Roger Daltrey gives the mic to Moon’s mum, pictured with Kit Moon and DJ Mike Reid at the ceremony which was mobbed by Mods on scooters
Who’s vexed? Rival ‘blue plaque’ for Moon puts heritage row centre stage
Keith Moon, legendary drummer with The Who, has been honoured with a plaque on the Marquee Club – getting it there had all the drama of a Mods and the Rockers bust up, writes Richard Osley
IT was two fingers up to English Heritage and the snooty judges who didn’t think services to tossing televisions out of hotel windows, flushing dynamite sticks down toilets and the odd bit of drumming deserved one of their precious blue plaques.
Scooters flooded into Wardour Street on Sunday and fans of The Who’s drummer Keith Moon celebrated his life regardless of whether Professor Cleverclogs or Doctor Dustybooks or any of the other members of English Heritage’s haughty judging panel thought he merited such recognition.
With a rebellious spirit, a charity which revels in concerning itself more with good old-fashioned entertainers than forgotten Nobel prize winners bypassed the conservation body and pinned their own Keith Moon blue plaque to the wall of the old Marquee club.
It marked the scene of some of The Who’s most exuberant performances, often climaxing with Moon smashing his drum kit into little pieces.
Officially, The Heritage Foundation insisted its riotous celebration wasn’t a rival to English Heritage’s scheme. Its organiser, David Graham, said politely that its members simply felt characters like Moon deserved a bit more recognition. “Keith has been overlooked but he was such a character – you don’t get characters like him anymore,” he said.
But there were several in the crowd of badge-stitched green jackets cheering on Roger Daltrey as he cut the ribbon who knew that organising the tribute had been a surprisingly difficult task.
Gary Hurley said his wife Melissa had made the initial application. “She used to know Keith, they were friends and she wanted to give something back to him – but English Heritage said no,” he said.
The national body has been criticised in the past for its slouchy approach to some of the starrier applications. Its one-time panel chairman Loyd Grossman has admitted that familiar faces in the fields of sports, film and pop were not honoured at an electrifying speed.
Whether Moon’s tales of excess before his death from an overdose – in 1978, aged 32 – should count him out of the running is a point of debate, but the Mods who worshipped his band suggest it is another example where men of letters and numbers pull rank.
English Heritage’s caution is that only around 15 applications make it to walls and only the best suggestions get through the deliberations.
Moon has been dead long enough to qualify for one of the memorials – a key criterion – but Melissa Hurley’s application was swiftly kicked into the long grass.
While Pete Townsend and other members of the band still draw breath, the judges argued, how on earth can Moon The Loon’s contribution to rock and roll properly be assessed? Their technical jargon for a big fat snub: “Further time should be allowed to pass so he can be considered alongside his contemporaries.”
And so the application went to the bottom of the pile – and the judges moved on to signing approvals for household names... Sir Francis Pettit Smith, a “pioneer of the screw propeller” anyone?
The Camden New Journal had its own part in the affair. English Heritage’s deliberations were only brought to public attention after enquiries into who was on the reject list.
Mr Hurley said: “The Who’s contribution shouldn’t be in doubt and people were unhappy when they read that Keith Moon had been turned down.”
National newspapers and outraged superfans leapt on the story and the Heritage Foundation needed little encouragement to take up the reins. It made a lot of old rockers very happy.