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40 Years Ago: The Who Arrested in Montreal

Pete Townshend
Hutton Archive, Getty Images

Following an incendiary performance at The Forum in Montreal on Dec. 2, 1973, the Who attended an after-show party put on by executives from RCA. Would you be surprised if we told you that legal trouble and property damage ensued?

The Quadrophenia tour has reached its apex, and the Who planned to celebrate by ushering in their variety of holiday cheer. The hospitality suite at the posh Bonaventure Hotel (note: Pete Townshend remembers it as a Four Seasons) was the scene for the festivities that one witness would later compare to “Hiroshima”!

Keith Moon, well known for his talent as a re-decorator, got the party started when he smashed a bottle of ketchup against the wall. Townsend remembers in his autobiography ‘Who I Am,’ “I thought it looked aesthetically pleasing. Someone should frame it, I said”. The fuse had been lit, because Moon proceeded to kick the existing portrait from its housing, and frame his ketchup “art” on the wall. Townshend also recalls cutting his hand with a knife, and adding blood to the masterpiece in progress.

What developed over the next few hours has now become the stuff of legend, bordering on myth. Evidently, a sofa ended up taking a flight from the window of the room to the street below. A television set was hurled to the bottom of the hotel swimming pool. Ultimately, the floor of the suite ended up a blinding display of shattered glass and demolished furnishings. The peak of the annihilation occurred when Moon and Townshend decided to expand the space of the hotel room.

As Who crew member John Wolff remembers in ‘The Complete Chronicle of the Who,’ Moon and Townshend picked up a large ornate marble table and used it as a battering ram, smashing through the wall to enter the room next door! Townshend remembers being “shocked” when he later saw photographs of their handy work.

Memories are clouded regarding exactly how it all went down, but eventually the police (not the band) were called to the scene. Consequently, the Who and fourteen members of their touring party were arrested and removed to jail. According to one source, Moon reportedly complained to the police, “I believe I booked a suite”! The only member of the group who not arrested was singer Roger Daltrey. Townshend seems to recall that Daltrey was indeed arrested, but not present at the earlier hotel demolition.

For a band’s eye view of the escapade, refer to the John Entwistle’s song ‘Cell Number Seven’ a track inspired by the events that happened that night. Found on his 1975 LP ‘Mad Dog,’ the tune is a humorous and honest portrayal of their time in jail through a willing participant’s eyes. The lyrics, “Me and Moonie were in cell number seven/ He dribbled on my jacket in cell number seven” give a glimpse into the content of the song and the events of their detainment.

The next day the group’s local promoter delivered almost $6,000 in cash to the police station for damages, and everyone was released. The Who missed their scheduled flight to Boston, but eventually made it on a later flight in time for the show the next night. The entire experience apparently spawned an angry and defiant Who for that evening’s powerful performance. In the end, the extravaganza ended up being just another day on the rock and roll battlefield for the Who.

Next: Top Who Songs of the '70s

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