Simon Napier-Bell & The Real Keith Moon
I came across a fascinating documentary about The Who’s infamous drummer Keith Moon last week (The Real Keith Moon) which prompted me to revisit sometime Skrufff contributor Simon Napier-Bell’s book TA-RA-RA-BOOM-DE-AY a complete history of the music business.
Click below for an excerpt from the book which recalls one of Simon and Keith’s more esoteric adventures . . .
Simon Napier-Bell: I really loved Keith Moon. He was crazy in such an understandable way. Not that we saw each other that often, just in discos, or parties, or when gigs we were involved with crossed paths. Not being his manager meant there was no pressure to make our relationship more than it really was. Casual and friendly.
One Friday in the early seventies I had a sudden urge to do something different with the weekend. I jumped in a cab to terminal three and looked at the departure board. Nairobi sounded interesting, I hadn’t been there before, so I ticketed up and boarded the plane.
By the Saturday I’d moved to a beach hotel out of town and in the evening I took a car to Mombasa – the name had a romantic ring about it and I thought it worth checking out. In fact it was dilapidated and sleazy, but since I quite like sleaze I spent the evening getting drunk in a couple of disreputable bars and ended up round midnight in a compromising position – a small seedy room in a tenement block, lit by one bare light bulb hanging by a flex from the ceiling, with a person of indeterminate sex standing in front of me.
When she got her knickers off the indetermination ceased. Where there should have one object of desire, there were three, swinging slightly in the breeze.
“Don’t hit me,” she said, anticipating I’d be angry. But there was no chance of that. In fact I thought it was a slight improvement.
When she realized it didn’t much bother me, she got hoity-toity. “You not real man”, she said. “A real man would not like. Why you not hit me?”
“I will if that’s what you want,” I told her.
“Hitting is 50 shillings extra,” she snapped back.
For a moment or two we negotiated over what I might do with what was on offer but when the price kept spiraling I decided to leave. I shoved fifty shillings in her hand and opened the door.
She yelled out, “Not enough, not enough,” and as I pushed past her to go she screamed something in Arabic and a nasty-looking thug appeared in front of me holding a knife.
He said, “Mister, you gonna pay three hundred shillings for my girl.”
I told him, “That’s not what she is. And anyway, I don’t have that much money.” I held out what I had left – about a hundred shillings.
The girl got agitated and yelled, “Mister, you make me undress, you make me shame. You pay.” And the unpleasant character in front of me took the hundred shillings but continued waving his knife.
Then, from across the passage, a door burst open and jumping through it, pulling up his trousers and zipping away his belongings, came Keith Moon. He saw me cowering in front of the man with a knife and stopped dead. “Blimey! Simon Napier-Bollocks. What are you doin’ here?”
“Trying to leave,” I explained. “But I don’t have the exit fee.”
There was a young girl hanging onto Keith but he brushed her aside and lifted up his right arm, sword-like, and charged the Arab with fingers extended.
“You fuckin’ wrong-coloured bastard.”
The man was too surprised to move and Keith’s fingers hit him plum in the Adam’s apple.
Outside we clattered down the tenement staircase into the tropical darkness and ran off in opposite directions. Next time we met was at Manchester airport during a bad fog. We had burgers and coffee and chatted for half-an-hour and Keith wore diving goggles the whole time. I didn’t ask why.”