Dear Boy: The Life of Keith Moon

Author: 
Tony Fletcher
Subject: 
Keith Moon
Summary: 

At 600+ pages, Dear Boy is the most exhaustive, thoroughly-detailed, biography on a musician I have ever read.  A truly herculean effort on author Tony Fletcher's part.  Dear Boy provides a (seemingly almost daily) account of Keith Moon's life, told in the author's voice through an extensive series of interviews with the people who knew Moon best: childhood friends, early bandmates, John Entwhistle, his ex-wife Kim, his long-time "minder" Dougal Butler, his longtime girlfriend, Annette, and many more. 

As you probably know, Moon's life, and early death is a sad, tragic tale. But most people are probably unaware of just how sad the tale was, and how sad and empty Moon was inside. This book suggests (accurately, I feel) that for all his fame and notoriety, Moon was never happy, never felt loved, never had true friends.  The author looks closely at Moon's psyche, and after a thorough investigation into the matter, suggests that in more recent times, Moon would have likely been diagnosed with Borderline Personality disorder, concluding:

In all likelihood, Keith was suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder. Something of a misnomer, BPD, named in 1938 by psychiatrist Adolph Stern, does not indicate that a patient is only on the borderline of illness, but that the Disorder itself is one on the borderline between neurosis and psychosis. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, published by the American Psychiatric Association, outlines nine traits that borderline patients have in common. The presence of five or more may indicate BPD if they are long standing, persistent, and extreme:

  • Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. 
  • A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterised by seeing people and situations in black and white (or “splitting”]. 
  • An unstable sense of self. 
  • Impulsiveness in potentially self-damaging behaviours (including two or more of spending, sex, stealing, substance abuse, driving, eating, etc.). 
  • Suicidal or self-mutilating behaviour. 
  • Intense, short-term moodiness, irritability, or anxiety. 
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness. 
  • Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger.
  • Periods of feeling removed from reality (or “dissociation”).

Even from the most conservative standpoint, Keith appears to have fulfilled all nine of the above criteria. Certainly his relationships with those closest to him were unstable and intense, characterised by alternating between extremes of idealisation and devaluation; he would prove increasingly prone to suicidal gestures; was notoriously insecure; feared abandonment and loneliness; had bouts of uncontrollable rage; and, especially as the years went by, went through increasingly frequent periods of dissociation. That he also regularly practised not just two, but all six examples of impulsiveness, ought to seal it.

Fletcher, Tony. Dear Boy: The Life of Keith Moon (Kindle Locations 7939-7944). Music Sales. Kindle Edition. 

 

By all accounts, when sober, Moon was charming, witty, very intelligent, and naturally hilarious. But the notorious behavior of his Moon the Loon persona, the author suggests was a constant cry for attention, and love brought on by his mental illness. The same illness that caused him to treat the women he loved quite horribly.

If you’re looking for a funny read on Keith Moon, with all the assocaited, notorious stories, I suggest Dougal Butler’s Full Moon. Dear Boy is a far deeper dive. A serious and successful effort to outline Moon’s life in great detail without pulling any punches. It also busts some of the myths surrounding Moon’s most notorious acts, some of which, it seems were greatly embellished by Moon and his bandmates for publicity value. You might get a chuckle or two, but make no mistake, this is a tragic story — one that makes Phil Lynott’s pale by comparison. 

Dear Boy, has a lot going for it.  The author is an unabashed fan of the band, and holds Moon's unique drum style in the highest regard. Whether you agree with Fletcher's conculsions or not, he examines Moon's drum style in a way that makes you want to go back and listen to those early tracks again, just to hear the drum parts.  

The only negative is that the book, IMO, is bit too long for its own good.  I'm docking it one star for that.  I felt there were some minor stories and avenues that could have been edited down or omitted for the sake of flow and just getting on with it. It’s such an exhaustive chronology that toward the end, I found myself skimming through a preponderance of more, minor evidence that seemed unneeded as the case had been already made convincingly.  But even after the point in the story where Keith dies, this book goes on and on and on.

If you're a Keith Moon fan, this is THE definitive work.  If you're a big Who fan, it's well worth your time. It presents an interesting look at the internal workings of the band, including several tidbits I hadn't read anywhere previously.  If you'd prefer more of the fun bits, try Full Moon instead. This story isn't fun. But ardent Who fans will find it fascinating.

Overall Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)