It was a Friday night in 1969, and The Who was on the run from the NYPD.
It's a story that may sound vaguely familiar to devoted fans, but Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend have spoken little of the strange altercation that unfolded at Fillmore East, briefly one of New York's buzziest rock venues -- Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin were among its headliners in the late 1960s, and the Grateful Dead took the stage 43 times before the Fillmore shuttered in 1971.
The Who was performing to a packed house nearly 50 years ago on May 16, 1969, when things went awry.
By the end of the night, "there was a warrant out for Pete's and my arrest because we kicked a cop off the stage," Daltrey, now 74, told AOL on April 27 at the 2018 We Are Family Foundation gala, where he was honored with the Mattie Stepanek Peacemaker Award. "He was in plain clothes. He ran on the stage while we were in the middle of 'Tommy' and took my microphone away. Pete came and kicked him up the ass."
Amid all the "racket we used to make," Daltrey and Townshend didn't realize that the man was an officer, even though he claimed afterward he'd shown his police badge.
"What he was trying to do was tell everyone the building next door was burning down -- we didn't know," Daltrey said. As the crowd exited, Daltrey and Townshend had to make moves.
"We were sleeping rough somewhere," he mused. "There was a young lady who put me up very kindly because we were on the run from the police."
The rest of the story can be filled in from a 1986 letter sent to the LA Times, where a former Fillmore East security guard, Moose Trapasso, detailed the unorthodox night in a letter to the editor.
"The fire was next door and the smoke drifted into the Fillmore air ducts and walls," Trapasso wrote. "We saw billows of smoke and turned in the alarm. The fire department didn't get there for an hour."
The crowd was "humongous," he wrote, and it was the security team's job to "get the house out. We were commended for handling the situation without any injuries. Anyway, Townshend was arrested for kicking [a cop] off the stage when he started yelling to the crowd."
And while Townshend was arrested, "the chargers were later dropped, the [second] show was postponed to Sunday," Trapasso wrote. "All in all, and exciting night at the Fillmore."