Keith Moon – The Legend Lives On

keith moon the who drummer

Talented, tortured, tragic – an icon. Keith Moon is idolised in Mod culture, a testament to his place in rock history as the greatest drummer who ever lived. Forty years after his untimely death at the age of 32, his deft accomplishments still hold court with more than the faithful. He was the 17-year-old wannabe who rose to international stardom with The Who and paid the ultimate price.

Keith Moon was catapulted to fame on a wave of self-affirmation and a beat that was entirely his own. He set the bar with a style that no other drummer has been able to replicate, let alone surpass. He has been described as over-confident, brash and yet a genius. But it wasn’t always that way. As a boy, Keith Moon was considered a shy loner. Perhaps because of this, demons would haunt his adult life. They would eat away at his psyche, leading to labels such as ‘Moon the Loon’.

From the Escorts and beyond

Born in London in 1946, Keith Moon was a ‘natural’ when he took up drumming at a young age. He had shown no academic ability yet succumbed to music like a duck to water. The son of a mechanic and cleaner, he had been destined for an undistinguished, humdrum life. His skill, highly personalised style and determination to succeed changed the course of his destiny – and music history.

Before he made his name on the international stage, Keith Moon carved out an early career in his own backyard. He played with three outfits in his native London, none of which would slingshot him to fame. His first taste of playing in a band came with the unremarkable Escorts. He went on to join Mark Twain and The Strangers before completing the line up of cover band The Beachcombers. Throughout this period, his talents were either overlooked or dismissed. The genius was yet to be discovered.

Keith Moon and The Who

The Who were on the precipice of leading a cultural revolution when they were fortuitously introduced to Keith Moon. He successfully auditioned to be the band’s drummer in a pub – just before new management would set The Who on the path to greatness. It was 1964, a year before the band released its critically acclaimed single ‘I Can’t Explain’.

Keith Moon’s input was hard to ignore. His drumming leapt out, prompting the lead-in to a memorable chorus that captured the imaginations of a generation. Commentators have made much over the years about Moon’s musical accord with Pete Townsend. It was this synching of chiming, powerful styles that would become the signature sound of the band. Keith Moon’s status as a drumming legend took flight with the release of The Who’s first album, ‘My Generation’. He went on to leave an indelible mark on the music industry with drumming that pushed every boundary on ‘Happy Jack’, a single released in 1966, and many more after.

keith moon playing the drums

The biggest beat in rock

The Who marketed themselves as ‘the most exciting band in the world’. And Keith Moon’s kit lived up to the hype. It matched his colourful, energetic performances on stage. Combined, they were drivers of The Who’s journey to global stardom. At one point, Moon’s kit boasted up to 10 tom-toms, six symbols, twin bass drums, snare, gong and twin timpani.

Moon’s swashbuckling presence on stage was matched by showmanship never before demonstrated by a drummer. Previously confined to the background, Keith Moon put drumming firmly in the spotlight. He juggled his drumsticks like a skilled circus performer, developing his own unique grip, while never missing a beat. His on-stage persona was magnified by his ability to engage the audience. He enthralled crowds with his humour and his legendary attacks on the tools of his trade. No Who performance was ever complete without Keith Moon trashing his kit at the end of the night.

The beginning of the end

The Who were shaping the music scene at a time when rock stars embraced the hedonistic leftovers of the hippy culture. But there was no peace for the wild man of rock. He ignored protocols to embody celebrity at a time when anything seemed to go. He was the joker who busted taboos, seemingly relishing in his role as the wild clown. In spite of his genius and how far he had come, he was to slip into the abyss of alcoholism.

When The Who took time out in the early 1970’s, Moon crossed The Pond to California. He enjoyed limited success on the big screen, appearing in small acting roles. His film credits include ‘That’ll Be The Day’. He performed alongside David Essex in the sequel, ‘Stardust’, in 1974 before returning to the recording studio. He released ‘Two Sides of the Moon’’, a solo endeavour, a year later.

A legend never dies

Punk rock had risen to mainstream when Keith Moon moved back to England in 1977. He re-joined The Who to perform on his last album, ‘Who Are You’. A party animal who drank with the likes of Oliver Reed, he’d seen the inside of a police cell and racked up hotel bills for damage totalling tens of thousands. His personal life was on a downward spiral and, realising his potential fate, attempted to free himself from the bottle. He was undergoing treatment for alcohol addiction when he accidentally overdosed on a prescription drug and died in 1978.

The complexity of his skills, the sublime nature of his performances and his ability to command the stage to this day sets Keith Moon apart. There will never be another like him. He was an innovator and utterly unique. And that is why his legend will always live on!!

How The Kinks Really Got Us

the kinks

Although never part of the mod scene, The Kinks are undoubtedly one of the most influential bands on the planet. From as early as 1964, their highly individual style was changing the cultural landscape. Faces on Carnaby Street during the early 1960s, The Kinks’ distinct, poetic lyrics and raw sound became a global phenomenon. They achieved international success without attaching themselves to any particular fashion trend. Instead they concentrated on capturing the mood of the sixties before effortlessly transcending the era.

Ray Davies, his brother Dave, Pete Quaife and Mick Avory are credited with being a driver of change that challenged The Beatles’ stranglehold on popular culture. The Kinks led the British pop invasion of America from the front. They did it with a sound that has inspired generations of musicians, criss-crossing genres and embracing everything from punk to heavy rock. Listen to You Really Got Me and you will understand. And they did it not just wearing floppy jumpers and jeans but also in sharp suits that resonate with mods.

Legends who broke convention with their own style

So how did The Kinks ‘really get us’ and what makes them music legends and cultural icons? For the answer, you have to turn the clock back to a time before 1990 – the year the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You have to realise that The Kinks’ name is synonymous with innovation. Then you have to acknowledge that they disrupted convention by pioneering a white charge on rhythm and blues.

Now that’s pretty cool for a band formed as part of a challenge set during a school music lesson. The aim was to write a song for a dance. The result was… The Kinks. With an outrageous name they hoped would court publicity, they went on to achieve notoriety both on and off stage. To say they lived the rock and roll lifestyle would be an understatement.

It was The Kinks’ sheer talent that saw them become masters of the power chord; a sound that epitomises their brand. They took guitarist Link Wray’s 1950s invention and owned it. With a rasping, atmospheric guitar sound that gave us immortal hits such as Lola, The Kinks take storytelling to new heights. They document popular culture in words and break boundaries with new rhythms.

From the avant-garde to mainstream

From humble beginnings in Muswell Hill, London, The Kinks enjoyed a string of hits through the 1960s. Together with the Rolling Stones, they are rightly credited as being early avant-gardes of musical creativity. Just a year after they formed, they topped the charts with experimental You Really Got Me. It was followed by All Day and All of the Night, Tired of Waiting for You and the ironic Dedicated Followers of Fashion.

The hits kept on coming, right up until the end of the decade. Then The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, an album released in 1969, was deemed a commercial flop. The Kinks seemed to be doomed to the history books when, in the summer of 1970, along came Lola. It put them back in the limelight, both at home and across the Pond.

The Kinks’ sound cultivated the blues scene with a distinctive style. It is revered for delivering drama and edgy twists. This is a band that manages to incorporate harmonious melodies with lyrics that provide razor sharp social commentary. How many bands can you name whose observations have kept it in tune with audiences for more than half a century?

Back in fashion – The Kinks reform

Personal and artistic differences eventually saw the band split; the divisions considered so wide that any talk of a reunion was quickly snuffed out. But, after a 20-year hiatus, The Kinks are back. They are headed for the recording studio in what could be a defining moment in the band’s long history. Commentators have said several brushes with death have given the band members a greater appreciation of one another.

When they first took America by storm, The Kinks likened the US to a ‘fantasy land’. But nobody will be dreaming when this new collaboration bears fruit. Its what Kinks’ fans have been praying for. And it’s what a new generation of music lovers will come to love.

Frontman Ray Davies, along with his brother Dave and drummer Mick Avory have confirmed a new album is in the making. For audiences old and new, Better Things could still be to come.

For Further Blogs | It’s A Mod Thing

Female Mod Icons

The music may have been a major part of the mod movement, but it is important to remember that fashion was an integral element to the development and popularity of the movement too. There were a number of key females in mod history and these three female mod icons deserve to be recognised as much as anyone from that era.

Twiggy

twiggy mod icon

Every fashion movement needs a superhero and the mod movement had even better than a superhero, they had a supermodel! You may not be familiar with the name Lesley Lawson but if you say the word Twiggy, people know instantly who you are talking about. While she has been an actress and a singer in her time, Twiggy will forever be recognised as the stunning British model who for many people was the perfect embodiment of the female mod fashion and of the swinging 60s style!

Twiggy’s nickname came about thanks to her thin frame but it was the androgynous look that she provided in her early days that helped to bring female mod fashion to the fore. With large hair and short eyes, Twiggy was a big change from what had been recognised as the top fashion style and by the mid-60s; the world had fallen in love with her, and her look. She was recognised as the “Face of 1966” and was hailed as the British Woman of the Year in the same year. 1967 brought magazine covers in Vogue and Tatler while there were fashion shoots in Asia, America and Europe to go alongside the high demand that she still held in Britain.

As fashion styles move on, Twiggy had the good sense and grace to take a different path, following her acting ambitions, and leaving the new fashion movements to find their own face rather than hoping she could stick around. It is testimony to her hard work and natural beauty that Twiggy is still involved in the fashion industry these days, working with Marks & Spencer’s in the design room and in front of the camera. She may no longer be synonymous with just mod fashion but for a few years, Twiggy was the perfect embodiment of female mod fashion and she was the name on everyone’s lips.

Cathy McGowan

cathy mcgowan mod icon

While Twiggy was found in fashion magazines and newspapers, it could be argued that Cathy McGowan had the bigger impact on mod fashion as she was found on TV every week alongside many of the best bands of the day. Cathy was the presenter of TV show Ready Steady Go! and she was a huge part of the appeal for male and female viewers. Given that Cathy was in her early twenties at the time, she was seen as a role model for young women and her fashion sense was copied by a great number of viewers. With Twiggy citing McGowan as a massive inspiration and interviews suggesting that Anna Wintour, who would later be the editor of American Vogue, McGowan was the celebrity that would inspire future celebrities.

McGowan was regularly seen in a miniskirt, which not only boosted her popularity and the popularity of the miniskirt, it helped to bring Mary Quant to a wider audience, with Quant being the major proponent of this style of skirt in the UK. She wasn’t only known for wearing miniskirts, McGowan was also regularly seen in shift dresses but given the shocking nature of miniskirts to many people at the time, it was easy to see why that garment captured the imagination.

The fact that McGowan had her own fashion range on offer at British home Stores and a make-up kit available across the country, allowed many girls and women to imitate her fashion style with ease.

Mary Quant

mary quant mod icon

While many mods could have walked by Mary Quant in the street and failed to recognise her, she was an instrumental part of the fashion movement of the times. Mary is the key designer credited with the emergence of miniskirts and hot pants, making her an integral name in the development of mod fashion. Mary was a major promoter of these items in the early 60s, making her name instantly recognisable when it comes to female mod fashion and in loosening up some of the boundaries which had been imposed on female fashion to this point.

With a store on the King’s Road, Quant was in the right place at the right time but to limit her achievements to just the miniskirt would be a great disservice. Quant was also a major backer of the androgynous style that was favoured by many female mods, with one of her successful items being cardigans initially made for men that were worn as dresses.

Women’s Mod Clothing

The Action Had The Mod Look

The Action Had The Mod Look

the action mod groupLike many mod groups, the origins of The Action can actually be found in another band. In Kentish town, in the North of London, there was a group called The Boys. This band consisted of Alan king who was the lead guitarist, Mike Evans who was the bassist, Roger Powell played drums, and the vocalist was Reg King. The Boys formed in 1963, playing a number of popular mod clubs in the capital and in 1964, they found themselves as the support act to The High Numbers.

Much in the way that The High Numbers would quickly change their name to The Who, The Boys would soon realise that a name change was in order, christening themselves as The Action. The name change came after the line-up was expanded by the arrival of Pete Weston, who played the rhythm guitar.

Over the next couple of years, the group developed a reputation for being a blistering live act. Some of the shows the band performed at the Marquee Club were raved about, but the material consisted of mainly American soul tracks. This was something that would potentially come to hold the group back as their original material was not deemed as strong against the material they would play in their live show.

In 1967, the band attempted to update their sound from the pop art mod style to the increasingly psychedelic mod sound. This didn’t go down too well with the bands existing fan base, and it failed to win over any new followers. The group split up in mid 1967.

However, thanks to the various mod revivals that took place in the intervening years, the high points of The Action were held in high regard and the band were cited for their fashion influence. The group reformed in 1998, playing a few times between then and 2004. Sadly, in 2010 Mike Evans and Reg King passed away.

The fashion brought acclaim to The Action

One of the things that The Action had in their favour was their fashion. This is not to say that the band didn’t have talent, they clearly had enough about them to be noticed and to make some inroads into the musical business. However, it was the overall package that seemed to bring many people to The Action. There was a sense that these bunch of lads were genuine mods and into the scene whereas some bands would give the impression that they were happy to mime mod culture until the next big musical genre or happening came along.

It was said that The Action was the perfect embodiment of what London mod life was like in the mid to late 1960s. They had a classic style that was as subtle as it was elegant. Whether the act was wearing tailored suits, fitted shirts or patterned sweaters, they had a style that seemed effortless, and this was a factor why so many people loved them at the time. They had the same Pop Art style as The Who but even then, The Action seemed more at ease and less showy than what The Who offered. The Who were genuine at the time, but there was still an element of showmanship about their look and image, the band knew that they were a band with an image. With The Action, it was if the lads in the group would have dressed the same even if they never played a note of music in their life.

While the group were well loved within the mod community, their inability to break through to mainstream and commercial success surprised many and even angered a few. It seemed as though everything was in place for the group to make it to the big time. They had the backing of a leading record label who worked hard to push them to a wider audience. The group also had the luxury of being produced by George Martin. In the mid to late 1960s, producer George Martin was a more famous name than many acts due to his work with The Beatles and EMI at Abbey Road Studios but not even he could push The Action to a higher level of success or popularity.

Mods V Rockers

The riots on the beaches of Southern England in May 1964 were the culmination of ill feeling and frequent altercations between British youth sub-cultures the mods and rockers.

The mods saw rockers as hasbeens who listened to outdated 1950’s Rock & Roll music; they had greasy slicked back hair and rode around in dirty oily leathers. Mods were the new youth of sixties Britain and they wanted  to live a completely different existence to their parents and previous generations. Mods did not want the norm of a mundane low paid job, followed by marriage and children. Mods were rebellious in every conceivable way and were depicted by the media at the time as troublesome, no good and devilish.

Rockers on the other hand saw mods as effeminate weedy ponces. Neat haircuts and an obsessive desire to look good were opposite traits to the macho image and beliefs of a rocker. The Italian scooters adopted by mods were seen by rockers as pathetic, incapable of speed and once again, the complete opposite to the more powerful motorcycles rode by themselves.

With the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to see how two cultures so completely different, with opposite beliefs, would clash and that such confrontations would lead to the infamous beach riots in early sixties Britain.

The riots took place at such southern English seaside resorts as Clacton, Hastings and Brighton. In Brighton, the riots lasted for two days and led to many arrests. The famous British cult film Quadrophenia, produced by iconic rock band the Who, portrayed the riots between mods and rockers in Brighton.

It is ironic that two youth sub-culture movements who ultimately despised one another are permanently etched together in British history. There were youth clashes prior to 1964 and there have been many clashes since, most notable being rivalry between football hooligans which occurs on a weekly basis. Why is it then that the mods and rockers riots received such notoriety? Obviously, mods and rockers were very much in the news prior to the riots and they are clearly opposites in every conceivable manner. What ultimately separates these youth sub-culture riots to all others is the scale of events. The pure numbers involved is pretty unique and the press had a clear distinction to make between the two youth movements.

Watching the riot scenes in cult British film Quadrophenia you cannot help but join in to the famous chant of ‘We Are The Mods, We Are The Mods, We Are, We Are, We Are The Mod!!!’

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