Who fans will be fascinated to learn that, according to Eric Idle, Keith Moon would have had a speaking part in Monty Python’s The Life Of Brian had he not inconveniently left our planet a few days before filming was due to begin. In his memoir, his Sortabiography, which I have just finished reading, Idle states that he and Keith spoke to one another at the party Paul McCartney threw on the eve of Keith’s death.
“He came racing across and spouting his lines from Brian as a mad prophet: ‘And there shall at that time be monstrous things…’,” writes Idle. “He was terrific in his Robert Newton voice and I said, ‘Yes, yes, Keith, that’s great, save it for next week.’ Sadly, after that night… that was that.”
A few days later the Pythons left for Tunisia to start filming and, had things turned out differently, Keith would have been with them.
If nothing else, this story puts to the sword any lingering speculation that Keith may have overdosed deliberately. As plenty of people know from personal experience, Keith was a huge fan of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and there is no way in a million years that he would have missed out on an opportunity to feature in one of their films, nor of the opportunity to travel with them abroad, or anywhere else for that matter.
Two pages earlier in Idle’s book, the nudge-nudge-wink-winker relates that in January of 1978 Keith “followed” the Pythons to Barbados where he joined in games of Scrabble with John Cleese and Graham Chapman, “adding the word CAT to their very long words. Mick Jagger also came to dinner with Jerry, and we played charades, at which he [Keith] was terrific.”
Oddly, there is no mention of Keith’s visit to Barbados with the Pythons in any of the many books about him or The Who, so this nugget of information is revealed for the first time in Idle’s book. All six Pythons – Idle, Cleese, Chapman, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam – were there to work on the script for The Life Of Brian, so it seems likely that Keith was offered the mad prophet part during this stay.
Keith was living in London at the time having just moved to the UK from California, and The Who were recording Who Are You, mostly at their own Ramport Studios in London’s Battersea. I am reliably informed that Keith flew out to Barbados on January 16 during a break in recording and stayed at the Colony Club.
The Sortabiography, subtitled Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life, also contains lots of stories about George Harrison and sundry other rock stars with whom Idle, the most musical of the core Pythons, became friendly. Not to mention celebrities from just about every other walk of life, thus turning the book into the biggest name-drop I’ve ever read, for which Idle, amusingly, makes no apology whatsoever.