If you run down all the problems members of The Who had with one another, you might be amazed the original lineup stayed together so long. In stories about the band, you find tale after tale of dysfunction, violence, and conflict between the group’s clashing personalities.
Of course, any discussion of Who madness should probably begin with the antics of Keith Moon. When the drummer wasn’t blowing up his drum kit or exploding toilets, he was drinking so much and popping so many pills he might pass out on stage (or worse).
Moon’s behavior brought out the mean streak in Roger Daltrey, the band’s resident brawler in the early days. Daltrey, who later punched Pete Townshend so hard he thought he’d killed him, had an ultra-violent encounter with Moon in 1965.
In fact, after Moon attacked him with a tambourine following a particularly disastrous Denmark gig, Daltrey discovered the answer to, “What would it take to get kicked out of The Who?”
Daltrey’s handling of Moon’s drugs sparked 1 of The Who’s ugliest fights
In Pretend You’re in a War, Mark Blake sets the stage for what became an exceedingly ugly fight (even by Who standards). It began with September ’65 shows in Denmark and Holland. Since the group had their equipment stolen en route, The Who had to go abroad without their own gear.
The equipment they borrowed malfunctioned on consecutive nights, leaving everyone in a foul mood. Daltrey, who was traveling with three bandmates popping pills all along the way, got angrier than the rest of the band.
According to Blake, Moon and Daltrey fought first after an awful Denmark show. A few days later, the band got chased off the stage in Aarhus when 4,000 drunk farmers hurled chairs and bottles at them.
Backstage, Who morale was at an all-time low. And then it sunk even lower when Daltrey flushed Moon’s bag of drugs down the toilet. Moon flung himself at Daltrey, whacking him with a tambourine. And Daltrey responded by pummeling Moon.
The band fired Daltrey but recorded ‘My Generation’ shortly thereafter
After watching Daltrey bloody Moon, the band decided to fire the lead singer. “They told me to f–k off and not come back,” Daltrey recalled in Pretend You’re in a War. But, in a twist peculiar to The Who, they wanted Daltrey to record some music before he went.
Two weeks later, the band went and laid down “My Generation” followed by several other Townshend tracks. The following month, the single went all the way to No. 2 on the UK charts. Suddenly, the band had found its way.
With this newfound success, the band’s management brokered a truce between band members. Daltrey would have to cut out the violence from then on.
Obviously, it didn’t last forever. But when Daltrey knocked out Townshend in 1973, he’d been on his best behavior for eight years. For The Who, that was showing real self-control.