that was the appetiser! After dinner Ollie invited us down to his local pub, The Cricketers, where we all got very drunk, with Ollie and Keith undressing, each one trying to outdo the drunken antics of the other, they were so alike that it was no wonder they became great friends.
Later on, back at Broome Hall, Ollie insisted we stay the night, we were up for that, expecting to be sleeping in a magnificent bedroom, however, his entourage took up all the furnished bedrooms and we were led out to the stables!! Keith said we would pass up his invitation and go home, but Ollie would have none of it, and next thing we knew he was standing there pointing an old shotgun at us, so we said OK we’ll stay, we ended up sleeping on couches in the living room!
At the time of their meeting, in the mid-seventies, Reed was Britain’s most successful and highest paid film star, something he was always keen to let any scandal-mongering press know:
‘I’m the biggest star this country has got. Destroy me and you destroy the whole British film industry.’
He had also been voted the sexiest actor alive and told Photoplay magazine:
‘I may look like a Bedford truck, but the women know there’s a V-8 engine underneath.’
Though he also claimed the film world wasn’t where his ambitions lay:
‘I have two ambitions in life: one is to drink every pub dry, the other is to sleep with every woman on earth.’
It was disingenuous, for Reed was serious about his acting and was “always word perfect and unfailingly courteous to colleagues and technicians.” Reed was well respected as an actor, and a professional, and once came within “a sliver” of replacing Sean Connery as James Bond in the film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but Reed’s reputation as a hell-raiser meant the part went to George Lazenby.
Even so, by 1975, Reed had made an impressive range of films, including I’ll Never Forget What’s ‘Is Name (the first film to have the word “fuck” in it); The Jokers; The Assassination Bureau; Hannibal Brroks; The Shuttered room; Women in Love (first male-full frontal nudity, a scene which was not in the original script, and was only included after Reed encouraged Russell to film it); Sitting Target; and perhaps his best film, The Devils.
Reed had formed a creative partnership with Ken Russell, the director he called “Jesus Christ,” since they had worked together on the BBC TV drama The Debussy film. It was because of this partnership that the non-singing Reed was cast in the role of Frank in the musical Tommy. As Reed and Moon capered and drank copiously off-set, it was to have a debilitating effect for Moon on-set:
Reed’s part got bigger and bigger as Keith Moon’s got smaller and smaller, probably due to Ken Russell’s familiarity with Oliver, and the fact that he could drink himself into stupor at night and show up on time and line-perfect in the morning, while Moonie remained stuporous.
Their friendship was an unstable chemical compound based on drink, drugs, sex and pranks, as Reed was to remark:
‘I like the effect drink has on me. What’s the point of staying sober?’
The life of excess has but one destination, and as Cliff Goodwin wrote in his definitive biography of Reed, Evil Spirits, the end came during Reed’s 40th birthday party at a swanky hotel in Hollywood, when Moon decided to liven things up with his impersonation of a “human helicopter”. Moon jumped onto a table, grabbed the blades of an overhead fan, and began to spin around, above the heads of the invited guests. Unfortunately, the blades had slashed Moon’s hands and arms and he splattered the A-list guests with gore.
It was the moment that Reed realized the genie was well and truly out of the bottle and that he or Moon would die from their life of excess. Tragically, it was Moon who died six months later. Reed never recovered from Moon’s death, and later claimed a day didn’t go by when he didn’t think about Moon the Loon.
It’s a Boy’s Own Adventure Story moment. You’re at a concert with your best pal, watching your favorite band, when the drummer collapses on stage. The call goes out, “Is there a drummer in the house?” Next thing you know, your buddy has pushed you into the spotlight and there you are playing the drums with your heroes.
Well this is kind of how it went for Scot Halpin when he turned up to see his favorite band The Who open their Quadrophenia tour at the 14,000 seater Cow Palace in Daly City, San Francisco, in November 1973. Halpin and his companion arrived 12 hours before the concert began to ensure they would have good seats. They found seats up near the front of the stage, which was fortuitous for both Halpin and the band, as an hour into the gig, drummer Keith Moon passed out and was carted off stage.
The house lights came up, and a thirty minute intermission followed, while Moon was revived backstage with “a cold shower”. The Who returned to the stage, and started performing, but once again Moon collapsed - this time for good. It later transpired that Moon the Loon had ingested massive quantities of animal tranquilizers, which he had washed down with his usual bottle or two of brandy. His three band mates, Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend and John Entwistle carried on, performing their next number “See Me, Feel Me”, with Daltrey filling-in for Keith’s drums on tambourine, before Townshend asked the audience:
“Can anybody play the drums? I mean someone good!”
It was at this moment Halpin’s companion started yelling at the stage crew that his friend could play. What he omitted to say, was that Halpin was slightly out of practice, as it was nearly a year since he had played. What happened next surprised both band and audience, and has become the stuff of legend, when concert promoter, Bill Graham approached Halpin and pulled him up onto the stage.
“Graham just looked at me and said, ‘Can you do it?’ And I said ‘Yes,“‘straight out. Townshend and Daltrey look around and they’re as surprised as I am, because Graham put me up there.”
A roadie then gave Halpin a shot of Moon’s brandy.
“Then I got really focused, and Townshend said to me, ‘I’m going to lead you. I’m going to cue you.’”
Townshend introduced him as “Scot”, and went straight into a couple of Blues standards, “Smoke Stack Lightning” and “Spoonful”. Halpin acquitted himself, kept good time and followed Townhend’s lead. Next up was The Who’s “Naked Eye”, which proved far more tricksy with its contrasting tempos. However, Halpin kept his cool and managed a steady beat throughout.
It was the band’s last number and Halpin deservedly then took his bow alongside Townshend, Daltrey and Entwistle. Backstage the band thanked:
...the skinny kid from the audience for stepping to the plate but didn’t hang around long after the show.
“They were very angry with Keith and sort of fighting among themselves,” Halpin said. “It was the opening date on their ‘Quadrophenia’ tour, and they were saying, ‘Why couldn’t he wait until after the show (if he wanted to get high)?”
Daltry, who’d begun drinking Jack Daniels from the bottle at that point, told the substitute they’d pay him $1,000 for his efforts, and a roadie gave him a tour jacket on the spot. “Then everyone split,” Halpin said. “My friend and I both had long drives ahead of us, so we loaded up on all the free food that was put out for the band, and we both headed for home.”
In the meantime, someone stole the tour jacket that Halpin had just received as a gift.
Halpin received favorable mention in the next day’s Chronicle review. He received a nice letter from the band but no money - not that it mattered.
However, the event was commemorated by Rolling Stone magazine, when they honored Halpin with “Pick-Up Player of the Year 1973.” Interviewed at the time, Halpin praised The Who’s stamina, saying:
“I only played three numbers and I was dead.”
Halpin went onto graduate from San Francisco University, and became composer-in-residence at the Headlands Centre for the Arts, in Sausalito, California. He also played with a number of bands including The Sponges, Funhouse, Folklore, Snake Doctor and Plank Road and also managed a punk rock nightclub before moving to Bloomington, Indiana, in 1995 to become a visual artist.
Halpin died in February 2008, less than a week after his birthday, he was 54.
More of Scot Halpin and The Who, plus bonus clip, after the jump…
With thanks to Heather Harris for suggesting this story!