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Music

When Keith Moon caught Robert Plant and John Bonham breaking into a van

John Bonham and Keith Moon are two of the most influential drummers to have ever graced the earth. Hard rocking and equally as hard-partying, there are many similarities between the two that extend much further than being musical geniuses. 

Unsurprisingly, the two became friends in the 1960s, and in an interview with Matt Everitt on BBC Radio 6 back in 2017, Led Zeppelin frontman, Robert Plant recalled a story of he and Bonham’s pre-Zeppelin days when they were playing in The Band of Joy. The pair found themselves in a pickle just before a show at The Speakeasy in London, and they bumped into Keith Moon, who was getting up to his old tricks. What ensued was immensely surreal.

Plant started his anecdote, saying: “One time we were playing at the Speakeasy club in London, which was a really an amazing place. I’ve seen Hendrix play there and Arthur Lee. The Band of Joy were really short of gigs and we could really play about two or three successful places in Britain where people got the drift of what we were doing. But it was Psychedelic Blues. We were the kind of poor cousins of the Steam Packet with Rod Stewart and Long John Baldry and Julie Driscoll.”

“There was a lot of freakbeat stuff still going on: The Action, The Artwoods and I met Terry Reid at that time. So we’ve got the opportunity to play at the Speakeasy and we were starting to get a name, even though we couldn’t come into the pop world because it wouldn’t have been cool…” 

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“So we set up at The Speak, and the night was just about to start. We were unloading the van and we realized that John Bonham had had the van, The Band of Joy van, and backed it up to some railings in Dudley to make sure nobody could nick the gear. So we drove to Wigmore Street in West End.”

“We get out the van to unload the stuff and realize that we left the door handle in the railings back in Dudley. So it won’t come out, you can’t get in there. There was a guy working on the road, I said ‘lend us that shovel!’ So Bonzo got hold of the shovel and starts prising the door of the back of the van and down… this is true…. (laughs). Down the street coming towards us, towards a zebra crossing is a Rolls Royce, and it’s Keith Moon.”

“So Bonzo throws the shovel to me, because drummers are not to be seen prising their way into the group van. And then Mooney had got a microphone inside the car, and he would get to a zebra crossing and when somebody was walking across he’d shout at ’em through the radiator grill, and they would drop their shopping. So there was this great, sort of, moment of, I’ve got the shovel, Mooney shouting at some lady with some shopping and Bonzo’s hiding. Then we set up on the stage and John would, he was desperate to get away from anything I did. Pat, his Mrs said, ‘You can’t play with him anymore. There’s nothing happening here. You’re not gonna make any money with him.'”

He concluded: “So, John set up right on the very front of the stage. That’s usually where the singer goes, up the sharp end. But instead of that, I had to give a little to him. He was doing all these tricks playing with one stick and spinning the other one in the air, round and round, and doing all these ridiculous fills while we were playing ‘White Rabbit’ by Jefferson Airplane. It was great, we fought our way through the mid to late 60s, he and I. There was a lot of funny, absolutely hysterical stuff… (sic) we don’t know the ways of the world when you’re 17, we did good.”

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