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It seems as though the Who have traded in their magic bus for a bookmobile, as each of the four members of the band’s original line-up is currently the subject of a published work: lead singer Roger Daltrey’s memoir and guitarist Pete Townshend’s debut novel were both released last fall, and the long-delayed biography of late bassist John Entwistle will finally come out this spring. However, it’s a book about the one who made the most noise both onstage and off which ironically has snuck in through the side door with the least fanfare.
The author credit on the apparently self-published The Last Four Years: A Rock Noir Romance reads “Annette Walter-Lax in conversation with Spencer Brown.” Walter-Lax was a young Swedish model who had been Who drummer Keith Moon’s girlfriend from 1974 until his untimely death in 1978 at age thirty-two. During that time especially, Moon was the rock ‘n’ roll maniac against whom all others were measured: excess alcoholism, drug use and groupie encounters were only the tip of the drumstick. Moon was also a one-man demolition squad who would wreak havoc on nearly any room unfortunate enough to try and contain him (that other Keith almost looked tame by comparison).
None of this is news to even casual Who fans, and certainly not to anyone who read Tony Fletcher’s five-hundred-plus page biography Moon: The Life and Death of a Rock Legend. Still, Walter-Lax witnessed much of this first-hand, and was probably closer to Moon at the time, while they were living in Los Angeles, than anyone else was (or wanted to be). The Who was less consistently active as a band during this period leaving Moon with too much time on his hands (his attempts to get acting jobs and launch a solo career both fell flat) yet still living above his means, and ending up pawning personal items (the few he didn’t break) and buying alcohol on credit.
As the sub-title might imply, much of The Last Four Years is presented in the question-and-answer format. That might work (it’s no less viable than the popular “oral history” nonfiction format) except it’s what seems like a verbatim transcription of their interviews with no sort of filter: Was it necessary to include Brown’s one-word responses like “Okay” and “Right,” or his telling her that she’s easy to talk to? The book could have used not just an editor but a proofreader as well, with punctuation marks conspicuously missing and other noticeable errors. Not to mention that all of Walter-Lax’s direct quotes are in italics, which is also a bit clumsy.
This is a shame because Walter-Lax presents a number of stories regarding Moon, which have probably never been publicly disclosed before. While some will be of only minimal interest (i.e. an awkward encounter with Get Smart actor Don Adams), by far the most shocking revelation is her claim that “the notorious Manson family had taken an interest in Keith and had begun to hang around and stalk him at Who concerts.” She goes on to say that three young female followers of Charles Manson (“they were in cloaks, had shaved heads and crosses carved in their foreheads”) one night broke into their house while they were sleeping, possibly intending to murder them (she also states it was this incident which compelled them to move out of LA for good).
Fletcher’s book makes no mention of any sort of Manson-Moon connection, so this disclosure could essentially rewrite the history of the band (or part of it anyway). And yet here buried on pages 166-7, it’s more or less an afterthought, as is pretty much the whole book. Between this type of exclusive information and renewed interest in the Who, it’s hard to imagine why Walter-Lax and Brown couldn’t get, or didn’t want, a legitimate book deal (legal issues with Moon’s estate? Did she sign an NDA that is still in effect?) Or maybe this is essentially the book proposal, which the authors put out and circulated in hopes of attracting an actual publisher. There’s clearly more of Keith Moon’s life and legacy to be revealed. However, being available exclusively on Amazon for twenty dollars, The Last Four Years will probably be for Who completists only.
Written by: Richard John Cummins
For more information: https://www.amazon.com/Last-Four-Years-Romance-wildest/dp/1672436427