So writes Pete Townshend in his just-published memoir Who I Am (reviewed here), the Sunday Times serial of which was adroitly headlined ‘I Can Explain’ – a wry reference to one of the best, biggest, earliest hits penned by a prodigious rock ‘n’ roll songwriter whose band seemed to conjure into being all the burning emotional eloquence oft-hidden by adolescent inarticulacy.
The music writer David Hepworth comes at this issue by another way in a recent blog-post for which he lists dozens of LPs released in 1971 as proof of his theory that said year was the annus mirabilis of the rock album:
‘Most of the music on this list was made by people under the age of thirty-two… There’s a huge preponderance of war babies. Most of them were twenty-six. I was listening to Who’s Next yesterday and marvelling at how this bunch of yobs from Shepherd’s Bush could possibly have become so good so quickly. Hardly anyone who made the music on this list spent any time in further education. They were on the road as teenagers…’
One of those ‘yobs’ was of course Keith Moon, whose own antics, indulgences and confusions are vividly recounted by his former wingman Dougal Butler in Full Moon, lately reissued from this parish. And I’m delighted to report that the estimable Record Collector magazine has just issued a splendid 4-star review of Dougal’s book like so:
Peter ‘Dougal’ Butler worked for The Who for 10 years, initially as a £15-a-week roadie but, more significantly, as Keith Moon’s chauffeur and minder. This book, first published in 1981, charts their time together and, amid the wild man antics that have been well documented time and again, there’s a sense of a very real bond between the two men.
As one might expect, the drug-fuelled and death-defying japery makes for a rattling read and is always worth another look, yet it’s the sensitive side of Moon, the life and soul who was no stranger to loneliness, that adds an extra poignancy. The bad behaviour is punctuated by stints in rehab, though Butler seems resigned to the fact that his employer will forever struggle to change his ways and that his problems are steamrollering to an inevitable conclusion.
Written in the present tense with a raconteur’s lyrical brio that sometimes recalls Damon Runyon’s colourful prose, plus a useful glossary of rock’n’roll slang at the back, Butler transports the reader to the eyes of several storms. As a first-hand account of showbiz mayhem it has few equals.
Here’s an additional treat, and a reminder of that post-war English ‘confusion’ amid which young people fell upon American rock ‘n’ roll with such a hungry embrace. This is a snippet from That’ll Be The Day (1973) in which Moon played a holiday camp drummer on his way to bigger things through hooking up his interests to those of mooching would-be singer David Essex. And if you watch to the end, the chap exiting the gentlemen’s conveniences is none other than Dougal Butler…