This Unforgettable Michigan Rock Moment Happened 54 Years Ago
The rock star cliche was born from moments like this, as The Who rolled into Flint in 1967 and a legend was made.
This week, as we mourned the loss of one rock n' roll drummer, The Rolling Stones' Charlie Watts, we also celebrate the anniversary of another great drummer's foray into rock star stereotyping.
For it was this week, back in 1967, that The Who's Keith Moon continued his drunken exploits, forever cementing into the minds of Middle America, the idea that rock stars were more than a little unstable.
Moon's penchant for destroying hotel rooms began early in his career, when he began flushing lit cherry bombs down hotel toilets, usually causing water (and other sewage-like materials) to rain down on the rooms below.
But the late drummer took a turn into legend in the early morning hours of August 24, 1967 while the band was in Flint, opening up for Herman's Hermits.
Moon, who would eventually drink himself to death, was celebrating his 21st birthday the night before, which made it legal for him to drink in Michigan. Moon, publicized the fact on stage at the Atwood Stadium, hoping people would buy him free drinks, and boy, did they!
As the party moved from the concert venue at Flint's Atwood Stadium, down the street to the Holiday Inn, Moon began a food fight, fueled by several birthday cakes provided by the band's record company and some fans.
The food fight rolled out into the hotel's pool area, where Moon busted some bottles into the pool, pissing off his bandmates and members of several other bands, who were concerned about having to pay for the damage.
Others at the party began using fire extinguishers to clean the cake off their clothes, which backfired, because they were chemical extinguishers and just released a yellow fog on the proceedings, which prompted a call for the Flint Police.
When Moon stormed off, members of the other bands probably thought "Thank God, he's gone!"
He was, but not for long, because he found something else to amuse him, a Lincoln Continental.
We'll pick up the story from Moon himself, in some old interview quotes published this week in Loudersound:
Half-a-dozen cars were parked around this swimming pool. I ran out, jumped into the first car I came to, which was a brand new Lincoln Continental. It was parked on a slight hill, and when I took the handbrake off it started to roll, and it smashed straight through this pool-surround fence, and the whole Lincoln Continental went into the swimming pool – with me in it.
Legendary Flint radio personality Peter Cavanaugh (who sadly passed away this week at age 79) described what happened next:
I was in a room. I heard the ruckus and I went outside, and the first thing I saw was the vehicle in the pool. We’d all had several beers, and some other stuff too, so things can get a little cloudy, but I clearly remember seeing the vehicle in the pool.
Moon then realized what he had done, and saved his life using a technique from his high school physics class:
So there I was, sitting in the driver’s seat of a Lincoln Continental, underwater. And the water was pouring in – coming in through the bloody pedal holes in the floorboard, squirting in through the windows. In a startling moment of logic, I said: “Well, I can’t open the doors until the pressure is the same”. It’s amazing how I remembered those things from my physics class. So I’m sitting there, thinking about me situation, as the water creeps up to me nose. When there’s just enough air in the top of the car to take a gulp, I fill up me lungs, throw open the door and go rising to the top of the pool. So I went back to the party, streaming water.
Back at the party, Moon wound up getting his pants pulled off by a member of Herman's Hermits, Karl Green. When the police showed up to quell the disturbance, Moon tried to run, slipped on some cake frosting, slamming his head to the floor and knocking a tooth out, giving him a forever reminder of his drunken rampage in Flint. Well, that and the $25,000 bill for damages.
That's one rendition of the story.
Another says the food fight took place, and there was some serious destruction of private property, but that Keith Moon also NEVER drove a car into a pool. And that fact was added later on to give the story legendary status.
Bandmate John Entwistle:
He never drove a car into the swimming pool. He couldn’t even drive.
Peppy Castro of the Blues Magoos, who were also on the tour, says his recollection is hazy, but he doesn't remember a car.
I personally didn’t witness Keith drive a car in the pool. So if it did happen they must have dragged the car out rather fast. I was there.
The Who's lead singer Roger Daltrey, however, backs up Moon's take:
It’s vague now, but I just remember the car in the pool. But then I read in the biography that never happened, so maybe I’ve been living someone else’s life, I don’t know.
The incident is so legendary in rock lore, it gets its own page on Moon's Wikipedia biography.
No police report exists from the incident any more, so I guess we'll never know for sure, but isn't that the '60s in a nutshell?
Lots of drugs, booze and no one being able to remember what really happened.
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