We’re working on an article for Uncle John’s Heavy Duty Bathroom Reader (due out in November 2010) called “Show Stoppers.” It’s about concerts or theater shows or whatever that had to be stopped mid-performance for one humorous or interesting reason or another. Here’s an excerpt—and it just happens to be our favorite. (We’ll tell you why at the end of the piece in the “Special Note” section.)
Performers: The Who
Background: On the night of May 16, 1969, almost to the date that their iconic fourth album, the rock-opera Tommy, was released, The Who was playing the Fillmore East in Manhattan. Only a handful of songs into their set, a somewhat disheveled-looking, heavy-set guy climbed up on stage—and grabbed the microphone out of singer Roger Daltry’s hand, right in the middle of a song. Daltry stood there stunned for a few seconds; bassist John Entwhistle and one of the band’s roadies grabbed the guy; guitarist Pete Townsend walked up to him…and kicked him right in the bollocks, as the Brits say. Then they unceremoniously threw him off the stage. The band then went back to the song they were playing. (Keith Moon had never stopped.)
STOP! Less than a minute later the band stopped playing, and Pete Townsend said, “I smell smoke.” Someone walked out from backstage, whispered in his ear, and the band walked off the stage. The five-story apartment building and supermarket next door were on fire—and the show was over. Bonus: Unbeknownst to the band, the guy who jumped on stage was a plainclothes cop. He was trying to tell everyone about the fire. The NYPD wanted to charge Townsend with assault; he eventually paid a fine instead.
Special Note: We didn’t have to look on the internet, or read a rock-and-roll history book, or Rolling Stone magazine, or anything like that at all to research this item. Why? Because Uncle John was there. And—amazingly—he remembers it! (He told us we had to promise to say he was very, very young at the time.)