When Roger Daltrey Punched Keith Moon and Got Fired by the Who
With his flowing golden locks and winning smile, its hard to tell from the outside looking in, but Roger Daltrey is a man with a massive temper. In his younger years, when his anger spilled over, it usually meant the fists were coming out. That exact scenario happened on Sept. 26, 1965, and it almost meant the end of his time in the Who, before the band even really got off the ground.
At the time, guitarist Pete Townshend was feeling the pressure to live up to audience expectations to smash up his instrument at the conclusion of every gig while also upping the ante with each new song.
Drummer Keith Moon certainly wasn't helping either 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 band had been working through all throughout 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. And 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 that tour of Denmark when Daltrey, finally fed up with Moon’s drug-induced behavior and lackluster playing got a hold of the drummer’s stash and flushed it all 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,” the singer 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 bassist 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 and the Who were free to capitalize on their chart-breaking hit, “My Generation.”
While violence is hardly ever a desired outcome in a dispute, the incident ultimately bred a positive result as Townshend recalled in his book, Who I Am. “One significant thing about this outburst was Keith’s response. Instead of responding with humiliation, he seemed to sober up. It was clear he was about to establish a boundary that Roger could never cross again.” Of course, the sobriety wouldn’t stick long-term and Moon overdosed on Heminevrin and died on Sept. 7, 1978.
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