When Roger Daltrey Punched Keith Moon and Got Fired by the Who
When Daltrey's anger spilled over in his younger years, it usually meant fists were coming out. They certainly did on Sept. 26, 1965, and it almost ended his tenure in the Who before they really got off the ground.
At the time, Pete Townshend was feeling the pressure to fulfill audience expectations to smash up his instrument at the conclusion of every gig, while also upping the ante with each new song. Keith Moon certainly wasn't helping, as he fostered a burgeoning affection for amphetamines. Daltrey found himself at increasing odds with both men, Moon for his wild behavior and Townshend for increasingly pushing him out of the spotlight.
Exacerbating the situation were a series of bad shows the Who endured on the back end of 1965.
There was the gig with the overzealous fans who got hold of Daltrey and pulled him into the crowd, injuring his back. Then there was the incident when the band’s van containing all of their gear was stolen. Then there was the concert in Denmark when after only a few minutes of playing, the audience stormed the stage and reportedly caused £10,000 worth of damage.
The situation came to a head during a tour of Denmark when Daltrey finally got fed up with Moon’s drug-induced behavior and lackluster playing. He proceeded to flush all of the drummer’s stash down the toilet. Moon reacted with predictable fury and Daltrey wound back and socked him in the nose, bloodying and nearly breaking it.
“It took about five people to hold me off him,” he remembered in the book Roger Daltrey: The Biography. “It wasn’t just because I hated him, it was just because I loved the band so much and thought it was being destroyed by those pills.”
Moon was obviously irate about the assault, and Townshend and John Entwistle, both of whom also regularly imbibed in pharmaceutical uppers, agreed that Daltrey had gone too far and summarily fired him from the group. The decision stood for about a week until the group’s managers Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp convinced the three men that in order to maintain their upward trajectory, they needed to bring him back into the fold.
After agreeing to apologize and abstain from any further violent outbursts, Daltrey was rehired. The Who were then free to capitalize on their chart-breaking hit, “My Generation.”
Violence isn't a desired outcome in a dispute, but Townshend admitted in his book Who I Am that this particular incident led to a positive result. “One significant thing about this outburst was Keith’s response: Instead of responding with humiliation, he seemed to sober up,” Townshend said. “It was clear he was about to establish a boundary that Roger could never cross again.”
Unfortunately, sobriety wouldn’t stick long-term. Moon overdosed on Heminevrin and died on Sept. 7, 1978.
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