By 1967, The Who were a force to be reckoned with on the tea-drinking side of the pond. The band had grown themselves a sizeable reputation for not only producing incredible records, but also for having an explosive live show. They put that to the most stringent of tests when they made their American TV debut.
The band were overseas to try and do that classic British band thing of “breaking America” and what better way to do it than a TV performance of their new song ‘My Generation’. But when they made their US TV debut on September 17th, 1967 on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, they very nearly broke everything in their path. They arrived on set in stunning clothes from Carnaby Street, a cheeky-chappy persona, and a brand new track to play.
The band’s live shows, at this point, had become a huge badge of honour for the members of The Who. They left most stages strewn with broken instruments and bathed in sweat as Townsend smashed through guitars quicker than he could afford. They were intense, they were unruly, and they were unstoppable. One particular force in the band was keen to push that ethos to the very edge. Keith Moon, AKA Moon the Loon, was a serial prankster as well as being seemingly adept at nihilism, and he wasn’t about to change anything for American telly.
The drummer had taken to filling his bass drums, which he often up-turned anyway, with flash powder. The explosive is designed to cause a loud noise and a bright flash—a perfect cannon-esque ending for the band’s performance. But for this show, Keith had got a bit carried away with the powder and over-filled the drums. Reports differ as to how the extra explosive ended up in the drums. One report says that Moon and the stagehand had got mixed up and had been adding charges without knowledge of the other. Another report, however, possibly more likely, was that Moon had been bribing the stagehand with shots of brandy to add the extra charges.
The band duly mimed their new hit, ‘I Can Go For Miles and Miles’, and then went on to ‘My Generation’ and got on board with the opportunity the show offered, even having some very lovely small talk with the host mid-set. But, while they may have mimed their song they weren’t going to let anything stop them having their usual, and very real, climax.
Keith was throwing his symbals to the floor while Pete was smashing through his guitar when Moon’s drum-bomb exploded and nearly blew the entire band away. The flash from the device knocked out the cameras for a moment while actress Bette Davis, who was also on the show, allegedly fainted off-stage from the velocity of the blast.
Watch below the whole set from The Who making their American TV debut in 1967.
Source: Best Classic Bands