Tommy Keene has been playing guitar hero for more than a quarter-century, both on his power-pop solo albums (his latest is In The Late Bright, out this week) and as a sideman for Robert Pollard and Paul Westerberg. Keene, apparently weary of all the critical acclaim, agreed to dole out some of his own praise. He’s guest editing magnetmagazine. com this week and compiled a mix tape for us with a free mp3.
Keene: The last time I saw the Who with Keith Moon was at the Capital Centre in Largo, Md. (site of infamous documentary Heavy Metal Parking Lot, by the way). It was 1976, and the Who were touring behind The Who By Numbers. My brother and I were in the second row, smack between Moon and Pete Townshend. We were so close that at one point, Townshend seemed a bit out of sorts and ran back to his Hiwatt amp and literally turned it up to 11—we were so close that we could hear the onstage sound of his amps whoosh over our heads like a 747 taking off.
Being a drummer from age eight to 17, I was enamored with Keith Moon. I still am, actually—he’s my favorite rock drummer of all time. We had eye contact with him throughout the entire show. I would air-drum his rolls as he was doing them, and he would look at me amazed with a “Right on, kid, you know your stuff!” kind of look. It was hilarious. He tried numerous times during the show to throw my brother and me drumsticks, and when he missed or someone else got them, he’d mouth a “Damn!” or “Sorry, I’ll try again!” At the end of the show, as the Who were doing taking their bows, Moon kept looking at us and motioning that he had something up his sleeve. After the other three members walked off, he grabbed one of his cymbal stands and walked over to the edge of the stage to hand the entire thing over to us. These absolute jerks in the front row must have thought it was for them. A complete melee ensued—my brother and I grabbed on to the base of the stand, each of us holding a tripod for dear life, but by then 20 other people had joined in on the action. All we could each get was one of the rubber stoppers on the legs of the stand as the rest of the throng grabbed everything else, cymbal included. The last thing I remember was Moon shaking his head and expressing regret, as if to say, “Sorry, guys, I tried,” as he sauntered off the stage.
The Who’s “Squeeze Box”: