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Keith Moon


Keith John Moon lived in Wembley as a boy, was hyperactive, and had a restless imagination. As a youth, one thing that could hold his attention was music. A report from his schoolwas not encouraging – his art teacher commented: 'Retarded artistically. Idiotic in other respects.' [2]Teacher Aaron Sofocleous praised his music skills and encouraged his chaotic style, even if one school report noted "He has great ability, but must guard against a tendency to show off." Moon failed his eleven plus exam and left school in 1961.

On 17 March 1966, Moon married his pregnant girlfriend Kim Kerrigan in secrecy. Their daughter Amanda was born on 12 July, 1966. Kerrigan left Moon in 1973 and moved in with Faces keyboard player Ian McLagan. In 1974 he began dating Swedish model Annette Walter-Lax. The next year he and Kerrigan divorced. Kim and Ian married in October 1978, one month after Keith's death.

Early musical career[]

At 12, Moon joined his local Sea Cadet Corps band as a bugle player but traded his position to be a drummer. [3]Moon started drums at 14 after his father bought him a kit. He received lessons from one of the loudest drummers at the time, Carlo Little, paying him 10 shillings a lesson. [4]During this time he joined his first serious band "The Escorts". [2]He later spent 18 months as the drummer for "The Beachcombers", a London cover band notable for renditions of songs by The Shadows. [5]

Moon initially played in the style of American surf rock, jazz, with a mix of reggae and drummers, utilising grooves and fills of those genres, particularly of Hal Blaine. However, he played faster and louder, with more persistence and authority. Moon's favourite musicians were jazz great Gene Krupa, who inspired him to be the showman he was, and Elvis Presley's original drummer, DJ Fontana.

The Who[]

At 17, Moon joined The Who (in April 1964), a replacement for Doug Sandom. Without a drummer the remaining members hired a stand-in to fulfill the shows they had agreed to play. Moon attended one of these shows. described him as looking like a "ginger man" with his hair dyed and wearing ginger-coloured clothes. As stated in Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who, Moon looked up to during the show and said "I hear you're looking for a drummer. Well, I'm much better than the one you've got." [6]The band knew they needed Moon after seeing him practically smash the drum kit to pieces. [2]

Early in The Who's career, live sets culminated in "auto-destructive art", with members destroying their equipment in elaborate fashion, an act that was imitated by other bands and artists, including in his breakout performance at the 1967 Murray the K Show. Moon showed a zeal for this, kicking and smashing his drums. For a performance on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour television show, he loaded explosives into one of his kit's two bass drums. During the finale of "My Generation," he kicked the other drum off the riser and then set off the charge, singeing Townshend's hair and embedding a piece of cymbal in his arm (the blast has been speculated as starting Townshend's deafness). 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." [7]Antics like these earned him the nicknames "Moon the Loon", and "Mad Moon".

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 [citation needed]Moon can be heard singing on several tracks, including a section of "A Quick One While He's Away" (A Quick One, 1966), "Pictures of Lily" (, 1967), "Bell Boy" (, 1973), "" (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 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 . "Tommy's Holiday Camp" (from ) 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 . He also produced ""'s violin solo (which he had suggested), and was recorded by , a friend.

Daltrey said Moon's drumming style held the band together; that Entwistle and Townshend "were like needles... and Keith was the wool."

Drum kits[]

Moon started on various three or five-piece kits but moved to a kit, made by, in late 1965. This was his first official drum kit, a gift from his parents. This new set widened his playing; he abandoned his almost entirely and started basing his grooves on a double bass with eighth note, and a wall of created by riding a or on top of this he played fills and cymbal accents. This became his trademark.

Moon's Classic Red Sparkle Premier setup comprised two 14x22-inch bass drums, three 8x13 mounted toms, one 16x16 floor tom, a 5x14 Ludwig Supraphonic 400 snare and one extra floor tom of different sizes but mainly 16x18 or 16x16. Moon's classic cymbal setup consisted of two 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 . These huge kits became well known, notably the amber set in the films, Tommy and , and in footage shot by the at in 1974. The 1975/76 white kit with gold fittings was given by Moon to a young , son of . His final kit, a dark metallic one, is seen in the footage from The Kids Are Alright at in 1978. Moon had so many drums at one point that he joked he devoted one single floor tom just to holding drinks.

Reputation for destruction[]

Moon led a very destructive lifestyle. He laid waste to hotel rooms, the homes of friends, and even his own home, throwing furniture out of high windows. Along with his drum sets, Moon's signature prank was to flush powerful fireworks (usually , , and in some extreme cases, even ) down the , detonating and ultimately destroying scores of toilets in this manner for his personal amusement. [8] [9]It has been estimated that his destruction of toilets and plumbing ran as high as $500,000, [10]and his repeated practice of blowing up toilets with explosives led him to be banned from lodging at several hotel chains around the world for life, including all Holiday Inn hotels. [11]

Unknown to many people at the time, Moon was often able to cajole into helping him blow up toilets. In a interview with the , Entwistle confessed, "A lot of times when Keith was blowing up toilets I was standing behind him with the matches.” [12]During one incident between Moon and hotel management, Moon was asked to turn down his cassette player because The Who were making "too much noise." In response, Moon lit a stick of dynamite in his toilet to teach the unsuspecting manager "the difference between The Who and noise." [13] [14]On a different occasion in , Moon and Entwistle loaded a toilet with cherry bombs because they could not receive room service. According to Entwistle, 'That toilet was just dust all over the walls by the time we checked out. The management brought our suitcases down to the gig and said: "Don't come back..." ' [15]

The acts, though often fueled by drugs and alcohol, were his way of expressing his eccentricity, as well as the joy he got from shocking the public. [16]In Moon's biography, Full Moon, Dougal Butler observed: "He would do anything if he knew that there were enough people around who didn't want him to do it."

A darker side to Moon's behaviour, tentatively diagnosed as caused by a 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. described his -like change into a growling, uncontrollable beast as something out of a horror movie. She begged neighbor 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 ), they concluded there was no hope. [17]remembers his drinking club, , commenting that Moon ('the of Rock 'n' Roll") used to enter dressed up as the Pope. [18]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 .

Although his behavior was outrageous, it was in the humorous vein [19]as his friend , of the claimed. Moon produced Stanshall's version of '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 20th birthday party (Moon claimed it was his 21st so he could drink) in Flint, Michigan, drove a Cadillac into the Holiday Inn pool, and blew the toilet in his room to pieces, leaping out of the bathroom at the last possible moment to avoid porcelain toilet shards. [20]While Moon had established a notorious history of blowing up toilets at other Holiday Inns, the car incident 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. [21]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, 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 extinguishers to cars and dirtying the swimming pool.

On 4 January 1970, Moon was involved in a car-pedestrian death outside the Red Lion pub in . Trying to escape hostile from the pub who had begun to attack his , Moon ran over and killed his friend and , . Although the said Boland's death was an accident, and Moon was given an 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. [22]

During an encore of a concert in June, 1977, Moon took the stage, grabbed the microphone, and began yelling barely-intelligible gibberish and profanities, before took the microphone from him and yelled, "Keith Moon!" [23] [24]

Moon's penchant for the wild life was detrimental to his drumming and his reliability as a band member. On the 1973 tour, at the in , , Moon took a large mixture of tranquilizers and . He passed out during "" and again in "." Townshend asked the audience, "Can anyone play the drums? - I mean somebody good." An audience member, , filled in for the rest of the show. Guitarist later said in an interview that Moon had consumed , with the brandy. [25]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 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.' [citation needed] [26]

Moon owned a -coloured Rolls-Royce, painted with house paint. On Top Gear, [27]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 ). Also on Top Gear in 2005, recreated the stunt where Moon allegedly drove his Cadillac into a swimming pool.

Work outside The Who[]

Although Moon's work with The Who dominated his career, he participated in minor side projects. In 1966, he teamed with guitarist , session man , and future members and to record an instrumental, "," released as a single-double later that year. He also played on another track, "Ol' Man River" (credited on the back of the album as "You Know Who").

Moon is said to have named . When an early version of the band was being discussed that would have had himself, on bass, on guitar, and an undecided vocalist, he supposedly stated the potential group would "go down like a ." [citation needed]He joined Zeppelin on stage and drummed with for encores in a show on 23 June 1977 at the (recorded on Led Zeppelin bootlegs, ).

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 .

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 's album Valentine.

In 1975 he released his only solo album, pop covers entitled . Although this featured Moon's singing, much drumming was left to other artists including , Curly Smith and and actor/musician (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 's The 20th Anniversary of Rock 'n' Roll all-star album.

In 1971 he had a in 's film . He acted in drag as a nun fearful of death from . In 1973 he appeared in , playing J.D. Clover, the drummer at a during the early days of . Moon reprised the role for the sequel Stardust in 1974. The film co-starred Moon's friend of the . He appeared as "Uncle Ernie" in 's 1975 film adaptation of . In a bar about 1975, he asked and 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. [28]In 1976, he covered the Beatles' "" for the soundtrack of the documentary . He impersonated a camp fashion designer in Sextette (1978), starring .

Moon once owned a hotel, The Crown and Cushion in .


Moon was 's guest at a film preview of The Buddy Holly Story on the evening of 6 September 1978. After dining with Paul, Moon and his girlfriend returned to a flat on loan from in London (near ), where Moon died of an overdose of (Heminevrin). The medication was a he had been prescribed to alleviate his symptoms as he tried to go dry on his own at home; he was desperate to get clean, but was terrified of another stay in the psychiatric hospital for in-patient . However, Clomethiazole is specifically contraindicated for unsupervised home detox due to its addictiveness, tendency to rapidly induce , and dangerously high risk of death when mixed with alcohol. [29]The pills were also prescribed by a new doctor, Dr. Geoffrey Dymond, who was unaware of Moon's recklessly impulsive nature and long history of prescription sedative abuse. He had given Moon a full bottle of 100 pills, and instructed him to take one whenever he felt a craving for alcohol (but not more than 3 per day). The police determined there were 32 pills in his system, with the digestion of 6 being sufficient to cause his death, and the other 26 of which were still undissolved when he died. [30]Moon died in the room in which of had died four years earlier.

Moon died a couple of weeks after the release of . 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 in London.

Events after his death[]

While Moon was alive, The Who performed with four members. Afterwards, he was filled in for by / drummer and later . The Who also added keyboardist to the live band. The Who's drum position is currently occupied by , son of . Starkey was taught by Moon and referred to him as Uncle Keith.

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 , entitled Dear Boy: The Life of Keith Moon. "Dear Boy" became a of Moon's when he started affecting a pompous English accent around 1969, particularly when ordering drinks. [31]

In early 2006, Moon's signature Pictures of Lily drum kit was reissued by under the name Spirit of Lily.

Moon's ex-wife, Kim, was married to of the in 1978, the year that Moon died. She was killed in a traffic collision near on 2 August 2006.

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 will play the main role and may have to do drumming lessons to suit the character.

The movie Burn Hollywood Burn portrays a called the "Keith Moon Insane Asylum", alluding to Moon's destructive behavior.

Animal from was based on Keith Moon.