The following is an excerpted feature from the new CREEM Magazine coming Sept. 15. Subscribe now to reserve your copy.
In the pantheon of hotel debauchery, perhaps no one ascended to the heavens quite like infamous tour manager Richard Cole (1946–2021) during his years with Led Zeppelin. From his exploits at Seattle’s Edgewater Hotel with Vanilla Fudge drummer Carmine Appice, a teenage groupie, and yes, a mud shark, to his unofficial night job as architect of the multi-floor “Riot House” escapades of Led Zep at the Continental Hyatt House in West Hollywood, Cole certainly had no qualms aboutinjecting a little hostility into the hospitality if the end result was a good time.
But there is a brilliant irony to Cole’s real rise in the music world beginning with the Who in 1965—and especially a teenage Keith Moon. Pensively eager to do his best on the first day of work, Cole recounts in his unpublished memoir chronicling his pre-Zeppelin yearshow his initial feelings of calm and wonder as the guest of a grand hotel were decimated by a panicked scramble to find the band new digs thanks to the high jinks of their infamous rhythm section.
From the moment Keith Moon got into the van he was bubbling like a percolator full of excitement and enthusiasm. As with John Entwistle, we had met before at the same time and became instant friends. On the surface we were clean-living lads: None of us smoked, no one drank alcohol in the van. Our first stop was on the M1 motorway at the Blue Boar service station, which was a place most pop groups on the move stopped at for a nice English breakfast served all day and night. We had a full day to get to Edinburgh and our hotel, but that was no reason to not put my foot down on the gas since we all wanted to get there as quickly as possible. However, there would be two unexpected stops thanks to an unusual request from Keith, who insisted that we pick up some weed killer at a hardware shop and a couple bags of sugar from a grocer. None of this made sense to me, but if I had known Keith and John better, Entwistle’s sly little grin would have spoken volumes when I asked what was going on.
The Caledonian Hotel was the biggest and grandest hotel in Scotland, and one of the great hotels of Europe. For me it was the first time I had ever stayed in such an elegant and luxurious place. My assistant Alan Oates and I shared a room, as did Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, who were already checked in, leaving me with only John and Keith to tend to. With my job done for now, we all got into the elevators and headed straight to our rooms to relax before deciding what to do with ourselves for the evening. I was quite hungry so I ordered myself a round of sandwiches and a pot of tea from room service. As soon as I had taken the first bite out of my ham and cheese sandwich, I heard the almighty blaring of the fire alarms going off. When I looked over at Alan he had this big stupid grin on his face as though he knew something I didn’t. When I opened the door I was shocked to see smoke steaming out of the emergency-exit door. I then looked the other way and saw the grinning faces of Moon and Entwistle peering around their room door. As I closed the door behind me the phone started ringing. I answered it to the irate voice of the hotel manager requesting my presence at the front desk immediately. Alan, who had started up with the band before I came around, was still smirking on his bed when I left the room. To him, it was just another day on the road with the Who.
“Has that cunt Moon fucked another hotel for us?!” Townshend asked me.
The fire brigade was just leaving when I walked across the hall to the front desk. The manager had made out our bills, but there were no room charges, just a bill for my sandwiches and the fire brigade. We were then given instructions to get out of his hotel immediately before he called the police to throw us out. A very pissed-off Daltrey and Townshend walked over to me at the desk with their bags in tow. “Has that cunt Moon fucked another hotel for us?!” Townshend asked me. “Well, don’t just stand there, find us another hotel as quick as you can!” he demanded as Daltrey silently looked on, his face looking longer than usual. It was certainly not the best way to start a new job.
My first show with the Who was the first time I had seen them play live since they were known as the High Numbers when they played at the Scene Club back in 1964. They were good then, but now a year or so later with a couple of hit records behind them, they were great to watch. It was a powerhouse of high-volume music and wild theatrics. Moony played his cymbals with his arms raised over them in a poncy limp-wrist movement, but his poor old drums were beaten mercilessly, while his eyes bulged out of their sockets as if they were headed towards his wide-open mouth. Entwistle stood so still, I thought if he played outside, the pigeons would have perched on his shoulders. Daltrey bounced about all over the place, swinging his mic frantically in the air, sometimes even hitting Moony’s cymbals, which would provoke Moony to tell him to fuck off. For some reason this cymbal-bashing displeased Moony very much, but later I realized anything Roger did displeased him.
Townshend was an original in every sense of the word, from his dress to his frenzied acrobatic moves on stage, his long arms flying around in a circle while striking the guitar strings on cue, before stabbing the Vox speaker cabinets with the top of his guitar neck, which would then get caught in the cloth covering the speakers before he pulled them manically all over the place. Poor old Alan had to hold the cabinets to stop them from being pulled off the stage at times. The finale would be Moon kicking over the drums, which was amusing to see until it dawned on me that it was a Saturday night and if he fucked them up badly, I had no idea where I would get new parts on a Sunday morning if I needed to. The stage was littered with gear after the show, but thankfully nothing was broken beyond repair. As Alan and I packed up the instruments to be carried out to the van, Moony and the Ox [Entwistle] stayed in the dressing room drinking beers. Townshend and Daltrey were long gone on the way back to the hotel, which was something I found strange for pop stars.
To be continued in CREEM #1...subscribe now...