The Truth About The Who's On-Stage Brawl

Call it the Battle of the Bands. Er, band. Who? That's right. Before this turns into an Animaniacs sketch, let's set the record (which would have been vinyl, in those days) straight.

The story encompasses The Who, says Ultimate Classic Rock, with a special guest appearance by Bruce Johnson, singer with The Beach Boys. The Who, with its classic lineup including Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, Keith Moon, and John Entwistle, had been together for a while. Daltrey started assembling what would become a genre-changing band back in 1959, recruiting bassist John Entwistle to join him in The Detours. Pete Townshend brought his guitar to the effort in 1961, and Keith Moon and his drum kit arrived three years later, says Rolling Stone. They were now The Who. Not quite family, but history together, including punches, and not necessarily the kind you drink. The year before there had been a major altercation after a show in Denmark (it didn't go well) when Daltrey flushed Keith Moon's drugs down the toilet. Moon hit Daltrey with a tambourine, says The Cheat Sheet, and Daltrey fought back, apparently successfully — sort of, because the others decided to fire Daltrey. Though first they decided to lay down some recordings with him, including "My Generation," and all was well again. Who knew?

Fighting is how some people show they care

Which leads us to that fateful night of May 20, 1966, when the band was playing a show at the Ricky-Tick Club in Berkshire, England. Entwistle and Moon were delighted to make the acquaintance of Johnson and took him out for a TV interview, drinks, and other chemical romances. One thing led to another — like the show starting without them. Daltrey and Townshend had recruited a drummer and bassist from one of the other bands on the bill. Entwistle and Moon arrived and were — unhappy. The angry bandmates took their usual spots half-way through. During the finale, Moon started trashing his drum kit and a cymbal flew out of control, smacking into Townshend's leg. Annoyed, Townshend swung his guitar, "not really meaning to hit Keith," but it slipped and did indeed hit Keith — in the head. And then things got really bloody. As the curtain came down, the emcee told the audience that it was all part of the show. Johnson referred to it as a "frenzy," calling it "the biggest fight I've ever seen. ... Guys were bleeding. The concert was one of the best things I'd ever seen, [but] I was thinking that maybe 'God Only Knows' was more fun to do."

Moon needed stitches. He and Entwistle announced they were leaving the band, but walked that back almost immediately, with Entwistle playing with them the next night, and Moon back on stage by May 28. Boys will be boys. Who knew?