“It was late 2008,” recalls Bruce Worden. “I’m a fan of old rock ‘n’ roll, and I’d been listening to the Who that day, and when I was reading Goodnight Moon to my son Harrison that night, it just came to me: Goodnight Keith Moon!” That’s Harrison as in George, the Beatles’ lead guitarist, and Moon as in the Who’s drummer, who died in 1978 at the age of thirty-two from a life lived too fast and hard.
Worden, a scientific illustrator, mentioned his brainstorm to his co-workers at the Journal of Clinical Investigation at lunch the next day, and all but one shrugged it off. “I emailed Bruce some lines, and he emailed me back some more, and all of a sudden we were doing something,” remembers Clare Cross, a copy editor at JCI.
“We bounced things around so much that we had to set a deadline for ourselves,” says Worden. “I couldn’t draw it until I knew what was in the text.” Worden and Cross finished their parody in November 2009 and put it up first as a YouTube video with Vanessa Mayesky, Worden’s wife and Harrison’s mother, providing the voice, then as a website and a Facebook page shortly afterwards.
“It showed up on a blog, then on more blogs, then on the Huffington Post,” says Cross, “and then the site crashed because too many people were looking at it, so we had to increase the bandwidth.” Their video has 33,000 views so far, and their Facebook page has more than 1,000 friends.
“Everybody was asking us, ‘Where can we get the book?'” Worden remembers, “so I asked on Facebook if they would actually buy it.” The answer was affirmative, so “we decided to make a limited edition of fifty signed copies, hand-bound with string, in time for Christmas,” says Cross. “We sold out, so a month later we took orders for a second fifty copies.”
As they’d hoped, self-publishing got them an agent, who sold the book to British publisher Word of Mouth press. Word of Mouth set a July 1 release date and printed a conservative 2,000 copies–but advance orders were so strong that they’ve already gone back to press to print more.
Cross and Worden were recently contacted by the producers of a TV show called The Wedding Band, who wanted to have the band’s drummer read a copy of Goodnight Keith Moon to his kids on the show. Permission was given, and the pilot will air this fall on TBS.
Despite that scene, “It’s intended for adults,” says Worden. “It’s comedy. It’s parody. It’s a mash-up made out of the things that inspire you throughout the day. It’s intended for parents who get tired of reading Goodnight Moon to their kids. I read it to Harrison sometimes. He thinks it’s silly, and it’s not too inappropriate.”
That depends on the kid. The book opens with a drawing of a trashed room strewn with beer cans, pills, and vomit, and the words: “In the great green room, There was a telephone, And a dead Keith Moon, And a picture of Townsend jumping over the Moon.” That’s Townsend as in Pete Townsend, the Who’s guitarist, who wrote the immortal line “Hope I die before I get old.”