Keith John Moon (August 23, 1946 – September 7, 1978) was the drummer of the rock group The Who. He gained notoriety for exuberant drumming and his destructive lifestyle. Moon joined The Who in 1964, replacing Doug Sandom. He played on all albums from their debut, 1965's My Generation, to 1978's Who Are You, which was released two weeks before his death.
Moon is known for innovative, dramatic drumming, often eschewing basic back beats for a fluid, busy technique focused on fast, cascading rolls across the toms and cymbal crashes. Moon was one of the first to play drums as a lead instrument in an era when drums were supposed only to keep the back beat. He is regarded as one of the greatest and most distinctive rock drummers.
On 17 March 1966, Moon married his pregnant girlfriend Kim Kerrigan in secrecy. Their daughter Amanda was born on 12 July. In 1973, Kerrigan left Moon for Faces keyboard player Ian McLagan. In 1974 he began dating Swedish model Annette Walter-Lax. The next year he and Kerrigan divorced.
Moon initially played in the style of American surf rock, jazz, with a mix of reggae and R&B drummers, utilising grooves and fills of those genres, particularly Hal Blaine of Wrecking Crew. However, he played faster and louder, with more persistence and authority. Moon's favourite musicians were jazz greats Gene Krupa, who inspired him to be the showman he was, and Sonny Rollins.
Early in The Who's career, live sets culminated in "auto destruction", members destroying their equipment in elaborate fashion, an act that was imitated by other bands and artists including Jimi Hendrix in his breakout performance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. Moon showed a zeal for this, kicking and smashing his drums. During the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour television show, he loaded a drum with explosives which detonated during the finale of "My Generation," singeing Townshend's hair and embedding a piece of cymbal in his arm (this has been speculated as starting Townshend's tinnitus). Another time, he filled clear acrylic drums with water and goldfish, playing them for a television appearance. When an audience member asked "What happens with your goldfish?" he replied with a grin, "Well I mean, you know...even the best drummers get hungry. Antics like these earned him the nickname "Moon the Loon."
His determination to add his voice to Who songs led other members to banish him from the studio when vocals were recorded. This led to a game, Moon sneaking in to join the singing. At the end of "Happy Jack," Townshend can be heard shouting "I saw you!" It is said that he noticed Moon trying to join in Moon can be heard singing on several tracks, including a section of "A Quick One While He's Away" (A Quick One, 1966), "Armenia City in the Sky" (The Who Sell Out, 1967), "Bell Boy" (Quadrophenia, 1973), "Pictures of Lily" (1967), "Instant Party Mixture" (My Generation Deluxe Edition, 1965), "Bucket T" and "Barbara Ann" (Ready Steady Who EP, 1966).
He was credited as composer of "I Need You," which he also sang, and the instrumental "Cobwebs and Strange" (from A Quick One, 1966), the single B-sides "In The City" (co-written by Moon and Entwistle), "Dogs Part Two" (1969) (sharing credits with Townshend's and Entwistle's dogs, Towser and Jason) and "Wasp Man" (1972), and "Girl's Eyes" (from The Who Sell Out sessions; featured on Thirty Years of Maximum R&B and a 1995 re-release of The Who Sell Out). He also co-composed the instrumental "The Ox" (from the debut album "My Generation") with Townshend, Entwistle and pianist Nicky Hopkins. "Tommy's Holiday Camp" (from Tommy) was credited to Moon, who suggested the action should take place in a holiday camp. The song was written by Townshend, and although many think Moon sings on the track, the version on the album is Townshend's demo. However Moon did sing it live and on the Tommy film. He also produced "Baba O'Riley"'s violin solo (which he had suggested), and was recorded by Dave Arbus, a friend.
Daltrey said Moon's drumming style held the band together; that Entwistle and Townshend "were like needles... and Keith was the wool."
Moon's Classic Premier setup comprised two 14x22-inch bass drums, three 8x14 (Tuna Can) mounted toms, two 16x16 floor toms, a 5x14 metal snare (usually a Ludwig Supraphonic), and one extra floor tom of different sizes but mainly 16x18 or 16x16. Moon's classic cymbal setup consisted of two Paiste 18" crashes and one 20" ride. In 1973, Moon added a second row of tom-toms (first four, then six) and, in 1975, two more timbales. These huge kits became well known, notably the amber set in the films, Tommy and Stardust, and in footage shot by the BBC at Charlton in 1974. The 1975/76 white kit with gold fittings was given by Moon to a young Zak Starkey, son of Ringo Starr. His final kit, a dark metallic one, is seen in the footage from The Kids Are Alright at Shepperton in 1978.
A darker side to Moon's behaviour, tentatively diagnosed as caused by a Borderline Personality Disorder in Fletcher's biography, was physical violence towards three women in his life: his wife Kim, girlfriend Annette, and only daughter Mandy. He was also prepared to pay someone to break his ex-wife's second husband's fingers out of jealousy. Annette Walter-Lax described his Mr Hyde-like change into a growling, uncontrollable beast as something out of a horror movie. She begged Malibu neighbour Larry Hagman to check Moon into a clinic to dry out, but when doctors recorded Moon's intake at breakfast (a full bottle of champagne along with Courvoisier ), they concluded there was no hope. Alice Cooper remembers his drinking club, The Hollywood Vampires, commenting that Moon ('the Puck of Rock 'n' Roll") used to enter dressed up as the Pope. Joe Walsh has recorded chats with Moon, finding it remarkable how witty and alert the inebriated drummer managed to stay, ad-libbing his way through surrealistic fantasy stories à la Peter Cook.
Although his behaviour was outrageous, it was in the humorous vein as his friend Vivian Stanshall, of the Bonzo Dog Band claimed. Moon produced Stanshall's version of Elvis Presley's Suspicious Minds.
According to Townshend, Moon's reputation for erratic behaviour was something he cultivated. Once, on the way to an airport, Moon insisted they return to their hotel, saying , "I forgot something. We've got to go back!" When the limo returned, Moon ran to his room, grabbed the TV while it was plugged in, threw it out the window and into the pool. He then jumped back into the limousine, sighing "I nearly forgot."
In 1967, Moon set in motion events which later become one of Rock's most famous strange-but-true legends. According to the book Local DJ, a Rock & Roll History Moon, drunk at his 21st birthday party in Flint Michigan, drove a Rolls Royce into the Holiday Inn pool. This led to them being banned from Flint and The Holiday Inn for life. The Who had just opened for Herman's Hermits. Author "Peter C" Cavanaugh, who was there and witnessed the event firsthand, recalled the events for a documentary on the 60's rock scene. According to the book, The Who In Their Own Words, Moon said the incident was at the Holiday Inn in Flint, Michigan. He said this was how he broke his front tooth. Another version of the night was recounted by Moon biographer,Tony Fletcher in the book, Moon: The Life and Death of a Rock Legend: "It was [after a cake fight] that the cry came to 'debag' the birthday boy... Various members of [Herman's Hermits and the Who] launched themselves on Keith, pinned him to the floor and successfully pulled his trousers down...As the teenage girls began gasping and giggling and the cops started grunting their disapproval, Keith, naked from the waist down, made a good-natured dash for it out of the room...and smashed one of his front teeth out. " (p.p. 210) It was after Moon went to the dentist and the party was disbanded that the 30-40 guests filed out, a few taking fire estinguishers to cars and dirtying the swimming pool.
On January 4, 1970, Moon was involved in a car-pedestrian death outside the Red Lion pub in Hatfield, Hertfordshire. Trying to escape hostile skinheads from the pub who had begun to attack his Bentley, Moon ran over and killed his friend and bodyguard, Neil Boland. Although the coroner said Boland's death was an accident, and Moon was given an absolute discharge having been charged with driving offences, those close to him said Moon was haunted by the accident for the rest of his life. Boland's daughter investigated and suggested that Moon may not have been driving. Moon's penchant for the wild life was detrimental to his drumming and his reliability as a band member. On the 1973 Quadrophenia tour, at the Cow Palace in Daly City, California, Moon took a large mixture of tranquilizers and brandy. He passed out during "Won't Get Fooled Again" and again in "Magic Bus." Townshend asked the audience, "Can anyone play the drums? - I mean somebody good." An audience member, Scot Halpin, filled in for the rest of the show. Guitarist Pete Townshend later said in an interview that Moon had consumed large tranquilizer pills, meant to be shot at animals, with the brandy. During the band's recording sabbatical between 1975 and 1978, Moon put on a great deal of weight.
Moon's close friend and legendary drummer Ringo Starr was seriously concerned about his 'Rock Star' lifestyle and told Moon that if he kept going the way he was he would eventually kill himself. Moon simply replied 'Yeah, I know.'
Moon owned a lilac-coloured Rolls-Royce, painted with house paint. On Top Gear, Daltrey commented that Moon liked to take upper-class icons and make them working class. The car is now owned by Middlebrook Garages (based in Nottinghamshire, England). Also on Top Gear in 2005, Jeremy Clarkson recreated the stunt where Moon allegedly drove his Rolls Royce into a swimming pool.
Moon is said to have named Led Zeppelin. When an early version of the band was being discussed that would have had himself, John Entwistle on bass, Jimmy Page on guitar, and an undecided vocalist, he stated the potential group would "go down like a lead zeppelin." He joined Zeppelin on stage and drummed with John Bonham for encores in a show on 23 June 1977 at the L.A. Forum (recorded on Led Zeppelin bootlegs, For Badgeholders Only/SGT Pages Badgeholders Club).
In 1974 Track Records/MCA released a solo single: "Don't Worry, Baby" b/w "Teenage Idol", the former a reflection of his love of The Beach Boys.
Valentine's Day, 1974, Moon performed on drums with Jimmy Page, Ronnie Lane, Max Middleton, and fellow drummer John Bonham on Acoustic guitar for the gig premiering Roy Harper's album Valentine.
In 1975 he released his only solo album, pop covers entitled Two Sides of the Moon. Although this featured Moon's singing, much drumming was left to other artists including Ringo Starr, session musicians Curly Smith and Jim Keltner and actor/musician Miguel Ferrer (Twin Peaks and Crossing Jordan). Moon played drums on only three tracks.
In late 1975, he played drums on the track "Bo Diddley Jam" on Bo Diddley's The 20th Anniversary of Rock 'n' Roll all-star album.
In 1971 he had a cameo role in Frank Zappa's film 200 Motels. He acted in drag as a nun fearful of death from overdosing on pills. In 1973 he appeared in That'll Be the Day, playing J.D. Clover, the drummer at a holiday camp during the early days of British rock 'n' roll. Moon reprised the role for the sequel Stardust in 1974. The film co-starred Moon's friend Ringo Starr of the Beatles. He appeared as "Uncle Ernie" in Ken Russell's 1975 film adaptation of Tommy. In a bar about 1975, he asked Graham Chapman and Bernard McKenna to do a "treatment" for a "mad movie". They asked a thousand pounds, Moon pulled the cash from his pocket and gave it to them. This was the start of the project that would become the movie Yellowbeard. Moon wanted to play the lead but the movie took many years to develop, and by that time he was in physically poor shape, and unsuitable. In 1976, he covered the Beatles' "When I'm Sixty-Four" for the soundtrack of the documentary All This and World War II. He impersonated a camp fashion designer in Sextette (1978), starring Mae West.
Moon once owned a hotel, The Crown and Cushion in Chipping Norton.
Moon died a couple of weeks after the release of Who Are You. On the album cover, Moon is seated on a chair back-to-front to hide the weight gained over three years (as discussed in Tony Fletcher's book "Dear Boy"). The chair is labeled "NOT TO BE TAKEN AWAY."
Moon was cremated. His ashes were scattered in the Gardens of Remembrance at Golders Green Crematorium in London.
Daltrey recorded a song, "Under a Raging Moon", as a tribute to Moon and the "middle bar" in the London Astoria is named after him.
A biography was written about Moon by Tony Fletcher, entitled Dear Boy: The Life of Keith Moon. "Dear Boy" became a catchphrase of Moon's when he started affecting a pompous English accent around 1969, particularly when ordering drinks.
In early 2006, Moon's signature Pictures of Lily drum kit was reissued by Premier Percussion under the name Spirit of Lily.
Moon's daughter, Mandy, is married to a graphic artist. She has two daughters and lives in Southern California.
Daltrey is producing a biopic about Moon called See Me Feel Me: Keith Moon Naked for Your Pleasure, which will be released in 2009. Comedian Mike Myers will play the main role.
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