PUBLISHED: 12:27 14 October 2009
Waltham Abbey's Tony Klinger, reveals his unique insight into the last days of The Who's original line-up and how it inspired his latest book, The Who and I.
THE WHO were at their peak in the 1970s. Following massive hits such as My Generation, I Can See for Miles, Substitute and Pinball Wizard few other bands in the world could touch them. But as the eighties approached, time was running out for the classic line-up and in 1978 Keith Moon's death in his rented Mayfair flat from an accidental overdose of pills he had been taking to combat alcoholism was a devastating blow to not only the band, but the world of popular music.
The documentary film The Kids Are Alright, released in June 1979, proved to be a landmark compilation, capturing the band in their glory. As the producer of that film it was my privilege to follow the group in their last days of that amazing first line-up and record every moment.
The Kids Are Alright showed the band as they had never been seen before, revealing archive footage and live performances that many had thought lost. The band even played exclusively for the movie, although unfortunately Keith didn't live to see the completion of the project. That private concert was the last ever concert the band played with Keith and revealing footage from this concert and portraying the realities of making a film with the most unpredictable and incendiary live act on the planet made The Kids Are Alright a truly ground-breaking piece of work.
'What do I remember? Egos, girls, shouting, threats, lawyers, managers screaming, confusion - but, above all, the music'
A moment in time
It's early afternoon and The Who are about to play a small, private gig to be filmed for the movie that I have agreed to produce. The small invited crowd shouts and cheers as they wait for the band to hit the stage. They are excited - the sweat is pouring off some of them, like overheated animals knowing they're going to get some exercise. The cameras and lights are in position.
After the concert I walk over to Pete Townshend to congratulate him on the band's performance. In the same spirit of friendship, I put out my hand to shake his. He ignores me as if we had never met, turns and walks away.
As if by some divine signal the stage lights are extinguished and each member of the band vanishes into the night with their separate entourages, their own small, exclusive and cocooned worlds. All of us are unaware that this was the final gig, the last time all four original members of The Who would ever play together on stage. This was the twilight of the gods.
It was an odd contrast, sitting by my computer tapping out this story overlooking the beautiful scenery of Lee Valley Park and thinking about those mad but exciting days.
Most of the stuff that happens around a rock band seems harmless enough to the people listening to the stories of excessive and wild behavior, but even before I started to write my book, The Twilight of the Gods, I was aware of the darker side. Some of the people around rock music in the last decades of the 20th century were hard men and some were crazy men, but it was when the two combined that you really had to be careful. Some were not nice men to be around. Some could be pleasant, even great company, but you didn't want to upset or cross them.
Many biographies of international rock stars are written by people that fall into one of two categories - fans or knockers - not by the people who knew their subjects personally. My book is about three years in the life of a rock band by someone making a film with them, someone who was there. Some will call it an exposé because it unearths and brings to the public's attention the truth behind the façade. Some might term it revenge, but it's never that.
Tony Klinger biography
I was born in London. At school I won prizes for writing and with some friends ran a successful underground school magazine. By the age of 18
I was making films that received wide public distribution. Now I live in Waltham Abbey and I lecture at universities, make films and write. I've run several media companies, both in the UK and USA, and have made more than 500 media productions of various types. One of my most famous films is Shout at the Devil starring Roger Moore, Lee Marvin, Susannah York, Mickey Rooney and Deep Purple. In recent years I ran the film production courses at the Northern and Bournemouth Film Schools and was director of the Media Production Centre at the University of East London.
(The First Edition of Tony’s book was titled ‘Twilight of the Gods’.
The second edition is available for purchase under the title ‘The Who and I’ and can be found by clicking the link below)