1967: The Who's Keith Moon Blows Up The Smothers Brothers Show
By | September 14, 2020
If any band was going to blow up on TV in 1967 -- literally explode -- it would be The Who, and particularly their loose cannon drummer Keith Moon. And that's what happened, much to the chagrin of Pete Townshend and the Smothers Brothers.
In 1967 the Smothers Brothers were anything but the buttoned down squares that they appeared to be onscreen. During its short tenure on CBS, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was the home to culturally and politically subversive acts who thumbed their nose at the older generations, whether they were dressed like members of the counter culture or not.
One band that made a lasting impression on the audience in the studio and at home was The Who, then a riotous upstart band from England trying to crack America. On September 17, 1967, the band performed "My Generation" before destroying their instruments on camera, while Keith Moon's kick drum exploded.
Literally, the kick drum was full of explosives and it blew up on air as the band finished with "My Generation." Was it a prank? Did the Smothers Brothers ask the band to end the show with a bang? And is this why Pete Townshend went deaf in one ear? That depends on who you ask.
The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was the perfect place for The Who
They may have looked like two squares who found their way onto the CBS set, but the Smothers Brothers were a couple of the most anti-establishment people on television in the late '60s. Known for their subversive sketches that poked fun at politicians and the top brass of their distribution company, Tom and Dick Smothers were two guys who wanted to blow things up from the inside and laugh as the show burned.
It wasn't just their sketches that were incendiary. The Smothers Brothers were known for bringing on musical acts who knew how to touch a nerve politically. They booked Pete Seeger in 1967 even though he was blacklisted in 1950. When they were in a battle with CBS for the existence of their show, George Harrison of all people stopped by to tell them to keep fighting the man. If there was a nerve, the Smothers Brothers wanted to find it.