How Paul McCartney Responded When Keith Moon Asked to Join The Beatles

By 1966, The Who had become bona fide pop stars. “My Generation,” released late in the previous year, shot to No. 2 on the UK charts. “Substitute,” the band’s follow-up, cracked the top five in March ’66. That made four top-10 singles in about a year’s time.

But that didn’t make the band any less dysfunctional. In fact, ’66 was one of the high points for chaos within The Who. Though the band allowed singer Roger Daltrey back into the bands after he’d beaten up drummer Keith Moon, the situation hadn’t gotten much better.

In fact, by spring ’66, Daltrey was skipping Who gigs, which prompted speculation the band would replace him. Meanwhile, relations between Moon and Pete Townshend had deteriorated beyond belief. It included an incident in which Moon chased Townshend through a train car while wielding a knife.

Around that time, Moon began looking for another London-based band to join. After his pitch to The Animals wasn’t successful, he spotted The Beatles in a club. So Moon decided to ask Paul McCartney if the Fab Four would have him.

McCartney told Moon they weren’t exactly looking for a drummer

1966: Paul McCartney, bassist and songwriter with The Beatles, performing against a lit backdrop. | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

For all the issues The Beatles had in the late ’60s, they never seriously made a move to replace one of the band members. Even after Ringo walked out on the group in ’68, they welcomed back their drummer with open arms.

But in ’66 the band was even tighter. So Moon’s pitch must have seemed as bizarre as the character making it. In Pretend You’re in a War, Who biographer Mark Blake described the moment when Moon approached McCartney at the Scotch of St. James.

After sidling up to the band’s booth, Moon said he’d like to “join” them. McCartney replied that Moon already had (i.e., he was there talking with them). “No, I mean, can I join the band?” Moon asked. According to Blake, McCartney declined the pitch by suggesting Moon take it up with Ringo Starr.

Moon’s efforts to find a new gig didn’t end that night. In May, he joined Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, John Paul Jones, and Nicky Hopkins in the studio to record “Beck’s Bolero.” And it went so well the group considered starting a band, which Moon proposed they call “Lead Zeppelin.”

Moon and Ringo were great friends anyway

Drummers Ringo Starr and Keith Moon have a pow wow in April 1974 in Los Angeles, California. | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

While Ringo wouldn’t have appreciated Moon trying to replace him in The Beatles, the two became close friends in the ’60s. In The Kids Are Alright (1978) documentary, it’s obvious how much the two came to enjoy each other’s company.

On the night of the final recorded John Lennon-McCartney jam session (’74), Moon and Ringo had just left the studio when Macca and his wife Linda showed up to play with Lennon. (Since the two drummers had hit town, McCartney played drums.)

In fact, the two were so close that Moon bought Ringo’s son, Zak Starkey, his first drum kit in the ’70s. That came in handy in later. Following Moon’s death, Starkey has played drums for The Who on the majority of their tours. He most recently played with the band in the Moving On tour of 2019.

Also see: Pete Townshend’s Hilarious George Harrison Story Raises a Few Questions