He once drove his car through the glass doors of a hotel. He then drove all the way up to the reception desk, got out, and asked for his room key. Such behavior was typical for the legendary madman drummer of the superstar English rock group the Who.

You never knew what he was going to do next.

“I told people I was a drummer before I even had a set, I was a mental drummer.”

Keith Moon was born in Wembley, London, England on August 23, 1946. His mother bought him a drum kit when he was 14 years old and it was soon discovered that the kid was a natural drummer; he had very little formal training on the instrument. In 1962, Moon joined his first band, the Escorts. He switched bands the very same year and joined the Beachcombers.

However, his musical fate changed dramatically when, in 1964, at the tender age of 17, Keith Moon teamed up with Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, and John Entwistle to make history with the fabled rock band the Who.

Moon was known as much for his unique pounding and energetic style of drumming as he was for his eccentric, often self-destructive behavior, which earned him the nickname “Moon the Loon.” Nevertheless, critics and fellow musicians praised his drumming skills, and it could be argued that he was the best rock and roll drummer of all time. 

The Who’s first hit in the UK was I Can’t Explain, in 1965.Two years later, the Who invaded the US and made the American charts with the top 10 hit I Can See for Miles, and the band’s success took off.

While performing, Keith Moon took center stage. He was the consummate flamboyant performer. The Who developed an aggressive pulse-pounding style of rock and roll; the band members were known for destroying their instruments on stage at the end of performances, an outrageous act that ideally suited Moon’s personality. Pete Townshend would smash his guitar to pieces against the floor, while Keith relished in knocking over his drum set, kicking his cymbals silly, and tossing tom toms across the stage with the revelry and enthusiasm of a hooligan on a vandalism spree.

But Keith would always take things a step further. When the Who performed on the Smother Brothers Comedy Hour television show, he blew up his drum set with explosives to conclude My Generation, to the shock of his fellow band members and the TV hosts, who were all caught off guard by the explosion originating from inside his bass drum. Moon also had a lighter side. In one performance, he filled a clear drum set with water and goldfish for the show. Every performance presented an opportunity for “show time.” 

Off stage, with his well-documented hedonistic lifestyle, Moon perpetuated the stereotypical image of a rock star: sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. He had a larger-than-life persona as a wild man that brought him much notoriety along with a scandalous reputation.

Sadly, during his band’s tremendous success, Moon drifted downward toward a destructive lifestyle. It started with amphetamines, but alcohol became his drug of choice. Moon had a reputation for destroying hotel rooms as well as his friends’ homes, flipping furniture out windows, throwing televisions into swimming pools, setting fires, and performing other destructive acts fueled by drugs and alcohol. His favorite stunt was flushing lit cherry bombs or M-80 fireworks down toilets. Soon, sticks of dynamite became his explosive of choice for totally trashing toilets in a super-violent manner. Keith would simply pay for the damage once he sobered up, figuring it was just the price of his heavy partying. “When you’ve got money and you do the kind of things I get up to, people laugh and say that you’re eccentric,” he once quipped. He was a real-life rock ‘n’ roll hell-raiser. Bandmate Pete Townshend remarked: “We got thrown out of every hotel we ever stayed in.” A close friend put it another way: “Like a train ride you couldn’t stop.”

The drummer’s demons finally caught up with him as his alcoholic ways subverted his relationships and his career. At times, Moon was so sluggish and disheveled that he had difficulty playing the drums and could barely hold his drumsticks. He tried to quit drinking by taking medication designed specifically for that purpose. Ironically, Keith Moon died on September 7, 1978 from an accidental overdose of the prescription drug clomethiazole, which is indicated to treat symptoms of acute alcohol withdrawal. He was instructed to take 1 pill when he felt a craving for alcohol, but no more than 3 pills a day. Authorities determined that there were 32 clomethiazole pills in Moon’s system at the time of his death. Six pills had been digested, an amount significant enough to kill him. He grossly abused the very drug that was supposed to help him wean off his destructive booze habit.

Coincidently, Moon passed away in the same London flat where Mama Cass had died in 1974, an apartment owned by singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson in London’s exclusive Mayfair district. Moon’s meteoritic life lasted only 32 years.

Reference

  1. Keith Moon. Biography website. http://www.biography.com/people/keith-moon-246075.
  2. Keith Moon. History website. http://thewho.com/history/keith-moon/.
  3. Keith Moon quotes. Brainy Quote website. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/k/keith_moon.html.
  4. Keith Moon quotes. Famous Fix website. http://quotes.famousfix.com/tpx_19220/keith-moon/quotes.
  5. Pete Townshend quotes. Good Reads website. https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/665016-keith-moon-god-rest-his-soul-once-drove-his-car.