Like most people associated with Fabers I’m proud to be of assistance around this august, 80-year-old, fiercely independent parish. But in my case an extra-special gratification is that Pete Townshend used to work here. And if you’re a mad Who fan, as am I, then such truth is golden.
It was in July 1983 that Townshend took up an editorial role at Faber, invited by then-publisher Matthew Evans. Townshend had always been interested in poetry and prose, and was increasingly worn down by the treadmill of his rock existence, especially so in the years after the untimely death of Keith Moon in September 1978.
Townshend’s brief at Faber was fairly free, and he oversaw a fair bit of new fiction and non-fiction, but one of his special enthusiasms was for books about rock and pop. He has always been one of the most eloquent advocates of these musical forms as art, even if it be fleeting and possibly ephemeral ‘pop art’. And so he commissioned inter alia Charles Shaar Murray’s award-winning Crosstown Traffic (on Hendrix), Jon Savage’s landmark England’s Dreaming (on punk), Dave Rimmer’s Like Punk Never Happened (now a Faber Find), et cetera.
The rock/pop music list at Faber now under Lee Brackstone’s editorship remains a glorious thing, and naturally we like for Finds to supplement and embellish that list wherever possible, which is why I’m delighted that we are about to restore to print Full Moon: The Amazing Rock and Roll Life of Keith Moon, written by Peter ‘Dougal’ Butler (with Chris Trengrove and Peter Lawrence.)
‘Dougal’ grew up at the same time and in the same London milieu as the founding members (Townshend, Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle, Moon) of The Who. Leaving school aged 15, he was first employed by HM Customs & Excise, but after finding his way into The Who’s inner circle he became personal assistant, chauffeur, bodyguard, minder and all-round majordomo to the mercurial genius Moon. He performed these functions for a tumultuous ten years, leaving in the year prior to Moon’s untimely death by overdose in September 1978.
Full Moon is the memoir of Dougal’s experiences, first published as a Star paperback in 1981 whereupon it was received rapturously by fans of Moon and The Who, also becoming an ‘instant classic’ account of rock ‘n’ roll excess, avidly consumed on tour buses everywhere. Our Faber Finds reissue of Full Moon will restore the book to print for the first time in 30 years, and also mark its debut as an e-book. It will contain an exclusive new interview about Moon and The Who with Peter Butler and Chris Trengove. And the authors have launched an excellent new website devoted to the book, which you can find here.
Full Moon is, you can imagine, a fairly rambunctious read. As Moon’s unauthorized biographer Tony Fletcher wrote in 1998, ‘The story of the Indian restauranteur, the six hookers, the cocaine and the after-dinner desserts alone renders it worth the [then] considerable second-hand price.’
But, aside from his flair for raising hell, if you need persuading about the musical genius of Moon then I would humbly recommend you take a look at the documentary clips below, both of which feature contributions from Dougal. In particular check out the segment on Moon from the authorised Who documentary Amazing Journey. No writing about music by non-musicians can properly instruct a sincere pilgrim on the true nature of the creative decision-making behind musical composition and performance. But good audiovisual documentary-making certainly can. You can’t beat musicians explaining how a piece of music works just by showing you. (Or as George Steiner memorably noted, ‘Asked to explain a difficult étude, Schumann sat down and played it again…’)
What documentary film can add to all this, and so set the seal on the excellence of the lesson, is by cutting from the demonstration to the subject in action, and the makers of Amazing Journey do this very well. So treat yourself to Keith Moon, the greatest rock ‘n’ roll drummer of them all. And keep ‘em peeled for Full Moon, coming round again soon…