Paul McCartney and The Beatles were a heavily coveted band in the late sixties. Everybody could see their potential and the pounds and dollars that followed them everywhere they went. It made sure Macca, the apparent leader of the group, was eyed up for heavenly supergroups and everybody was trying to ride on the coattails of the biggest band on the planet.
Another band who had gained notoriety in the mid-sixties, as London’s swinging set roared into gear and they entered the peak of their powers, was the Roger Daltrey-fronted group The Who and their uncompromising approach to song creation. By 1966 their generation-defining sound and fiery live performances had made them rock stars across Britain. However, it didn’t necessarily mean that they weren’t envious of their Liverpool counterparts.
‘My Generation’ will forever define the effervescent angst of youth and perhaps nowhere is this notion distilled more perfectly than in The Who’s legendary drummer Keith Moon. However, the drummer wasn’t always so keen on being a part of the band that included the tempestuous relationships of himself Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle. It was a difficult group to be within and the percussionist knew he may have been in for a calmer ride with the Fab Four.
The tensions in The Who slowly became violent and included Moon and Daltrey coming to blows after the singer had flushed the drummer’s drugs, as well as Moon once chasing Townshend with a knife through a crowded train car. Daltrey was even kicked out of the band for some time during their burning beginnings. All that fuss had left Moon hoping for a more peaceful career.
With The Who seemingly miles away from the pinnacle of rock, Moon began looking to other London-based bands to showcase his talents. The Animals turned Moon down after an unsuccessful pitch and so Moon decided to ask Paul McCartney if there was room in The Beatles for him and his unique style.
Dryly, McCartney replied and explained that the group weren’t really looking for a new drummer. The Beatles may have had some hard times in the latter part of their career but, unlike many other groups, they never replaced members. Even when Ringo and George Harrison walked out on the band in 1968 and 1969, The Beatles returned as the Fab Four once more, ready to dominate the charts and the rock music critics’ columns.
In Mark Blake’s Pretend You’re in a War, the Who biographer noted that Moon approached McCartney at the Scotch of St. James, a shadowy central London club. After making his way to McCartney’s booth he suggested that he should “join” The Beatles. Without missing a beat, McCartney suggested that the drummer take it up with Ringo and settle it between them.
Whether he ever did speak to Ringo about that night he almost tried to take his job is unclear, but Moon and Starr enjoyed a great friendship before Moon’s untimely death. In fact, the pair were so close that Moon was the man to give Zak Starkey, Ringo’s son, his first drum kit. Starkey has since performed on the drums for The Who many times. His last outing was on their 2019 tour.
There’s no doubting that Ringo Starr’s idiosyncratic drumming style is a vital part of what made The Beatles great but we’d be lying if we said we hadn’t thought about The Beatles with the imperious Keith Moon behind the drums.