Keith John Moon (23 August 1946–7 September 7 1978) was the drummer of the rock group the Who. He was born in London in 1946, although he would later claim to have been born a year later.
He is considered one of the most unusual and original drummers in rock and roll. His unorthodox and highly flamboyant style was only surpassed by his innate rhythmic sense. Moon had a style all his own and laid down some of the tightest drum tracks in rock and roll. Contemporary drummers such as Mitch Mitchell, Ginger Baker and John Bonham could all point to him as a major influence, and Moon’s anarchic, out-of-control style remains an influence on popular music today.
Early in the Who’s career, the band acquired a reputation for destroying their equipment at the end of each show. Moon showed a particular zeal for this activity, wildly kicking and smashing his drums. During an appearance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour television show, he overloaded a drum with explosive charges which were detonated during the finale of ‘My Generation’, which according to legend resulted in permanent hearing damage for bandmate Pete Townshend and caused Bette Davis to faint. His antics earned him the nickname ‘Moon the Loon’.
Moon quickly gained a reputation as being highly destructive. He was known to lay waste to hotel rooms, the homes of friends, and even his own domicile, often throwing furniture out of high windows and destroying the plumbing with firecrackers. While he never actually drove a car into a swimming pool, it’s not hard to imagine how such a story originated.
Although his work with the Who dominated Moon’s career, he participated in a few minor side projects. In 1966, he teamed up with Yardbirds guitarist Jeff Beck and future Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones to record an instrumental, ‘Beck’s Bolero’, released as a single later that year. Moon is also said to have named Led Zeppelin, remarking that the supergroup would “go down like a lead zeppelin”. In 1974, he released his first and only solo album, a collection of pop covers entitled Two Sides of the Moon. In 1971, he had a cameo-role appearance in Frank Zappa’s film 200 Motels. He acted in drag as a nun fearful of death from overdosing on pills. He also appeared as ‘Uncle Ernie’ in the film adaptation of Tommy. In 1976, he covered the Beatles’ ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ for the soundtrack of the documentary All This and World War II.
Keith Moon’s final night out was as a guest of Paul McCartney at the preview of the film The Buddy Holly Story. After dining with his girlfriend and Paul and Linda McCartney, Moon returned with his girlfriend to his flat in Curzon Place, Soho. He died in his sleep at the age of 32, having overdosed on anti-seizure medication (taken as part of a programme to wean him off alcohol). He was replaced by the Faces’ drummer, Kenney Jones, and in recent tours by Zak Starkey.