40 Years Ago: Keith Moon Goes Solo on ‘Two Sides of the Moon’
Two Sides of the Moon is a symbol of the extreme largesse achieved by the music industry in the mid-'70s. How else do you explain a record label forking over a reported $200,000 for Keith Moon -- who had admitted he was tone deaf -- to record his debut solo album?
Not than you can blame Moonie for taking MCA/Polydor up on the deal. His other Who bandmates Pete Townshend, John Entwistle and Roger Daltrey had each recorded their own side projects and, besides, the group was on a break between Quadrophenia and The Who by Numbers. So why not spend some time, and some music company money, goofing around in a Los Angeles studio with a bunch of fellow party animals, who also happened to be some of the most famous and talented musicians in the rock world?
The lineup for Two Sides is incredible: Ringo Starr, Harry Nilsson, Joe Walsh, John Sebastian, Spencer Davis, sax man Bobby Keys, surf guitarist Dick Dale, session expert Jim Keltner and backing vocal specialists Flo & Eddie (Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan from the Turtles). Steve Cropper produced some tracks, John Lennon gave Keith an unreleased tune to record and David Bowie might have even sung on the record (although he wasn't credited).
Of course, the caliber of musicians involved can only make the album even more of a disappointment, provided you actually expect something decent out of Two Sides of the Moon. Who fans tend to get hung up on the fact that Keith only drummed on three of the 10 tracks. If you're trying to make a good record, it's sensible that one of rock's most legendary percussionists would contribute more on the skins.
But it's more than likely that the drug-addled and prank-prone Moonie wasn't trying to make a good record. Well-aware of his singing shortcomings, Keith decided to make a vocal covers record anyway. He belted some of his favorite songs by the Beach Boys ("Don't Worry Baby"), the Beatles ("In My Life") and even his own band ("The Kids Are Alright"), each with the backing vocals mixed louder than his lead singing. Anyone under the illusion that this was supposed to be a serious attempt at solo stardom by Moon the Loon should have dropped that notion as soon as they saw the reversible insert for the LP, which showed Keith's naked bottom (Two Sides of the Moon, indeed).
When released in March 1975, the record took a beating in the press (with an exception or two) and has enjoyed "train wreck" status ever since. But if you consider that Two Sides of the Moon was very likely Keith's parody of rock star vanity projects, the record is kind of fun. "Crazy Like a Fox" is a bedazzled glam rocker that doesn't require a decent singer, "Together" features boozy patter between Moon, Starr and Nilsson, and Keith even goes country on "One Night Stand." Later, you have to ask yourself if Moonie was actually being earnest on "In My Life," or if he's merely doing an impression of a self-important rock star being earnest.
Moon died three years after his sole solo album came out, although plans for a second were shelved even before that due to lack of sales. Another record like this might not have been good, exactly, but it would have been interesting. After all, there were more than two sides to Keith Moon.
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