Beat of his own drum
Dylan Jones looks to Keith Moon, drummer for The Who and resident Mayfair hellraiser, for lessons in flair and flamboyance
Mayfair has often been the home of dandies and show-offs, especially during the Sixties, when nascent pop stars roamed the neighbourhood in search of entertainment and expensive trousers. At this time the postcode seemed to encourage a kind of sartorial extremism, almost as though it were some sort of fashion theme park. Over in Soho, on the other side of Regent Street, the Carnabetian Army may have been marching in time to the metronomic reveille of seasonal trends, but in and around Berkeley Square, the fops, coxcombs and recently emancipated young musicians from the suburbs were wandering around in bright feather boas, snakeskin boots, Regency suits, kipper ties, extravagant scarves, fur coats and feathered hats.
And then there was Keith Moon. As the flamboyant drummer with the loudest, most anarchic group on the circuit, the Who’s baby-faced Wildman was already carving himself a place in rock history because of his erratic behaviour and his phenomenal capacity for drink and drugs. So it was perhaps not so surprising that he also became something of a fashion plate, too, embracing the generational penchant for peacock fashions and proto bling. Before joining the Who he would look in the window of Cecil Gee, the men’s outfitters at the bottom of Wardour Street, and stare at the outlandish suits in the window – slightly retro Teddy Boy suits in canary yellow and lilac, for instance, or blood-red crimson and lime green. One day a friend pointed to one of the Cecil Gee suits, a monstrous gold lame number, and said to Moon, “But who on earth would have the guts to wear that?” Keith’s response was predictable: not only would he have the guts to wear it, one he day he actually would. And he did.
His sense of humour was challenging, to say the least – the morning after Mick and Bianca Jagger’s wedding, the bride woke to find Moon abseiling through her window, naked except for novelty glasses and knickers on his head – while his calling card became flushing explosives down toilets, and yet his self-deprecating nature made him dangerously appealing. He did, obviously, have a habit of leaving the house dressed as a nun or a member of the SS, and while he would never limit his fancy dress escapades to those venues that perhaps encouraged them, he was always mindful that he would be accompanied by photographers wherever he went. By which I mean that while he was caught in inappropriate clothing, he made sure he looked stylish while he was being offensive.
During the late Sixties and early Seventies, before the debauchery caught up with him, Moon the Loon was actually one of the best dressed man in London, and certainly one of the best dressed in Mayfair.