Looking back at the life of The Who’s Keith Moon

“Moon the Loon” , born on August 23, 1946,  changed the game for Rock drummers during the 60’s with his unique technique and contribution to the songs, but his self destructive life style lead him to an early demise, we look back at his life

Looking back at the life of The Who’s Keith Moon

Influential The Who’s drummer Keith Moon was born Keith John Moon on August 23, 1946 in Wembley, Middlesex, England.He joined the Who in 1964 with only 18 years old, before they recorded their first single. Moon remained with the band during their rise to fame, and is quickly recognized for his drumming style, which emphasized tom-toms, cymbal crashes, and drum fills. From an early stage in The Who’s career, Moon developed a reputation for smashing his kit on stage and destroying hotel rooms on tour. He was fascinated by blowing up toilets with cherry bombs or dynamite, and by destroying television set. Moon left school at 14 and took a technical degree, this led to a job as a radio repairman, enabling him to buy his first drum kit.Keith Moon first meet The Who dressed in ginger clothes and with his hair dyed ginger (future bandmate Pete Townshend later described him as a “ginger vision”), he claimed to his would-be bandmates that he could play better than their previous drummer and got the job. The Who’s live sets usually culminated in what the band later described as “auto-destructive art,” in which band members (particularly Moon and Townshend) elaborately destroyed their equipment. Moon developed a habit of kicking over his drums, claiming that he did so in exasperation at an audience’s indifference, their live act became associated with the band, an association that lasts to this day. One of the most famous destruction acts that happened on camera was when the band performed at The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Moon bribed a stagehand to load gunpowder into one of his bass drums; the stagehand used about ten times the standard amount. During the finale of “My Generation,” he kicked the drum off the riser and set off the charge. The intensity of the explosion singed Townshend’s hair and embedded a piece of cymbal in Moon’s arm. Keith’s drumming was important in the development of what became the classic Who sound, he had the complete freedom to lend his unique technique in the making of the songs, something that back then was not common among Rock drummers. By the late 60’s Rock drummers were allowed in the creative process of the songs, and this partially was influenced by Keith Moon’s, though he was not a fan of drum solos. In many of The Who’s songs you can identify Keith’s style such as “My Generation”, “I Can See For Miles”, “Pinball Wizard”, “Substitute”, “Happy Jack”, “Pictures Of Lilly”, “Baba O’Riley”, “Who Are You”, “Won’t Get Fooled Again” among many others, he only released one solo album, “Two Sides Of The Moon” that didn’t do well in sales.

Self Destruction and Death

Keith was an eccentric man who loved to party, play pranks and dress up or dress in drag. The fun turned sour for “Moon the Loon” in 1970 when on January 4th he accidentally killed his friend, driver and bodyguard, Neil Boland, outside the Red Lion pub in Hatfield, Hertfordshire. Pub patrons had begun to attack his Bentley and Moon, drunk, began driving to escape them. During the fracas, he hit Boland. After an investigation, the coroner ruled Boland’s death an accident and Moon received an absolute discharge after being charged with a number of offences. This event haunted Keith for the rest of his life, he had constant nightmares about it, which prevent him for sleep. Moon led a destructive lifestyle, during the Who’s early days he began taking amphetamines, and spent his share of the band’s income quickly, the combination of pills and alcohol escalated into alcoholism and drug addiction later in his life. His lifestyle began to undermine his health and reliability. In a famous incident, during the 1973 “Quadrophenia” tour, at the Who’s debut US date at the Cow Palace in Daly City, California, Moon ingested a mixture of tranquilizers and brandy. During the concert, Moon passed out on his drum kit during “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” The band stopped playing, and a group of roadies carried Moon offstage. They gave him a shower and an injection of cortisone, sending him back onstage after a thirty-minute delay. Moon passed out again during “Magic Bus,” and was again removed from the stage. The band continued without him for several songs before Townshend asked, “Can anyone play the drums? – I mean somebody good?” A drummer in the audience, Scot Halpin, came up and played the rest of the show. In mid-1978 Moon moved into Flat 12, 9 Curzon Place (later Curzon Square), Shepherd Market, Mayfair, London, renting from Harry Nilsson. Mama Cass Elliot had died there four years earlier, at the age of 32. Nilsson was concerned about letting the flat to Moon, believing it was cursed. Townshend disagreed, assuring him that “lightning wouldn’t strike the same place twice”. Moon wanted to get sober, but due to his fear of psychiatric hospitals he wanted to do it at home. He begun to take prescription drugs to alleviate his alcohol withdrawal symptoms. On September 6th, after dinning with Paul McCartney and Linda McCartney, Moon returned to his apartment with his Swedish girlfriend Annette Walter-Lax, and took 32 clomethiazole tablets (for alcohol withdraw). He was found dead hours later by Annette. Moon was only 32 years old, his death happened less than a month after The Who’s new album release “Who Are You”, ironically, in the cover of the album Keith sits in a chair that has written “Not To Be Taken Away”. Moon left a music legacy unusual in Rock drummers, he has simultaneously influenced drummers and non-drummers musicians, he remains to this day an absolute Rock icon and the music he did will surely live as long as his legendary crazy life stories.

Look Back at Keith Moon’s life in pictures

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Watch Keith Moon’s Craziest Antics by Ultimate Classic Rock

Watch Keith working his drum tracks in the studio with The Who

Listen to some of  The Who with Keith Moon best songs on a compilation made by Pop Expresso on Spotify

Watch more music related videos


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