My Life in the Shadow of Rock’s Wildest Star
by Mandy Moon
with Chris Charlesworth
It was a childhood in which nothing made sense. My uncle was only eight months older than me and seemed like my brother, and my maternal granny told me she was ‘too young to be a granny’. I lost count of how many homes we lived in and how many schools I attended, and as a result had no friends of my own age. Sometimes we were very rich, at other times we had no money at all. We had about 12 cars. My mother called the last house we lived in as a family an ‘upside down egg box’. She was very beautiful, very loving but very tormented. And then there was my father…
* * *
MANDY MOON, now Amanda De Wolf, is the daughter and only child of Keith Moon, The Who’s original drummer, who died in 1978. Universally regarded as having set the benchmark for hedonistic behaviour in the world of rock’n’roll, ‘Moon The Loon’ was an incorrigible clown, revered equally today for his exceptional skills as a drummer as for sticking two fingers up to authority. He was also a reckless spendthrift, a serial womaniser and addicted to drugs and alcohol.
Born in 1966, Mandy lived with Keith and her mother Kim, a former model, until 1973 when her parents separated. Mandy naturally left with her mother, staying in a series of hotels and a rented home in Twickenham until Kim formed a relationship with Ian ‘Mac’ McLagan of The Faces and moved into his mansion on Fife Road in East Sheen, near Richmond. It was here, in 1975, that Mandy saw her father for the last time.
Shortly after Keith Moon’s death Kim married Mac who became Mandy’s stepfather. They moved to California, firstly occupying a beach-side house at Trancas in Malibu that Mandy had inherited – the only significant asset of her father’s estate. When this had to be sold to pay off Keith’s debts to the IRS and elsewhere they moved to another property in Malibu and then to Woodland Hills in the San Fernando Valley where Mandy went to High School. Their next stop was Pasadena, where Mandy remained after Kim and Mac relocated to Austin, Texas. As Keith Moon’s sole heir Mandy benefited from an ongoing royalty stream from his estate and this, their most reliable source of income, paid for their home and lifestyle. Kim died in a car accident in 2006, McLagan from a stroke in 2014. Mandy, who inherited nothing from either, still lives in California and has two children of her own.
While the financial benefits derived from Keith Moon’s share of The Who’s record royalties cushioned her day-to-day existence, her father’s legacy was not without its dark side. In telling a story that is as unconventional as it is captivating, Mandy Moon reveals what it was like to be the daughter of rock’s wildest character and how elements of that character came to impact on her own life. Twice married and a recovering alcoholic, Mandy survived not just the trials of her bizarre childhood but also painful reminders of her background that troubled her as an adult. “It wasn’t easy being Keith Moon’s daughter,” she says. “Of all the crazy rock stars of the sixties my father was the craziest. But it’s important for people to realise that you can make it out of a family like mine and stay intact.”
Mandy Moon’s strange but inspirational story will appeal not just to fans of The Who but to anyone interested in reading about how the children of privileged but irresponsible rock stars come of age. Additionally, those faced with a personal history of drugs, alcohol and familial eccentricity that at times bordered on outright madness can learn how Keith Moon’s daughter came to terms with the trauma of having a father who – unlike her – never grew up.
* * *
There is a famous photograph of me and my father. Obviously posed, he’s lying on his back with a cigarette holder in his mouth amidst a pile of empty beer bottles, his eyes focussed somewhere above his head which is propped up by bottle crates. He’s wearing a white shirt and his legs are wrapped up in what looks like an American Confederate flag. By his side is a beer keg, on the other a flagon of cider and there’s a half-full Courvoisier bottle nearby too. I’m aged six, wearing a white smock dress that mum made for me. I’m looking down at him with a sort of seen-it-all-before expression, a slight grin, bemused but not really amused. I think it was taken at Tara, the house near Chertsey where we lived in the early seventies, and when I look at it now I can’t help but wonder what possessed my father to be photographed like that with his child. What was he thinking? What was going through that befuddled mind of his as he lay there, acting the part of a drunken fool, while I looked on? I suppose I was too young to know what ‘normal’ was but even at that age I sensed that this wasn’t normal. Was there any other father in the whole wide world who would do such a thing?
It wasn’t so much that he was a bad father, more that he hadn’t the foggiest idea how to be a father in the first place. No father was less suited to the role of fatherhood than mine. He simply didn’t know what to do. He had no idea how to communicate with children. Sometimes he’d look at me and grin but be lost for words. He just didn’t know what to say to me. I think he loved me in some curious way but he didn’t know how to show it. It was almost as if he was embarrassed to be affectionate towards me in the normal way that parents are with their children. After all, that wasn’t the way ‘Keith Moon of The Who, the Wildman of Rock’ was supposed to behave, was it?
Much later, after he’d died, I saw a photograph of him dressed as a ‘Lollipop Man’, ushering children across a road in Battersea. It was probably done for publicity but he was evidently involved in a campaign to have a zebra crossing located near a primary school there. He’s surrounded by children the same age as I was when I last saw him. That picture made me cry.
* * *
Aside from the many books about The Who, Keith Moon is the subject of several books devoted to him alone; most notably Dear Boy: The Life of Keith Moon by Tony Fletcher (Omnibus Press, 1998) and Moon The Loon by Peter ‘Dougal’ Butler (Star Books, 1981). At 596 pages, the former has sold over 200,000 copies worldwide and is widely acknowledged as among the greatest rock biographies ever written. The latter, written by Moon’s PA and driver, is a popular and extremely funny anecdotal memoir that, like Dear Boy, is still in print after several editions. There have been at least five other books on Keith Moon, making him the omnipresent rock drummer for music biographers, a legendary figure from rock’s golden age about whom there is an enduring fascination and a great deal of affection among fans.
MOON GIRL is the first book about Keith Moon to have been written by a member of the Moon family. It will be approximately 100,000 words in length, and will detail Mandy’s strange relationship with her famous father, her relationship with her mother Kim and stepfather Ian McLagan, her childhood and teenage years, and her life as an adult. As part of ‘The Who Family’ she has met several times with Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey and the late John Entwistle, and she discusses her feelings about The Who and accepting music industry awards on behalf of her late father. Through McLagan, who went on to play keyboards for The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan among many others, Mandy also came into close contact with other A-list rock stars, most notably the members of The Faces: Rod Stewart, Ron Wood, Ronnie Lane and Kenney Jones. When she, Kim and Mac visited the UK they often stayed at Ron Wood’s home, The Wick at Richmond, which is now owned by Townshend. Mick Jagger, then married to Jerry Hall, was a close neighbour.
* * *
I was vaguely aware that my father was famous, that he played the drums in a rock group that was very successful. He was away a lot, often for weeks on end, and mum didn’t seem to know when he’d return or even if he’d return. When he did return he slept for most of the day and only came alive at night, usually after I’d gone to bed. He certainly wasn’t a morning person!
He was very loud, raised his voice a lot, laughed a lot at his own jokes and played music at top volume. I don’t think I ever saw him relax. He didn’t know how to slow down. I don’t think I was ever alone with him. Mum wouldn’t have trusted him to look after me, not for a second. He and mum fought a lot. I think she was happier when he wasn’t there, when some sort of order could be restored to our life of chaos. The truth is she was frightened of him – and so was I.
* * *
Mandy Moon, who plays the drums herself, is the mother of two children of her own, now aged 16 and 19. Her grandmother, Keith Moon’s mother Kitty, died in June 2019 aged 98, and at the end of her life lived at Denham in Buckinghamshire with the family of her daughter Lesley, the younger of Keith’s two sisters. His elder sister Linda now lives in Australia.
In MOON GIRL Mandy Moon writes candidly about her family and her life in the world of rock’n’roll, the financial benefits of being the daughter of a rock superstar, about issues in her personal life, including how she overcame her own addiction to alcohol, and how – after keeping her thoughts to herself in the 40 years since the death of her famous father – she finally feels able to reveal the truth about her extraordinary life.
MOON GIRL is the unflinching autobiography of the daughter of one of the world’s most notorious rock stars.
* * *
When Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey perform as The Who nowadays they have a screen at the rear of the stage on which photographs and footage of them as a young group are projected. When my dad appears on the screen, sometimes singing ‘Bell Boy’ from Quadrophenia, the audience always cheers wildly, just as it does when Pete mentions his name from the stage. “We never could replace him,” says Pete. I am proud of him but my pride is tempered by heartbreak because he was never the father I needed.
“Keith Moon was your father! Wow! THE Keith Moon?” That’s what people say when they are introduced to me and find out who I am. Then they ask what he was like, and I can’t tell them, I can’t explain as the song goes. Now, finally, with this book I can try to explain what it was like to have Keith Moon as a father.
* * *