Saskatoon hotel room trashing by The Who in 1968 set template for rock 'n roll mayhem

The English rock band The Who played Saskatoon in 1968. What happened onstage — and off — still echoes.

Notorious drummer Keith Moon laid waste to Holiday House on 8th St. E.

From left, Roger Daltrey, Keith Moon and Pete Townsend onstage at the Saskatoon arena. (The Star Phoenix)

It was July 1968 and Keith Moon, the drummer for The Who, was bored in Saskatoon.

As history would prove, it was never a good thing when the rambunctious 21-year-old was bored.

The British band had just played the second of two Canadian dates, stopping in Saskatoon on July 11 after a show at the Calgary Stampede.

Four years later, in a 1972 interview in Rolling Stone magazine, Moon was quizzed about his penchant for destroying hotel rooms.

"I get bored, you see. There was a time in Saskatoon, in Canada. It was another 'Oliday Inn, and I was bored. Now, when I get bored, I rebel," he said.

"And I took out me 'atchet and chopped the 'otel room to bits. The television. The chairs. The dresser. The cupboard doors. The bed. The lot of it. Ah-ha-ha-HAHAHAHAHAHA! It happens all the time."

Moon had mixed up hotels — the band actually stayed at the Holiday House on Eighth Street East — but the show and its aftermath left an impression that still burns bright five decades later.

The Who played two dates in Canada that summer. (The Star Phoenix)

Rik Stolar, who played guitar in Saskatoon band The Kaleidoscope, remembers it well.

"I got a Who album that would have been, '65 or '66, and it was called My Generation. I really liked the group and we started doing My Generation as part of our set and a couple other Who tunes," Stolar said.

"At the time, Senator Dave Tkachuk was running a booking agency that we belonged to and we were friends. When we found out The Who were coming, we literally begged him to get us on the show."

Tkachuk is best known today for his political career. He organized provincial and federal election campaigns, worked in Premier Grant Devine's government and, in 1993, was appointed to the Senate.

In 1968, though, he worked as a booking agent in Saskatoon. He signed The Kaleidoscope and The Great Flood to open for The Who. Tickets were $2.75, $3.75 and $4.75.

The concert was presented by Kim's of England, a Saskatoon clothing store on Second Avenue N. owned by Kim Brown. Brown was related to Deep Purple organist Jon Lord.

"He brought in a lot of clothing from London, the Carnaby Street scene," Stolar said. "We all had our English duds that we got from there."

The Saskatoon show almost never happened.

The Who were supposed to arrive in the city mid-afternoon, but problems with loading the plane in Calgary meant they didn't show up at the downtown arena until almost 10:30 p.m.

"The set-up was raucous. The show was at the old arena, there was an auditorium and skating rink — it was old in 1968," said Bob Silversides, who played keyboard for The Kaleidoscope.

"It was pretty exciting for young guys like us to front the show. We did about five or six songs, and I played a little bit of guitar. I did a version of O Susanna which had everybody laughing because I'm not a guitar player, I'm a Hammond organ player."

After their opening set, the members of The Kaleidoscope watched the rest of the show from the front of the stage.

"I really remember that initial moment," Stolar remembers. "They walked out on stage and Roger Daltrey, as he was wont to do, held his hand straight out with the microphone. And Pete Townshend had his arm straight up in the air. And there was one click on the drum and Pete's arm came down and Entwistle's bass hit at the same time.

"There was a sound that went out from the stage. It went all the way to the back of the arena and it hit the wall and it came all the way back. And those of us who were who were right down in front were totally blown away." 

The first song was The Kids Are Alright, the last was My Generation. The set lasted about 45 minutes and the band destroyed their instruments and gear during the climactic closer.

"The equipment was all supplied by Sun, a company out of California, quite well known at the time," Silversides said. "At that point they were trying to sell us all the cabinets that had been kicked over, they were pretty beat up. It was the management basically, you know, hey, do you want to buy this for a hundred bucks, this for two hundred bucks. But of course, we're 18 and have no money."

The Holiday House on Eighth Street E. (Saskatoon Public Library)

Scot Thayer was 15 at the time. He played in a band called The Fat Budgie and their drummer's older brother wrote for a University of Saskatchewan magazine called Generation. 

"He got the backstage pass to interview these guys and, we being the little brothers, we just tagged along. I remember being backstage after the show. Roger Daltrey was very nice and talkative. Same with Pete Townsend, although he was in a bit of a pissy mood.

Stolar remembers seeing antics backstage.

"Keith Moon was running around spraying everybody with shaving cream," he said.

After the show, The Who retired to the Holiday House. The motor hotel featured, among other things, a nightclub and a large William Perehudoff mural on the outside wall.

"Don Cyr, a good friend of my dad's, was manager of the Holiday House," Jeff Swick, a Who fan, said. "I asked him about [the destroyed hotel room] and he just couldn't understand why they would do it. When the hotel closed I asked him if I could have the guest book from then but unfortunately we couldn't find it."

The next morning, the band arrived at the Saskatoon airport to fly to Indiana, but Keith Moon was nowhere to be found.

"We could walk right out onto the tarmac, which was unusual. They had a smallish plane. That's when Keith Moon came driving up. He was riding, it was a small convertible, and there were carhops in it from the A & W, they must have stopped at the one on Idylwyld Drive on the way out to the airport," Thayer said.

"It couldn't have been better."


Dan Zakreski is a reporter for CBC Saskatoon.