By December 1965, nineteen-year-old Richard Cole had only been road managing the Who for a few months. But the merry marauders of London's mod scene had already given him a lifetime of lessons in steering a group's pop rocketship to stardom. At that point, Cole had come to fully understand that making sure that the rhythm section (Keith Moon and John Entwistle) didn't smoke bomb the band out of hotels, much to the chagrin of the better behaved Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, was part of the job description. That, and procuring new equipment on a night’s notice was simply his responsibility, as the brand started smashing their gear at the end of their electrifying sets. What he wasn’t prepared for, however, was needing to replace band members.
There’s an infamous story of Keith Moon passing out behind his drum kit in the middle of a 1973 concert, in a fog of elephant tranquilizers and brandy, according to Pete Townshend. But Moon was also absent for a handful of Who gigs in December 1965, at just nineteen, due to exhaustion. The causation hasn’t been reported on, but according to Cole, it was around the time Moon introduced him to Drinamyl, an amphetamine commonly referred to as “purple hearts” among the Mods.
In Richard Cole’s memoir, he writes about those late 1965–specifically, a drive to Wales in October 1965:
[Drinamyl] was a fabulous little blue pill that guaranteed you an immediate influx of energy. Of course I told myself if one worked well, more would be better. Moony assured me they worked a lot faster [when] swallowed down with a nice glass of vodka and lime juice, and boy, was he right. By the time I dropped everyone off, I was ready to drive straight through to Milford Haven. Going to sleep, I later found out [the drug] was not an option for me.
And so, Moon would be replaced for those December 1965 shows by former Pretty Things drummer Viv Prince, who at 24 was not only an influence on Moon's drumming but also an exemplar of amphetamine and booze-fueled behavior off stage. Cited by Jimmy Page as the person who coined the nickname "Moon The Loon" for his protege, the booze-fueled Prince was kicked out of the Pretty Things for refusing to play a show in Manchester because the pub across the road would not serve him. Incredibly, the band had still kept him around even after he personally got the group a lifetime ban from New Zealand during a debaucherous tour in August of 1965. And yet, when the Who needed someone to fill in, guess who they called?When the band released their debut album, My Generation, on December 3, 1965, they were slated to gig around the U.K. to promote it. After they taped a performance for the popular British television show, Ready Steady Go!, on Friday, December 17, 1965 at the Ricky-Tick in Windsor, England, Moon's health cut the set short. The band needed a zero-hour replacement. All told, Prince would wind up filling in for Moon for a handful of December gigs, including a memorable weekend before Christmas. Richard Cole tells the story in detail below.